Yesterday morning was one of the more enjoyable ones. I woke up, made a brew, quickly whipped up some poached eggs with smoked salmon – how stereotypically middle class – and then returned to bed to watch England win the World T20 final at the MCG.
It was precisely the morning I had in mind; and probably the very last thing that the tournament organisers, neutrals, and the whole of Australia were hoping for. Tee-hee. Well, England cricket tours down under usually end in disaster, so I’ll allow myself a little childish satisfaction on this occasion.
What pleases me most about England’s triumph is that we’re now World Champions in both limited overs formats. And when you consider that no other country plays 100-ball cricket, perhaps we can claim to be champs at that, too – a bit like the Super Bowl winners always call themselves World Champions by default? Ok, I accept that I’m probably a little delirious right now.
So what did you think of the game itself? At one stage, I just couldn’t see us winning it. Pakistan’s frontline seamers were so good, and getting so much movement in the air and off the pitch, that I thought a repeat of the 1992 ODI World Cup was guaranteed. I couldn’t get that image of Wasim Akram cleaning up Chris Lewis out of my head.
Although England’s bowlers bowled tightly – more of that later – we didn’t seem to get anywhere near as much movement as the Pakistanis. Was it a change in atmospheric conditions? Was it the rain in the air? Had Aaqib Javed popped down the MCG to hand Babar Azam a bottle-top? Absolutely not. It was probably because Pakistan’s seamers were faster and taller. Fair play to them. We might have seen a different result had the impressive Shaheen Shah Afridi been able to compete his full quota of overs. He was desperately unlucky.
The man who got England over the line, of course, was a certain Ben Stokes. Again. Just as I thought that the game was getting out of hand, he cracked a couple of superb boundaries that turned the tide. I should’ve had more faith.
Stokes’s partnership with Moeen Ali proved decisive in the end. It just goes to show that class and experience wins just as many T20s as big-hitting cameos. Did anyone else wish that Joe Root was striding to the crease rather than Phil Salt or Harry Brook? Sometimes it takes batters with good techniques and supreme skill to see off the best opponents.
Fortunately, Stokes was able to use all his experience and class to get us over the line. He never panicked – even when I clearly was – and picked his moments to attack beautifully. He’s now played arguably the three most memorable or important innings in recent English cricket history: this one, the World Cup final at Lord’s, and the 2019 Headingley Test. Stokes has balls bigger than planets.
It was England’s performance in the field, however, that set up this victory. Adil Rashid was incredible. He used all his BBL experience and proved, once again, that leg-spin (rather than finger-spin) is a trump card in Australian conditions.
Sam Curran was also impressive again. It’s been a pleasure to watch him mature before our eyes. I remember scoffing when he was first signed up by an IPL team. I didn’t see the logic at all and expected him to be fodder on Indian wickets. How wrong I was. He’s obviously learned a huge amount from playing in elite franchise competitions and now possesses all the skills. He’s a massive credit to his father and thoroughly deserved his Player of the Series accolade.
So now thoughts turn to next year’s 50-over World Cup. Can we retain our trophy? Well, it’s obviously going to be harder without the retired Stokes. But don’t forget that we’ll have both Root and Jonny Bairstow back in contention. I don’t envy the selectors when it comes to choosing a final XI.
But perhaps that debate can wait. Let’s just let this victory linger on the tastebuds a little longer. We’ve suffered so much agony and ignominy over the years, particularly in Test cricket, that we deserve to enjoy this moment.
So let’s put the division caused by The Hundred, and the rows about the domestic schedule and the future of county cricket to one side for now, and look forward with genuine optimism to the future. With a new ECB chairman in Richard Thompson, and a new CEO in Richard Gould, perhaps we can finally do this?
In the meantime, I’d just like to thank Ben, Jos, Mo, Adil, Sam and the lads for giving me a morning to remember. Those poached eggs weren’t half bad, either.
