England triumphed in one of the great rubbish ODI’s to ensure they could not lose the series and would remain in the exceptionally uncoveted number one spot for the remainder of the year. It was the sort of game that sent the audience frantically scrabbling for the remote control, but among the tedium England stretched their ‘not being rubbish in ODI’s’ run to almost a year. It’s easy to be disparaging about this side in limited overs cricket (and, to be honest, we’re still extremely confused by their success) but, ultimately, you can’t argue with results and since Alastair Cook took charge they have generally been very good in this form of the game. We can’t shake the feeling that they are the worst good ODI side in recent memory but this is the sort of match they excel at; restricting the opposition to a below-par score in helpful conditions and chasing it down in a monotonous, grinding sort of fashion.
This has been a series of the unheralded (that’s just a polite way of saying ‘rubbish’, isn’t it?) bowler; following on from Samit Patel at the Rose Bowl and Ravi Bopara and Jade Dernbach at the Oval came James Tredwell at Lord’s. Having begun the day seemingly on a quest to be made an honorary Australian citizen by dropping two absolute sitters off Steven Finn, Tredwell came back to bowl a tidy spell in which he drew the South African middle-order into throwing their wickets away. It would take being beaten to within an inch of our lives for any of us to become fans of the man – our main issue with his continual selection is that surely this summer’s games present the perfect opportunity for the next generation of spinner to be given a chance instead – but he rarely lets England down. On a similar note, at some point public opinion is going to have to lay off Craig Kieswetter, who has been improving steadily throughout the year, and, after another good performance, that time is now.
You might’ve noticed that we’ve made no real reference to England’s batting. That’s because it was the sort of innings which makes you re-think your entire life and we certainly don’t ever want to relive it again.
As for the South Africans, all this series has done is reinforce the point we touched on in the preview; that their side is a strange mix of excellence and also-rans. When they are at full strength they look imposing but their squad players are surprisingly weak. Dean Elgar and Ryan McLaren look well short of the sort of quality they should be expecting while the likes of Faf du Plessis and Robin Peterson should probably be the fill-in guys rather than first choice. It’s not a particularly serious problem right now but could be the sort of issue that becomes one over the course of a World Cup.
Their other quandary at the moment revolves around AB de Villiers, whose talents they are spectacularly failing to properly utilise. He shouldn’t be ‘keeping in either Test or ODI cricket in the long term – especially if he’s going to be captaining both in the foreseeable future. He hasn’t looked in great form all summer, a fact hidden by the success of the side as a whole for the most part but which is now becoming quite apparent when they need him most. They should release him from the burden of the gloves; they could bring in Thami Tsolikele, Morne van Wyk, that fellow who did the job when they lost to Zimbabwe or perhaps even a one-eyed Mark Boucher. Whoever they chose would improve the side purely by enabling his batting to flourish. Although we don’t really recommend bringing Boucher back – cyclopes don’t have a great record at international level (and yes that is the correct pluralisation – we looked it up).
One of the great one day series comes to an end at Trent Bridge later in the week, before we embark on a month-long T20 bonanza which takes us from Durham to Colombo via the picturesque hamlet of Birmingham. England will probably have to do without Jonathan Trott’s explosive hitting, meaning they’ll have to find someone else to pick instead of Jonny Bairstow and Ravi Bopara will be free to continue scoring as few runs as humanly possible for a little while yet. We’d still like to see Chris Woakes get an actual game but are resigned to the fact Martin McCague will probably get a gig before he does. Assuming Morne Morkel has recovered from his bruised bum the tourists will have a full compliment to chose from as they attempt to wrestle the Natwest/whoever sponsors this things nowadays (Kingfisher Beer? – Ed) trophy from England’s grasp.