On a difficult day at the Oval, following the tragic death of Tom Maynard on Monday morning, England comfortably eased past the West Indies to seal the series. Whereas the batsmen set the tone in the first game, here the bowlers did so in keeping their opponents to a total at least 50 short of par. The hosts were never in any trouble at all in reply, the only question being whether they would be able to win in time for everyone to get home and watch the football. They did, with room to spare.
India aside, England have been excellent in one day cricket under Alastair Cook. It’s now six consecutive victories, each of which has seen an opening batsman score a century (a record feat). The latest went to the skipper himself, who was completely in control from the off as he strolled to personal ODI hundred number five. He even hit a six just before he was dismissed, and his surprise at doing so may have been a factor in his consequent dismissal. Much more likely that than any sort of cunning bowling plan. England might actually be a tad frustrated with themselves that they didn’t win by 10 wickets, as both Cook and Ian Bell rather tamely gave their wickets away. We are not in the business of being overly critical, though, and this was a thoroughly professional performance.
It’s becoming a challenge to find anything to say about the bowling attack that isn’t going over well-trodden ground. Barring an 11 ball spell when Chris Gayle threatened to get away from them, they were excellent again, particularly demonstrating the way they are able to keep such control most of the time that any slightly wobbly patches end up having little impact on the game. As reward, a few of them now have a few days off, a subject to which we will return in due course…
You have to feel for Darren Sammy. He spends almost as much time trying to explain defeats as he does taking part in them nowadays, and having to do so again in a series they fancied themselves in must be particularly galling. In truth, they’ve never really been in either game. Although Gayle’s brief blast sent the Sky commentary box into hysterics, even he only made his half-century two balls faster than Bell did on Saturday while Lendl Simmons’ wonderfully awful innings at the other end negated it entirely. Dwayne Bravo played well for 77 and Kieron Pollard shocked the world by putting in a competent performance to give them a glimmer of hope for a while, but they fell to pieces at the end of their innings to finish well short of a competitive score. That’s been the pattern for a lot of their efforts on this tour; top order collapse, middle order fightback followed by the rest subsiding to hand the initiative firmly back to England.
With the ball they were awful; there was no accuracy, little pace (Tino Best aside), no urgency in the field and they never looked likely to put England under pressure. Defending 238 was always going to be tough but they once again seemed to just be going through the motions. Being a good one day side is about more than just swinging from the hip when you’re batting. Someone should let the West Indies know.
Ah, rotation. Here we go again. England have given Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann a rest for the final game of the series on Friday, bringing in Stuart Meaker, Chris Woakes and James Tredwell in their stead. We’ve gone over this issue before, but surely everyone agrees that they have little choice but to manage their best players through the seemingly never ending run of ODI’s coming up. In any case, we’d quite like to see Woakes and Meaker given a go, it’ll add some interest to a game which looked destined to be completely devoid of any. The Tredwell call-up was met with howls of derision along the hallowed halls here at 51allout, though he looks so out of place amongst this England team that it might just be a bit of a laugh.
Sammy hinted that his side would also make changes, and they could make a reasonable case for ditching about seven players after this game. As it is, they’ll probably bring in a couple of guys who haven’t yet made an appearance: Johnson Charles and Fidel Edwards, assuming the latter is fit. Realistically it feels like the only way West Indies can win at Headingley is if Gayle goes really big, so their eggs are again all in that particular ego-maniac of a basket.