Captain Morgan Excels But Ship Still Sinks

Wash, rinse, repeat. Today’s ODI was pretty much the same story as the last one but with two interesting but ultimately inconsequential differences: this time England batted second, and this time the captain made some runs.

Unfortunately we still lost the game because, well, our bowling attack is still the same ineffective collection of barely adequate popguns that is was 72 hours ago. And unfortunately this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Unsurprisingly the surprise omission of Rashid, one of our few ineffectuals that actually takes wickets now and again, didn’t make a rat’s bum of difference.

Once again our batsmen did little wrong. Making over 350 in a chase is always a decent effort. We can’t blame the willow wielders. And we especially can’t blame the captain this time. Eoin Morgan made an excellent century – his first in 26 innings – at more than a run a ball. Hopefully this gives him the boost he’s so desperately needed. The important thing now is for him to show some consistency and improve his conversion rate – which stood at 5 tons in his last 100 matches before today.

Jason Roy is another player who needs to kick on a bit. He’s a brilliant talent but he still finds ways to get out unexpectedly in innocuous ways. Today was another example: he played beautifully, and looked odds on for a ton, until he inexplicably missed a straight one.

Generally however, our batsmen played very well again. Root and Moeen both made 50s and even Plunkett hit a few lusty boundaries at the death. It’s just a shame about his bowling – which was unfortunately Dernbach-esque. In fact, he might have broken some of Jade’s records. These pitches really don’t suit him.

Although I’ve slagged off our bowlers (again) I do have some sympathy for them – for two reasons. Firstly I must admit that Dhoni and Yuvraj played brilliantly. They rescued India from a precarious Woakes induced hole, and basically scored at will – even though the rest of the attack’s attempts to bowl yorkers at them was generally laughable.

Secondly, it didn’t escape my attention that several pretty miserable mishits still somehow went for six. I don’t know about you, but I think one day cricket is now weighted far too heavily in the batsman’s favour.

The authorities seem to think that cricket fans are generally stupid, and that we’re only excited by a relentless flurry of boundaries accompanied by shit pop music. Surely it’s tension – the sense that batsmen are taking a risk by hitting out – that creates real excitement.

An even contest between bat and ball is what creates the most compelling cricket. Who cares if average totals are now 50-100 runs higher if these extra runs are easy to come by?

James Morgan



  • “An even contest between bat and ball is what creates the most compelling cricket. Who cares if average totals are now 50-100 runs higher if these extra runs are easy to come by?”

    I like this point.
    Seen a lot on twitter complaining about small grounds, tiny boundaries and bowlers being cannon fodder etc, etc.
    Were these the same people who 5-10 years ago complained about ODI’s for having the boring middle overs?

    The key in ODI cricket now is to keep taking wickets, it’s why I couldn’t fathom the dropping of Rashid, who has the knack of picking up wickets. Who cares if he goes for 7-8 an over.

    • Bearing in mind that the whole bowling unit went for over 7 an over between them, your point is very valid

    • In both the games, England have had India in early trouble (63/4 in the first game chasing 350; 25/3 in the second). Firstly we need to give a lot of credit to the Indian batsmen (Kohli and Jadhav, then Yuvi and MS), for batting their way out of that situation, and posting excellent totals. However, both games involved 200+ partnerships after the new ball had worn off, and England must learn to apply pressure and take wickets during that middle phase.

      • That’s going to be our achilles heel moving forward. We just don’t have anyone with genuine pace or mystery spin to take wickets in the middle when the shine has gone off the new ball. I’m hoping the problem won’t be so noticeable when we play at home. The other hope is that Mark Wood (who is our quickest bowler and someone who might find some reverse swing) can get himself fit and find his best form.

  • The thing is, paricularly in the short format games, stats completely lack context.Morgan has made many a match winning innings scoring under fifty, as have many others!
    The traditional English mantra of “go back to your County and get some runs/wickets” is misplaced, and should be “get signed up for the IPL/ BBL/CPL etc and learn some skills”
    This isn’t ODI cricket anymore, its F50 and requires it’s own unique skillset?

    • Hi Ironballs. I completely take your point but I still think scoring centuries is important. If you look at India in this series they’ve made 3-4 tons and have won both games. You stand a better chance of chasing / setting big totals if one guy bats a large quantity of overs and gives others licence to bat around him imho.

      Interestingly however, I sense that England agree with you. They seem to put collective run rate above everything and don’t really care too much who gets the runs (perhaps because they bat so deep)? I’m not sure this is necessarily the best approach but I guess we’ll see in a couple of year’s time. It’s certainly unorthodox.

      • Collective runrate is fine, but surely the point is having players who can grab the game by the scuff of its neck. Morgan did do that for England, but unfortunately not one, but two Indian players had done it in the previous innings. We fell short I think because neither Root nor Roy quite managed that despite playing well.