Great achievement for the power of positive thinking. I don’t think this lot ever doubted their ability to win. They responded to pressure by upping their game. After that Indian walkover I never doubted them. Shame the conditions weren’t conducive to a classic, as you need the ball coming onto the bat for that in white ball. Morgan and now McCullum have created a mentality that you just can’t intimidate. It’s up to the rest to follow their example behind the scenes. Yes we’ll get beaten occasionally, but no heads will drop and lessons will be learned.
It’s up to you now Gareth. Be brave and don’t think about anything but winning. What a year that would be for us all.
Firstly, whatever I think of the format I’m glad the match dodged the rain.
England’s win seems to show that front-loading the batting with your big hitters is the way to go. NZ and India were both eliminated largely because of stodgy play by “proper” batsmen (Conway-Williamson and Rohit-Kohli) using up too many deliveries. It also miltates against bowlers who can’t bat because teams need depth to bail them out when on occasions the top order doesn’t come off.
Personally, I’d give up any of the white-ball trophies for the Test team to have been decently competitive in the last Ashes. CA must be kicking themselves they got their priorities so wrong!
It would have been extremely close if Shaheen had been able to bowl his final two overs. I thought we were done for when it was about 50 off 36 but for the second final in a row we were very fortunate. Stokes also only cleared Babar by a metre when he hit Iftikhar for six, and earlier had miss hit one so badly towards long off that it fell short (causing him to have to scamper a run having started to walk off!). Then again, I reckon Pakistan are generally the luckiest of all tournament teams – they had outrageous luck to qualify for the semis here and in 1992, and I have a feeling there might have been another couple of similar occasions in tournaments in the intervening 30 years. These things normally even out.
As for your other points, I thought Brook batted pretty well, scoring at almost a run a ball when that was roughly the required rate and at the stage where we needed to preserve wickets for 6 overs. Salt’s dismissal was a bit of a wasted wicket. The worst innings of the day was Haris’s though, taking up 12 balls for 8 in the powerplay.
Sam Curran bowled brilliantly but his MoM award was laughable in the face of Stokes’s decent 4 over spell, a catch and a match-winning 50, the only half-century of the match. Bottom line though is we had several first-choice players unavailable and still won the tournament with a bit to spare. What a legacy Eoin Morgan created.
I actually thought that Brook looked really skittish. Quite a few wafts and didn’t seem to pick which balls to attack. I’m sure he’s a great talent but I’m not convinced on the basis of this tournament. Needs time I suppose.
Think that’s a bit harsh. Brooks was batting at a time when it was hard to score runs. Stokes was scoring Very slowly and the run rate was starting to become an issue. Brooks was struggling but at least was keeping up with the rate when Stokes was failing to.
England played good cricket but the bowling of Pakistan was like it at the next level still one team wins and the best one won
I grew up in an era when Englands white ball (wasn’t called that then because we still played in whites) was a running joke so to be double world champions still feels and sounds faintly ridiculous and to do it without arguably 5 first choice players says something to a depth of talent I wish our Red ball side had. Congrats to Jos and his team for a job well done.
BTW – if anybody hasn’t read it I’d recommend the excellent ‘Cricket 2.0’ as a way of understanding the shortest form. It’s incredibly thought provoking, and helped me get my head around 170/9 is a better score that 169/0 in this form!
Yes, James, I yearned for Root at No 4 as Salt (No 3) and Brook (No 5) nearly messed things up. Brook’s innings, in particular, was an embarrassment. I’ve seen better batting on the village green. That’s why, in Joe’s absence, Malan was a big loss for the last two games. Thank goodness for the nerveless Stokes, but even he struggled to find the gaps for quite a while, and it was looking dicey until the unfortunate injury to Shaheen Shad Afridi. Thirteen runs off the remaining five balls of his uncompleted third over turned the tide, but I think we might have scraped through regardless of that, because of the batting resources (Rashid at No 11!) still to come. Full credit to Sam Curran, but while he deserved Man of the Series I think Stokes deserved the Man of the Match award. Pakistan’s young pace attack is fantastic. I lost count of the number of times Buttler and Stokes played and missed at the moving ball, although Buttler played some dreamy shots in between his cement-footed swishes. And great credit to Channel 4 for making the event available – at a price, presumably – to those of us who can’t afford Sky Sports.
