The key to any game of cricket, be it a red ball match or a white match, a county game or an international is often the ability to create a fair balance between bat and ball. There have been plenty of examples in the Test arena recently of home teams producing suitably favourable bowling strips that ensure that the away team is at a massive disadvantage from the start and is often blown away in under 3 days (yes England are just as guilty of this as everyone else). These are not particularly good contests to watch as unless something out of the ordinary happens, then the predictable projection of the game is apparent after only 2 sessions.
Equally, the same goes for white ball cricket. The administrators wish that every ODI is a run fest does not necessarily make for great viewing either. The first two ODI’s were an exact mirror of this – extremely flat pitches, postage stamp boundaries and a ball that stops doing anything after two overs meaning that the bowlers are simply cannon fodder for any remotely skilled international batsmen. Sure when there is the occasional score of 350+ that should be lauded as a great batting performance, but when it becomes somewhere about par, I find it, well a little bit boring if I’m honest. It seems that the pitch today at Kolkata was a rare example of being able to produce something that gave some encouragement for both batsmen and bowlers alike. There was some swing early on for the bowlers as the batsmen couldn’t just heave across the line, there was some pace with the new ball and the odd bit of uneven bounce when the ball was hard (just ask Yuvraj). However there were also runs to be had by batting sensibly early on and then cashing in when the ball got softer and the fields got spread. This is what international cricket should be all about, no matter whether it’s with the white ball or the red ball and what followed was an exciting match that went down to the last ball. This is the secret to prolonging interest in the 50 over game, not producing slog fest after slog fest, but rewarding both bowlers and batsmen who have the requisite skill to play the game. I’m probably pissing into the wind with this request as no doubt 400 will soon play 400, but it would be a welcome addition to the ODI arena, if the bowlers are able to contribute actively to the game too.
Unfortunately, I admitted in the 2nd paragraph that the pitch seemed to play well, but I cannot be sure as I’ve been sick all weekend and only caught the last half of the Indian innings. I was hoping that Chris might have been around to write this, but he is in Paris staring into the fog in the hope that they’re might be a game of rugby below, so apologies that this report is on the brief side.
From listening to a bit of TMS, it does seem that England did well to make 320 on this pitch (the TMS commentators reckoned 300 was about par) and this was once again down to a number of contributions to the English batsmen again. Roy seemed to be the stand out contributor again, though I’m sure he will be kicking himself that he didn’t go on and make a hundred as he’s had a chance in all 3 games of the series. Billings, Bairstow and Morgan all contributed to the total, though I’m sure that the English media will concentrate on the ugly shot that he got out to (yep the whole play aggressive cricket mantra, but don’t get out to an attacking shot thing again). Stokes came in much like he did in the first ODI and put together an exciting cameo with Woakes to lift us to 321 when 300 looked to be the ceiling of our ambitions.
As for India, there openers came and went early, so it was once again a battle between India’s vaunted middle order and England’s bowlers. Kohli once again looked to be taking the game away from England, especially when he was put down by Ball, before swiping at a wide one from Stokes. Dhoni and Yuvraj both got in, looked to be heading for a big score and then got out at crucial times before Jahdav and Pandya seemed to be taking the game away from England. Jahdav looks to be a real find for India and no doubt will win them a good number of games in the future; however today was not going to be their day. England were able to take vital wickets during the last few overs to stem the runs and despite a repeat take of the Eden Park last over yips that threatened to sway the game India’s way, England managed to regroup and bowl 4 consecutive dots including the vital wicket of Jahdav to snare their first victory of the tour.
I’m sure we’ll cover the lessons learnt from this series in a bit more depth after the T20’s, but as I really don’t feel well, that can wait for another day. I’m back off to bed with a lemsip!