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James Wilson, New Zealand supporter and author of Court and Bowled: Tales of Cricket and the Law, is back. Here’s his take on that controversial final. 

Twenty years ago, Australia and South Africa played what was then widely acclaimed as the greatest one day international of all time, when they tied in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup. There were several reasons for the match being given that accolade: the importance of the fixture, the closeness of the play throughout, and the absurdly bathetic ending. Both sides contained a number of genuine greats – Donald, Pollock and Kallis of South Africa, Gilchrist, Warne, both Waughs and McGrath of Australia – and they almost entirely cancelled each other out. Donald and Pollock strangled the Australian batting as though they were evil and capricious lawmen oppressing a small Wild West town, before Warne burst into the saloon like a gun-toting Clint Eastwood and mercilessly cut a swathe through the South African posse. It all ended in a Tarantinoesque finale with Klusener slugging it out in a bloodbath of boundaries and wickets with the Australian bowlers in the last frantic overs before joining with Donald to make an awful hash of the would-be winning run. Although the match finished with the scores level, Australia went through to the final thanks to the rather dubious factor of their superior net run rate in the tournament to that point.

More than 2,700 one day matches have been played since that June 1999 epic, but it is only now that we have a ‘new greatest match’. In the final of the 2019 World Cup, England and New Zealand played a game instantly declared to be superior even to 1999. The reasons were that the 2019 match was one better in terms of importance, given it was the actual final, one better in terms of ties – since there were two, first the match itself and then in the ‘super over’ – and several better in terms of controversy, pathos and bathos, since there were multiple ‘how could that have happened’ moments with the match being decided on a rule so bizarre it made net run rate seem the height of fairness by comparison.

In the 1999 match, the key moments included Warne bending the laws of physics (his dismissal of Gibbs was a close blood relation, if not an out-and-out clone, of the Gatting ball); Reifell helping a thunderous Klusener hit over the boundary when he could have won the match by holding on to the catch; and of course the hapless runout to finish it all.

Earlier in the game, there had been at least one dubious umpiring moment, when the later-to-become-notorious South African captain Hanse Cronje was wrongly given out. Importantly, however, no-one felt any injustice had been done, nor did anyone much complain about the net run rate rule being used. The reason was that everyone knew South Africa could and should have won the match in spite of everything if only Donald and Klusener had communicated properly instead of the former staying in his ground before dropping his bat. South Africa were deemed to have been the authors of their own misfortune and earned themselves years of taunting as ‘chokers’ accordingly.

Not so New Zealand in 2019. They might not have had anything approaching the number of greats in their side that the 1999 Australians and South Africans mustered (although Kane Williamson surely deserves that accolade), but in the style of so many Kiwi underdog sides before, they used intelligence, teamwork, unflagging dedication and coolness under pressure to compete with a more fancied side. If the dictionary were to offer an antonym for ‘chokers’ (digesters? swallowers?), ‘New Zealand cricketers’ would be the first example given under the definition. The Kiwi batsmen correctly reasoned that a decent total on a difficult pitch would be a better objective in the circumstances than trying to break records, so they cautiously accumulated a total very similar to the one India had failed to reach in their semi-final. Then their bowlers and fielders executed careful plans to prevent any of the predicted English pyrotechnics.

England, for their part, bowled and fielded equally well, while Buttler and Stokes with the bat kept their heads just as the better Kiwi players had. There was also no mistake by the English fielders on the final ball of the super over and so the spirit of Donald and Klusener remained dormant.

The pressure of the game on all concerned could be measured by the fact that even the extremely fit Stokes was visibly shattered by the end, though he still somehow found the wherewithal to clout an incredible six in the last over, and would not be denied his role in the super over. All told, his efforts and those of his teammates were just enough to get England home.

Except they weren’t. England did not score any more runs than New Zealand. Nor did they take any more wickets – in fact, they took fewer. In no proper cricketing sense, therefore, did New Zealand lose the match. Instead, England was declared champions of the world on the basis of having scored more boundaries in the final – a statistic that I doubt a single person out of the millions watching would have been able to recite with confidence at the end of the match, because it is not a statistic with any cricketing significance. It felt to me as though the inventors of that rule never seriously thought it would actually be needed. And that justifies a closer look at some of the other rules in play in the match. It is unfortunate to have to rake over umpiring decisions and tournament rules after an all-time classic match, but we have to do so if only to ensure there is no repeat in future tournaments.

The first problem came with the very first ball of England’s innings, when Jason Roy should have been dismissed lbw by Trent Boult. The umpire signalled ‘not out’ and New Zealand reviewed. Even though DRS review showed the ball hitting the stumps, it was close enough for ‘umpire’s call’ to stand. I have never understood the concept of ‘umpire’s call’. To be sure, benefit of the doubt should always be given to the batsman – an age-old cricket rule – but isn’t the whole point of technology that there isn’t any ‘doubt’?

The next piece of controversy came at the end of the innings, when a return throw from New Zealand hit the bat of a diving Ben Stokes and carried on for four. Added to the two runs completed by the batsmen, England had six more to their total and – equally importantly – Stokes on strike. No-one blamed Stokes, either at the time or since – he wasn’t looking at the ball and all the video evidence showed he would not have had the faintest idea where it was. Even so, he immediately signalled an apology to the New Zealanders and to the spectators. Convention dictates that the batsmen do not run to take conscious advantage of their own good fortune in circumstances such as those. But if the ball runs into the boundary – as it did on this occasion – then the runs are awarded to the batting side. That seems unfair enough, though as I argued in Court and Bowled, there is no shortage of other examples of inconsistencies in cricketing conventions. Life – especially cricket – has to allow for a bit of illogicality where history, tradition and convention are concerned.

Yet there was a second problem with that incident – England should have been awarded five, not six runs. The relevant law is 19.8 ‘Overthrow or wilful act of fielder’, which provides:

If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side, and the allowance for the boundary, and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act. (Emphasis added).

The key point is ‘if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act’. Video evidence showed they had not at the time of the throw. The word ‘act’ clearly refers to the ‘act of a fielder’ as in the first time the word is used in the sentence, not the ‘act’ of Stokes. What Stokes did was not an ‘act’ but an accident; had he done it deliberately he would have been dismissed for obstructing the field. England should only have been awarded five and Stokes should have been sent to the non-striker’s end.