Tremendous bowling effort especially by Sam Curran! And the batting by the openers has been terrific. I just hope Mark Wood’s injury doesn’t prove to be a longterm issue. Brook needs some more experience I guess, certainly has the shots to be a good player. Salt when he gets going will be a beast.
Stokes skewed a shot and looked like he would have been caught. Had it gone to hand, it would have looked a really poor innings that put pressure on the middle order. As it was he got away with it and accelerated to take England home.
Big game players get the breaks.
Anyway, regardless of what you think of the format, it certainly isn’t a lottery. The best teams win most of the time and England are a very good white ball time that gives themselves lots of ways to win with the big hitting top order, very deep line up and bowling options.
You have to wonder how long the team can hold up though. Its a very old side. Only curran, Brooks and salt were mid 20s the rest were 29 or over. And of those three, neither salt or Brooks contributed that much in the tournament.
Fair point about needing to bring in some younger players. The recent pakistan tour showcased some of the younger talent and when we get Mahmood and Carse fit to go with Olly Stone and Luke Wood, the seam options dont look so bad, with Curran and Topley as well. Duckett and Salt showed promise in that series as well. It is spin where we seem to lack any younger prospects, other than Parkinson who they have discarded.
Except that the “young” talent isn’t always that young. Stone turns 30 during the World Cup next year and Duckett 29, while both Wood and Carse will be 28 by the time it starts and Topley nearer 30 than 29.
For spin, they seem to be pinning their hopes on a precipitous rise for Rehan Ahmed. Apart from him, the cupboard really does look bare…or stocked with 33+-year-olds.
So still in their 20s and probably at their peak. So not really a major source of concern.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, as well as Chris Woakes and Jordan are still bowling pretty well in their mid 30s (or 40 in Jimmys case).
The latest ODI makes my point pretty well.
We play a ODI series immediately after the T20 win so understandably make a number of changes. Malan, Billings, Willey, Dawson, Vince, Roy, Wood, Stone
What do they have in common. Most are over 30 and some of them well over 30. This was a chance to rest players and freshen up the side with younger players. But the reality is not only is the first XI ageing but so are the backups.
Not saying these guys are past it but it’s an extremely old set up we have got and you would like to see more balance . Makes you wonder how much of our white ball success is down to a white ball golden generation.
There was an excellent interview with Sam Northeast a couple of days ago. Says nowadays young players spend 80% of their time practicing white ball skills rather than red. Our problem is short of test batsmen, especially openers, not white ball hitters.
George Garton also looked a terrific prospect- 90 mph left arm brilliant fielder and useful hitter. Hope he can make a comeback from long covid.
WTF? Four days after the Final and they’re playing an ODI series?
No wonder England are playing a virtual second XI (except poor Jos). Anyone paying money to watch this deserves to be parted from their readies.
BTW why wasn’t Travis Head in Australia’s T20 team?
Could be worse–last year the following series started three days after the final!!–in two different countries from the tournament too.
Head wasn’t in the tournament partly, as far as I can see, simply because there was no room left: the middle-order was jam-packed with multi-skilled players who generally bowl better than him and by Tim David, and the opening berths were occupied by the captain, by Warner and by Green–who, understandably, the selectors see as having a massive future across formats.
Actually, I tell a lie. The first full internationals were played three days after the final, but West Indies were playing a warm-up game on their test tour of Sri Lanka even before the final started.
Carefully putting the England flag up these days James. You may get blacklisted.