Oh dear. That wasn’t in the script. At the start of play everyone was full of predictions. Will we score 500 this time? How much will we win by? Will it be all over by lunchtime?
The question nobody asked, of course, is IF England would win. Pakistan have some very useful players and everyone should know they’re at their most dangerous when every man, his dog, and the fleas on the dog’s back write them off.
Unfortunately, however, I don’t think we can put this one down to complacency – even though Pakistan had lost their previous eleven games. That’s right. Eleven. E.L.E.V.E.N. The brutal truth of the matter is that England were simply outplayed by the better side on the day.
Had we lost due to complacency then there would have been a very obvious silver lining. Everyone would’ve said “this is the wake up call we needed”. It has always been pretty obvious that we’d lose at some point. Therefore, perhaps it’s a good thing to get a defeat out of the way early on?
However, there was something quite worrying about this loss. The mentality wasn’t quite right but it wasn’t due to a lack of intensity. On the contrary; I thought we looked too intense. There was no joy. In fact, we looked like a right bunch of misery-gutses. Players were frowning and occasionally scowling at each other. We just weren’t ourselves.
The bowling wasn’t quite up to the mark today and the fielding was pretty poor too. And that’s very unusual for this particular England side. We bowled 11 wides in total. Eleven. E.L.E.V.E.N. Plus there were a whopping 13 misfields. Thirteen. T.H.I.R … etc. You get the idea.
So why did this happen? Just a bad day at the races or is the pressure of being favourites getting to us? If it’s the latter then things aren’t exactly going to improve as a result of this defeat. The next game is now crucial. Lose that and we’ll find ourselves in a rather tight spot.
One wonders, in hindsight, whether Liam Plunkett might have made a difference? I know this is clutching at straws a bit, as Mark Wood bowled decently, but there’s something reassuring about the big man’s presence. A few mid-innings wickets might well have made a difference on this occasion. I guess we’ll never know.
In the meantime the players will just have to lick their wounds and pull themselves together. And nine of them ought to apologise to Joe Root and Jos Buttler, who both made excellent hundreds but somehow found themselves on the losing side. When was the last time two England batsmen made tons but the team lost? I can’t recall that happening before.
On a somewhat positive note, I don’t think this affects our chances of winning the World Cup too much. England have won 50 and lost 20 (approximately) since the last World Cup so we do tend to lose one in every three games (or so). In fact, one might say we were due a defeat.
The main thing is that we win the next game, get the proverbial show back on the road, and then try to squeeze in another strategic loss before the knock out phase! Preferably in the game before the real pressure cricket begins. If that happens we’ll have a great statistical chance of winning the trophy.
Of course, we’ve actually got to win a few more games and qualify before we get to that point. Are you confident we’ll do that? Personally I am – as long as we chill out a bit. There’s little point in having a first class culture if the players get subsumed by doubt and team spirit becomes suppressed by a fear of failure.