Power of Scotland

Remember when we used to laugh off our ODI humiliations by saying “well, we don’t really take white ball cricket seriously … it’s the Test team that counts”?

Scotland humiliated England in Edinburgh yesterday. We were the world’s No.1 ranked ODI side. Scotland hadn’t even qualified for the next World Cup. Yet an incredible hundred from Calum MacLeod, a batsman who has played for Durham and Warwickshire with somewhat mixed results, sealed an emotional win that will be remembered for a long time. Well played Scotland. You did your country proud.

The Scots deserved their win yesterday in more than one sense. They played the better cricket – that much is obvious – but their historic victory was also some consolation for missing out on World Cup qualification. They were rather unfortunate by all accounts, suffering umpiring incompetence plus bad luck with the weather.

Their performance yesterday also shoved two fingers up at the ICC who decided the limit the World Cup to just ten teams. The official argument was that the presence of so called minnows diluted the quality and competitiveness of the competition. Many suspect, however, that the real reason was money and the fact that the ECB and Cricket Australia didn’t want them there.

It’s ridiculous, of course, to call Scotland minnows when they’ve just racked up 371-5 against the top ranked ODI side. There are some very talented players outside the major nations. Rashid Khan is the most obvious example. And in a game where one or two superb individual performances can decided a match, it’s foolish to write any team off.

I’m sure England fans will remember Kevin O’Brien’s amazing century against England in the 2011 World Cup. And England have suffered at the hands of other minnows too. Remember that shocking defeat to the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup a while back?

It was impossible not to think of the Dutch yesterday because England’s players bore an uncannily resemblance to Dutch footballers in their new shirts. I had to do a double-take when I tuned in. Was that Alex Hales wearing florescent orange or Marco Van Basten?

As the game reached it’s conclusion, I have to admit that a small part of me wanted Scotland to win. It obviously meant so much to them, and several of their players seemed to be enjoying career days. Matthew Cross, who opened the batting and scored 48, played a bit for Notts and has a career List A average of 24. George Munsey, who scored 55, has played a bit for Northants and averages 26.5 in List A cricket. The aforementioned Calum MacLeod has played over 120 List A matches but averages under 30. And Mark Watt, who was Scotland’s star turn with the ball, is only 21 years old and has played only four first class games in which he’s taken eight wickets at an average over 40. Only their captain Kyle Coetzer, who will be familiar to most cricket fans, has a top class pedigree.

However, as this is an England cricket blog, I guess the focus really ought to be on England’s players. Hopefully this defeat will be a kick up the arse and a reminder that they aint all that quite yet. Yes our batting is extremely powerful but our bowling remains a problem. And there’s no answer on the horizon either unless the ECB can cynically reverse their decision to extend the residency qualification period from four to seven years simply to get Jofra Archer in the team. The fact Eoin Morgan had to talk about this directly in a press conference tells a story in itself.

Although England’s batsmen didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory, with nobody except Jonny Bairstow converting a good start into three figures, I’m not going to dwell on the batting when the team’s just scored 365. The blame for this defeat lies solely at the feet of our hapless bowling attack. I’ve often bemoaned our lack of a single world class bowling talent. And this is the achilles heel that could well cost England the World Cup.

In 2017 England’s batsmen scored runs faster than any other major nation in the world. What you may have missed amongst the back slapping and hyperbole, however, is that our bowlers conceded runs faster than any other nation. That’s right folks, in 2017 we had statistically the best batting line up but also the worst bowling attack in the world. And is it really any surprise? …

Mark Wood has talent but a fragile body; David Willey is a medium pacer who rarely wins games at county level let alone in an England shirt; Liam Plunkett is a wholehearted cricketer who would be a better enforcer in red ball cricket than a run-stifler in ODIs, and although Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali usually do a decent job, they’re not exactly feared at the top level. No wonder people on Twitter were beginning to mention the names Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad yesterday.

