Back in the late 80s, I think it was 1989 to be exact, a famous Aussie journalist referred to England’s bowlers as “pie-chuckers”. It was the first time I’d heard this remarkably effective insult. It seemed so apt. The Aussies had bowlers like Merv Hughes, a cricketing psychopath who bristled with aggression. He behaved (and looked!) like a wookie who’d just been poked by a cattle prod. England, on the other hand, had harmless and slightly gormless looking medium-pacers like Derek Pringle.
The expression “pie-chucker” therefore really resonated. Whenever Geoff Boycott referred to “buffet bowling”, I used to imagine Mark Ilott strolling to the front of a Lord’s cafeteria, picking up some mini-chicken and mushrooms pies, lobbing them in the general direction of Steve Waugh, and then quickly hiding behind Alan Igglesden before the fearsome Aussies identified the culprit. England’s cricket was about as intimidating as an episode of Peppa Pig. The Australian side was packed with dynamic athletes with real swag. Dean Jones seemed as cool as Indiana Jones. England had Kim Barnett.
Oh how times have changed …
Yesterday at Chester-le-Street, the difference between England’s modern and vibrant ODI side and Australia’s anachronistic teddy bears had never been starker. Australia’s batsmen plodding along at a pedestrian pace. And their bowlers looked nothing more than, yes you guessed it, pie chuckers. There was only ever going to be one winner. The fact that some Australians probably thought 310 was a competitive score says it all really.
I know England’s win came with caveats. Australia are missing their two best batsmen in Smith and Warner, and they’re also missing Starc, Cummins, and Hazlewood too. However, England would be able to cope with a few absentees. Jos Buttler was rested in the last game, and Eoin Morgan has also missed time in this series. And Ben Stokes hasn’t featured at all. What’s more, England can call on reserves of the calibre of Dawid Malan (who’s a better white ball cricketer than a red one).
What’s more, I don’t think we’d really miss any of our bowlers if they got injured either. We don’t really have any world class bowlers. Guys like Willey and Plunkett are pretty much interchangeable with reserves like Chris Jordan and Craig Overton. England’s strength is their ability to score big runs quickly. And that’s proved far too much for Australia in this series. Just like the fantastic Australian teams of the early 1990s needed to travel to South Africa or the West Indies to get a good contest, this England ODI side will only be tested once India arrive.
Yesterday’s game therefore followed a very familiar script. It’s hardly worth elaborating on events in too much detail – especially as I suspect most of you were watching the football anyway as England closed in on victory. Basically Australia batted like England under Ashley Giles. The approach was very twentieth century: bat cautiously at the beginning, lay a platform, keep wickets in hand, and then hope the slog comes off. The best case scenario is a score around 300, which simply isn’t enough these days on good pitches with modern bats.
Two of Australia’s top three scored centuries and the other one made a fifty. But the individual scores masked somewhat inadequate strike rates. The fact that the Aussies were happy to milk Joe Root (a part time spinner) for just four runs per over summed it up. Personally I think Australia played with too much fear. However, their real fear should’ve been scoring too slowly and setting England a total that was meat and drink.
Most observers thought at the time that 310 was probably 50 runs too short. And it soon became apparent they were right. Roy and Bairstow are on top form at the moment and showed the Australian openers what they should have done. Roy raced to his century in 82 balls, and he never really got out of fourth gear.
If only Roy could tighten up his defence because he has all the talent in the world. Although he tends to slog a bit, he also plays some high class proper cricket strokes. One sumptuous back foot drive was perhaps the shot of the summer. I wonder if there’s a red ball player hiding in there somewhere?
Jonny Bairstow also batted superbly yet again. It’s amazing to think that he couldn’t get in the side just a year ago. My only slight fear is that playing all this ODI cricket might affect his test form. In fact, the same might be said for half this England team. Remember when playing white ball cricket damaged Alastair Cook’s rhythm in test cricket? Maybe the others aren’t immune and that’s why we’re playing so poorly in white these days.
However, that’s a concern for another day. Yesterday was all about England’s destructive batting, again. This series will surely end in a 5-0 success unless the team take their eye off the ball. As for Australia, they’ve now dropped to sixth in the rankings, which makes them officially the worst Australian team ever. Justin Langer has a tough job to turn this team around before next year’s World Cup. I just hope that England aren’t peaking too soon.
PS Argentina …. ha ha ha ha ha.