England v South Africa: 3rd ODI

Appalling and disgraceful.  Shocking and irresponsible.  Replace the lot of them.

There’s bound to some kind of kneejerk response from some quarters to what was a pretty poor display by England, both with the bat and the ball.  Yet there does need to be some context involved: over the past two years England have been remarkably consistent batting first.  In the 23 innings in that time frame, they have passed 300 16 times. Furthermore, on all occasions they didn’t reach that landmark (and a few when they did) they lost.

England batting first in the last two years

What that suggests first and foremost is that 300 is the absolute benchmark now, and indeed all too frequently isn’t enough.  This isn’t especially a shock to anyone watching ODI cricket recently, but given that, it also makes it clear that taking risks is inherent in the modern game.

That list also shows that when England get it wrong, they do so spectacularly, the 138 at Manchester against Australia and the 153 today clear outliers.  Today was actually a pretty good recovery from 21-6, and showed a degree of fight and ballsiness that should be welcomed, albeit in a hopeless cause.  Where the debate lies is in the way England got out to a succession of poor, indeed identikit, shots in the first five overs.

Here’s the nub of it, how should a team approach the innings when they lose early wickets.  Within that list are a couple of examples – versus New Zealand at Southampton and the West Indies in North Sound, where England were 34-2 and 29-2 respectively – where they carried on going for the shots and scored just either side of 300, winning one and losing the other.  Either or both of those could have gone wrong and 40-4 the outcome, but it’s indicative of England’s approach that they do not decide to moderate their play but carry on in the same vein.

Now, it would be absolutely ideal if England could adjust their sights according to the situation, but this is a more difficult mental thing than might be supposed.  If a team is to play without fear, as most seem to want them to do, then that means backing themselves not to get out, but to score and score heavily.  A hope that England hit lots of sixes but don’t take any risks is all too easy to fall into, and the moment that freedom to stuff it up is removed, then the prospects of scoring 300 and even 400 as they have done recedes into memory.  To put it another way, collapses like this are an occupational hazard from a team that lives on the edge in their batting.

Of course, it could be argued that once they are three or four down, that kind of moderation would be eminently sensible, and that’s also true, but collapses happen in all forms of the game, and all who play at any level will be familiar with the post match head scratching as to why exactly everyone chose to get out to dreadful shots.

As someone might have said about their own game in the past, this is how England play, and given that there are going to be days where they get it all wrong.   Beating them up for that is entirely counterproductive and needs to be seen as the price paid for the generally successful highly aggressive strategy.  It doesn’t excuse an individual error, but it does explain how it can happen across the team.  England fans recall all too well the restrained style where they aimed for something competitive, and much good it did them too.

Having had that disastrous start, they actually did fairly well to reach 153, entirely down to Bairstow, Willey and Toby Roland-Jones.  It’s worth noting that none of them were especially restrained in their batting, going for their shots throughout in a vain attempt to pull off a miracle and get England a defendable total.  It could be argued that by so doing, and scoring at a shade under 5 an over, it represented the only possible way England had of offering up anything competitive.

South Africa certainly looked better for the changes they made.  Conditions were helpful early on, but not unduly so, and the addition of Morne Morkel lent the attack an air of increased menace.  Rabada may well be a star of the upcoming tournament, for he offers both express pace and control, while Parnell too looks dangerous at times.  A small wobble in the run chase is part for the course with the South Africans, but this match was effectively done after five overs.

For England, their bowling attack had a distinctly second string look to it, but with such a small total it is perhaps unfair to judge them harshly on today’s display.  Still, the opening spells were woefully poor in both direction and length, removing any minimal hope there might have been.  Roland-Jones did himself no harm, while Jonny Bairstow continues to be the most under-appreciated cricketer England have had in a while.  The batting is certainly strong, it must be in order for him to be left out.

It’s probably no bad thing for England to be given a kick up the backside in what was both a warm up match and a dead rubber as far as the series was concerned.  The real business begins later in the week, and it’s clear that England are certainly capable of winning the competition, but also capable of falling flat on their faces if they get it wrong.  It makes them a very interesting side to watch.




23 thoughts on “England v South Africa: 3rd ODI

  1. Mark May 29, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    As you have just started a new thread I will copy what I posted below….

    Sir Ian commenting on England’s style of batting….” It’s the way they play.”

    Nasser, nearly spitting out his dummy…..

    “I hate it when players or teams say it’s the way I play”

    Now remind me, who was it who used to say that phrase?