Having said that, I would class the extra run as the result of an umpiring error on the field, and it is a defining principle of sports law – not just in cricket – that officials may not reverse errors made during the match, even in the face of unequivocal video evidence. Is that inconsistent with my objection to the ‘umpire’s call? I would argue no, for two reasons: first, the ‘umpire’s call’ comes during the course of play, not after the match; and second, there is no point allowing a set number of video reviews but having some arbitrary circumstances where they are not enforced. I would not wish the umpire’s role to be wholly eviscerated, so would not increase the number of reviews allowed at the moment, but I would scrap the ‘umpire’s call’ exception which normally causes confusion and aggrievement for spectators in equal measure.

It is anyone’s guess as to what would have happened if Roy had been given out. Nor can we say for certain what would have happened if five rather than six runs had been awarded to Stokes, although since he would have been stranded at the non-strikers’ end it would have almost certainly been fatal to England. Both incidents, however, can be dismissed as the rub of the game, like any number of umpiring errors in games past. Certainly, Kane Williamson was keen afterwards not to blame the outcome on either event. But that brings us to what did decide the result of the match: the super over followed by the ludicrous ‘more boundaries’ rule.

The first question is whether a tiebreak should have been required at all. Under some rules in one day matches past, the side losing the fewest wickets would be declared the winner. In the early 1980s, in one of the rather drawn out Benson & Hedges World Series tournaments played in Australia, West Indies celebrated what they thought was a win in those circumstances, only to be told that wickets lost did not count and they had to play another match. Anyone could see which television magnate would have been backing that rule for commercial reasons. At the least, wickets are at the very heart of winning or losing cricket, and such a rule would thus resonate with cricketing traditionalists. I doubt many would have complained if the 2019 final had been decided accordingly.

Cricket today, however, is not run by traditionalists, but by those in thrall to media sorts such as the late Mr Packer, and so there is no question the super over was invented to ensure extra ratings for extra time. Someone probably had one eye on football penalty shootouts as well. I cannot imagine that many footballing traditionalists (I am not one myself) enjoy seeing major events such as the 1994 World Cup final being decided on penalties, but on the other hand the penalty shootout has been around for a very long time and can be said to form part of footballing tradition, whatever suffering it might have inflicted upon English supporters over the years. There is also no understating the drama of the shootout as well.

It was therefore fair enough cricket to try something similar, at least in the form of fifty over cricket, which has always been about football-style razzamatazz and instant gratification first and cricketing purity some way back.

I also find no fault in the batting side facing the first super over, which was a factor annoying one or two other commentators. I actually thought it gave the advantage to New Zealand, all of whose players were on the pitch concentrating intently at the end of the match, while all Englishmen apart from the two at the crease at the end would have assumed – some for several hours – that their match was over. It must have been quite something for Buttler and Archer to be given ten minutes to get ready. (Incidentally, I felt that Williamson’s only mistake of the match was in failing to come out himself for New Zealand; as their captain and best batsman he should have shouldered the burden). No one had complained about the rule beforehand either, which of course applied equally to both sides – and it was New Zealand who won the toss.

Nevertheless, I cannot accept what happened next. After the tie in the super over, England was declared the winner for the number of boundaries hit – something that is never relevant in any other determination of any other cricket match. In no sense does boundaries hit signify a superior performance – many a masterful innings of quick running and fine judgement has surpassed in quality a few biffs and lucky edges by a lower order slogger. As I said earlier, I wonder if a single person watching the game would have been aware of the number of boundaries hit, nor would they have cared.

So what should have happened? Perhaps nothing at all – it has been argued that the cup could have been shared (an opinion also held by the rather conflicted Kiwi father of Ben Stokes). No one could have called that an injustice, but then again I cannot think of any other world championship – team or individual sport – where that would be possible, and I doubt enough fans or officials would buy it. So we need to choose a winner.

The aforementioned ‘fewer wickets’ method would have been better than the boundary count, if not entirely satisfactory because cricket is otherwise always won by runs scored not wickets taken. New Zealand would then have been the winner.

As a second alternative, the win could have been awarded to whichever side won the head-to-head during the first round, which on this occasion was England.

Thirdly, it could be whoever finished top of the table, reflecting the fact that the match formed part of a World Cup tournament, not a one-off. Again, that would have handed the trophy to England.

Fourthly, we could go back to net run rate, which did for South Africa all those years ago, and would have done for New Zealand this time around.

But I think there is a fifth – and better – idea. If cricket is going to follow football, it might as well go the whole way and do the same as in a penalty shootout, which is to keep going until there is a winner on the field. Another super over should therefore have been bowled, and more after that if necessary. Perhaps cricket might ape football still further and require new batsmen and bowlers for each super over, thus raising the amusing prospect of a very part time bowler getting to send down the deciding over to a tail end batsman. That way, at least, an unambiguously cricketing result would be achieved.

Either way, on my five alternative scenarios, England would have won three, New Zealand one, with one completely imponderable (playing further super overs). Does that suggest England were worthy winners? I have to concede it does. If New Zealand did not deserve to lose, neither did England. There really was nothing between the sides on the day. England had the better tournament overall. Not many neutral supporters would have been exhibiting sympathy had it been Australia losing the final through a succession of errors and technicalities. But because New Zealand have played in such an exemplary fashion over the past few eras – the McCullum captaincy in particular earned many accolades, especially in England – there was much commiserating by English and neutral supporters alike.

Furthermore, good fortune did not win England the World Cup, any more than Shane Warne’s drop at the Oval lost Australia the Ashes in 2005. Instead, a brilliant reinvention of their entire limited overs philosophy after the 2015 World Cup embarrassment led England first to be pre-tournament favourites, then top of the table and ultimately winner of the tournament. And thus the good New Zealand sportsmanship must continue and extend to congratulating England as worthy winners.

I wish I could leave it there. But two final complaints have to be made, not at players but officialdom. I have just mentioned the 2005 Ashes, still the greatest cricketing achievement in English history (test matches must always exist on a substantially higher plane of importance). It was also the last significant cricket event to be broadcast on free to air television until the 2019 final, both shown on Channel 4. If anyone in the ECB thinks there is a sound defence of that state of affairs, they have yet to tell us what it might be.

