Mathews Sticks It To Us

We should have known better. I should have known better. When Sri Lanka were meandering along at 4 runs per over in the 40th over of their innings, puzzled looks were exchanged, and predictable jokes were made. Nick Hoult of the Telegraph thanked Angelo Mathews for showing him what an ODI in the 1970s would’ve looked like. And yours truly got in on the act by sarcastically claiming that the Tavare / Boycott partnership was working it’s socks off for Sri Lanka (occupation of the crease and all that).

But Mathews knew better. He always knows better. He’s a world class cricketer with more experience than Father Time himself. He knows the time and place to gamble, and today was not the day to wager his bitstarz bonus code 2019. He knew the pitch was slow and anything close to 250 might prove challenging in a run chase. So he just did his thing. And boy did he do it effectively.

After facing 100 balls Mathews score was just 68. We haven’t seen run rates like that since Peter Moores was in charge of England’s ODI team, and Cook and Trott were opening the batting. But what we would have paid for a Cook, a Trott, or even an Ian Bell in this particular game.

All England needed to do was stay in, rotate the strike, and pick up the occasional two or boundary. But oh no. That’s not the way we play.

With the exception of Joe Root and Ben Stokes, who both played sensibly, England’s batting was the shambles it often is on turgid surfaces. I felt really sorry for Stokes at the death. He couldn’t have done any more. It was heartbreaking to see him marooned and helpless at the death.

However, it’s a red herring to focus on individual positives when the team batted so poorly as a whole. This line-up still struggles to adapt when conditions don’t suit our millionaire’s approach.

I’m not sure who to blame for England’s continued batting failures on slow pitches. On the one hand the players should be experienced enough, and skilful enough, to adapt. However, the ECB surely haven’t helped. When you keep preparing belters to encourage scores of 350+ – a blatant attempt to get people through the door and make money – you shouldn’t be too surprised that your team looks unprepared and lacks a coherent plan when you come across different types of surfaces in ICC events.

The dismissal of Moeen Ali summed up England’s boneheadedness immaculately. England had just got themselves in the ascendancy, the run rate wasn’t an issue, and he’d just hit a towering six. At this point even my 8-year old son knows that the smart option is to work a single off the next ball.

But oh no. Mo went for the glory of back-to-back sixes and holed out on the boundary. It was more than boneheaded. It was embarrassing. And that’s the damning verdict of a Worcestershire fan who’s more tolerant of Moeen’s indiscretions than most.

No doubt some will claim that Moeen would’ve won the game quick smart had he repeated his destructive cameo against Afghanistan. I’m afraid this is naive. Going for glory basically gave the Sri Lanka bowlers a chance they would not have otherwise had. A smart cricketer would’ve taken what the field offered, rotated the strike, protected their wicket, and shut the opposition out of the game.

England are now on a somewhat sticky wicket. Our position in the table isn’t exactly precarious, but there must be some doubt as to whether we’ll qualify now. After all, we might need to beat two of Australia, India, and New Zealand to reach the last four. One win might do it. But there’s no guarantees. And even if we do scrape through in fourth place then a tough semi (probably against India) awaits.

It’s squeaky bum time folks. But at least there’s one positive: there’s nothing like an upset to bring a tournament alive. Even though it was gutting to see England lose, the World Cup needed an upset to finally get interesting. What’s more, the traditionalist in me is quite pleased that it was a slow pitch, and a low scoring game, that proved the catalyst.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with BR Agency


  • I can’t agree more about Moeen’s dismissal. More than anything else it was the turning point.

  • Sri Lanka need to win at least one game, and suffer one more washout before England have to do better than losing all three games. So England are still firmly in control of their destiny.

  • Well done the Lankans for pulling this off with their weakest side for three decades. Their bowling had a 35 year old pace bowler and a combined rest of the attack who average nearly 35 in ODIs. This wasn’t being defeated by Murali and Vaas. A quick word for two things in their play not being mentioned much – the unheralded Avishka Fernando produced the most fluent batting of the day and their fielding held up well under pressure (the Ali, Woakes and Archer catches were all eminently droppable).

    A couple of curious stats I’ve seen: 1) this was England’s lowest failed ODI run chase since January 2014 (the last ODI of the “difficult winter” which was so long ago James Tredwell was playing) and 2) Moeen Ali became the first bowler to bowl a full ten overs in a WC match without conceding a boundary since 2011 (Ajantha Mendis).

    Trying to work out the possible workings out of qualification can give hours of fun for the whole family. Ceratinly the oft-quoted idea that 9 points should be enough looks highly dubious (Pakistan qualified with 9 points in 1992 but there were only 9 teams). 19 points may be enough but there are plausible scenarios where it might not be. If SL beat SA and WI, it could come down to their match against an already-qualified India. Bizarrely, Pakistan – if they can can get their act together – could yet feature with the easiest-looking set of remaining fixtures. Bangladesh could feature but would need to win their last two games against India and Pakistan.