The truth is that champion ODI teams usually have strength in both batting and bowling. This covers all bases. If the batsmen have an off day then the bowlers bail them out and vice versa. The problem with England is that our strategy is simply based on scoring more runs than the opposition. If the batsmen fail then the team generally fails. And we all know that Eoin Morgan’s men do have a penchant for collapsing when they can’t figure out a pitch and aren’t sure what a good score is.

Yesterday was therefore a reminder that the ECB have sacrificed everything – the championship, the Ashes, and the future of our Test team in particular – in order to gamble on World Cup success. Yet all it will take to derail this plan is one poor show from the batsmen. Because make no mistake about it; England’s ODI team IS their batsmen.

England can’t rely on the bowlers like the great World Cup winning Australian teams did. When the likes of Waugh, Gilchrist and Ponting failed, they could turn to McGrath and Warne. Our batsmen have to turn to David Willey.

James Morgan


2018-06-11T09:50:06+00:00June 11th, 2018|ODIs & T20|40 Comments


  1. Hampshire Hog June 11, 2018 at 10:02 am - Reply


    • James Morgan June 11, 2018 at 10:09 am - Reply

      Who? Me? 😉

  2. princeofporkupine June 11, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

    “The problem with England is that our strategy is simply based on scoring more runs than the opposition.”

    Bang on James!

    Scotland should and will enjoy their win but Truth is, but for Hales’ brain-fade; running Root out and then slicing a rank wide ball to point we would have chased them down at a canter.

    Anyway playing Scotland a few days before a series with Australia has to be a good thing, regardless of the score in the same way a test against Ireland before the Pakistan series wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    • James June 11, 2018 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Also, just before Moeen got out, we needed 28 off 28 with 3 wickets in hand, and Moeen and Plunkett going well. You’d normally back the chasing team to make that.

  3. marees June 11, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

    If CSK can win despite having Wood & Willey in the team, then so too can England win WC 2019 !

    • d'Arthez June 11, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

      Wood and Wiley hardly featured though. Think Wiley got 3 games, Wood 1. None of them in the games that really mattered (ie. knockouts, or when risk of elimination in group stages was really hinging on a thread) Champion benchwarmers?

  4. James June 11, 2018 at 10:13 am - Reply

    “The problem with England is that our strategy is simply based on scoring more runs than the opposition.” Isn’t that how you win cricket matches? i tend to think England could have won but for a few brain fades at the end. I’m not sure that was a first choice England XI (no Stokes Buttler or Woakes). I tend to agree that this defeat is a bloody nose/wake call for the ECB, and certainly for those who advocated a 10 team world cup. I’d go for 16 teams (starting as 4 pools of 4). At a time when the football world cup is expanding and taking its message to more countries (one of the few things Blatter did well apart from accept brown envelopes – allegedly), it’s utterly ridiculous for cricket to revert to a sort of “big boys’ club”.

    • James Morgan June 11, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Ok smart arse 🙂 England’s strategy is simply “it doesn’t matter how many runs the opposition get, we’ll score more”. Subtle difference. Obviously the best teams can restrict the opposition too.

      However, I did rather ask for that one!

      • James June 11, 2018 at 11:13 am - Reply

        That’s MR Smart Arse to you! 🙂 In fairness, you’re quite correct that our ODI bowling attack is pretty toothless (mind you, so is our test bowling attack when the ball doesn’t move, so it’s consistent). England are a pretty transient no 1 ODI team I think (in the same way they were a transient no 1 test team a few years ago). They have plenty of weaknesses, unlike, say, the WI teams of the late 1970’s.

        • James Morgan June 11, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

          Agreed mate

      • asi_mayes June 11, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

        Umm, that literally is what white ball is about… whatever you score, we will score more

      • asi_mayes June 11, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

        Umm, that literally is what white ball is about… whatever you score, we will score more

      • Cricketcricketcricket June 11, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

        Umm, that literally is what white ball is about… whatever you score, we will score more

        Bowling is literally just there to be spanked

    • Simon H June 11, 2018 at 11:36 am - Reply

      “I’m not sure that was a first choice England XI”.

