And it was all going so well. Although we lost the warm up to this ODI series, otherwise know as ‘The Ashes’, by four games to nil, the main event was going swimmingly. Our white ball heroes had been in dominant form and looked set to whitewash the beleaguered and hapless Aussies by five games to nil, thus ensuring an emphatic super series win … our first down under since Tom Harrison learned to say the words “mummy” and “TV contract”.
But disaster officially struck at 10.54pm GMT on Friday 26th January when our unbeatable ODI juggernaut came a cropper on a pitch that offered a bit for the bowlers. Therefore, in what must be some kind of aberration that hasn’t happened several times before, we fell over on our arses quite spectacularly. Well, I guess you’ve got to risk losing (by playing terrible impatient shots when good judgement is required) to win occasionally.
It’s all such a shame. And it’s a real setback for the ECB, who not long ago stated very publicly that their ambition was to make England the best ODI team in the world. It’s enough to make a grown man cry into their £5 a pint watered down lager in a plastic cup. After all, it was such a good plan. Getting good at a format of the game that’s being cannibalised by T20 and might not exist in a few years’ time (I’m talking about 50 over cricket not test matches here) was utter genius. Who wants to be good at a format of the game that’s growing anyway?
However, the team’s humiliation in Adelaide today puts a completely different complexion on the tour. Not only has the dream of beating Australia in an ODI series down under – which has always been the Everest of English sporting ambition – been snatched cruelly from our grasp, we now have to contemplate the very real possibility of only winning the series 4-1 or, heaven forbid, 3-2. And I tell you something. If it’s the latter then the ECB will have to call for a public inquiry forthwith. We can tolerate getting humiliated in the Ashes, but losing a couple of ODIs is simply unfathomable.
Then again, I guess there’s always the possibility that our glorious white ball outfit deliberately gave Australia a chance today. It was Australia Day after all. And we’ve always been more than accommodating to our antipodean cousins. In fact, come to think of it I’m almost certain that’s what happened. I mean, a team as brilliant as England can’t get reduced to 8-5 unless they’re trying to throw the game, right? And there’s absolutely no way that Jason Roy, Joe Root and Co would play terrible shots, and fail to adapt to conditions, unless they were trying to be bloody useless.
No. On reflection please ignore everything I said at the start of this piece. England’s winter tour to Australia has still been a brilliant success. We just didn’t want to humiliate our generous hosts in front of their own fans today. Nobody likes a one-sided contest, do they? In fact, someone ought to have words with Chris Woakes for accidentally scoring too many runs and dragging England up to three figures.
So let’s put today down to a learning experience. And what a valuable lesson it’s been. The next time we try to throw a game, we’ll try do it properly. After all, this Australian team looks like they’d struggle to chase a scantily clad lady at a charity dinner. And besides, who actually gives a crap about the result of these matches anyway?