Well that was thoroughly depressing. It was men against boys I’m afraid; or rather man against boys, man. Chris Gayle took one look at the likes of Topley, Willey and Jordan and thought “I’ve seen better bowlers on the beach”. He’s not wrong. Our attack didn’t look anything like international quality today.
Although Gayle played insanely well – it was sporting brutality at its best – we didn’t half bowl some crap at him: long-hops, full tosses, leg-side wides, off-side wides. It was truly lamentable. Maybe the wet ball had something to do with? The bottom line, however, is that there can be no excuses. Gayle simply blew us away and England had no answers.
Most teams have someone they can throw the ball to when they desperately need wickets. England don’t have anyone remotely like that (unless you count Rashid). Sadly our attack looked like a gaggle of county trundlers, two of whom barely reached 82mph on the speedometer. No wonder we can’t seem to defend any total in either T20 or 50 over cricket these days. Unless we bat last, we lose.
In normal circumstances you can forgive a team for losing when Gayle goes berserk. However, England’s alarming lack of quality with the ball – I described our seam attack as the worst of all the major nations on Monday and nobody argued – has become a long-term problem. Without Steve Finn, who is a genuine wicket taker, we look utterly toothless when Rashid has a bad day.
I was also a bit frustrated with our batsmen today. It was a small ground, with a fast outfield, yet we seemed to think that 180 would be a good score. The computer should have told us this was nothing more than par in Mumbai. Although Joe Root played well, the others showed a worrying lack of urgency. ‘Runs on the board’ is always nice, but average totals rarely beat above average teams.
What’s frustrating for me is that some of England’s best (and definitely most experienced) cricketers have been left at home – three of them have been working in the Sky Sports studios. Yesterday it was Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, and today it was arguably our best batsman, Kevin Pietersen – who is a year younger than Gayle. I’m not convinced that Anderson would be in England’s best T20 XI, but I certainly raised an eyebrow when Willey managed to swing the new ball.
Controversy has followed Gayle throughout his career. He’s had runs ins with the West Indies board, been described as a bad influence by some, and openly declared his preference for earning big bucks playing T20 rather than enduring the grind of test cricket over five days. The bottom line is that the Windies have picked him anyway – despite his sexist treatment of an Australia TV presenter a few weeks ago in the Big Bash. Would England have done the same?
It’s not for me to tell a national sporting body exactly where to draw ethical lines in the sand. All I’m saying is that if you want to win world cups, it sure helps if you pick your best players. Other considerations seem to take priority in England. We can debate this one until the cows come home – or until one of Gayle’s imperious sixes finally come out of orbit and descend back to Earth.
Anyway, there’s no point crying over things we can’t change. I’d love England to find their own version of Shane Warne or Lasith Malinga but it’s not going to happen any time soon. We simply have to work with what we’ve got. The immediate future, of course, is a huge game against South Africa in a few days’ time. Lose that and England will probably be on the plane home.
Fingers crossed that we win the bloody toss and bat last.
Match facts: England 182/6 (20 overs), West Indies 183/4 (18.1 overs) Gayle 100*