      It wasn’t a first choice Scotland XI either. If you think England have trouble getting their best XI players on the field, you should see what teams like Scotland have to put up with.

  5. Paul June 11, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

    England have issues in both batting & bowling, England’s bating is great when the ball is coming on the bat nicely, but when the pitch slows down and the ball seems to stop in front of the bat is when the English batsmen seem unable to score and get out attempting the big hits. Could be a problem in ICC tournaments when the same pitches are used for matches and they start getting worn down by the end of the tournament.

    As for the bowling, not sure who else is there. Maybe Sam Curran & Toblerone could get a look in? Wood is useless unless he bowls 140+, and having only 5 bowlers is not a great plan.

    • James Morgan June 11, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

      I fear the cupboard is bare. The bowling talent in the recently selected Lions squad really wasn’t much to shout about either I’m afraid. Of course, if you promote a form of cricket in which there’s an emphasis on big hitting all the time, and everything is set up for batsmen to dominate, kids start thinking “who wants to be a bloody bowler”? I’m not sure we can quite blame England’s lack of bowling talent on this quite yet, but it must be a concern down the line.

      • AndyB June 11, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

        The cupboard is a bit thin, but not completely bare. Looking 2-3 years down the line Amar Virdi looks promising and Henry Brookes, must be a real prospect given his start to 2018 and Sky timing him at 89mph with another 3 months before he is 19. I am especially interested in Brookes speed development given Warwickshire reckoned he still needed 2-3 years of physical development at the end of the 2017 season. If we could find a quick young leftie we would have a decent development set (and I do not think Garton fits the bill).

    • Simon H June 11, 2018 at 11:39 am - Reply

      “a problem in ICC tournaments when the same pitches are used “.

      Have a close look at the schedule for the 2019 WC – they’ve designed it so re-using pitches is built in on a large scale.

  6. BobW June 11, 2018 at 10:26 am - Reply

    I’d just like to say well done Scotland and what a beautiful venue it was. The back drop with the mountains was gorgeous. It was nice to see top class cricket being played at a club ground too instead of a faceless stadium with rows and rows of stands..

  7. Ian Truman June 11, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

    In fairness to England, they were missing their two best bowlers (Woakes and Stokes) – i’m relatively sure their absence added up to more than the small margin of defeat.

    Even with those two available it’s still an uninspiring attack, but it’s good enough to win a World Cup when added to the world class batting line up.

  8. Jackie Litherland June 11, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

    When we write about failing bowlers we ought to consider that the ECB and Bayliss love flat pitches so we can cross the 300 barrier with total confidence. The problem is so can any team. We’ve heard so much about attitude and entertainment and aggression and very little about the effect on bowlers.

    Games in the past had lower scores but they were played on more difficult pitches. Why scorn Willey? Time to assess how the ODI game might lose a few runs and gain more balance between bat and ball. It’s that Idiots Guide to Cricket beloved of the ECB that fans only want to see batsmen clearing the ropes rather than being challenged by a bowler.

    If you are very drunk it may be true that befuddled brains can’t take much in. But mums and kids and dads don’t tend to do the heavy drinking at matches. At Durham recently it was a gang of Durham students who mouthed off all the time with idiot bets and no game awareness who spoilt an excellent match for spectators nearby. They drank themselves into mindlessness. Maybe this is the target audience for the ECB with their flat decks and entertainment? Bell’s master class of 145* on a more difficult pitch had to be compiled with diligence and flair. Two sixes. But they came at a crucial time in the chase against tight bowling. When we start to think about ODIs as strategic rather than barnstorming all the time we may develop a side less vulnerable to chance.

  9. d'Arthez June 11, 2018 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Which defeat to the Dutch in T20s? England lost BOTH their games against the Dutch in that format. The close loss at Lord’s, 2009, or the trashing England endured in 2014 in Chittagong?

