For those that have not watched the game but have seen the score, it might seem like this was a straightforward, one-sided victory, but at the halfway point this was simply not the case. England on the whole bowled pretty poorly with big question marks about their choice of personnel for the bowling attack (more on that a little later on) on what was a typically placid Oval pitch. Though England didn’t bowl particularly well, it would be churlish not to give credit to the Bangladesh batsmen with Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur in particular looking like the quality international batsmen that they are. The one thing that will disappoint the Bangladesh team was that both set batsmen got out in the final 10 overs, especially when a total of 330, which would have been more than competitive, was on the cards. Although Bangladesh have improved enormously over the past few years, it does feel that they are heavily reliant on both Iqbal and Mushfiqur to carry the bulk of the batting, as showed by their lack of power hitters at the end of the innings, although a great deal of credit should be given to Liam Plunkett, who was by far England’s best bowler.
So at the interval, most of us felt that the Bangladeshi’s were about 20 runs short, but equally were slightly unnerved by the fact that England needed to score over 300 runs in a game they simply had to win whilst dealing with all the pressure that goes with that. We needn’t have worried. After getting off to a shaky start, with Roy once again being dismissed cheaply, the other England batsmen made hay whilst the sun shone, against what looked like a pretty ineffectual and popgun Bangladeshi attack. There has been some talk that Roy should be dropped, but I’m glad that England are sticking with him as i believe he takes the pressure of Hales and lets him settle into his innings, which provides Hales with the opportunity to size up the attack before pressing the ‘go button’. Anyway after the minor blip, it proved to be plain sailing from there on in, with Hales taking the attack to the Bangladeshi bowlers, Morgan making a brisk and welcome half century (his record in ICC events has left a little to be desired) and Root leading England home with a magnificent century. This was by far the most heartening innings that Root has played for some while, with many including myself, criticizing him for not converting pretty 50’s into match winning centuries. It could be said that he was not facing the most hostile of attacks and whilst it is true that there will be tougher days ahead, it would be extremely churlish not to be anything but full of praise for this particular innings. The fact that Root combined power hitting with his normal sumptuous touch should be a source of great encouragement to all England fans.
So all is rosy in the Garden of Eden right, umm not exactly. There were some incidents and decision making that should have England fans concerned if not worried yet. The first mistake England made in my opinion was the very thing I praised them for in my preview of the South Africa series, not keeping a settled team together. Despite Morgan’s protestations, I find it unbelievable that they decided to leave out Adil Rashid, who may not be a great Test bowler but is certainly a mighty fine ODI bowler. The key to limiting the best sides to manageable scores on flat decks is to take wickets and this is something Rashid, whilst having the habit of being rather expensive, is probably the best bowler England have to do this in the middle overs. So to leave him out for another pace bowler in my opinion seemed to be an overly cautious selection and not something that we’ve been used to in the Bayliss era. I hope this proves to be a one off ‘horses for courses’ selection as I strongly believe that Rashid is integral to England’s success in the white ball format.
Then of course, we come to the injuries and this is where things can get very messy for England. If Woakes has an intercostal muscle strain, which most people think he does, then he is not only out of the Champions Trophy but also the South African Test series as well. As an ex fast (ok medium pace) bowler, I have also suffered the same injury and it’s a 6 week healing job at the least and there is certainly no way to patch him up like they have with certain other members of the squad. The injury to Woakes is up there on the ‘things that England’s management team would be desperate not to happen’ as he has matured immensely as bowler and I would suggest is now the leader of the ODI attack. Certainly without him our bowling options start to look a bit threadbare. This coupled with the fact that a patched up Stokes had to bowl far more than England would’ve wanted him to today alongside a calf injury to a hobbling Root, means that England’s medical team are really going to have to earn their keep over the coming days. What I hope is that both simply have niggles and not something serious; however the England medical team have a history of allowing players with fairly serious injuries onto the park, so I will be waiting with baited breath to see if both pull through without sustaining a more serious injury, especially given the upcoming schedule. There was also the ‘catch or no catch’ debate regarding Iqbal’s proclaimed catch off Eoin Morgan, but I think I’ll leave that bugbear of mine for another time.
My last grumble (sorry I know England won the game) is the FTA scheduling of the highlights. Now bear in mind this was a day game, there is absolutely no excuse for the BBC not to show these at prime time; however the BBC feel they know better and have decided that 11:20pm is the ideal time to air them. To me, it just feels like another wasted opportunity to bring cricket in front of a mass audience again in England and something that cricket’s administrators should be bitterly disappointed about.
Despite the various grumbles, the long and short of it is that England did what they needed to do and recorded a victory, but at what cost and whether it proves to pyrrhic remains to be seen.
As ever, thoughts and comments on the game below.