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.
Written in collaboration with BR Agency