Secondly, as much as the whole day made for compelling viewing – I for one saw nearly every ball – it would have been nice to have seen the very good event that was the British Grand Prix and the genuinely great one that was the Wimbledon men’s singles final, the latter event rivalling even the cricket for drama and historical importance. Which genius put all three events on the same day?

© James Wilson 2019

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Immediately before yesterday’s final, Channel 4 showed highlights of the 2005 Ashes – a tussle frequently dubbed as The Greatest Series. Afterwards they went on to broadcast probably the greatest white ball game of all time.

The 2019 World Cup final will live long in the memory as the game that finished in a tie twice: the main 50 overs per side, and then the subsequent super over. It was a stunning match in every way. And ultimately an outrageous fluke and a random technicality determined the outcome.

The eventual winner, of course, was England. The “mighty mighty” England as the Barmy Army like to sing. It feels so good to finally lift our first World Cup trophy.

However, as one gets older, becomes more philosophical, and learns to feel empathy for the opposition (especially when it’s a team as likeable as New Zealand), I found it hard to process my emotions at the end. England had triumphed – the culmination of four years of hard work – but in my opinion the better team on the day lost. And they only lost because of some egregious bad luck.

Just as it’s important to be a good loser, it’s also important to be a good winner – to be magnanimous and honest in victory. Consequently, as an England supporter, I feel it necessary to say – although many will disagree – that it probably should’ve been Kane Williamson, and his team of underdogs who possess a fraction of the resources enjoyed by the other semi-finalists, who deserved to lift the World Cup on yesterday’s evidence alone.

Why do I think this? Because New Zealand had a plan, they stuck to it, and it worked really well. They took the bold decision to bat first – a move I initially thought was the wrong one at the time considering the early morning conditions – and then squeeze England as the pitch slowed down in the afternoon.

Williamson read the conditions perfectly, and his plan to exploit England’s only weakness – our hitters’ inability to chase totals on tricky batting wickets – was a beautiful one that neutrals and those who care more about the cricket than who wins were drooling over.

Over the last couple of years I’ve said time and again that England are a bloody fine side but they cannot claim to be the finished article until they’ve proved they can score runs and chase totals under pressure in conditions that don’t suit them. Yesterday was all set up for them to do so. And when Buttler and Stokes, who both played immaculate innings, were at the crease it looked like they would finally get that monkey off their back. It was going to be perfect. Absolutely perfect.

But then the game finished in what I thought was an unsatisfactory way that left me feeling a tad hollow.  After Ben Stokes had hit a brilliant six to make the game interesting again (with four balls left England looked dead and buried) a freakish incident shifted momentum in the cruellest way. A throw from the boundary, which may well have run Stokes out had it not hit his bat as he dived for the line, deflected away for four.

Stokes did nothing wrong – he decided not to seek advantage by running again as cricketers believe it’s wrong to profit from such deflections – but nobody could stop the ball rolling agonisingly to the boundary. Technically, even thought it’s hugely unfair, the result was another 4 runs (so six in total from that delivery)*. And it was the defining moment of the match. Instead of needing 7 off the last 2 balls, suddenly England only needed 3. And it was all because of this strange law that does not sit comfortably alongside convention.

In my humble opinion, the umpire should call dead ball after throws like this hit the batsmen. They should be awarded the initial runs (in this case two) but no more after the deflection. After all, if batsmen don’t run in such circumstances because they know it’s unfair, then why should the rulebook be punitive?

This terrible law also sets a terrible precedent. What’s to stop batsmen from deflecting the ball ‘accidentally on purpose’ to profit from such incidents in the future? Personally I think there’s a good chance they’ll change the law after this. But it will be too late for the poor Kiwis.

Unfortunately, New Zealand’s suffering at the hands of technicalities didn’t end there. When the game finished in a tie the visitors should have won by virtue of losing fewer wickets. There’s really no need for a super over in these circumstances – it’s just an attempt to cram in more drama and entertainment for television purposes.

What’s more, New Zealand were at a disadvantage in this super over because England got to bat first, with two players who already had their eye in and were acclimatised to the slowing pitch.

Why did England have the opportunity to bat first? Again it’s just an unfair technicality. It’s written in the rules that the team batting second in the main event gets to bat first in the super over. Why this should be the case nobody knows. It just is. And there’s no rhyme or reason for it.

Perhaps the cruellest twist of all was that New Zealand managed to tie the super over (despite being at a significant disadvantage) due to yet another technicality. When the scores are the level, super over regulations dictate that the team which has scored the most boundaries in the main match wins.

Boundaries? That’s right folks. Wickets lost – the traditional means of determining the winner in the event of a tie – are strangely irrelevant. And of course, hitting boundaries was never part of New Zealand’s brilliant game plan. They sought to run singles and accumulate, which was precisely the right strategy in the conditions. Yet they were punished for it.

However, there is another way of looking at all this. And it’s perfectly valid. Laws are laws; technicalities are technicalities; and luck is part and parcel of sport. I completely accept that. But as England celebrated part of me was crying for New Zealand.

In my opinion England were outrageously fortunate to win this World Cup. And their run of good fortune started long before yesterday. They won two crucial tosses to qualify, and then lost a brilliant toss to lose in their semi final. However, weren’t we due some luck after the appalling way the cricketing Gods have treated us in previous tournaments?

Maybe it was fate that our last two group games were against teams that didn’t actually need to beat us to qualify? Everything went our way from the plays and misses, to the balls chipped in the air just out of the reach of fielders, to the poor umpiring decisions we profited from (and there were another couple yesterday). Our name was clearly on the trophy but so what?! Shit happens. So shouldn’t we just enjoy it?!

Unfortunately I can’t escape how I feel. And I think it’s because it was New Zealand, rather than one of our traditional cricketing foes, who were the victims of our outrageous fortune. Had we beaten Australia in similar circumstances, or even India, I’d probably feel very differently. I might have laughed instead.

What’s more – and I cannot emphasise this enough – England didn’t deserve to win yesterday’s game but they deserved to win the tournament overall. They were the best side in the competition (alongside India) and they’ve been No.1 in the rankings for a long time. That has to count for something. And a world cup victory on home soil is a fitting reward for the way Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss have turned our ODI team around.