    England probably need to won one of the last three games but need to win two to be certain. These may be against the tournament’s best-looking teams so far but they may all be assured or nearly assured of qualification themselves when England play them (which even if they don’t rest players must lead to some decline in intensity). Finally, the weather may yet have a say. The next three or four days are due to be fine but then there is some more bad weather in the forecast for the middle of next week (although forecasts of more than a day ahead are to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt in England).

    • 19 points may be enough…to get you a visit from the ACU!! (Insert your BCCI controlling world cricket joke here…)

  • England bowled and fielded well enough today, but the batting has really let them down. Where New Zealand survived two nervy run chases against Bangladesh and SA, we came up well short. Certain batsmen just cannot seem to cope with the pressure of the chase on a slowish pitch. Moeen’s shot was brainless, and Woakes and Rashid should have done better too. Buttler’s dismissal was crucial. Felt sorry for Stokes, who did all he could but just ran out of partners.
    It is a huge setback for England. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have a genuine chance of sneaking into that fourth spot. England will need at least one win from their difficult final three games. I would worry if we are having to chase in any of those games. I wish I could understand why England do so badly in cricket World Cups over the years, they just don’t cope well with pressure. Agree with your points about 350+ totals on flat tracks to bring in the crowds and the money, being no preparation of ICC prepared pitches. India were my pre tournament pick to win the competition and I am sticking to that . Just don’t think we are good enough to win it, and it could now be a struggle to reach the semi-finals even. It always worried me that so many former players and pundits were bigging up England before the tournament on the basis of their recent ODI form, but the Pakistan games alone tells us why competition games are always harder to win than bi-lateral series.
    Can we bounce back against Australia at Lord’s next week ? Perhaps we need Chris Woakes to have one of his magical Lord’s spells.
    After all the emphasis on improving England’s performances in ODIs over the last four years, it will be a major disappointment if we don’t make the semi-finals.
    It also worries me the way that we often fail if we don’t get the solid long innings from Joe Root. He’s having a great tournament so far, but cannot be expected to get 100s and 90s every time. Stokes made a fine effort. Buttler or Moeen needed to stay in with him.
    Worry fortnight ahead for all England fans !

  • meant to write “worrying fortnight ahead for England fans”.
    Interesting stats quoted by Simon H re England’s lowest failed run chase for 5 years. What a time to have a shocker !

  • HahahahahahahahahahahahahahAhhaHhhHahaha


    Literally all this team is.. proper one trick ponies

      • Bit like this ‘world class’ England white ball team. Sorry if not jumping on the media hype isn’t what you’re after.. this team only knows one way and that’s the sign of poor players not great players.

  • We yes agree with most of this. We don’t have a back up plan do we when the pitches aren’t roads where we can tee off. Very much a one trick pony. The bowling is only a little above averaging my view and we can’t bowl sides out it seems. Suggest Tom Curran plays as he’s the best finisher around in one day cricket. And England – do stop going on about how good you are, your sticking yourself on a pedestal, and it’s a long way to fall off.

  • Oh what a shocker that was. Just like watching England of old, where every time we looked like we were about to get ahead of the game in the run chase we found a way to lose a wicket. I really thought we’d cracked how to close out games like that. Of course Moeen is the most culpable for his utterly brainless effort, but those below him should also take a long hard look at themselves. With Stokes at the other end, all they had to do was either push 1s or play out a dot ball at the end of the over. Why on earth go aerial like Archer did? Just dumb.

    Looks to me like the hype and expectation is just too much for them when chasing.

    As for Vince…Jesus.

    • Re Vince: It isn’t his fault he’s in the squad in the first place! Recently England have had 3 ODI openers, often having to leave an excellent player out of the team.

      Alex Hales would probably have managed at least 20 more runs than James Vince did. So maybe blame for this defeat should go either to Hales for taking drugs, or to the other players who hounded out an excellent batter for non-cricketing reasons?

      • Well, very much hope that this will have put the kibosh on the ridiculous notion of selecting Vince in the top three for the Ashes….but it probably won’t have!

        Very much agree with your second paragraph….but even so I think Vince (who has been consistently and predictably ho-hum over a number of years at international level) was a poor selection. Trying out Denly as a top-order player–where he actually plays for Kent, rather than as a spin-bowling all-rounder!–during the Pakistan series would have made more sense. Or picking Malan, who looks to have more about him as a ODI player on his limited appearances–which would have been my choice. Or giving Hain a go, who averages more than anyone ever in List A cricket. Or even Livingstone, who opened for Lancs in the OD Cup this year.

