Both Australia and England began their final preparations for the World Cup this Friday at the SCG, and it was nice to see the tri-series back on the Australian cricketing calendar, but this event is only serving as a competitive warm up for the ‘big three’ sides involved.
The two sides could not have entered the match in more differing circumstances. Australia are positive, confident, and Michael Clarke’s fitness aside, pretty much sure of their best XI. Conversely, England head into the series with a new captain and next to no confidence, above all, they have lost the knack of winning games.
It was always going to be this way… England got trounced and the differences between the sides were glaring and huge.
Instead of piling in on England once again and pointing out where they went wrong (I’ll give you a clue, it’s the same places they’ve been going wrong for a year!), I have attempted to pluck, from the wreckage of the defeat, 5 positives for England to cling to.
Let’s start with the obvious positive. Eoin Morgan answered two clear questions with his measured 121. Firstly he proved that his recent blip in form was just that, and secondly he showed that he is able to rise to the extra responsibility of captaincy. While I’m sure it wasn’t part of his plan to arrive at the crease in the fourth over, it did at least give him time at the wicket to build an innings. Morgan appeared measured at first; as to be expected in the situation he found himself in. But as Cummins and Starc were removed from the attack, Morgan began to find his feet and was quick to tuck into any wayward bowling. Morgan scored his runs all around the wicket and was particularly harsh on Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner. While his captaincy may, whisper it quietly, have had some formulaic Alastair Cook tendencies; his return to form will be a welcome relief to the England set-up.
Often maligned, and usually overlooked by fans in their first choice England XI, Chris Woakes is now an integral part of England’s One-Day plans. Woakes played in all 7 matches in Sri Lanka and finished as the highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps. His figures of 4/40 in the opening match of the tri-series, again showcased his abilities to pick up wickets at regular intervals. Without bowling substantially better than Broad or Jordan, Woakes has the happy knack of picking up wickets. If he can keep this ability during England’s WC campaign, he’ll gain a lot more fans over the next month.
Moeen’s Positive Intent
It would be all too easy to criticise Moeen for his innings in this opening match. After a couple of wristy flicks, he succeeded in lofting the ball tamely into the outfield to depart for a frustrating 22. But I’m not here to criticise today, so let’s try to search for some positives in here shall we? He did get a start. Which is more than can be said for both Bell and Taylor. Moeen seemed to be hitting them well, with one leg-side pick up travelling for six to the longest part of the ground. He appeared unaffected by the swing and movement that Starc and Cummins were extracting in their opening spell, and with a bit more luck, and maybe better shot selection, the signs are there for England, that Moeen will succeed at the top of the order come the World Cup.
While it easy to argue that Australia’s collapse from 199/3 to 233/7 was entirely self-inflicted, I’m going to endeavour to try and give England some praise here. Firstly, they didn’t stop trying, always a good start. It can be very easy to just go through the motions, especially when everybody in the ground knows that the game is over as a contest. As I’ve mentioned, Woakes’ bowling pegged Australia back and England appeared to stick to their bowling plans. It may be clutching at straws, but if England can keep finding ways to take wickets, they may just induce a few more collapses before their antipodean sojourn is over.
The Only Way is Up….
Surely, the only direction for England to take in their ODI cricket now, is forwards and upwards. But then we probably all said that after the Sri Lanka series, and after the India series, and after the Sri Lanka home series too. It seems that England’s ODI cricket is in a downward spiral, but I genuinely believe that this team has reached their lowest ebb. While their performance in this opening Tri-Series match was bordering on the woeful with the bat, and was lacking substance with the ball. There are a few tiny shoots of optimism beginning to emanate from the team. Don’t write England off just yet.