Just occasionally you get an ODI that’s genuinely gripping. They tend to be usually forgettable and in truth although this was a good example of the format, it still won’t be one that is recalled in a decade. It’s just the disposable nature of 50 over cricket.
Even so. This one see-sawed almost like a Test match, with England getting themselves into terrible trouble at 108-6 with only Hales and Root at that point making any impression on the game. Rabada had ripped through the England top order, not for the first time, and an early finish seemed on the cards.
Root got England up to a half reasonable total, aided by Woakes (who had a good game all round) and Rashid. Root’s century was in the circumstances an outstanding one, quite possibly the best he’s made in short form cricket. But even a total of 262 looked woefully inadequate, especially when the build up had been full of suggestions that 400 was a competitive score.
It didn’t quite turn out that way, as while the South African batsmen all made contributions, England kept chipping away. Broad took out Amla at the top of the order, while Duminy decided that if England couldn’t get De Villiers out then he could, running him out in spectacular style thanks to an athletic pick up and throw from Woakes. 143-5 and 210-8 left England hot favourites but a combination of an astounding innings from Chris Morris and some fairly poor bowling and fielding under pressure turned that around.
Rashid’s removal of Morris with the scores level made it interesting but he’d already won the game for his team, and Imran Tahir applied the coup de grace.
So it’s 2-2 going to Cape Town and all to play for. England will be scratching their heads about losing this one. From absolutely nowhere they got in position to take the series, and then it was taken away from them. That can happen, and they did at least give themselves the chance of a win by continuing to attack even from the wreckage of their innings at the mid point of the first dig. Equally, South Africa will feel that they both nearly threw it away, and also stole a game they had no right to win. How very odd all round.
In other news today, the ECB rather carelessly lost Waitrose as the team sponsor. According to the Mail, the supermarket both felt undervalued and ignored by the ECB, and we’re also unwilling to double the value of it as the ECB wanted. To add to that, they were apparently unimpressed that the ECB were trying to find new partners even before they’d decided not to renew. It is good to know that the ECB treat their sponsors with the same degree of contempt they do everyone else, and perhaps Waitrose too can now consider themselves Outside Cricket with everyone else.
No more Team Waitrose. I’m not sure who will be most relieved.
One other small item that came out of the Mail report was to say that the ECB lost a potentially “lucrative” sponsorship with Johnson’s Paint because of minimal TV coverage of the county game. Whether that means the small number of county matches currently on Sky, or the lack of a wider audience on a more open TV channel is open to question, but it seems both surprising and inept if it’s the former, as persuading Sky to cover additional county matches should have been well within their range of abilities.