    WG Grace?
    Don Bradman?
    Miles Davis?
    Keith Moon?
    Jimmy Hendricks?

    As Thelegglance said the other day we can’t criticise them when they play this way after the snail like way they have played before. And that is right. If we want to see them taking a positive approach we can’t then demand they go back in their shell.

    However, Mike Atherton made a good observation that in England sometimes you do have to reign it in a bit if the ball is moving about, and you are 3 wickets down for 15. A score of 250 might have been good enough today. It will be interesting to see what they do when the context of the game is more important. That is, for those of us who think the “context” of a game has some value.


    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance May 29, 2017 / 4:06 pm

      Pretty much the focus of the post Mark! I think I would say that my view generally is that it’s easier said that done. The last thing we want is players not backing themselves, they don’t expect to get out when they go for these shots.


  2. Mark May 29, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Is it just me or is Bumble morphing into Groucho Marx?

    With the glasses, and the eyebrows, he just needs a moustache and a cigar!

    “I could dance with you till the cows come home”
    “I could dance with the cows till you come home”


    • emasl May 29, 2017 / 7:29 pm

      better than morphing into Fred Truman which Beefy has done


  3. jennyah46 May 29, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    England are well practised at keeping the interest in the game alive. Nobody does it better. 🙂


  4. Benny May 29, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    From memory, as many batsmen get out to defensive shots as to attacking – if not more. Morgan did so today, to a fine ball, and the commentator proclaimed it wasn’t a bad shot (yawn).

    I’ve always wanted to provide Nasser with gobstopppers. He wants everyone to play his way not theirs. Half his commentary is “should be forward, shouldn’t play that shot, ball is too full/too short, third man should be finer, spinner should be on …”. If only they could hear him, England would never lose.


  5. d'Arthez May 29, 2017 / 6:07 pm

    Missed the game as I had other things to do. But it has not been a great series for Roy, to say the least. Should England stick with him, or put in Duckett / Bairstow?


    • thelegglance May 29, 2017 / 6:29 pm

      He was excellent in India earlier this year. I would suggest it hardly encourages players to go out and bat without fear of they’re looking over their shoulders after one poor (short) series. Obviously there does come a point but I suspect we’re not there yet.


  6. emasl May 29, 2017 / 7:27 pm

    I have just been reading the Full Toss and left a comment there in which I vented my rage. As I am too bloody lazy to make another one on here which would be the same, in essence, I am repeating it below for your edification and delight:
    I felt that today showed the arrogance of the English set up at its worse. OK chaps we have won the series, so it does not matter what happens today. We will give a rest to some of the players and bung in those of you who have been sitting round in the dressing room and feeling bored by it all and if you do OK that is fine, but if not, well it does not really matter.

    Smug smug smug and no thought for the paying customers (or should that be the stakeholders?) who had forked out a large amount to be there and were reduced to watching tip and run by a bunch who could not give a s**t. They should all be ashamed of themselves but I doubt it very much.

    The final nail in the coffin was when Sky proudly announced that Director Comma was going to be interviewed in the lunch break at which stage I hastily turned over to Eurosport and watched the tennis until it was safe to return. I would be quite interested in what Andrew It is a Matter of Trust Strauss had to flannel on about but I have a rather lovely new TV and I want it to last for a while. I might have put my foot through the screen if I had watched that two faced creep

    Sorry for the rant….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dannycricket May 29, 2017 / 7:59 pm

    A quote from Strauss’s interview on TMS during the lunch break, talking about the player contract negotiations which will start soon regarding their pay deal from 2020 onwards:

    “In the next year or two it’s really important we get in a room and start thrashing out what that future pay structure looks like, so we can come to an arrangement that’s both fair to the players at a time when they probably do have more power than they’ve had in the past but also allows us to spend the game’s money wisely in terms of giving support to those at grassroots level and making sure we grow the game.”

    In other words, the ECB is hoping that the players will take less than they can get (or deserve) in order to finance the ECB’s schemes for “growing the game”. Given the ECB’s ‘success’ in recent years in growing the game, I’d humbly suggest to the players and their union that they squeeze the ECB for every penny they can get. Better the players get the money than a bunch of overpaid and useless marketing consultants, I think.


    • Mark May 29, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      Cricket Australia and the ECB are hiding behind this whole “growing the game” meme. CA have probably more credibility in that regard, because they have kept the grass roots going better than here in England. However, I think both boards want to syphon off more money from the total pie for the people who run the game.

      I can see why the players are going to fight it.


