In truth, not many of the forecasts or expectations for this opening match of the series included the possibility of England battering New Zealand completely, and once again, the potential for going completely over the top on the basis of a single result in the mainstream media is more than a distinct possibility. Yet there is also nothing wrong with enjoying an unexpected success, particularly when it is done with such style.
A single match is no basis to proclaim the brightness of the future, we have seen plenty of false dawns before, yet as an expression of intent (providing it doesn’t prove to be an outlier), this one does rather startle and grab the attention. A 210 run margin of victory is the kind of thing that happens to England, not the other way around.
No question that the stars of the show were Root, Buttler and Rashid. All three batted beautifully at different points of the innings, showing aggressive intent, excellent shot selection and perhaps most importantly a complete lack of fear of getting out. It’s something England supporters have cried out for for years, the complete antithesis to the safety first approach in a form of cricket that rewards those prepared to back their own ability.
And therein lies the problem. Despite it being abundantly obvious that this was the way to go, England persisted for years with their conservative, insular approach of trying to get to around a par score that the data confirmed would give them a decent chance of victory. It’s not a cynical view of how they did it, Graeme Swann confirmed that this was how it was done. Above all else, this performance is an excoriating verdict of England in One Day Cricket for many years. The whole World Cup debacle actually looks worse after today than it even did at the time, not because England succeeded today and failed then, but because they didn’t even try then.
Of course, it is better late than never, and if this is indeed the new England, then we will have a side who may or may not succeed, but who won’t die wondering – and that would be a significant step forward. At 202-6 there is absolutely no chance that the old England would have carried on attacking, there would have been an aim of around 300 if possible and a view that it was then “competitive”. The point here is that Buttler and Rashid could have perished in pursuit of their aim of a high target, and England would then likely have fallen well short of 300, but even then it is still exactly the right way to go. It remains to be seen if it is seen that way when it goes wrong, as most assuredly it will at some point. Mike Atherton – who could defend himself by saying it was a legitimate question – asked that very point, only to be swiftly put down by Adil Rashid in response, quite rightly. There lies the test. England will be bowled out from promising positions in some matches adopting this approach, and they must be granted the latitude for that when it happens.
It’s a single match, and a single win. But making over 400 and the way in which they did so is a marker for a style of cricket that the rest of the cricketing world adopted some time ago. New Zealand won’t change, it remains to be seen if England do. Let’s hope not.