ODI’s are seldom interesting in and of themselves these days. You need a larger narrative to make them at all compelling it seems. And this game had just that, if viewed as a preview for the summer’s frivolities to come. It previewed a professional outfit struggling within itself to find a means to dispose of a far inferior opponent, and a team that is trying to take baby steps towards the goal of becoming properly competitive at some point in the distant future. England won because they did just about enough; Australia lost because they were seemingly incapable of doing any more. Get used to that scenario, because we could be seeing it repeated ad nauseam over the next few weeks.
England seem to be incapable of winning a game these days without driving most of their supporters to suicide. Things weren’t quite so bad here, because most Englishmen like beating Australia; gloating is, of course, England’s favorite hobby. But dissent on the outer was still able to reach seething point somewhere around the 40th over of the English innings, when it was rapidly dawning that the long anticipated game plan of ‘do as little as possible till the 35th over and then launch an all out barrage’ was backfiring spectacularly. In the end some heroics from Ravi Bopara (who only ever seems to play well against Australia these days, like a reverse Daryll Cullinan) managed to inch the hosts to a comfortable total. One well below par, but enough to suitably unnerve an inadequate opponent.
Of course mention must be made of Ian Bell’s innings of 91, falling just short of a first ODI ton on his home ground. Again much will be made of his pacing, with a strike rate of just under 80, but despite the lack of attacking shots (at one stage he seemed to have forgotten that lofting the ball over the infield is permissible) he set the stage perfectly for Buttler et al to finish things off. It’s just a pity for England they all managed to trip over the stairs on their way out.
Otherwise everything went as planned for England. They bowled and fielded sharply, and Jonathon Trott somehow managed to survive another game without being assaulted by an opposition player/umpire/member of the public. All of which are promising signs to be sure, but they might want to discover where that next gear is before they come up against a better team. Because if they don’t, they may well find that the gear stick will be rammed firmly up their…well…lets just say, up their Liam Plunkett. You ought to get the picture.
What? I have to write more than that? Oh, alright then.
Sigh, well, on pains of my already meagre gin ration being cut further, I should probably find something of worth to say. Er, they fielded quite well. At times. And George Bailey seemed to know all of the players’ names, so there is that. Warner looked okay for about 5 minutes, before he reverted to type and slashed at a full ball outside off for what was the most predictable dismissal of all time, at least until Phil Hughes fell to spin a short while later.
Honestly, Australia were overwhelmingly poor. Which is hardly surprising for a team that contains Mitchell Marsh. His inclusion was utterly bizarre, especially with James Faulkner providing a far better option in every respect right now. Clint McKay bowled well, Mitchell Starc was rubbish but we can just put that down as an off day, whilst Mitchell Johnson predictably swung from ridiculous to…..slightly less ridiculous. Considering all of Australia’s best players are currently either injured, retired or playing in the ‘A’ squad, little more can be expected from them than this. Unless Watson comes off spectacularly and wins games for them single-handedly, like he did in the T20 World Cup, this level of performance is about the best they can hope for.
Next up England host Sri Lanka at The Oval, while Australia are stuck hanging around Birmingham for a few days before taking on New Zealand. Maybe they might want to go check out the Pen Museum to pass the time. It sounds fascinating….
England will probably stick with the same outfit, and hope that more practice will allow them to fine tune their strategy of making Jonathan Trott the most hated man in the universe, while Australia will be desperately hoping that Clarke will be passed fit, partly so they can get their best player back but mostly so they don’t have to pick Mitch Marsh again.