It was 10:55 am. In a sleet storm that would freeze the warmest of souls, I sat in the car park at Costco, Croydon, and felt a little different. I’m not sure why it happened, whether there was some epiphany as I saw the line of people poised for the Sunday opening of the bulk buying behemoth, but this was something that had not happened for a long, long time. I actually cared whether England would win the ODI I was listening to. I actually, actively, really wanted them to finish this one on the winning team. Listening as the Australians took a single, when boundaries were required, was met with an imperceptible “come on”. As Rashid got through those two overs without carnage, when only carnage would really do, I even shrugged off the Anderson bon mots about him being less expensive than usual (as pointed out by one of our commenters in the previous post).
While I struggle listening to Norcross and Dagnall commentating, but immediately pointing out that they are much more preferable than Lovejoy Swann, there was a feeling of something being achieved. Not only were we defending a target, we were strangling the Aussies to death in it. The bowlers, a very key man down, executed their plans, to quote that horrible management phrase, and were exceptionally captained by Eoin Morgan. There were specially set fields, well thought through plans, balls “put in the right areas” and England held down destructive players like Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis. While Smith and Marsh were going, the game was a gimme. Keep at that pace, accelerate in the last ten overs. They couldn’t.
This isn’t about the game though, it is about an England team that wins, that does it with flair and a little bit of luck, and the inevitability that this won’t last, that this is still a team with a howler in it, and a howler at the wrong time in a world tournament gets you knocked out (see the Champions Trophy), but it is a likeable team, Root seems so more at ease within it, Morgan appears a terrific captain, you can fail three times as long as you deliver once, and when you do, make it count, and it has guts. Joe Root had to bowl nearly 9 overs against a team delivered to you out of the Big Bash. That sporting phenomenon that we all aspire to imitate. Joe Root did not let the side down, he stepped up. Rashid nicked key wickets, Mark Wood bowled with energy and vigour, Woakes with calmness and calculation to add to his amazing partnership with Buttler.
ODI cricket is now bemoaned every bit as much as county cricket. It is international cricket’s dull uncle, without the gravitas of test match cricket, and lacking the testosterone of the T20 twaddle. It is neither here nor there. England have got good at it just as other nations treat it as the bit in the middle of most tours, or the subject of a completely displaced visit to play three or five match series, and the overseas tourists come and go in a fortnight. England pick exciting players like Roy and Hales, Buttler and Wood, and keep some of the more uptempo or classy test players. It took us 9 years to figure out it wasn’t the game for Alastair Cook, and when we did, things got better. That’s just a fact of life. How much Bayliss and Farbrace are responsible, who knows?
I’ve been out of the loop for three or so weeks now. Not writing has been a release. It may be that this is all you get from me going forward. The odd thing here or there. I might get the writing bug back, but at this time, it isn’t cricket. The nonsense of the 244 was the last straw, the cynical, contemptuous response to a 4 nil defeat, pinning it on county cricket in particular, was a disgrace. I have no words for the test team, its acolytes in the media, and the people governing the sport allowing it to be marginalised that haven’t been said, or can add to the weight already placed upon the pile of prose. The 2014 Ashes loss and the repercussions invoked fury, anger and passion. This loss provoked apathy, antagonism and atrophy.
But then, there came a spark. Maybe there is life yet.
PS – A terrible signal on EE in Costco. Terrible delay in getting the scores in the last two overs.