No form of cricket can guarantee close matches or excitement, and the first game somewhat petered out in a drizzly mess. But even though England’s win was ultimately confirmed by Messieurs Duckworth Lewis and Stern, there was little doubt which way the match was going anyway. It was a curiously old fashioned game, at least as far as Palistan were concerned, as their innings brought back memories of England under Flower and Moores as much as anything. 260 may even be a “winning score” as far as the statisticians are concerned (probably not) but England were in complete cruise control throughout.
The second match therefore will be interesting to see how the visitors look to approach it, for England look a real force in the one day format, one who seem quite capable of reaching another hundred on top of that. That’s not to say they can’t fall in a heap, for the shorter the game, the higher the level of risk, and the greater the opportunity for collapse. One of the more pleasing things about this England side is that when that does happen, they regard it as an occupational hazard, shrug it off and continue in the same vein.
Yet if the batting is doing well, it was the bowling, or more specifically, one element of the bowling, that caught the eye. Mark Wood has shown he has ability and pace before, but his entire England career to date has been while labouring with the presence of an ankle problem. Having been away for quite some time getting it sorted, he is now back – and my, how he is back. His pace is right up there with anyone, and it was startling to read that he feels he’s not fully there yet and could get quicker. It may yet be the best news of the summer providing he suffers no reaction.
In the days between these matches England confirmed that they will tour Bangladesh this autumn. The ECB rarely earn praise from anyone – well, apart from one or two for whom they can do no wrong no matter what – but while it is impossible to judge the rights and wrongs of this particular decision, they do deserve praise for at least trying wherever possible to ensure these tours go ahead. It’s not the first time, back in 2008 after the Mumbai terror attacks, England returned to the country, ensuring that normality was restored in sporting terms.
Again, we must trust the Foreign Office and the ECB’s own advisors that this particular decision is the correct one, but assuming it is so, it would still have been easy to use the security situation to cancel it. Indeed, there must be a suspicion that other countries may well have done so, and thus with the proviso that we do not know the reality of the decision, the ECB do deserve credit for not using it as an excuse to avoid going. Notwithstanding Pakistan’s wonderful rise to the top of the Test rankings, it would have been crippling to Bangladesh had it got the go ahead.
The ECB have told England’s players that they can drop out of the tour with no effect on their careers, but whilst this is a good thing to say, the truth of the matter is that for all but those absolutely certain of their place, it means nothing. Players who do well are always going to be in pole position, the man in possession has the advantage. It means that for some, there will be some soul searching about whether to make themselves available or not. It is hard to think how else the ECB could have done things, they may be many things, but they are not fools, and they will be as aware of this as anyone.
Finally in other news Somerset have announced the prices for the T20 international between England and South Africa next year. It is the first time they will host an international in 30 years, and they seem determined to make the most of it, by announcing ticket prices of between £60 and £80. It’s not the biggest ground, it is a big event for them. But it is still an outrageous price. There seems little doubt they will sell out, and therefore in commercial terms it’s justifiable. Yet once more it is those who support the game being used as a cash cow and nothing else. Commercially sensible yes. Grasping and greedy, also yes. I trust they’ll use the financial bonanza wisely.
2nd ODI comments below