Greetings all. Have you caught your breath after the T20 series? What absolute carnage that was. Approximately 400 runs per game and a couple of close finishes too. The organisers certainly got what they wanted.
I did originally plan to write a match report after every game. However, tempting as that was after our capitulation in the first match of the series – it’s perfectly acceptable to push a run a ball when you need 7 off 7 lads – I thought it was best to simply write a summary at the end.
I decided to do this because, entertaining as T20s are, they tend to blend into one over time. They don’t have the ebb and flow of Test matches (or even ODIs to a certain extend) and therefore games tend not to have their own individual character or idiosyncrasies. They’re just full on. Therefore I came to the conclusion that three separate reports would become a bit repetitive.
So how would I summarise the series? Basically bat thrashed ball. We saw heavy bats, short boundaries, big hitters, and bowlers looking forlorn and bewildered at times.
Was this fun? Most certainly. Should we take it seriously? That’s up to you. Was I pleased England won? Yes but it’s no biggie. I tend to take T20 with a pinch of salt. It’s just a big spectacle. And I enjoy it the same way I enjoy an all-action Hollywood blockbuster – I switch my brain off and enjoy the show. It ticks many of my boxes but I’ll never love the format because it’s a bit one dimensional.
One of the reasons that I love Test cricket is because bowlers can attack. It’s about taking twenty wickets as much as scoring runs. The captain can put fielders where he likes – so the tactical element is enhanced – and if the pitches are good then it’s an even balance between bat and ball.
T20, on the other hand, is obviously designed to favour the batsmen. And that’s absolutely fine if you like that sort of thing. But it’s surely a worry that bowlers are somewhat diminished. They’re not quite the ‘bowling machines’ that some say they are, and I do like the way that spinners are often highly relevant in the shortest form, but when you see batsmen scoring at two runs per ball, and frequently making 50s in approximately twenty balls, I do worry that T20 has become one way traffic.
One wonders whether this model is sustainable in the long run? I can understand why the administrators want to see multiple boundaries every over – it certainly attracts the casual fans – but perhaps they should think about it this way: surely the more you see of something the less special it becomes?
If one had chateaubriand for dinner every day it would soon become the norm and, dare I say it, a bit mundane. I’m beginning to feel this way about sixes. I used to jump out of my chair when an England player hit a ‘maximum’; now I merely smile. In ten years’ time I wonder how many might merely mutter ‘meh’.
Recent news from the Big Bash also provides food for thought. Attendances are well down and many believe the tournament is at a crossroads. Have the Aussies strangled the golden goose? It’s certainly possible. Although we can’t blame T20 as a format entirely because it remains highly popular elsewhere, maybe we’re seeing the first signs of what I’m going to call ‘six saturation’ point.
Having said all that, I’m certainly looking forward to the World T20 in Australia later this year. These slogfests do have a lot more meaning and context when there’s silverware to play for. What’s more, it would be great if England could be both ODI and T20 champions at the same time.
If the pitches remain flat (which is highly likely) then I imagine we have a great chance of winning down under. Our batting has few equals when it comes to firepower, and although our bowling looked pedestrian in this series, the addition of Jofra Archer will surely help.
What do you make of Buttler playing as an opener? Personally I’m not convinced. This isn’t because I don’t think Jos is a tremendous white ball talent – he’s clearly bloody brilliant – it’s because I think England are undervaluing how important it is to have a world class finisher down the order.
When it comes to tight run-chases there’s nobody I’d rather have at the death than Jos He’s amazing at manipulating both the field and the strike. England have plenty of batsmen who can shine at the top of the order – mentally it’s relatively simple to go out there and express yourself – but as we saw in the first game of this series, thinking cricketers with the ability to stay calm under pressure are incredibly rare. This is why moving Buttler up to open rather wastes one of our trump cards.
Opening with Buttler also splits up the Roy / Bairstow axis for no reason whatsoever. Yes it doesn’t make a lot of difference if Jonny bats at 3 but why bother fixing something if it’s not broken? I’d simply pick Dawid Malan at 3 (where he’d play ahead of Joe Root) and keep Jos as a trump card down other order.
I’d certainly feel a lot more confident with Jos at the crease than rely on the relatively inexperienced Dawid, and the entertaining but not particularly reliable Moeen, to see us over the line in a tight World T20 final. What about you? My top 7 would therefore look like this Roy, Bairstow, Malan, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Moeen. And then the bowlers …
When it comes to our bowling attack I’m not so confident. I like the spin duo of Rashid and Mo but the seamers are much of a muchness. In fact, I don’t think it makes much difference who we choose. Jordan, the Currans, Woakes etc – they’re all ok but they’re hardly sure bets.
I was also a bit disappointed with Wood in this series. I thought he could be a real difference-maker, like he is in the Test and ODIs sides, but instead he leaked too many runs. Sometimes the faster the ball comes onto the bat, the faster it comes off the bat. Sigh.
Fortunately, however, I sense that our relative lack of firepower doesn’t really matter in the end. T20 is a batsman’s game and as long as we score one more run that the opposition then we’ll all be as happy as pigs in filth.
In other news the England Lions have been touring Australia over the last few weeks. The white ball team went undefeated, which is no mean feat, and the all-important red ball leg of the tour has just begun.
This is an important couple of weeks for English cricket because we’ve sent a very strong batting side in the hope of putting down a marker ahead of the Ashes in two years’ time. If the likes of Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley struggle against the Aussies’ second string then it doesn’t exactly bode well.
Although the current game against a Cricket Australia XI is headed for a high-scoring draw, the early signs have been good – Sibley, Keaton Jennings, and the hugely promising Dan Lawrence all made big scores in the first innings.
However, it’s important to keep this game in perspective. The CA XI doesn’t look very strong at all to me. It’s packed full of kids, many of whom were playing for Australia U19 not long ago, and few of them have any domestic pedigree whatsoever. Meanwhile, the players that do have some experience are journeymen with mediocre domestic records. Basically, anything other than a run glut would’ve been hugely disappointing.
To be honest I’m actually a little worried that the CA XI have made a big score in reply. Jake Lehmann (Darren’s son) isn’t anywhere near as good as his Dad, and the other Aussie century-maker Jack Edwards is a 19 year old who averages just 24 in his eleven first class games to boot.
To be honest I’m a bit worried about our bowling reserves. The Lions squad lacks a bit of pace and venom. Yes this looks like a very flat pitch but I would’ve expected a bit more penetration against a hugely inexperienced CA side.
Although Dom Bess kept things tight he didn’t pick up a wicket. Meanwhile I think we all know that the Lions’ best bowler in this game, Craig Overton, is never going to be a star at Test level. Maybe the fact that Lewis Gregory could only bowl 4 overs in CA’s 469-8 was too much of a handicap to overcome.