Ball One (0.0 overs) – England take guard wearing a new, all-red, kit. I’m glad they didn’t wear that colour against the bullish Lillee and Thomson combo at Perth in 1974.
Ball Two (10.0 overs) – Cook and Bell show how England will play the two new balls in the Champions Trophy – block (or hope you miss) the good ones and drive the full ones into the V. Any more aggressive than that on an English or Welsh morning, and the risk of being 30-4 in pursuit of 60-1 becomes very real indeed. As if to underline the point, the moment I hit the full stop, Bell chased a wide one and edged to Ronchi. “Proper” batting might be the approach required right through to the last ten over charge.
Ball Three (23.0 overs) – There may be good reasons (seeing off the new ball, rebuilding after quick wickets, keeping men back for the late charge) but the feeling persists that, if England are to win a World Cup, they need more runs from the first half of an ODI innings. Either more risks need to be taken to score boundaries or more good balls need to be worked for the single – or both. The best sides will be able to match England in a late charge, so whether the thrash builds on a first 25 overs score of about 100 or about 120, could be the difference between winning target and a losing one.
Ball Four (26.4 overs) – There’s a case for mixing up one’s shots, but missing a straight one is never a good thing. We’re told repeatedly that today’s players practise the reverse sweep and that they consider it to be a shot like any other, but it’s hard to believe that it isn’t played just a bit too frequently. Somewhere one of the army of analysts available to England must have a way of estimating the reward from the shot as balanced against its risk, but one wonders why Joe Root – a player with every shot in the book and some that aren’t – was quite so keen to play it with the innings barely into its second half. For a man who can do no wrong, 30 off 40 balls is neither here nor there.
Ball Five (28.3 overs) – Trott aims to clear the man in front of the Tavern Stand and – as one might expect from Test cricket’s highest scorer without a six – fails, holing out to Ross Taylor. That leaves England with two new batsmen at the crease and a run rate well below 4.5. That doesn’t give much time for Morgan and Buttler to play themselves in (in the traditional sense) and shows the danger playing low risk, then high risk, cricket without enough in between. And as I write, Morgan feels compelled to give McClenaghan the charge and miscues completely – 125-5 off 29.2 overs on a blameless pitch, if sluggish outfield.
Ball Six (43.2 overs) – With Chris Woakes having fallen for 36, England have lost six of their top seven batsmen for scores between 14 and 37. That one or two got in and got out is understandable, even on a flat track, but such was the regularity with which England lost wickets that one can’t help wondering if England’s thinking was as clear as it might have been. Have England got the combination of nous and skill required to read and play an ODI match situation? A Mike Hussey or Virat Kohli is hard to find – but it’s surprising to see so many players who have grown up playing so much 40 and 50 overs cricket, appear to be so short of meeting its demands.
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