Wow. That was insane. Like many people I turned off yesterday’s match when England capitulated to a pathetic 82-6. I decided to watch a bit of the BBC’s Great Debate instead – which I assumed would be heated discussion about the merits of promoting Joe Root to No.3 in the test team. Obviously I was disappointed.
However, I did keep an eye on the score as I watched six politicians talk exaggerated bollocks. I’m a fan of both Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes’ batting so I didn’t think our cause was necessary lost. I’m not saying I expected England would win (or even tie), but I did think there was an outside chance we’d get close.
As their remarkable partnership of 138 grew and grew, I sensed something historic might happen. I kept flicking over to monitor the Sri Lankans’ body language. They looked nervous to me. Jos can turn water into wine in shorter formats of the game.
When Jos lobbed a catch to long-off, the game looked up. But still I held out some hope. The recent World T20 showed us that anything is possible at the end of an innings, and I’ve seen the likes of Woakes, Willey and Plunkett smash the ball miles in county cricket.
When we scampered a three off the penultimate ball, leaving a solitary six to tie, I was surprisingly confident. Somehow I knew that Plunkett would smash the leather off the ball if Pradeep allowed him to get under it. And so it transpired.
Poor Pradeep. He’d bowled an absolutely beautiful final over until that moment. But his sixth delivery wasn’t quite as full as the previous five, and Plunkett was able to free his arms. His lusty blow over long-off was typically masculine. What a sensational finish.
I think it’s fair to say that our bowlers spared the batsmen’s blushes yesterday. We did well to restrict Sri Lanka to 286, and Rashid in particular bowled exceptionally well. They reckon Adil is a changed man since he returned from this year’s Big Bash. He’s certainly a maturing cricketer in 50 over cricket. Not to mention the best number 11 in living memory.
England’s batsmen, however, did their level best to spoil all the good work. Their performance was exceptionally limp. There were far too many soft dismissals, and only Eoin Morgan managed to survive more than ten balls.
Jason Roy in particular needs to pull his finger out. He averages just 28 in his twenty ODI innings to date with a solitary hundred – despite always having a full 50 overs to bat. Ian Bell averaged 42 as an opener (and 38 overall) and is England’s leading run scorer of all time in ODIs. Roy’s strike rate is obviously better (although it’s still less than 100) but he needs more than flashy 20s and 30s to justify his place in the team.
Not for the first time (and this is true in test cricket as much as the 50 over format), England’s lower order rescued the day. In case you haven’t noticed England’s ‘tail’ is rather handy. We could reverse the batting order on current form. Because we bat so deep, we’re rarely out of the game. Sri Lanka must be despondent.
The star performers were obviously Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. We’ve talked about Jos a million times before, and we all know he’s a class act, so today I’d like to focus on Woakes. Didn’t he play well! His unbeaten 95 was the highest ever score by a number eight* in ODIs.
Although Chris is a pretty orthodox player, he does have some big shots. What impresses me most, however, is his temperament. He played very responsibly and was the perfect foil for Buttler. He seems to absorb pressure well, keeps a clear head, and plays intelligently. I’m obviously a big fan of Ben Stokes, but would Stokes have played such a mature innings? I’m not so sure.
Now there’s something to chew over.
*corrected from number nine.