  10. Marc Evans June 11, 2018 at 11:20 am - Reply

    For a few years now we have lived on the cover up our talented pool of batsman provide our somewhat less talented bowlers. How many games have we won scoring over 300? More than a good side should need to. It amuses me how much sky pushed our ‘world number 1’ rating as the main reason to watch. It just shows on a good wicket with relatively short boundaries how difficult decent batsmen can be to strangle and how the rating system fails to tell the true atory. We have shown similar fallibility for some time but have usually scored enough runs, a bit like Man City saying we may have a vulnerable defence but we’ll score more goals than you however many you score, except that this England side is no Many City.
    Once again Root gets in and out. How long before he accepts this is a real problem for a player of his talent and the rest of the team. It seems to be getting worse. Why can’t he play a more percentage game?
    Despite playing so much 1 day stuff we don’t seem to be producing much bowling nous. Pace and spin are as important in white ball cricket as in red and where have the the subtle variations gone? Malinga and Narine are still getting wickets galore in the IPL, where are their successors?

  11. Colin Kerr June 11, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Another excellent article James. As an Irish cricket fan, I’m delighted to see Scotland performing at this level and second your emotion on the need for an expanded World Cup.

  12. Comte June 11, 2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

    As I have some Scotch whisky, sorry, Scottish blood in me I wasn’t at all sorry with the result. The Scots were up for it, England was not. 24 hours earlier I saw England’s Women hammered by their South African counterparts. There’s an old but true saying that it’s tough to get to the top but tougher still to stay there.
    This England team should have been good enough but every game has to be taken seriously. (For the record I don’t see Stokes as one of our best ODI bowlers).
    I’m not going to lose any sleep but the England management should. Time for a lengthy stay on the naughty step. Please don’t let Billings anywhere near the team again.

    • AndyB June 11, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      An odd comment about Billings. As a keeper he looked several classes above Bairstow, never mind ‘hands of stone’ Buttler. I can understand preferring Foakes to Billings in tests as Foakes is the best gloveman in the country and a decent bat (please, please bring him in for Buttler in the India tests), but in white ball Billings allows you to have a proper keeper whose domestic batting record stands up well compared with Buttler (his international record is so thin, and based on odd games here and there, making any comparison meaningless).

  13. Simon H June 11, 2018 at 11:53 am - Reply

    As Andrew Nixon has been pointing out on Twitter, England play Australia more in the next week than they’ve ever played Scotland in ODIs. Scotland have three T20s scheduled soon but after that, nothing. How about a European Cup for cricket?

    Who will carry the can in the bowling attack? They might just swap Willey for Woakes and bring in Stokes for Hales to give a sixth option. However they might start thinking of something more radical. Watch out for the start of a campaign to dump Rashid for Mason Crane (always let’s you down…. poor fielder…. too slow…. mentally fragile vs. feisty…. good in the nets…. free of mental scars…. up for the fight).

  14. Harmy's Head June 11, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Firstly, what a fantastic game of cricket, even if the pitch was a road and the ground a postage stamp. I must also confess to being torn as to who to support – despite all the ECB have done to us I have never taken the line of supporting another team against England – but the Scottish blood in me was certainly stirring at such a performance. Well done Scotland.

    Makes a complete mockery of the ICC’s short sighted decision to allow only 10 teams into the World Cup. I know that previous World Cups have been too long, but they could easily have increased the number to 16 – a first group stage with 4 groups of 4, and then a second group stage with 2 groups of 4, with the top two in each going through the semi-finals. That would total 36 games – 12 fewer than the previous World Cup pool stages and quarter-finals combined. But the ICC can’t afford the loss of TV revenue should India go out having played only 3 games – so it’s easier for them to just cut the Associate nations out instead.

    I wouldn’t be too harsh on England’s bowlers given how batsman friendly the conditions were. But, just like the batsmen, they seem to be lacking a Plan B in conditions like this – only David Willey was prepared to try doing something different, by bowling wide yorkers near the end of the Scotland innings, and he was the only one to do anything to curb MacLeod’s scoring rate.