The downside, of course, is that the ECB will use this triumph to argue that all in the garden is rosy when it clearly isn’t. What’s more, they’ll claim that this is the perfect time to launch The Hundred when the very opposite is clearly true. The big lesson everyone should learn from yesterday is that traditional forms of cricket can still engage and grip the nation. And the fact C4 showed 90 mins of build up before play shows there’s a considerable appetite for ‘normal’ cricket amongst terrestrial broadcasters too. Let’s not forget that the BBC signed up for franchise cricket when they thought it would be a T20 competition.

Perhaps that’s the other reason for my conflicted emotions. English cricket is so badly run that we don’t deserve to be world champions – a point made brilliantly in this article by Barney Ronay in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t already read this piece then I strongly suggest you do so.

Put it this way: English cricket triumphed at Lord’s on free-to-air television yesterday but the game will soon disappear behind a pay-wall again. What’s more, the ECB are immediately turning their backs on 50-over cricket (they’ve cancelled all domestic 50-over first team cricket from next summer) to accommodate Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit. Only the ECB could win a global trophy but then immediately handicap the future development of the team they’ve done so much to champion.

However, it’s vitally important to separate the players from the board here. The board do not deserve an ounce of the credit that many in the mainstream media will inevitably give them. The players, on the other hand, deserve all the plaudits they get. Each and every one of them is a hero:

Jason Roy was one of the players of the tournament. He was brilliant. Ditto Jonny Bairstow. Joe Root batted poorly yesterday but he’s been an absolute rock. Eoin Morgan’s leadership has been awesome. Ben Stokes has been sensational with that bat. What’s more, I doubt we would’ve won without Jos Buttler’s brilliant half-century yesterday. He’s one of the best white ball batsmen in the world and possibly our best ODI player ever.

And then we come to the bowlers. What more can we say about Chris Woakes? He’s such a solid professional and a great all-round guy. Liam Plunkett with also immense. Adil Rashid did well to battle his shoulder injury. Mark Wood was electric to watch – possibly the fastest bowler in the tournament – whilst Jofra Archer was a revelation. What a find he’s been.

So did England deserve to win yesterday? In my opinion, no. But are they worthy world champions? Oh yes. Undoubtedly. This World Cup was a marathon not a sprint. And we outlasted every other team through pure talent and immense character.

Well done, lads. Well done. You’ve done the nation proud and we’re all immensely proud of you.

James Morgan

*It has just been confirmed by Simon Taufel (from MCC Laws subcommittee) that the umpires should have awarded England 5 runs not 6, and that Rashid should have been on strike for the penultimate delivery and not Stokes. Wow. More terrible bad luck for New Zealand. Click here for more. They should just play the game again, right?!

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I won’t ask you to boot up your phone and laptop cameras, but I wish you could see the beaming smile etched across my face. There’s nothing better than destroying / obliterating / absolutely tanking the Aussies, and to do it in a World Cup semi final is all the sweeter.

England were brilliant today and Australia were woeful. It was the complete opposite of the group game at Lord’s. What a difference three weeks makes.

Now I’m afraid I’m not qualified to discuss the minutiae of today’s game. As bad luck would have it I was unable to watch a single ball. In fact, I’ve been indisposed all week. However, I was following with bated breath on my phone – imagining each wicket, picturing every boundary.

When I eventually managed to turn on the radio at 5.15pm I managed to catch the winning run. My immediate thought was “what a superb atmosphere”.

England love playing at Edgbaston and I love watching England play there. The crowd, who are always absolutely brilliant, are raucous, passionate, and bloody inimitable … especially when we’re playing our canary feathered friends.

England should play the first test of every Ashes series at Edgbaston; just like the Aussies always play the first test at Brisbane. The crowd always give the players a huge lift. It’s a fortress.

Please correct me if I’ve got any of the below incorrect but it sounded to me as though the bowlers won England this game. Archer and Woakes exploited the early movement brilliantly and Rashid and the others kept our metaphorical boot on Australia’s throats throughout. Only Steve Smith was good enough to resist.

When it came to the batsmen they were never really under pressure. The Aussies seamers failed to attract the same movement from the surface that England enjoyed early on, and once Roy and Jonny got motoring the result was never in doubt. It’s always a good idea to chase small totals with a positive mind set. Well done lads.

England now approach the final with all the momentum in the world. Everything has gone their way of late – they’ve won the tosses that were good to win, and today they lost a toss that proved extremely good to lose – and we’ve taken our opportunities brilliantly.

All champion teams have this ruthless streak. What’s more, the fact we’ve finally won a game batting second will send a rush of confidence and swag coursing through the team’s veins.

New Zealand, who have never won a World Cup either, now stand in our way. And I strongly fancy us to beat them. England have been the best and most complete team in the tournament thus far (with the possible exception of India) and we simply don’t have any weaknesses.

Nor do we rely on one or two players too much – although Jason Roy has clearly emerged as our talisman. It sounds like he played superbly again today and has probably played himself into England’s Ashes plans.

Roy and Bairstow to open in the Ashes? It’s a stupid idea but it may well happen. And it may well be the best combination (or least bad combination) we’ve got in the absence of a Cook, Gooch, Atherton, Stewart, Trescothick, or any other test quality opener. Rory Burns can bat 3.

Anyway, I’m probably getting a little delirious now. And the sober me will probably be ashamed of the ‘drunk on canary dunking’ me in the morning. So I’d better leave you now. And I’ll do so with one final thought.

Get the **** in! World Cup final here we come.

James Morgan

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You can relax now. At least for a few days. England are through to the semis after a comfortable win against a sloppy New Zealand team that never really showed up. We batted really well at the outset (when the pitch was at its best) and then bowled really well to seal the win.

Thank **** for that! Today was a good day. Chewing our fingernails to the bone before play started was unnecessary after all.

Joking aside, I was always extremely confident that England would win for two primary reasons: (a) I’d read that the pitch looked excellent for batting so our achilles heel was never likely to be exposed, and (b) New Zealand didn’t actually need to win. They just needed not to get thrashed to progress. It was a really strange situation.

Consequently this game felt a bit like one of those final group games in a football World Cup – those games when one team is basically through and the other team plays with a lot more intensity and desire because they desperately need all three points.

The result of these contests is rarely really in doubt – unless the latter team squanders chance after chance in front of goal because their strikers can’t handle the pressure.

Fortunately for England, however, our nerves didn’t really surface until we’d already made a storming start with the bat. Yes we collapsed in a bit of a heap towards the end of our innings, but as the pitch was conveniently beginning to slow down already I suspected we had more than enough runs in the bank.