        It might also be worth considering how the selectors got to a four-yearly event having no idea (or the wrong idea) who their fourth-best opener was. Sure, the Hales situation didn’t help, but then Bairstow could have broke an arm the week before it started and they would have had the same conundrum.

      • I wasn’t blaming him. I was just despairing at the number of times he’s been out caught behind the wicket for 20-odd, having looked a million dollars.
        I agree Hales has a lot to answer for for being a total tosser. But any blame for yesterday lies with the middle and lower order who chucked their wickets away when an established batsman was in control at the other end.

  • I think saying England could beat Sri Lanka whilst half asleep might have been a little bit of English arrogance that has come back to bite them on the bum. Go the underdog….

    • I think my exact words were we’d be ‘expected’ to beat them half asleep. Slight difference. For what it’s worth, England’s batsmen were fully asleep yesterday it seems :-)

  • On the myth of England’s famed batting depth….

    Taking Plunkett, Curran and Willey out of England’s lower order has removed the effective batsmen in the ODI format. We’re left with Rashid, Archer and Wood: Rashid’s batting has been in decline for three years and he’s more of an accumulator; Archer’s batting prowess remains the stuff of rumour but he looked very callow yesterday; Wood is more of an accumulator as well. As for Woakes, well, how many times does he have to fail when it really matters before some start to realise he isn’t Jacques Kallis?

    BTW I’m not Moeen Ali’s greatest fan – but how predictable is it that the media who’ve spent three years trumpeting the new fearless approach have been piling into the guy who got caught on the boundary while giving those who perished to a succession of tame pokes a free pass?

  • I don’t watch or like cricket – but that bloke’s a cheating chucker….. Racist…… He chucks it….. Bet you like Brexit too…..

    The Guardian BTL is a sight to behold this morning.

  • Sadly Moeen has a rancid recent record with the willow and averages 19 since the start of last year. Can’t say I agree with praising Mathews innings. More that England massively choked.

    • I’m not so sure they choked, more that they were out of thier comfort zone of flat track roads and were unable to tee off. More worryingly is that they don’t seem to have a Plan B. Root and Stokes adapt their game for the situation, the others either won’t or maybe can’t? And they need to look at their bowling “attack” and sharpish.

  • Can somebody whack Moeen on the head everytime he plays a stupid shot? He has played 100 ODIs, and still bats like a complete moron.

  • Question. Near the end of the India Afghanistan game, Nabi was hit on the pad (clearly outside the line). They took a leg-bye. The umpire mistakenly gave him out, overturned on review. The run was annulled. Why?

    • I think they always cancel the run if there’s a review. Could be wrong but I think that’s the case. One day there’s going to be a tactical review on the last ball of an innings and it will be incredibly controversial!

      • Do they cancel the run if the decision is not out and it’s upheld?

        I assumed (although I haven’t checked) that when someone is given out then the ball is automatically dead–logically, because the fielding team will start to celebrate rather than trying to stop a run, and the non-striker may well leave his crease and needs to be protected from being run out.

        That doesn’t change if the decision is subsequently overturned.

    • It is the umpire’s decision that causes the runs to be annulled. It is not the review (thankfully not, because that would take gamesmanship to a new level).

      Incompetent umpiring can cost you a game that way of the last ball. Leg before air (ie. terrible lbw decision, when the ball pitched outside the line or would be missing the stumps), ball races off the pads, away to the boundary, given out, review is not out, but fielding side wins. Bat before wicket (terrible lbw decision, when the bat clearly hit the bat), not caught, but given, and the runs the batsmen might have sneaked don’t count due to umpiring howler. Fielding side wins again.

      Honestly when that is the case, it seems fairer to consider such umpiring howlers as dead balls, rather than penalise the batting side for an umpiring error. But of course that opens a can of worms. Might be more sensible to let play continue, as the umpire makes the decision, which would allow for the runs / run out (that might happen too) to stand once the decision has been reviewed, if it is reviewed and proven to be incorrect.

      • That should have read: “Bat before wicket (terrible lbw decision, when the bat clearly hit the BALL)” ….

  • “The best teams find a way of coping with whatever conditions are thrown at them. Look at how Kane Williamson batted for New Zealand against South Africa on a sluggish Edgbaston pitch… Yes, Joe Root was a bit unlucky to be strangled out down the leg side against Sri Lanka, but in the defeat by Pakistan neither Root nor Jos Buttler saw it through after making hundreds. And Root should have gone on after reaching 50 against the Sri Lankans”.

    Nasser Hussain presses the button marked ‘Root’s conversion rate’. Funny how little criticism there’s been of Morgan’s horribly pokey innings which drained the team of all momentum or of Buttler’s shot trying to work a straight yorker at right angles. Blame the guy who made runs for not making more rather than blame those who failed is as much hardwired into the English media as blaming the guys who got out attacking rather than blaming the guys who got out nurdling.


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