England dodged the showers and a banana skin to pick up an ultimately comfortable win.
This was always going to be something of a no-win fixture for England. Coming off the back of a humbling in the World T20 against Holland and playing against a team who, were they a footballing outfit, would have been patronised to within an inch of their lives by the media, this had the potential to kick off the Peter Moores the Second regime in the worst way possible. As it was, it was kicked off by rain. Lots and lots of rain. Funnily enough, it turns out that a venue that is closer geographically to Stavanger than Lord’s is somewhat prone to dubious weather at this time of year. Eventually conditions improved sufficiently for a 23 over contest (later reduced to 20 overs on account of more dreich stuff) to go ahead.
Ian Bell looked dreamily fluent for his 50 in only the way he can; his form going into the international summer is both highly encouraging and important, given his vastly increased seniority in the ranks. Alastair Cook didn’t look fluent for his 44, giving off the air of a distracted man on a park bench trying to operate his Blackberry while swatting away flies. And not really knowing how to work the Blackberry, or what it is actually for. Still, he got some runs as he so often does. Cameos by Eoin Morgan – 31 runs off 23 balls, but too often hitting the fielders, failing to rotate the strike and eventually getting out chasing an actual wide, confirming both the best and worst parts of his game – and Joe Root (a much more aesthetically pleasing 17 off 6) carried England to a more than handy total of 167 from their 20 overs, adjusted to a run chase of 173 following the loss of those three mid-innings overs.
We’d applaud England’s flexibility in this innings in their promotion of Messrs Morgan, Buttler and Bopara up the order in a greatly foreshortened game, but they still managed to abandon all reason by selecting Gary Ballance and subsequently batting him at seven (he made one run from the solitary ball that he faced). England knew at the toss that the game had been reduced to little more than a T20 match and if the intention was always to promote their bigger hitters and more explosive players – and more power to that arm, say we – then we fail to see the point in picking Ballance to not really bat unless everything fell apart to the detriment of Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, both of whom would have offered something with the ball. England continue to Paula Abdul their way two steps forward, two steps back.
Chasing 173 was always likely to be beyond a limited Scotland outfit and it was only the efforts of Michael Leask (42 off 16) which carried them anywhere near a token chase. Leask took a particular liking to James Tredwell who we have to say, we do fear for in these brutish, boundary hitting days. His prim off breaks are an easy target and when England pick a lineup short on bowling options – such as today – it can badly throw off their planning and leave them in a mid-innings panicky funk. As it was Leask eventually succumbed to an excellent Jimmy Anderson boundary catch and Tredwell recovered to record the slightly eccentric figures of 4-41, but it seems that Australia’s plan, first sighted in last summer’s post Ashes ODIs, to smash the Kent man out of the park is becoming a common tactic across the board. Elsewhere Anderson bowled his four overs off the reel and impressively too – if he is to play a significant number of ODIs up to and including the World Cup, we’d rather he be tasked with that rather than bowling at the death. Harry Gurney made a tidy and economic debut, though we really wish he’d ditch the rictus grin when he runs in to bowl – it’s quite unnerving.
Overall it’s hard to draw any conclusions from this game other than that Bell, Anderson, Chris Jordan and (from a more limited showing) Root look in pretty decent form. We’d also drop a nod towards Sky’s coverage of today’s game. There’s a wider debate to be had about the satellite broadcaster’s monopoly of cricket, but they can generally be relied upon to provide a first class service, whatever the greater implications of restricting the nationwide audience. Today they fell short of their own high standards.
Firstly, from the outset it was clear that we were set for a delayed start to today’s game. For the first four and a half hours or so of the coverage, Sky provided very little in the way of an indication of when this start would be. We appreciate that the information they themselves rely on may be limited, but on screen prompts stating when the next inspection is due wouldn’t be out of the question.
Also, we understand that filling in those blank hours is an unenviable task. We once hosted a house party yet omitted to bring any CDs beyond Ini Kamoze’s “Here Come The Hotstepper” single, a Now compilation with the first disc missing and the soundtrack to The Karate Kid II, so we know that it’s a tricky task. Sky today chose, appropriately enough, to show an old feature from 2008 with Sir Ian Botham visiting this very same Aberdeenshire venue. Ideal you would think, but unfortunately it merely served to show Botham making a series of weak jokes, awkward forced banter and even more forced bluster about how much of a drink he liked. And this is basically how he commentated throughout the actual game as well. Almost as if he’d read 51allout, made the jokes weaker and the references to drink even more desperate. We didn’t think that was possible either. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of Sky’s producers to ask him to tone down the boorish persona a bit – it’s wearing thinner than Doug Bollinger’s pate.
Finally our understanding is that Nick Knight will be cast this summer primarily in an “analyst” role, presumably reprising that which Simon Hughes performed so admirably for Channel Four when they owned the rights. We don’t have a problem with this per se – considered analysis that newcomers and sofa experts alike can relate to is a good thing, plus it will probably keep Knight out of the commentary box a fair bit – but when the conclusions that he presented today are so wide of the mark as to leave the viewer scratching their head in wonderment at how someone paid to talk about cricket can have such a fundamental lack of understanding of the game, it seems more than a bit self-defeating. Knight informed us today that Alastair Cook “looked in decent touch” (he really didn’t), that Eoin Morgan has “a chance of making the Test team if he goes well in the ODIs” (if he makes the Test team, and he shouldn’t, his one day form should be a complete irrelevance) and that England would be nervy at the battering James Tredwell was taking because they would see him as “a banker for the Test team” (Tredwell having played one Test more than four years ago, being overlooked for Scott Borthwick in England’s last Test, and currently not even in Kent’s four day team). We expect better of Sky, if not Botham and Knight in particular. With the wealth of expertise and broadcasting skill that they have on their books, we really shouldn’t be spending our Friday nights railing against their dubious output.
With that, we’re off to have another stab at a DJ spot – we can only hope the guests are big fans of The Corrs and Marillion.