Before play started, I thought the only way we’d lose is if we lost the toss and batted second. My fear was that we’d implode chasing a middling total. Once it was known England were batting first all my nerves disappeared. New Zealand, after all, wouldn’t actually need to chase the total we set them. They’d merely need to get relatively close to progress.

The problem with this situation is that it creates unnatural cricket. The commentators might build up the drama for TV purposes – and the fans emotionally invested will be too nervous to see it – but we were essentially watching a game with very little intensity.

It was always going to be the case that as soon as New Zealand lost a couple of wickets, they’d immediately start thinking about their target (i.e what they realistically might need to progress) rather than the game target. After all, why go for broke (and risk losing more wickets and suffering a bigger defeat) if you can just plod along and play the qualification percentages?

In the end, however, New Zealand ended up confusing themselves. And in doing so they ended up risking the one thing they wanted to guard against from the start: a heavy defeat. Their brains seemed scrambled by a series of unlikely events:

England lucked out by getting an early LBW against Nicholls (a real clanger by the umpire) and then the out-of-form Guptill was dismissed. Taylor and Williamson rebuilt slowly – showing about as much urgency as India (another team that didn’t need to win) the other day – and then England enjoyed another outrageous piece of fortune when Williamson was run out at the non-striker’s end.

Fancy getting out the oppositions best player like that?! England were in dreamland. New Zealand must have wondered what had hit them.

New Zealand’s panic really set in at this point. Ross Taylor took on a second run that simply wasn’t there – what on earth was he thinking? – and the middle-order collapsed in a heap. Once again I imagine the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

I actually started to write this report when New Zealand had six wickets left. The result was inevitable. I guessed New Zealand could take singles to make the score respectable – singles England would be only too pleased to give them – and both teams walk away content with what was always the most likely result at the start … an England win by 50 runs. In the end New Zealand made a right Horlicks of things and lost by more. They must be gutted.

The surreal circumstances of New Zealand’s innings, however, shouldn’t detract from what was a superb England performance in the field. Once again our bowlers were terrific, and they’re coming into form at precisely the right time. Rashid had a bit of an off day but the seamers were were generally superb for the second consecutive game. It’s highly encouraging.

Although the batting was a bit of a mixed bag again, at least we’re getting used to that winning feeling. And that should raise morale. Roy and Bairstow needed a little luck early on again, but thereafter they were superb. Roy has shown no rustiness whatsoever, and Jonny is going from strength to strength.

The only slight concern is that Jos Buttler probably needs a score. Fortunately form is temporary and class is permanent, so maybe it’s a good thing that he’s due a score as we enter the business end of the tournament?

However, for all my optimism today – those following my Twitter feed probably witnessed by supreme (over?)confidence – I’m going to leave you with one highly neurotic thought. And it concerns the wiles of Lady Luck. Hell, I may even purchase Ed Smith’s book Luck: What It Means & Why It Matters?

Here goes …

If one subscribes to the theory that teams make their own luck then you shouldn’t be worried moving forward. England are playing good cricket again so their hot steak will surely continue.

However if, like me, you think that luck evens itself out (i.e. over a season / tournament etc) then you might have slight cause for concern.

There’s no doubt that England have enjoyed plenty of luck since their debacle against Australia. We’ve encountered two pitches that really suited us; we’ve won crucial tosses in both games; we’ve played and missed more than the opposition; we’ve hit more aerial shots narrowly out of the grasp of fielders (particularly at the start); and crucially we’ve played teams that didn’t even need to win. That Williamson run out today – an absolutely crucial intervention by Lady Luck – just about summed up our lucky streak.

The problem, of course, is what happens if our luck turns in the semi final or final? These games are, after all, the fixtures we’ve been worried about for approximately two years. Does our luck in the last two games dictate that we’ll lose crucial tosses from here on out? Does it mean that Joe Root will be the one run out at the non-strikers end? Is every aerial shot henceforth destined to end up in an opposition fielder’s breadbasket?

If you believe that luck evens out (in the end) then England are screwed! However, you might feel that the good luck we’ve enjoyed in the last week or so is simply making up for all the bad luck we’ve had in World Cups gone by: that Gatting reverse-sweep, Pakistan’s ball tampering in the 1992 final (just kidding), Kevin O’Brien’s once-in-a-lifetime assault in that humiliation against Ireland. What do you reckon?

Now obviously this is just a bit of fun. And probably about as ridiculous a discussion as we’ve ever had on this blog (and heavens we’ve had a few). But don’t go telling me to chill out because luck is just a random event. After all, randomness is surely governed by probability. And probability dictates that statistically things will eventually return to the mean … in which case luck does indeed even out!

James Morgan

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The Full Toss Cricket | Blog by James Morgan - 2w ago

What a weekend of cricket. I’ll start by quickly mentioning the Pakistan and Afghanistan contest, which was one of the best ODIs I’ve seen in ages. Although I feel desperately sad for Afghanistan, who really should have won, I tip my hat to Pakistan’s middle and late-order. It was some comeback.

The game was so intriguing because in a low scoring affair every run mattered. It was deliciously old-school. Once the rate climbed above a run-a-ball, one sensed Pakistan would be strangled and extinguished by Afghanistan’s excellent spinners. However, the Afghan captain inexplicably turned to seam at a crucial juncture. And this poor decision effectively cost his team the game.

The England versus India game, on the other hand, was a complete contrast. The pitch was excellent for batting and so a typically high scoring contest ensued. England batted well – most notably by targeting the short boundary to one side of the ground – and then Chris Woakes, the world’s greatest living Villa fan, sealed the win with an astonishing opening spell. It’s probably the best he’s bowled in pyjamas.

Once India found themselves 28-1 off 10 overs the game was effectively up. You can’t start an innings this slowly when you need almost 340 to win. There were plenty of nervous nellies on Twitter but I was always extremely confident that England would win from that position. And so it proved.

Obviously as an England supporter I’m incredibly relieved at the result. England gambled by including Jason Roy (who some described as only 80% fit) and also took a punt with their team selection.

Just as an aside, I hate it when England pick five seamers and just the single spinner – a 4:2 balance is more natural and covers all bases in all conditions – and I really didn’t like the look of England’s longish tail. If the selectors no longer have faith in Moeen then they should have picked Dawson. And moving forward they should choose between Wood and Plunkett.

