It was good to see England win their first warm up against a strong India A side in Mumbai. The hosts’ selection suggested they wanted to derail our preparations and sap our morale from the outset. ‘A’ teams usually consist of hungry young players not grizzled campaigners like MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh and Mohit Sharma. In the circumstances it was quite pleasing to see us win with seven balls to spare.
However, although our batting looks as strong as ever I can’t help but feel concerned about the bowling. India A made a fairly useful score of 304, and our bowling attack of Woakes, Willey, Ball, Moeen, Rashid and Dawson lacks genuine quality. I’ve been concerned about our bowling in this format for a long time – there’s no real pace or wicket taking threat – but thus far the team have coped with this handicap relatively well. However, I do wonder whether this will be our achilles heel at some stage.
The next couple of years will obviously be very important for our white ball team. With the Champions Trophy and then the World Cup taking place in England, we’ll probably never have a better chance to break our 50-over trophy drought. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it will be a major disappointment if we don’t win at least one of these events – especially considering the emphasis Strauss and Co have placed on one-day cricket.
The good news, I guess, is that the likes of Woakes and Willey should be more effective in English conditions. We’ve also got Mark Wood to come back in at some stage (if the guy can actually keep himself fit). What’s more, perhaps there’s been too much emphasis on England’s capabilities? Maybe it’s time to look at our competitors too. All the teams have their strengths; but all teams have weaknesses too.
With that in mind, I wanted to publish the thoughts of guest writer Michael Foulkes, who sent in this entertaining preview of the Champions Trophy a couple of days ago. A lot of it is tongue in cheek but he does make some interesting points. What do you think?
Will this be the year England finally win a fifty-over competition? They do have home advantage in the Champions’ Trophy and the tour of Bangladesh suggested that they have cover in every position (though mastering cloning technology for Ben Stokes would help).
No-one else stands out either. While Australia’s hat-trick of World Cup wins was immensely annoying to anyone who wasn’t Australian, it did at least make predictions pretty easy… This time though, it looks like anyone could win.
India may not have the best bowling attack for English conditions and their batsmen have historically struggled on bouncy wickets, but they do have Virat “I have ice in my veins” Kohli, whose mere existence means India can chase any total. Plus they are in the same group as Pakistan, which given previous tournaments is the equivalent of a walk-over.
Australia were in a bit of a slump a few weeks back but that can be ignored as the squad they picked for South Africa included three primary school children and some bloke they met at the airport. If they don’t rest their entire first, second and third choice bowling attack at the same time they could still do well.
New Zealand might not be as strong as they were in 2015, but thanks to some arcane piece of ICC regulation they are guaranteed to reach at least the semi-finals of any competition. The Black Caps always do better than they should. Basically the complete opposite of the England football team…
Pakistan are just as likely to score 400 in one game and then get bowled out for 70 in the next. They do have a strong bowling attack, which may be enough to get them though and then just hope their batsmen remember which end of the wooden thing to hold at the key moment.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are probably the outsiders in their respective groups. Conditions are unlikely to favour their bowlers, and Sri Lanka have lost most of their truly exceptional players recently. However, given the nature of the tournament, one crushing victory in the group stages might actually be enough to get them in to the semi-finals. After that, as the World T20 showed, anything could happen.
South Africa will not win. It’s too early to say how they will contrive to mess up this time, but they will. Maybe a gang of dentists will kidnap du Plessis, or someone will accidentally tell AB that the tournament is happening in Australia, or Quintin de Kock will fall foul of the little-known Welsh regulation banning sportsmen with a Q in their name from playing in Cardiff.
The one thing we can be confident about is that every South African press conference before, during and after the tournament will contain at least four mentions of the word ‘choke’. It’s enough to make you shoulder barge a journalist…
It’s too close to call, but an India v England final would not be a surprise, and the natural pessimism of an England fan suggests that Kohli will end up being the difference. That’s why the upcoming series in India is so interesting. Can we find a way to tame India’s match winners and win a psychological victory?