        Anyway, Hales going home might just give us a winning team for the next game. If we can stop Kohli…

  • Jadeja’s bowling has been crucial in these two games. He’s bowled his full ration of overs, came on to bowl at well-set upper-order batsmen and has gone at less than 5 RPO when the match average has been 7-8 RPO. Even Ashwin who bowled much better yesterday and took 3 important wickets went at over 6 RPO. I know he doesn’t bowl at the death or take stacks of wickets – but he’s done a vital job for his team.

    • I think Jadeja (particularly, but not exclusively in limited overs cricket) is one of the most underrated cricketers in the world. Very rarely bowls anything loose, and he’s a good batsman too (one of only 4 batsmen, I think, who have scored two triple hundreds in a season, two of the others being The Don and Everton Weekes; my apologies to the third!). He reminds me a bit of Paul Collingwood for England in his attitude (Colly was a better bat, Jadeja is a better bowler). Excellent fielder, might not be the most talented member of the team, but always gives his utmost. The sort of guy you’d want in your side.

      • England have got to try to do something about him. RHBs seem to find him hard to get away so how about promoting a LHB (Stokes, maybe even Willey?) with a licence to take him on and a free pass if it doesn’t come off?

        England are still quite inflexible about the batting order even in this ‘new era’.

        • I guess it’s because Ashwin will come on if there are left-handers at the crease. And Ashwin has eaten our lefties for breakfast. It’s hard to know what to do when they’re bowling in tandem. They’re a very good pairing.

  • I know Morgan got a fantastic ton, but I think that Buttler should be coming in above him, and maybe even Stokes. I reckon Jos would have got a move on more than Morgs did early in his innings, and that might have been the difference between tailenders needing 9 or 10 off the last over rather than 22.

  • Morgan hasn’t desperate needed anything, he was averaging 50 in last few series before yesterday, is a very good captain and is awesome under pressure with the bat.

    I remember thinking in the summer that plunkett is the slowest fast bowler I’d ever seen. Jake ball is a good bowler but broad is better. Get well soon mark wood. Tymal please get through 50 overs.

    I’d also like to see England give be by howell a go as usually on good pitches, pace off is the best way to go, may be worth an experiment, he’s very confident and executed all his skills well.

    India were fantastic, in fact both sides have been very good these two games other than the death bowling. Quality of players right up there, both sides would smash either Australia or Pakistan, that series has been awful…

    • Morgan was under pressure in a lot of places because he’d gone 26 innings without a century and in the calendar year (2016) he averaged 27.
      He then skipped a tour…..

      England have many batting options.

  • Should have delayed the blog for an hour for a comment on the potential news of the London stadium hosting cricket – why is anyone thinking a 3rd venue at an athletics stadium is a good idea????

      • Dimensions are nowhere near good enough for a serious game of cricket. It might be ok for a domestic t20 game and indeed Essex had been thinking about playing there and may well do, but for international cricket 50 over matches to have any authenticity the ground would be a joke. I

        • It just reeks of investors looking for a return on the london stadium with the ecb getting a nice backhander. Hot on the heels of Durham’s financial difficulties just adds salt to the wound.

  • The one thing in The London stadium’s favour is the crowd capacity at 80,000 according to Google. When I watch the Big Bash and see those massive crowds at Melbourne etc, there must be a fantastic atmosphere. I know the Oval and Lords sell out for the T20 but they don’t get anything like those numbers.

    • I just can’t see Cricket selling 60-80k tickets. Maybe India v Pakistan for world cup (and then we’re getting into realms of a tournament rigging draws to ensure attractive fixtures which I really wouldn’t put past the people in control) – but you’d want to see that game in a proper ground.

      International games ticket demand, it’s a late decision to add extra temp seating in grounds and those hold about 10-12k. If this idea were to have anything about it they’d need to just charge county prices for a ticket which isn’t going to happen

    • It will be about 60k properly done but as I say it would short change the international game if they held a big game there, it just wouldn’t be cricket.

  • Nothing much to be ashamed of here. England are good, but India are just a little bit better, which is why they keep edging us. Even our bowlers aren’t that bad. It’s just that the game is so heavily weighted against them both in terms of rules and ground size. To be honest, I find the whole thing a bore at the moment. You pretty much know beforehand it’s going to be around 350 apiece and India will probably win by a short head.

    I wish there were fast bowlers around now like there were in the 80s and 90s though. In spite of all the brilliant, innovative things batsmen do nowadays, I just can’t believe that anyone would have been able to score heavily off Joel Garner for long, or Waqar at his best. Garner was the hardest quick bowler I ever saw to score off , bowling at 85-90mph from a release point about 9 feet above the ground. Waqar bowled the fastest, most terrifying spell I ever saw in a 1-Day match for Surrey about 20 years ago, mixing occasional short balls with in-swinging yorkers at the base of leg stump at 95 mph. Unfortunately, the way the game is designed now, it appears that young kids are disincentivised from trying to emulate these sorts of guys because they only ever see bowlers being carted. All the “sexy” cricketers are batsmen (the first bowler on the list of IPL contracts by value last year was Malinga, at number 10). It’s a shame, because there must be an absolute fortune awaiting anyone who reliably take wickets in ODIs and T20. How sick all those ageing West Indian quicks must feel whenever they see Keiron Pollard.