Fortunately, however, it soon became clear that this would be England’s day. We won the toss, which was extremely important in the circumstances, and Roy and Bairstow were able to get England off to a solid start with a little more help from lady luck. Jonny in particular lived a very charmed life in the first few overs. But to his credit he battled through and went on to make a cathartic hundred.

I won’t talk too much about Jason Roy as I’m getting a little tired of the hyperbole. He batted very well and obviously makes a huge difference to England’s top order. However, I did smirk when, after waxing lyrical about Roy all day, Rob Key claimed (without a hint of irony) that if Roy was called Adam Gilchrist then he’d be waxing lyrical about him all day.

Joking aside I think there’s a danger that everyone’s becoming too Roy-focused. What happens, for example, if he gets out early against New Zealand? It could precipitate an unnecessary panic. Roy has always been an important part of the team but he’s just one cog alongside our many other destructive hitters. England can win games with or without him.

The other star with the bat was undoubtedly Ben Stokes, who has been England’s player of the tournament so far. He was the catalyst for some late pyrotechnics that turned a decent score of 300 into a rather more imposing 337. I love watching Stokes bat. Perhaps Rob Key might want to make some Adam Gilchrist comparisons here too? At least Ben is left handed.

At the halfway stage I thought England were favourites but India’s batsmen were clearly a threat. Sharma and Kohli are obviously two of the top players in the world, and I feared defeat should one of them make a century.

In the end, however, it didn’t matter. Rohit took too long to find his feet and his pedestrian start, in which he looked more like Ishant Sharma than Rohit Sharma, possibly cost India the game. Although he eventually managed to raise the tempo the rate was too demanding for new batsmen arriving at the crease.

Credit must also go to England’s bowlers, of course. I thought Woakes’s opening burst was the defining passage of play in the match – he would’ve been my man of the match rather than Jonny – and Plunkett also showed how valuable he is in the middle overs (again). Jofra Archer also underlined why he makes England’s attack look so much better.

I should stress, however, that we should all keep our feet firmly planted on the ground after this win. After all, it didn’t really address the frailties we’ve displayed earlier in the tournament. Yes we won, which is obviously great, but we did so (a) setting a total rather than chasing, and (b) in conditions that couldn’t have been more favourable to us.

Although England deserve to encounter the odd wicket that suits them – home advantage has got to count for something, right? – this one couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time. The pitch enabled our batsmen to play in their gung-ho fashion and it completely nullified India’s spinners.

With England facing elimination from the tournament – something I very much doubt the authorities want – the pitch was exactly what the doctor ordered. Although perhaps introducing the word ‘doctor’ or ‘doctored’ here probably isn’t advisable considering that hardcore India supporters are already spitting feathers!

Those concocting wild conspiracy theories will no doubt find plenty of ‘evidence’ after yesterday’s events. After all, it wasn’t just the pitch that suited England down to the ground. Although I’d previously read that the ICC have instructed groundsmen to prepare strips in the middle of the square during this tournament, this particular pitch was curiously off-centred. In fact, it left a very short boundary of just 59m on one side.

This, erm, coincidence, was duly noted by Virat Kohli both before and after the match. Obviously when the away team have two leg-spinners, one of whom is amongst the leading wicket takers in the tournament, it certainly helps the home batsmen if slight miss-hits sail for six. And all this at Edgbaston, the home ground of England’s director of cricket

James Morgan

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You’ve read the comments. Now vent your spleen.

I’m sad to report that Jonny Barstow seems to have lost the plot. He thinks people want England to fail just to they can stick the knife in. And now he’s started a row with Michael Vaughan.

This really isn’t a good look. And it’s a distraction that England really don’t need. Our upcoming opponents, India and New Zealand, will interpret Jonny’s words as a sign that we’re feeling the pressure.

I’m not sure what’s up with Bairstow. He seems to have a persecution complex as I’ve always considered him to be an extremely popular cricketer. He sees enemies (or rather critics) where there are none. It was the same when he talked about his own form last year. It’s a shame as I really like the guy.

Jonny’s words aren’t just unwise because they’re going to put him and the team under even more pressure; they’re also unwise because they’re completely incorrect. I was at Lord’s on Tuesday and the home crowd were right behind their team. We cheered every shot … except the craps ones they got out to.

In general I’ve always found England fans to be extremely supportive – just look at the response Alastair Cook received in that test match at the Rose Bowl a few years back when his captaincy was under fire and he couldn’t buy a run. The mood in the country at large was fairly discontented, but the supporters at the ground gave him an excellent ovation.

Rarely have I heard home crowds in England boo their own players – an occurrence I’ve heard frequently down under. I once experienced a group of drunken Aussies abusing Glenn McGrath and calling him ‘useless’ and ‘a bottler’. That’s Glenn McGrath, one of the best bowlers of all time. They’d have eaten the likes of Jonny for breakfast.

The other thing that was weird about Bairstow’s comments is that he didn’t seem to know how many games England have lost. He kept saying the team had lost ‘two’ games or ‘a couple’ of games. Hmmm.

I could be wrong, but it you add up a defeat to Pakistan, a defeat to Sri Lanka, and a defeat to Australia, that amounts to three defeats. Am I right? Let’s hope Jonny’s shot selection in the next game is better than his Maths or his memory.

All will be forgiven, of course, if Bairstow and Co dispatch India on Sunday. And boy do we need a win. Because Bangladesh and Pakistan (our rivals for 4th place) play each other in the final round of group matches, one of these teams will definitely finish on at least 9 points. That means England need to win one of their two remaining games. We might even need to win both.

Beating India and New Zealand is going to be tough. However, one senses that the India game is the biggie. Fortunately the game is being played at Edgbaston, which has been a stronghold for England in recent years. Unfortunately, however, there will probably be more India supporters than England fans at the ground. It could be a surreal atmosphere which somewhat negates our home advantage.

What’s more, if the pitch is dry – and nobody needs reminding how hot it’s going to be in Birmingham over the next 48 hours – then it might suit Kohli’s team. Yuzvendra Chahal has been absolutely fantastic thus far in the World Cup. He’s going to be a real danger.

How do you see things going at Edgbaston? And do you think England will qualify in the end? Fortunately neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh are particularly strong; consequently I still fancy us to squeeze through.

