The Decider

It was great to see England bounce back at Lord’s in the ODI series. The defeat at Trent Bridge was a bad one. A chastening one. And it was made worse by the fact that everyone predicted we’d struggle against leg-spin. I thought Kuldeep would prove a handful but 6-25? Wow. That was even worse than the pessimists expected.

Luckily, however, England’s best batsman – and yes, he still is our best batsman in 50 over cricket – was there to restore some sanity at Lord’s. Joe Root played an excellent innings that was both sensible and skilful. He ensured there was no panic this time, and we played Kuldeep a lot better as a result. I know he picked up 3 wickets but I can live with that when he’s going for six runs per over.

The question now is whether the better performance at HQ was an aberration. Although England are making all the right noises by suggesting they’re picking Kuldeep better, I wouldn’t expect them to say anything else really. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Let’s see how we cope if Root is unable to marshal the innings at Headlingley. Our fallibility against quality spin has been entrenched for decades so I doubt we’ve suddenly found a magical solution now.

One senses that the decider will be quite an important game. Although the result isn’t everything – it’s who wins if these sides meet in next year’s world cup that counts – both teams will value the psychological advantage that victory at Leeds might bring.

England’s team, for example, is supposed to be the finished article. I certainly don’t envisage too many changes before next year. Defeat would therefore be somewhat worrying. Our macho way of playing requires the utmost confidence to pull off. A bad performance at Headingley, especially if leg-spin in the deciding factor, would therefore suggest vulnerability and plant seeds of doubt in the players’ minds.

Although defeat for India in the decider would also be a setback, I sense it’s not quite so vital for the visitors to win. After all, Virat Kohli has openly expressed that his team isn’t quite the finished article. India’s middle-order isn’t strong enough at the moment – did you know that Rohit, Dhawan and Virat have scored almost two thirds of India’s runs in successful chases over the last three years? – therefore they know they need to improve. I imagine a close defeat at Leeds would still give them plenty of positives, especially as England are currently the No.1 ranked side and enjoy home advantage here.

India’s other achilles heel, and it’s difficult to see how they can improve this area significantly in the short term, is their big tail. Generally teams don’t carry many bowlers who can’t bat a bit these days. India are the exception and it puts too much pressure on their big three or four players. It’s also one explanation why MS Dhoni played such a weird innings at Lord’s.

I wasn’t able to watch all of Dhoni’s innings as I’m in the middle of a very complicated house move at the moment, however, plenty of people on social media were intimating that something fishy was going on. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about that. Sometimes the most obvious explanation is the right one. And, as Kohli and Chahal both said after the game, Dhoni probably didn’t want India to suffer an enormous defeat and get bowled out quickly. He must have been aware that there wasn’t much batting to come after him.

Having said that, however, I can completely understand why some supporters in the ground felt a bit cheated. It doesn’t exactly make for a great spectacle when one team bats time and doesn’t even go for the win. It also reminds me of the times when I’ve been involved in club matches when there’s bad blood between the teams. Sometimes, when victory for one team becomes elusive, word goes round to “keep the bastards out there in the sun”. The batting team therefore bloodymindedly blocks out the remaining overs, and then disappears sharpish at the end without staying for a beer. I’m not saying that India adopted this approach, but it sure makes for some dull cricket.

Before I sign off, I’d quickly like to offer my solution to the two white balls (one at each end dilemma). Last week Sachin Tendulkar suggested they should go back to using just the one ball, as it makes scoring more difficult and brings reverse swing back into the 50-over format. The authorities, however, aren’t fans of this idea because they want batsmen to score as many runs as possible.

Well here’s my idea to solve the problem – although it may be a bit revolutionary for the authorities’ taste. In fact, it’s an idea so radical that your screen might explode as you read this:

Instead of using two white balls, why not simply use one red one and go back to playing in whites? What do white balls, dark sight screens, and lurid pyjamas actually add to the action anyway?

We might even see some better cricket with a ball that actually swings. There’s simply no need to play with a white ball unless it’s a day-nighter. And even then we could use the pink thing instead.

James Morgan


  • Good article James and my only comment would be that while yes, England seem to have the finished article in terms of team selection, I think Stokes is a long way from match fitness and therefore will have a lot more to offer next year. That of course doesn’t discount injury and poor form from the other ten come the World Cup!