    • Pete Cresswell June 11, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

      Courtesy of Daniel Brettig:
      The 2015 WC saw 14 teams play 49 matches over 43 days.

      The 2019 edition will see 10 teams play 48 matches over 46 days. But India are guaranteed 9 matches rather than the 6 minimum in 2015 …

      • Lolly June 12, 2018 at 5:59 am - Reply

        So transparent. I wish I was strong-minded enough not to watch, as I’m fed up with this bullshit about Associates. It’s insulitng. Can’t think of any other sport that would insult playing nations in this way with their World Cup.

  15. Mike June 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Its probably sensible to not have too many knee jerk reactions to losing a game. The one day side has a pretty good record and stokes would give us a 6th bowler.

    Having said that, it doesnt make a lot of sense to not have broad in the side. A bowling attack of broad, woakes, stokes , plunkett , ali and rashid looks decent as we still keep a pretty deep batting line up.

    • AndyB June 11, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      I have said it before, but it bears repeating; Broad has a record of knee tendonitis. This tends to recur and has to be managed, in part by avoiding overuse. Broad may want to play but that does not make it a good idea in terms of prolonging his test career.

  16. john trevelyan June 11, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    And the ECB, busy sacrificing the county championship and now Tests to the altar of the God of the Pyjama Game. My schadenfreude is at 11…

  17. john trevelyan June 11, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    And the ECB, busy sacrificing the county championship and now Tests to the altar of the God of the Pyjama Game. My schadenfreude is at 11…

  18. Dave Elliott June 11, 2018 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Let us be fair to this England squad , they have reached their no.1 ranking by beating the opposition that has been put in front of them….not because they voted on who has the smartest kit (by the way that orange abomination from the weekend surely has to go).
    We have massive strength in depth to our batting and as far as I can see we will continue to comfortably outscore the opposition , such as it is at present.

  19. Cricketcricketcricket June 11, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    If you want to watch a game of pure hitting then it’s a good game. If you actually want to watch a competitive game.. what a waste of time.. zero balance between bat or ball.. simply bowling for miss hits ..

    Still, good for the beer heads and money men so who cares right..

    Ps. England’s bowling is dire and I’m loving that suddenly currans are the saviours.. they are both nowhere near good enough

    • Doug M June 11, 2018 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Tom Curran is one of the best death bowlers around, but I but he was glad he didn’t play in this game. Very well done Scotland and a deserved kick up the bum for Morgan’s supposed number 1 team full of big egos. Come on folks the bowling was pants, allowing Scotland to get 370? Christ almighty. Opening with Willey and an undercooked Wood wouldn’t scare Boycotts Grandma. What the hell is Billings doing in the side? Moen can’t bowl for toffee and Rashid….well is Rashid. This lot won’t win the World Cup without some decent bowlers and Stoakes, Woakes and Butler in top form and fit which the first two are not.
      Fast going off England in all formats.

  20. Lolly June 12, 2018 at 5:56 am - Reply

    It’s safe to say that the Aussies won’t be scoring anything like that against the English attack, no matter who is missing. Remarkable effort from Scotland.

  21. Shaminder June 12, 2018 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Great Article

  22. Simon H June 12, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Vic Marks wakes up, about two years too late….

    This is why ignoring governance is such a disaster. Journalists meed to be awake when decisions are made, not only notice them when the shitty consequences hit home and it’s too late.

    By the way, there are lots of people blaming “the ICC”. It was Giles Clarke whod rove the ten-team WC. That’s according to Tim Wigmore’s ICC source and although I don’t like anonymous briefings, it’s the best evidence we’ve got. I’ll stand correction on this, but I think I’m correct in saying CA. CNZ and CSA all publically opposed ten-teams for 2019 (although it would be fair to say the first two wanted ten teams in 2015 when they were hosts).

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