However, if things go from bad to worse, and we fail to qualify for the semi finals of our own World Cup – despite the limitations of the other teams – then there will be a whole can of media whoop-ass thrown in the team’s direction.

Whisper it quietly (outside Jonny’s earshot) but they’ll deserve all the flak too.

James Morgan

The post Just As Things Couldn’t Get Any Worse … Here’s Jonny appeared first on The Full Toss.

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If the World Cup was a bilateral series – the criterium by which we reached the top of the world rankings – we’d currently be celebrating a 4-3 series win. Everyone would be extolling the vim and virtuosity of our victorious squad, and the management would be basking in the glory of yet another triumph.

But this isn’t a bilateral series. Recent defeats in the World Cup’s league format have hurt our prospects badly. I’ve long said that the current England side plays exciting cricket but loses too many games – we’ve lost two of every five games since the last World Cup – and now the chickens are coming home to mess in the roost.

The other brilliant point doing the rounds – I think this originally came from that wise old sage Mike Atherton – is that England simply aren’t used to playing under pressure. Bilateral ODI series are generally either an afterthought or a warm up for a high profile test series. Consequently there’s little riding on them. They’re essential just a bit of fun in which Jos Buttler and Co can play their trick-shots and entertain the galleries.

Unfortunately, however, World Cups are a completely different specimen. They are the main event. And thus far England have looked completely unsure how to cope in this high pressured environment.

As an avid watcher of other sports I’ve always been fascinated by the style and psychology of teams that win big global events. It’s generally rare for flair teams that light up the group stages to go on and win the actual trophy. Football is a good example. Everyone waxes lyrical about the sexy football played by Brazil, for example, but they last won a World Cup in 2002. And the last time they reached the semi finals (at home) they got trounced by the uber-efficient Germans.

The German football team personifies the style and methodology of typical tournament winners. They are exceptionally well drilled, play the percentages, do the basics well, and make few (if any) mistakes. Champagne football, champagne rugby, and champagne cricket, always seems to be ephemeral. It flashes for a game or two but ultimately fizzles out. It’s the efficient teams that last the course. After all, it’s incredibly hard to execute the fancy stuff and play with complete freedom when the pressure is stifling.

It’s the same in rugby. Teams with a strong set-piece and powerful forwards usually win. Less can go wrong. Even the immensely talented New Zealand All Blacks struggled to win their seminal world cup at home in 2011. They blew everyone away in the pool stages but could only scrape an incredibly nervy 8-7 victory against a poor France side in the final. All the sexy rugby from previous rounds evaporated when the pressure was really on. They’ve since become a colossus because they can play practical rugby and grind out results when needed.

So where does this leave the England cricket team? In my view it looks, at the moment anyway, as though we’ve dedicated the last 4 years to perfecting a strategy that can rarely be perfect – a strategy, I’m afraid to say, that simply doesn’t win big tournaments. One could say the strategy has been rather boneheaded. It’s focuses on getting people through the gates rather than actually winning tournaments.

The contribution of Paul Farbrace on Sky’s post-match Debate programme summed it up really. He completely refused to acknowledge any flaws in England’s approach. I found his pie-eyed optimism and intransigence quite embarrassing really. When Bob Willis pointed out that England had come unstuck on slow pitches in the past (not least the Champions Trophy semi), Farbrace argued that they lost that game because they weren’t positive enough! He simply wouldn’t countenance any criticism at all. No wonder England are so inflexible and unable to learn. What’s wrong with saying “we need to get better from X and learn from this defeat”? Farbrace was basically putting his fingers in his ears.

Perhaps I don’t need to repeat what I’ve said a hundred times before on this blog, especially as this problem is finally being acknowledged by the mainstream media, but England really do only play one way: it’s the gung-ho way or the highway. When they need to adapt, show flexibility, and think things through, they generally come unstuck. And this is why we’re finding the World Cup so difficult: it’s new opposition on different pitches every game. It’s simply not the run-fest on flack tracks we’re accustomed to, especially at home.

The problem with England’s approach was summed up by one incredibly revealing statistic yesterday: we only scored 3 singles in the first ten overs of our innings. This is absolutely flabbergasting – especially as we only needed singles (i.e. less than a run a ball) to win.

England seemed completely infatuated with hitting boundaries. They completely forgot that rotating the strike and hustling ones and twos is the best way to ease pressure and build a chase. Had they done so they wouldn’t have needed to play the ill-advised ambitious strokes that proved their downfall.

What’s really head-scratching is that Finch and Warner showed exactly how to go about building an innings under pressure. They realised conditions favoured the bowlers so they bided their time, dug in, rotated the strike, and almost played first class innings to begin with. The big shots came later.

Whereas Australia’s bowlers seemed to learn from England – the one positive from yesterday is that our bowlers came back strongly in the second half of the Australian innings – our batsmen completely ignored the way Finch and Warner played. It’s almost like the very concept of playing a red ball innings in an ODI is an anathema to them.

So where do we go from here? I’m not sure really. There’s still time for England to qualify for the semis and ultimately win the trophy. Indeed, now our odds are longer we’ll be good bet if the right cricket betting offers come up. After all, we probably only need to win one of our last two matches to qualify.

It’s a bit of a cliche but anything really can happen if we reach the semis. If England beat India but then lose the New Zealand, for example, our habit of losing one in every three games might actually work in our favour: we’ll lose the last group game but then win the semi and final! Ahem.

There’s also an argument that maybe, just maybe, the pressure will be less intense now that people realise this England side is flawed? Now their perceived sheen of invincibility has rubbed off, perhaps they can just go ‘xxxx it’ (to coin a phrase) and play with freedom again. They’ll need to encounter favourable pitches, of course, but they may get lucky.

One thing in our favour is that the other sides chasing fourth spot aren’t exactly world beaters at this point. It will be a big ask for Pakistan or Bangladesh to win two of their remaining matches. And if England lose both their remaining games against India and New Zealand then we won’t deserve to qualify anyway.

Whatever happens, however, I think it’s pretty evident that we can no longer claim this England side is exceptional. We’re flawed. One trick ponies if you like. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a happy ending. It’s just less likely than we thought it was a month ago.

