The least said the better about Sunday’s defeat. It was a poor way to finish the international season. There’s still an awful lot of work to do.
However, the result shouldn’t put too much of a dampener on England’s fine summer. Overall this has been a year of progress on the pitch – even if events at the ECB and the ICC have left a nasty taste in the mouth.
When our players left the Windies with their tail between the legs, I don’t think many people foresaw an Ashes victory and the emergence of a competitive ODI team.
Andrew Strauss must feel like he’s won the lottery – or even the American lottery with its humungous jackpot. One defeat, pitiful though it was, shouldn’t take the shine off what has been an entertaining few months.
What’s more, for a few moments on Sunday cricket hardly seemed to matter. When a Starc bouncer hit Eoin Morgan on the head, time seemed to stand still. It was a sickening blow.
Perhaps England’s insipid performance thereafter was affected by the incident. Suddenly, a decisive match in a hard fought series didn’t seem to matter in the scheme of things. Thank heavens the skipper was ok.
Talking of putting things in perspective, we shouldn’t forget that the side England put out in the 5th ODI was a long way short of our best. A few months ago, Joe Root and Jos Buttler were generally considered to be our best limited overs batsmen. I still believe they are. Their return will certainly revitalise the batting order.
England’s bowling line-up at Old Trafford was also the weakest we’ve fielded for some time. A seam attack of Willey, Topley and Wood is weaker than some county sides. It certainly isn’t representative of the talent available in county cricket. You don’t need to own a flat cap and a whippet to know that Yorkshire alone could field a more potent attack. Oh well.
Because the international summer has finally come to an end, we’d like to know how you’re feeling about the state of English cricket – both on and off the field.
Is the future finally looking bright or will the Ashes triumph prove to be an aberration – a brief moment of elation before dark, daunting tours to the UAE and South Africa? The next few months certainly won’t be easy.
What’s more, I’d like to know whether you’ve ‘reconnected’ with the England team and English cricket generally? Are you back on the bandwagon, or do you still feel like an outsider looking in?
For what it’s worth, here are my own thoughts …
Although the test team has made some progress this year, it’s still got more holes than a Hollyoaks storyline. The batting is over-reliant on Root and Cook, and I’m not entirely convinced about the talent waiting in the wings. If we had anyone significantly better than Lyth and Bairstow, they would’ve been given a go by now.
When it comes to the bowling, we’re still too dependent on Broad and Anderson. I really like Mark Wood, especially his pace and enthusiasm, but his fitness is a real concern. Meanwhile, I expect Steve Finn’s renaissance to prove ephemeral. He needs to fix his bowling action properly if he wants to be consistent.
Strangely enough – and I can’t quite believe I’m writing this – I’m actually more upbeat about our ODI team’s future. When was the last time England’s 50 over side was better than our test team? Welcome to the twilight zone folks.
Whereas the test side only has a handful of bankers, the ODI team is shaping up rather nicely. Eoin Morgan’s team is oozing with talent: Morgan himself, Roy, Taylor and Root all look like quality players in the shorter formats. Jos Buttler is much more comfortable in one day cricket too.
Although the bowling lacks an outright quickie, the ODI attack has plenty of variation. We have a left-armer, a leg-spinner and an orthodox off-spinner who is pulling his weight nicely. There’s also a wealth of all rounders capable of hitting the long ball. It’s actually pretty exciting.
Off the field, however, I’ve never felt more depressed about the game. I was hoping for change when Giles Clarke (and Paul Downton) moved on. However, thus far Colin Graves and particularly Tom Harrison have really disappointed.
There will be no live cricket on free-to-air television for the foreseeable future – even though other sports like football, rugby and NFL see the value of terrestrial television. Meanwhile the ECB’s collusion with the BCCI at the ICC is sickening. Shame on them all.
When it comes to Andrew Strauss I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I trust him to do his job intelligently and diligently – he’s certainly an improvement on Downton – but why was he preferred to other candidates? I think we all know the answer to that one.
The ECB still seem like an anachronism to me: old school tie, out of touch, and recruiting men more likely to share their worldview than challenge it. As always when it comes to the ECB, looking and talking like you’re from the right sort of family is what counts.