Outbatted, Outbowled and Outclassed

21 08 2007

England completed a 104-run thrashing of India today at a canter. Whilst it is important not to get carried away with one result, the crushing nature of the win naturally brings with it a great deal of confidence. Alistair Cook showed he can perform in this version of the game equally as well as he can in the longer one. People may question his ability to make the most of the Powerplays, but who says that is the only way you can play? The West Indies showed against England what can be done by constructing a solid platform, then having a blast at the death. If Shiv Chanderpaul can do that for the West Indies, who’s to say that Alistair Cook can’t do the same for England?

Ian Bell’s hundred will silence those critics who said that his lack of a hundred showed a mental frailty not suited to him batting at number three. What was particularly pleasant about both was the way that they maneuvered the ball around well against spin during those middle overs, something that England have struggled with a lot recently. Prior’s inability to do what he was sent up the order to do (bat aggressively during the Powerplays, making it easier for Cook to play his natural game) is a concern, but let’s not forget that England constructed close to 300 runs without needing to rely heavily on Pietersen or even using Collingwood, Bopara or Flintoff. If Matt Prior begins firing, then the batting looks solid, and with none of them approaching a ripe old age, it could be a batting lineup that stays intact, injuries permitting, for a long time.

The middle order looks solid with Collingwood, Bopara, Flintoff and Mascarenhas all capable of providing useful batting and bowling contributions. When was the last time England could boast four all-rounders? Ok, one might say Collingwood and Bopara aren’t genuine all-rounders but they’re both more than handy with the ball and very capable batsmen. Both Freddie and Dimi can win you a game with bat or ball. Not to mention that all four are pretty fine fielders, Freddie for his safe hands (mostly at slip) and the other three for their athleticism. In fact England’s dominance over India in the field was illustrated perfectly by Monty, easily the weakest fielder in the England One-Day side, running out the very dangerous and credible batsman Sauruv Ganguly.

In many ways that is what started the rot that saw James Anderson show why he is such a dangerous bowler, able to get even world-class batsmen out. He’s taken Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket three times in the three tests, and once again in the first ODI. Maybe he has his number? His opening bowling partner Stuart Broad showed why England have such high hopes of him, by bowling incredibly economically and constantly asking questions of the batsmen. Whilst he didn’t get a wicket, I’m sure Jimmy would be the first to point out that he would have been powerless to take wickets had Stuart been leaking runs at the other end.

If England took hope from the fact that an inexperienced bowling outfit bowled so well against India in the Tests, they will be even more impressed by how an even less experienced bowling outfit performed against India in the shorter form of the game. People talked about just how well England bowled in the First Test at Lord’s, how it was the first time since the 2005 Ashes that England’s bowling unit was firing on all cylinders. It has been even longer since England had a One Day bowling outfit worth a damn. Could now be the time?

Rahul Dravid said afterwards that India were outbatted and outbowled. I would go one better and say they were simply outclassed and also outfought as well. England, fired up by losing the Test series against India (despite being by miles the better side), as well as their last ODI series against the Windies, fought like the three lions on their shirts (or Imran Khan’s legendary “cornered tigers”). The fight that many felt was lacking in the England ODI side was finally shown, and there definitely seems a shift from the old attitude that 50-over cricket was only ever a testing ground to find suitable Test players.

The nucleus of the side is still very young, and some of these players are the right age to be playing at not just the next World Cup, but the one after that. All-in-all, things do look good, and whilst improvements can always be made, there were definitely steps made in the right direction today.


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