They did it. England have finally won an ODI in a convincing fashion. Sure, other teams do it quite often; some even make a habit of doing it a few times, perhaps even to win a series. But this is England, and we are used to a few close defeats, the rare hiding and the even rarer sneaky win.
But the defeat that England inflicted on India today was as surprising as it was dominant. England put together every facet of modern One-Day cricket in one match, and the results of that were laid bare for all to see.
Lining up with their first choice World Cup XI for the first time was certainly a good starting point for England. Although it is worth noting that if Chris Jordan hadn’t been ill, it may well have been Steven Finn who made way for the returning James Anderson. But, as it happens, Jordan’s misfortune was certainly Finn’s, and perhaps England’s gain.
Finn took 5/33 to rip the heart out of the Indian batting line-up and looked as if he may be getting back towards his threatening best. A fit and firing Finn would be a handful in any conditions and could rightfully be considered one of the better fast bowlers in world cricket; it’s the main reason that England have stuck with him throughout a tough trot of form.
Today he was no longer doing his ‘Bambi on Ice’ impression during his run-up, and even managed to steer clear of sticking a size 12 straight through the stumps in his delivery stride. Stirling progress indeed.
What happened at the other end of the wicket wasn’t to be sniffed at either, as he snaffled three of his wickets caught behind by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, and showed some previously lacking discipline in both line and length.
As I’ve mentioned, this was England’s first choice World Cup XI, and the presence of both Stuart Broad, and in particular James Anderson, must have been a great comfort to Finn. The pair have over 400 ODI wickets to their name, and their experience showed today.
India’s line up is the epitome of feast or famine; no side is so capable of racking up a score of 350+, yet also so capable of capitulating like they did today. In the face of some disciplined bowling and a little swing from the two new Kookaburra balls, India’s batsmen folded like a cheap tent. Incidentally, this sort of bowling performance can be expected on a regular basis from most top teams at the World Cup, how will India’s batsmen stand the pressure when it really matters?
With the returning Broad and Anderson perhaps seen as the spearhead of England’s attack, it was testament to Chris Woakes’ improvement and recent good form, that he still took the new ball alongside Anderson. The Warwickshire bowler has noticeably filled out over the last year and has gained that ‘extra yard of pace’ that everybody seemed fixated on.
With part of the World Cup being played in seam-friendly New Zealand, and grounds in Australia such as the Gabba and the WACCA, where the ball can be expected to zip around early doors, Woakes has become an integral part of England’s ODI plans. He was again exemplary today, unerring in his nagging length, and although he went wicketless, as I have mentioned in previous posts, he has a very happy knack of picking up wickets.
England’s four pronged pace attack, ably supported by Moeen Ali, showed the world that England are to be taken seriously at the World Cup. With Bopara able to provide back up in the form of his cutters, it makes the argument over James Tredwell’s place obsolete. He has been England’s best ODI bowler for the last year or so, but in these conditions, and if Moeen can maintain his high standards, then it’s very difficult to see where he fits into the side.
While the plaudits will all head in the direction of the bowlers, and rightly so after dismissing India for just 153, it is worth also making mention of the manner in which England knocked off the modest total.
It would have been easy to approach chasing such a low total in a defensive manner, looking to take singles and score the odd boundary, and maybe winning in the 45th over. It’s certainly how I think England would have approached a similar proposition during the last 3 years.
But today, led by the resurgent Ian Bell, England attacked the run chase in a positive and forthright manner and chased the runs well inside 30 overs. A few weeks ago, in Sri Lanka Bell cut a disconsolate figure, left out of the side to accommodate the exciting new Alex Hales and his beleaguered skipper, Bell was left fighting for his place in the World Cup squad, let alone the final XI. However, Cook’s resignation and the unwillingness of the selectors to go with three inexperienced men at top of the order, has handed the opportunity back to Bell.
This will, in all likelihood, be Bell’s final crack at ODI cricket, he is no longer the baby-faced batsman of ten years ago, and England have a plethora of exciting options waiting in the wings. His performance today will certainly have secured his World Cup berth, and on hard and true Australian pitches, he may just be one-to-watch come February.
I also just want to quickly mention how well James Taylor batted too, it seems ludicrous that it has taken England so long to find space in their XI for a man with a List-A average in excess of 52. He will, I have no doubt, flourish into one of England’s main batsman in all forms of the game before the year’s out.
Yesterday, I put India as sixth favourites for the World Cup, and after today’s performance I stand by that. Their side may be blessed with immense individual talent. But I seriously doubt their ability to gel as a side on a regular enough basis to make a real run at the tournament. England on the other hand, have fired a warning shot to other contenders in the tournament, that despite appearing disorganised and being led by a new captain, they are a dangerous side, and if they can repeat their complete performance from today, then no side will be able to live with them.