James Morgan

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So this is it. Squeaky bum time. Tuesday sees England’s most import ODI for years. It might even be our most important ODI since the 1992 World Cup final. Lose tomorrow and we’ll be facing humiliation all over again – the humiliation of being tournament favourites, playing at home, and not even making it to the semi finals. So much has been sacrificed for this event: the county championship has been sidelined, the test team is somewhat in the doldrums, and there are few quality first class batsmen coming through. And with The Hundred relegating our domestic 50 over cricket into a development competition from next season, this might well be our only chance to win a World Cup for the foreseeable future.

The stakes therefore couldn’t be higher folks. Lose tomorrow and we won’t be frittering away a gala casino promo code or something like that; we’ll be tossing away the bleedin’ World Cup plus our self-respect! This might sound a bit dramatic, but if England don’t do well in this tournament then all the pain would have been for diddly squat.

Because so much is riding on tomorrow’s game, I think we can safely say that the World Cup finally begins tomorrow. We’ll have context, drama, plus a compelling narrative: the fact we’re playing Australia is a script-writer’s dream. Can the old enemy fatally derail England’s World Cup on home soil at the home of cricket? Although we’ll still have a chance of qualifying for the semis if we lose tomorrow, we’ll need to beat both India and New Zealand under the most intense pressure imaginable. And both teams will be doing their utmost to put the favourites out in a consequence free environment. After all, they’ll already be through by then.

On top of everything we’ve got the Smith and Warner sub-plot. The two pantomime villains of world cricket are sure to get a mixed reception tomorrow – I notice that Eoin Morgan hasn’t exactly discouraged fans from booing our key adversaries – and I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to get the last laugh. I’m sorry to say it, folks, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bull or the Ginger Rodent come up trumps tomorrow with big centuries. They’ve pooped our party before, and they can do it again.

I just hope the toss doesn’t become a crucial factor tomorrow. There was heavy rain in London today and storms are expected to continue overnight. I bet that pitch is getting pretty sweaty under the covers. Although Lord’s has state-of-the-art drainage, I expect the ball to move around a bit in the first hour. It’s also set to be humid.

If we do lose the toss, and Smith decides the conditions warrant an insertion (if all things were even I’d expect him to ask England to chase), then our tournament could be derailed within the hour. We’ve seen our top order, which is big on fire power but not necessarily first rate in terms of patience and technique, capitulate at Lord’s in the recent past. Remember when South Africa reduced us to 20-6 in 2017? I’d expect Starc, Cummins and Co to present just as much of challenge as Rabada, Parnell, and Morkel did that day.

On the other hand, if England win a crucial toss, then we finally have the fire power to do some damage ourselves. The prospect of a fired-up Archer and Wood steaming into Warner and Smith in helpful conditions is an extremely appetising one indeed. Maybe England could be the beneficiaries of a great toss to win?

I’ll certainly be nervous tomorrow and I expect the players will be ultra-nervous. Those defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka just weren’t good enough. Had we won those games we could have strolled into Lord’s relaxed, full of confidence, and in the perfect frame of mind to play our attack style of cricket. But can we still play like millionaires when the pressure becomes excruciating?

I guess we’re about to find out.

James Morgan

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We should have known better. I should have known better. When Sri Lanka were meandering along at 4 runs per over in the 40th over of their innings, puzzled looks were exchanged, and predictable jokes were made. Nick Hoult of the Telegraph thanked Angelo Mathews for showing him what an ODI in the 1970s would’ve looked like. And yours truly got in on the act by sarcastically claiming that the Tavare / Boycott partnership was working it’s socks off for Sri Lanka (occupation of the crease and all that).

But Mathews knew better. He always knows better. He’s a world class cricketer with more experience than Father Time himself. He knows the time and place to gamble, and today was not the day to wager his bitstarz bonus code 2019. He knew the pitch was slow and anything close to 250 might prove challenging in a run chase. So he just did his thing. And boy did he do it effectively.

After facing 100 balls Mathews score was just 68. We haven’t seen run rates like that since Peter Moores was in charge of England’s ODI team, and Cook and Trott were opening the batting. But what we would have paid for a Cook, a Trott, or even an Ian Bell in this particular game.

All England needed to do was stay in, rotate the strike, and pick up the occasional two or boundary. But oh no. That’s not the way we play.

With the exception of Joe Root and Ben Stokes, who both played sensibly, England’s batting was the shambles it often is on turgid surfaces. I felt really sorry for Stokes at the death. He couldn’t have done any more. It was heartbreaking to see him marooned and helpless at the death.

However, it’s a red herring to focus on individual positives when the team batted so poorly as a whole. This line-up still struggles to adapt when conditions don’t suit our millionaire’s approach.

I’m not sure who to blame for England’s continued batting failures on slow pitches. On the one hand the players should be experienced enough, and skilful enough, to adapt. However, the ECB surely haven’t helped. When you keep preparing belters to encourage scores of 350+ – a blatant attempt to get people through the door and make money – you shouldn’t be too surprised that your team looks unprepared and lacks a coherent plan when you come across different types of surfaces in ICC events.

The dismissal of Moeen Ali summed up England’s boneheadedness immaculately. England had just got themselves in the ascendancy, the run rate wasn’t an issue, and he’d just hit a towering six. At this point even my 8-year old son knows that the smart option is to work a single off the next ball.

But oh no. Mo went for the glory of back-to-back sixes and holed out on the boundary. It was more than boneheaded. It was embarrassing. And that’s the damning verdict of a Worcestershire fan who’s more tolerant of Moeen’s indiscretions than most.

No doubt some will claim that Moeen would’ve won the game quick smart had he repeated his destructive cameo against Afghanistan. I’m afraid this is naive. Going for glory basically gave the Sri Lanka bowlers a chance they would not have otherwise had. A smart cricketer would’ve taken what the field offered, rotated the strike, protected their wicket, and shut the opposition out of the game.

England are now on a somewhat sticky wicket. Our position in the table isn’t exactly precarious, but there must be some doubt as to whether we’ll qualify now. After all, we might need to beat two of Australia, India, and New Zealand to reach the last four. One win might do it. But there’s no guarantees. And even if we do scrape through in fourth place then a tough semi (probably against India) awaits.

It’s squeaky bum time folks. But at least there’s one positive: there’s nothing like an upset to bring a tournament alive. Even though it was gutting to see England lose, the World Cup needed an upset to finally get interesting. What’s more, the traditionalist in me is quite pleased that it was a slow pitch, and a low scoring game, that proved the catalyst.

James Morgan

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