    • Garner still holds (by a distance) the economy rate record for ODI’s (with a 50 wicket cut off). 3.09 an over (even the likes of Holding went at nearly 3.5). That’s about as likely to be broken as Bradman’s test batting average. Boycott tells a story that, before an ODI against West Indies, he asked Beefy (who played at Somerset with Garner) “How do you hit Joel Garner?” “You don’t”. “No seriously, there must be a way.” “No, there isn’t. Me and Viv have tried it in the nets, and we can’t do it.”

      As for Pollard, Michael Holding said “Pollard, in my opinion, is not a cricketer.” Holding regards test cricket as the proper game.

      Whilst I agree with much of what you say, in terms of what I want to watch, I’d prefer sanctioned T20 leagues over illegal tours of the sort that happened in the 1980’s, particularly the “rebel” tours of South Africa. To take one example, how much demand would there now be from the likes of the IPL for someone like Franklyn Stephenson?

      • So would I re T20 leagues. I just wish they’d redress the balance between bat and ball, the current format is utterly dull.

        I didn’t know that about Garner’s economy rate but I’m not remotely surprised. What a bowler he was. 259 Test wickets at just under 21, too.

        Franklyn Stephenson would be a multi-millionaire these days. Just looked up his career stats. First class batting average of 28 with 12 hundreds and huge power, 800 wickets at 24, and possibly the most befuddling slower ball in the history of the game. The WIs were so good, he never got a single Test or ODI cap!

  • If i have to give my opinion then would say, english bowlers were clueless about the job they supposed to do here

  • I agree entirely with the comments about the mismatch between bat and ball. However, an article in the February edition of The Cricketer (just out) has made me rethink whether this is entirely down to small grounds and bat technology. The article goes as far as I have ever seen a journalist go, without cast iron proof, to say that top cricketers are using steroids and that it is a result of the growth of T20. The article is especially scathing about the case of Andre Russell, his 3 missed drug tests and the lack of any action (or even concern) by the authorities. If half of what is said in the article is true cricket has a scandal brewing which will rival those of soccer, athletics and the IOC.

    • I wonder whether steroids would help fast bowlers? Can steroids enhance fast twitch fibres (the quick flex muscles that enable one to bowl fast) or can they only build bulk? Of course, bulk can get in the way of bowling fast and actually make a bowler lose pace.

      • The article focuses more on the benefits to batsmen than bowlers, drawing a parallel with the increase in hitting ability in baseball in the 90s which subsequently was linked to widespread steroid use.

      • Russell is quite a quick bowler: has his pace gone up in recent years? Looking at recent pictures of Joel Garner, bulk doesn’t seem to be much of an obstacle! He’s a man mountain!

    • Russell’s hearing was nine weeks ago and the result still hasn’t been announced.

      We also need to remember that one obstacle to cricket getting into the Olympics is that cricket’s drug-testing regime doesn’t come up to Olympic standard.

      The issue isn’t just with banned substances going undetected. Some of the things that are allowed are extremely dubious. Cortisone, for example….

    • The russell case is simply appalling, there’s little doubt he is a cheat. However, yes testing is not as good as in athletics or football, it’s still there, I’m playing with a current county player this winter, who only signed a contract last year, and he’s been tested a couple of times even though he’s on the other side of the world.

      Also steroids are not the reason for high run rates. The best players don’t score quick hundreds because they hit the ball really hard or have big bats. It’s because batting quality has gone through the roof, batsmen are so good these days at guessing what the bowler will bowl and they are drilled so heavily to hit similar balls to different areas of the ground. Whilst cricket is likely to have drug problems, especially with associations who aren’t as well funded or scrutinised as the ecb or ca, the best players are the best for batting ability, take root for example.

      Also the big bats debate is quite silly. Big bats help hit the ball further. But why is this bad? Batsmen plinking the ball is not good viewing. Those who can’t stomach high scores can’t handle it because they have been brought up with the knowledge that you need to ‘middle’ a ball to hit it well, his is because bats just weren’t as good. Personally I see no issue with large hitting areas, it’s an improvement in the level of the sport. Also, the big bats are still only a minor part of scoring rates increasing, as said above, batsmen are doing brilliant things. Smaller bats would just lower run rates which makes cricket less watchable which is not what the game needs.
      If people want to readdress the ballance between bat and ball and keep the excitement then there needs to be changes to the bowling. Ideas include the ball, no reason why a dukes should not be used for all test cricket. Could make seam on white kooka slightly bigger (very very small change) and improve the ball so it can go back to one per 50 over innings so there is a change in conditions as innings progresses. Some may also want to see bowlers given more freedom to straighten their arm. In test cricket, pitches don’t need to seam around all over the place, a small bit of movement early on and perhaps determination towards the end but wickets need to maintain pace and bounce so that good bowling is rewarded.

      Low run rates aren’t fun, high run rates and wickets are fun!


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