Stuart Broad isn’t in India because it snowed so much that he ended up coming home from Heathrow Airport yesterday. What’s the rest of the England ODI team’s excuse?
England lost the toss in the third game of the series against India in Ranchi, but they were given a chance to bat on what looked a very good pitch, because of concerns over bowling in the dew later. No matter – by the time they were all out, there was precious little chance of either side having to cope with the moist ball in the Indian evening.
What followed was everything that was wrong with England’s ODI batting over the last generation. It doesn’t matter who the personnel are, the order you put them in – if you’re a fan of England, you’ve seen this one before.
There was the opener (played today by Ian Bell) limping ponderously along to one from 17 balls at one stage, forcing his partner (Alastair Cook) to try something a little out of the ordinary to keep the run rate ticking along and getting caught out.
Then there followed the bad luck (Kevin Pietersen the ungrateful recipient) – who knows what would have happened had he not been on the wrong end of a poor decision, caught behind when he had missed the ball? The trouble what everyone did know, the England players included, is what would happen once he had been given out.
Bell’s innings was soon ended for the archetypal use-a-lot-of-balls-to-get-started-and-then-get-out 25 from 43.
So having made sure that none of the top three would score the match-winning hundred, England approached a key stage of the innings with two fresh batsmen. They got in, they got out.
The middle-order collapse was precipitated by Eoin Morgan looping away a reverse-sweep for an easy catch, before Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel missed straight balls from Ravi Jadeja in the same over.
Next in the horror show was the lower-middle-order-respite-for-just-enough-time-to-remind-you-that-the-top-batsmen-underachieved phase of play. After a stand of 47, Joe Root, asked to save an innings for the second time in his two ODI knocks to date, perished for a top score of 39. Then Bresnan, his willing ally, was beaten by a good ball. It happens.
There was just enough time (actually, that’s not true – there was plenty – 13 overs’worth, in fact) for the tail to flounder along aimlessly. Steven Finn holed out, Jade Dernbach missed a straight one. At least it was over.
Yep, if it feels familiar, it’s because it is. England have played 590 ODIs, and this was the 100th occasion on which they have been dismissed for less than 200. Cowers did not spot any of the England players raising the bat at the century.
And 95 of those times, today, included, defeat was the result.
The only thing is, England are not supposed to be that ragtag bunch of competitors in the 50-over format these days. They went into the series, and Cowers has to stress this using italics, as the highest-rated ODI side in the world.
Nasser Hussain, cutting England’s innings to shreds in the interval while on punditry duties for Sky, was as scything as he was hilarious. Any rant from a former player which starts with the term ‘pathetic’ is bound to lighten the mood a touch.
“I could not be more angry about the way England played Ravi Jadeja,” Hussain seethed.
And do you know what? Cowers believed him considerably more than he believed Kieswetter’s angled bat would keep out Jadeja’s straight ball.
Playing in the subcontinent is hard. Especially in a format that has not been England’s forte historically, and even more especially still against a side who are the defending world champions. Their captain, arguably the best ODI player around, was in his home town for an international for the first time, and the crowd gave him an ovation so loud that Sunil Gavaskar said on radio commentary that it eclipsed any that he had heard for Sachin Tendulkar. That, Cowers can assure you, is loud.
The situation demanded an India victory, the odds and form were in their favour. All one could ask of England was that they gave it their all, and, to use cricketing speak, that they executed their skills as best they could.
On that count, they failed miserably.