      • thelegglance May 29, 2017 / 9:30 pm

        To be fair Mark, you saw the same thing played out in football – the whole cry of “wages are out of control” wasn’t to deliver it to the lowest level, but to keep it in owners pockets.


    • pktroll (@pktroll) May 30, 2017 / 10:49 am

      Sounds to me like, “we (ECB) pay you less for your yearly wages while we give you a little more latitude to fill your boots in the foreign t20 leagues”. I say to that, nice work if players can get it but there are plenty of test match specialists who won’t earn a penny in foreign t20 leagues thinking of a former captain in particular.


  8. d'Arthez May 30, 2017 / 10:46 am

    The Australian player unrest, and finally some numbers put forward by CA:

    “”We understand that 71% of what we spend our money on basically relates to elite and high performance cricket. Another 17% relates to what we call running the game. Just 12% goes to grassroots cricket. We need to find ways to increase that. It’s not enough.” (Sutherland)

    So, out of the 74% that CA can spend freely on non-wage related stuff, the vast majority is spent on dieticians, fitness experts, coaches, etc, and people counselling players not to drink and drive (among other things – the message does not always get across). They probably spend more on salaries for CA officials (in whatever capacity), than actual grassroot cricket.

    And seriously, do you really need to spend about A$60 to “run the game”? What are the figures like for England (England probably offers the fairest comparison, in terms of labour costs)?

    If my math is correct: 26% equals roughly A$80 million in the current deal (as above, presumably over a period of the rights, so that is a fair number of years). So 12% is roughly A$40 million. Can CA actually explain why it needed more money (they were proponents of the Big 3 stitch up), if they allocate themselves more money for grassroot cricket than the whole Associate and Affiliate world combined?

    Also, if this is a 15% increase (from A$79 million to A$91 million) as Sutherland claims, on the basis of what does CA have such money to throw around? Oh yes, projected INCREASES in revenue for rights. And somehow I doubt that the projected increase is merely A$12 million, or even A$120 million. But even if it were $120 million, that would mean CA has about A$90 million extra to spend in the next rights cycle. Obviously not on grassroot cricket, but on salaries and all kinds of benefits for Peever and his ilk.


    • thelegglance May 30, 2017 / 10:48 am

      I’m not sure why you come for moderation with almost every post. It’s a bit weird.


      • d'Arthez May 30, 2017 / 10:54 am

        I am really not sure either. Maybe because I used trigger words (words that result in automatic pre-moderation) too often? It is either a pretty well-hidden setting in WordPress or alternatively a bug, and then anything can be the cause.

        I do think all my posts end up being pre-moderated, and up for approval by Sean, Dmitri, or you.


        • thelegglance May 30, 2017 / 10:56 am

          I’m going to see if I can found out what’s going on. It’s annoying for both of us.


    • d'Arthez May 30, 2017 / 10:49 am

      That A$60 is of course A$60 million.


  9. AB May 30, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    There was a collapse in the 2nd innings of a T20 a few months ago that received the same howls of anguish.

    Personally, I think the England team’s tactics in T20s and ODIs of “play our shots from the first ball to the last, and if it come off 8 times out of 10, we’re laughing”, are spot on. Its going to lead to the occasional collapse and resulting embarrassing loss, but its also going to lead to a lot higher win % than the old way of playing where we would tiptoe along to just under par, and then fail to defend it.

    We could modify our approach, but we’d lose a lot of the 300+ scores and there is no guarantee it would even prevent collapses like this anyway.


    • dannycricket May 30, 2017 / 10:55 pm

      The main reason England have had to consistently target 300+ scores is because their bowling is unable to restrict any top international team to less than that. The problem they have now is that if Stokes, Woakes and Moeen don’t play or underperform due to injury. In this series, England’s five specialist batsmen (Roy, Hales, Root, Morgan and Buttler) have scored a combined 413 runs in 15 innings. That works out to England essentially averaging 138-5 by the time their allrounders take the crease. With the batsmen all seemingly out of form (barring Bairstow, who likely won’t play), having all three allrounders available to bail England out is more important than ever.


    • Mark May 31, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      Jeez, just wait until all this kit starts to malfunction. Lights flashing, bats lighting up. It will be as if we are in Star Wars.

      Can’t wait for this to come to your local village green……..”John, Is my bat switched on?”


      • SimonH May 31, 2017 / 9:11 pm

        If all this is so good, perhaps they could install nano-cameras in ICC directors’ nostrils and we could watch them in ICC board meetings – or even on permanent live streams.

        No? It’s for the plebs and not them? If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear….


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