India vs. England, 1st ODI, 2017

ODI’s to me, I must admit are a bit like a Victoria Sponge Cake, sure if I’m offered it for free at the end of a meal, then I’ll probably have a bite, but would I order it off the menu, then I very much doubt it. Yet to doubt their popularity away from England would be folly, the Indian public in particular love their white ball cricket and India have become a formidable force in this format.

Regardless of what happened in the match, the build up to the game has very much been Eoin the mercenary vs. Eoin the ‘non national anthem singing,’ well mercenary. The Daily Mail has had it’s xenophobia/brexit mantra right in hand, I mean how dare an Irishman, who happens to be England captain, refuse to travel to a country that might not be safe. I mean Andrew Strauss said it was, yet the so called English ODI captain still refused to travel to Bangladesh and even worse, he still refuses to sing the Queen’s National Anthem, that’s just not cricket. I’m still half expecting an outraged Oliver Holt to fly out with a couple of stocks (not Chris Stocks, though no doubt his coverage will be in a variety of English newspapers) painted in national colours, with rotten apples or any other particularly English fruit at the ready to throw at Morgan.

The thing is, if we do well in this series, then it will be branded as Strauss’ brave new ODI side and if we do badly, then it’s Eoin Morgan’s failing England team with a lame dog captain at the helm. I mean who would want to be an England skipper, unless your name is Alastair Cook, who is supposedly being hounded (their words, not mine) out of a job with the very lightest of criticism if you choose to listen to ‘those that know’. I will freely admit, I’m not Morgan’s biggest fan and I guess you will find very few Middlesex fans that are, still I’m not a xenophobic moron either and I will happily support Morgan on the basis that whilst his batting isn’t the same as it was in 2010, and back then his batting was a revelation, his captaincy is actually pretty good.

Now do I think that Morgan is the next Mike Brearly, well of course I don’t, yet the improvements are there. The batsmen are generally posting in excess of 300 runs most innings, somewhat unheard of if you go back 2 years to the Peter Moores reign and the bowlers, whilst most would agree are somewhat limited in this format, at least have some sort a plan to work with, again a massive improvement on 2015. It does actually seem that the Captain and Coach are working in harmony, unlike the Test team, where Sir Alastair does and says what he wants, and that’s why unlike the Test team, that this team has made pretty good strides in the last 18 months. Long gone are the days where we hoped Ravi Bopara might lift us up to 270 in the final 5 overs. English cricket has shown that it can move forward given the right environment and quite possibly with the right captain too.

As for the game itself, well we gave ourselves a chance by scoring 350 on a fairly flat deck with small boundaries, yet even at half time it felt we were about 30 runs short such are the run fests that are becoming of ODI’s now. Jason Roy played a lovely knock before getting a bit too ambitious, Morgan, Moeen and Buttler had nice cameos and Ben Stokes played an absolute gem of a knock when it seemed that 320 was likely to be at the high end of England’s expectations. The strangest innings of the day was Joe Root’s, which despite Nasser Hussain’s constant praise throughout, seemed a bit of a strange affair when you know 350 is about par on this track. It is hard to criticise a player who has just flown in from England after the birth of his first child and has hit 70 odd, but England’s innings seemed to be sapped of any kind of urgency when Root was at the crease and it was only through the power hitting of Stokes at the end that we came up with something resembling a score that might be defendable. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Root, as it’s important to have an anchor in the innings for others to play around, but equally one could also add that if we had scored another 20 runs then it could have been a tighter match.

Yet despite achieving a par score on this pitch, England’s bowlers gave us some hope by reducing India to 63-4 with some fine bowling from David Willey in particular; however England once again made the fatal mistake of not getting Kohli out early. Of course, I say this with tongue firmly in cheek, as Kohli is batting on a different planet to everybody else at the moment. His partnership with Yadav was a pure mixture of outstanding timing, outrageous shots and total skill from both batsmen to put England’s bowlers to the sword. I’m sure that one or two of our media chums will no doubt put the blame at the door of England’s spinners and I agree they didn’t bowl well, but they were never allowed to settle due to the skill of both Indian batsmen. Perhaps if Moeen or Rashid had managed to get a couple of cheap overs in early then they might have been able to settle into a routine, but that’s by the by as India attacked both with glee and no little skill, which basically forced Morgan’s hand to remove both spinners from the attack and stick with the seam bowling attack in a futile effort to stop the runs from flowing. By the time England had managed to take the wickets of both Kohli and a limping Yadav, each for a fine 100, the game was pretty much up, the run rate was under 6 and India bat pretty deep. There was the odd moment of panic in the final stages from India, but all in all, they won the game pretty comfortably with nearly two overs to spare.

So onto the next ODI game on Thursday on the same sort of pitch at Cuttack no doubt, with the question being will England have learnt anything from this game or will we see more of the same from India? An equally pertinent question may be, does the English public actually care about these ODI’s, but we’ll leave that one for another time.