I didn’t watch all of it because I was hiding behind the sofa. Even though I was alone, and probably several miles from the nearest Irishman, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so embarrassed – and that includes the time my shorts fell down when I jumped into a swimming pool full of girls as a child.
First of all, we have to say well done to Kevin O’Brien. He had his luck, but he was sensational. To hit the fastest ever century in the World Cup history (off 50 balls) was special – even though it was against England’s bunch of schoolgirls. It is not an understatement to say that he singlehandedly won the game for Ireland.
However, to score at that kind of rate you need a bit of help from the opposition – and boy did he get some. England’s batsmen generally played well in compiling 327-8, but the bowling was another story. Let’s just say that my six week old son could’ve done better.
I don’t know what was worse. Was it the way we bowled, or the way we panicked and crumbled under pressure? Come to think of it, it was neither. It was our arrogance and complacency when Ireland were reduced to 111-5. It was also our unsightly and unsavoury petulance when things started to go wrong.
When O’Brien launched one of the many tame ‘bouncers’ bowled by the Jimmy Anderson, England’s supposed spearhead gave the rotund Irishman a volley of abuse. It was needless and petulant.
What’s more, sledging someone when you’ve just been launched for six is quite frankly brainless, especially when the bloke in question is five times as big as you. Jimmy needs to grow up and learn how to bowl when the slog is on. He wasn’t left out of the World T20 for nothing.
Stuart Broad also predictably lost control (I’m talking about his temper as well as his line & length). Meanwhile, the hapless Mike Yardy surely lost his credibility as an international bowler. The sequence of short leg-side longhops he dished up would have looked poor in an U-13 match. There is no excuse when you bowl at his pace and don’t even spin the ball.
Thus far our bowlers have bowled poorly in all three of our World Cup matches. They were bad against India, abject against the Netherlands, but I’m struggling to think of a word to describe their performance today. ‘Lamentable’ doesn’t quite do it, ‘dismal’ isn’t strong enough, and ‘pathetic’ is used too frequently to convey the levels of ineptitude they reached today. Let’s just say that Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Yardy made Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes performances look good.
Changes must be made, or it won’t be long before England’s best cricketers start trying to qualify for Ireland. On today’s evidence, Eoin Morgan may decide to do an Ed Joyce.
England’s fielding and bowling were rubbish but Ireland deserves a lot of credit to chase down such a big target. O’Brien gave a great example of stand and deliver clean hitting coupled with useful support innings from Cusack and Mooney. Well done Ireland considering they were 0-1.
Easy to state with hindsight but Swann was bowled out way too early and it was surprising Collingwood did not bowl more considering Yardy and Broad were going round the park.
The challenge for England is that the other players in the squad don’t really provide any options. Bopara could make a difference but Tredwell, Shahzad and Wright are arguably worse than the players in the team. Apart from sickness on the morning of the match, you wonder how on earth Luke Wright will get a game this world cup and therefore seems a waste of a position in the squad.
Well though he played, it’d be tempting to dismiss O’Brien’s innings as a bit of a freak – on 9 days out of 10 one of his big hits would have gone straight up in the air (though whether we’d have caught it is a different matter). Tempting, that is, if we hadn’t bowled just as badly in the previous two games.
We’re really paying the price for the current tours calendar which schedules the World Cup right after a long, gruelling Ashes tour and the endless one-day series that followed it – the players have had hardly any time to prepare and (apart from those injured in Australia) no time to rest. Though the proposed rescheduling of the Ashes may not be ideal, if we’re ever going to make a decent fist of the World Cup we need to have some daylight between the two.
Its taken me a full 24 hours to calm down enough to talk about this!
Have to say firstly well done Ireland. They deserved to win the game and from physical performance through to body language they obviously wanted it more than England did. It seems to me that when the catches started to go down and the run rate plummeted England just had no response.
Now whether that was down to player burnout, a lack of skill on the day, an absense of bottle or just a lack of desire i dont really know. The fact is that whatever England’s plan was, the players forgot about it after 20 overs.
In spite of their success in tests recently i still dont rate Strauss as a captain. I think he will always be good but never great. When things are going well and the bowlers can remember where the stumps are he is the man to have. It’s when things go tits up that he doesnt seem to have anything in the tank to pull it round. As soon as O’Brien started smacking boundaries he started tinkering with the field sending players deep then bringing them up next ball. Whoever was fielding at deep square leg/fine leg/deep third man must have run miles that night! There seemed to be an air of panic about everything and instead of just staying calm, sticking to their plans and bowling at the stumps we got a succession of wide half volleys and middle and leg deliveries. Its no wonder the Irish found the boundary so often, we practically gave them directions!
Now the dust has settled a bit i think there are a few simple things that England can do to make sure we can bat well, and bowl well in the same match.
1. I’m afraid that sentiment must be set aside and Collingwood must be dropped. You might defend him by saying that he bowls useful overs outside the powerplays but at the end of the day its just dibbly dobbly medium pace. Bring in Ravi Bopara (40 odd off 16 balls in his last ODI, another 40 odd on the scoreboard would have won us that game) and give him and Trott or KP 5 overs each.
2. Remind our quicks that they are expected to start, and finish an innings. The yorker seems to have disappeared from their arsenal and they should spend a full net session just bowling at the bottom of middle stump. Point out to them that they cannot, under any circumstances give any batsman width on a slow dead pitch. Almost every one of our quicks dot balls were from deliveries on a good length on off stump.
3. We need to rotate our bowlers better and get value for money from our part timers. Whats wrong with an over of Ian Bell or a couple from KP? India’s success in recent years comes from having 7 or 8 people in their side that can, and do bowl. Batsmen never get a chance to settle and struggle to rotate the strike when the bowlers are rotated well.
4. Have a fielding plan and stick to it. Dont panic just because someone has decided to go after a bowler or two and dont tinker, its a sign of weakness.
5. Remind KP that he is one of the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket. He seems to have forgotten what it was we loved him for in the first place. Dont try and dab sweep when your real strength is the switch hit or slog sweep. Do what you know and do it well.
I do hope we can put in a good performance against South Africa and at least make it out of the group stages. We have the skill and the talent, i just fear that another disappointing workd cup is here and that it will be another four years before we can flatter to deceive again!
There, i feel much better now. This is like therapy!
Hope you feel better Mark. You have no idea how restrained I was when I wrote the lead article. I wanted to be so so so much harsher.
I think you have a point about Strauss’ captaincy. It has been a bugbear of mine for ages – including during the Ashes. He is a solid captain, and his normally unflappable temperament helps the team, but he is always reactive, not proactive. During test matches he falls back on the ‘let’s sit in the game and wait for something to happen’ far too easily. It could be argued that he has the same flaws in ODIs. What did he actually do to try and get O’Brien out?
However, in Strauss’ defence, it’s hard to do much when your bowlers bowl like a pile of cow dung. England also dropped about six catches. What was the old adage about catches and winning matches again?!