Where to begin then? Woakes’ costly drop? Finch’s brilliance? England’s inability to bowl a yorker? The fearsome Mitchell Marsh? Taylor being cruelly denied a century by an umpiring error?
While the opening match between Australia and England was over as a contest after just 70 overs, the game was certainly not short of talking points. How do we even start picking the bones out of that terrible excuse for a performance from England earlier this morning?
Firstly, the most obvious issue to stem from this game for England is that they are simply not at the level to compete with the very best in the one-day game. For all their talk of preparation during the recent tri-series, and a new aggressive brand of cricket, it was an all too familiar tale for bleary-eyed England fans.
If preparation had been the watchword heading into this game, then England threw it out of the window from the toss. Not only did they finally lose patience with Ravi Bopara and jettison him from the side, Gary Ballance the man who replaced him then batted at three, meaning that James Taylor was shifted down to number six. The long and short of it meant that England were heading into their World Cup opener with a new look top six, hardly an ideal start for a side already expected to be up against it facing a rampant Australian side.
Perhaps we should have known that England were always going to come off second best at the MCG. In just the third ball of the innings, Woakes dropped a relatively simple catch that would have seen Aaron Finch depart without scoring. Finch went on to pummel his way to a brilliant 135 and lead his side’s imposing innings. If Stuart Broad’s three early wickets gave England cause for optimism, the feeling didn’t last for long. Indeed, if England had stuck to their original plans, Broad would not have been in the attack at all. Woakes had been opening the bowling alongside Anderson throughout the tri-series, so naturally England tossed that policy out of the window and opted for Broad instead. Classic England! While I don’t think giving Broad the new ball is an altogether flawed idea, leaving Woakes to bowl the majority of his overs in the middle of the innings and at the death is suicidal. His skill is in swinging the ball, and he is not blessed with remarkable composure at this level; certainly not enough to warrant the ball in the final 10 overs.
If Woakes’ drop was symptomatic of England’s day, then there bowling in the final 10 overs was the icing on the cake. I can’t even begin to coherently vent my discontent at England’s bowling policy in the final 10 overs. Quite simply, if it doesn’t change, they’ll be binned out in the group stages. A succession of short balls; some slower, some wide, some long hops, England showed their entire repertoire of mediocrity. They must resort back to yorkers for the remainder of the tournament, or remain 50 runs worse off than their competitors. Captain Eoin Morgan’s inability to form a workable plan was plainly evident at one point, as he had all four of his boundary riders deep on the leg-side. Steven Finn then proceeded to bowl a succession of short balls outside off stump. You couldn’t make it up!
If England were behind the eight ball after conceding 342/9, they were well and truly down and out after Mitchell Marsh had had his say. England were on the lookout for Mitch’s, namely Starc and Johnson, but while minds were pre-occupied on Australia’s left arm double act, Marsh came up on the rails and ran his way through England’s fragile batting line-up. The talk on commentary was that England should look to target Marsh as the weak link in the Aussie attack, and not for the first time in this World Cup, the commentators were made to look rather stupid.
If England’s inability to catch, bowl to a set plan, and score top order runs was farcical, it was nothing compare to the end of the match. James Taylor had been going about his business and proving his worth to the side once again, when on 98 umpire Dar adjudged him LBW. Taylor threw up his arms in what was almost a token review; replays then showed the ball slipping down the leg-side and Taylor was reprieved. However, replays then showed Anderson was actually run-out after the original LBW decision had ben given. Chaos then ensued, umpires Dharmesena and Dar contrived to give Anderson out LBW and leave Taylor high and dry on 98. But, as a cursory glance at the laws of the game will attest, as soon as Dar had raised his finger, the ball was dead and therefore Anderson could not be dismissed. The ICC later apologised for the embarrassing episode, and they admitted that the game was ended incorrectly.
Quite simply, for a pair of international umpires to be unaware of the rule is unacceptable. The correct course of action would be to suspend both Dar and Dharmesena for the remainder of the World Cup, unfortunately the ICC have neither the manpower or strength of judgement to make such a call. Even with the advent of DRS it appears there is still abundant scope for good old-fashioned human error.
The farcical finish to the game was fittingly appropriate to end a game in which England had taken several step backs in their ODI development. The aggressive cricket we had been promised was nowhere to be seen, instead replaced by a timid, disjointed and downright unprofessional performance. England must improve dramatically; for New Zealand lie in wait and they will surely be sensing blood.