  • I was in the Mound Stand at Lords on Saturday and there was a great deal of disquiet in the crowd, especially from Indian supporters, that India just played out time once they lost a few wickets. In a test match a draw is an option which is why the format is so much more interesting. It isn’t an option in a ODI so why on earth play as if it is?

  • Could be the most significant day of this tour as for the first time India looked ragged and unsure of themselves. It was as chastening a defeat for them as Trent Bridge was for us. If we can get through their top order they look vulnerable. Even Moin looked a threat. Still, you have to fancy them in the test matches, with a lot depending on how Anderson bowls with the new ball. Can’t see us lasting long batting on a day 5 pitch against their attack. Good to see Root getting time out in the middle. Stokes is a worry though, as he looks out of sorts with both bat and ball and he’s so important to the balance of this side.

    • Jimmy is set to play for Lancs second this week I think, so that’s some good news. Let’s hope his shoulder holds up ok.

      • Warwickshire have a couple of decent looking quicks now. Neither has any real experience, but as the only other alternatives seem to be the trundling Currans is one of them worth a punt? Can’t help feeling if they played for Middlesex or Surrey people would be taking them more seriously. Or are we going to stick with the wicketless Wood as he’s bowled ok in this ODI Series.

  • While a draw is not possible in one day cricket, it is a fundamental part of cricket that bowling out the opposition is how to win a match. The contrivance of limited over games is actually laid bare by the exhaustive tailoring of conditions such that it becomes heavily in favour of batting and requires something either bordering on the superhuman, incompetence on the part of the batters or luck for sides to be bowled out! A better balance of bat and ball rather than a quest for ‘maximums’ should give the average punter more to watch.

  • I believe the white balls were originally used for day/night games by Kerry Packer, because batsmen found the red ball hard to pick up against the sightscreen (a distinct disadvantage when you have the likes of Michael Holding and Joel Garner steaming in!). If you’re going to continue playing day/night cricket, you have to stay with white balls, I think.

    I think white balls tend to discolour over 50 overs, so you may need to keep to 2. There are, however, things you could do to improve the balance between batting and bowling (apart from involving more Pakistan teams!). These include proper boundaries, so mishits don’t regularly go for 6, and using Duke balls instead of Kookaburra.

    Off to Leeds tomorrow for the game: should be a good one.

  • 1) As James says, white balls are for day/night matches and there are too many of those I think to go to two different kinds of ball.

    2) I don’t really have a problem with Dhoni’s innings. The game was gone, better in the context of the series to make England bowl as many overs as possible and also for Dhoni to get more of a feel for the conditions. Really it’s just one of the flaws of the format that you get these times where the result is inevitable and it’s all a waste of time. I felt much the same watching the 2nd innings of the first match, 268 was never going to be a challenge on that pitch with England’s bowling line up, it really was a waste of time. But that’s ODIs.

    3) If it’s a normal, fairly close game, I don’t think even a loss will bother England so much. Another collapse against spin however will be a worry, b/c it’s a long term weakness and could play on their minds. Similarly for India, it’s more about performance than outcome at this stage, still a long way until the WC. Of course, both sides would prefer to win, lots of competitive characters in both teams.

  • Simple solution – ban kookaburra from making cricket balls: white, red, pink, burnt ochre, ultramarine, magnolia or any other shade you might be looking at to paint your new bathroom James.

    Kookaburra make crap cricket balls.

  • Went to the match on Saturday, keen to see Kuldeep bowl. Immediately surprised at how low his arm was. It was near enough 2 o’clock at moment of release.

    I can see how you can roll out the ordinary wrist spin (chinaman), but a googly (the leg break), how is that done with that point of release? I mentioned it to an India supporter and he suggested he ‘flicks’ it.

    Did the TV show any close ups during the first or second match in the series?

  • James, as an Indian fan, Dhoni’s batting was unforgivable. If a Pakistani player had done that, there would have been calls for an ICC inquiry. I don’t mind if we lose, but not even making an effort to win the game rankles with me. People paid upto 100 pounds to be there, they deserve better than watching a glorified net session.


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