First, let’s talk about tomorrow’s game between Sri Lanka and the West Indies. It is being played at Chester-le-Street. Sri Lanka come into it on the back of a dreadful performance against South Africa, West Indies hardly performed better against India. It’s a clash of two form teams.
Sourav Ganguly announced towards the end of the game today that Sri Lanka were now out of the tournament. They can still get 10 points, and Ward says that they can’t (so I’m assuming wins is the first tie breaker, then net run rate). Oh stuff it, let’s assume they can’t. So this is the first proper meaningless game of the tournament. Please inundate us with comments as the qualification basically boils down to this. England beat New Zealand and the four semi-final places are decided. If they don’t Pakistan will need to beat Bangladesh, assuming India beat Bangladesh in their meeting on Tuesday. More of that later.
Today was a must win for England, and win it they did. They did it in their template fashion – the openers went off on one, one of them made a hundred, consolidation with Root, and some pyrotechnics at the end. Maybe not the full scale fireworks show we saw in warm-up games, or against Afghanistan, but in its own way, against Bumrah and Shami, impressive enough. England made 337 for 7 in their 50 overs. A formidable score requiring a record run chase for the World Cup to win. If Root had pouched Rohit when he was on 4, it would have been more formidable still!
I have to say, I was raging at the last 5 or so overs from India, and more importantly, in the comm box, so was Sourav Ganguly. There is, I believe, a clause in domestic India coverage that criticism of the international team is to be avoided, but good grief, how could you watch that and think anything other than anger.
England bowled well. They never let India get away, but it was telling that the only six of the innings came in India’s last over. That Dhoni even tried to do it then was taking the michael out of the punters. India started slowly, but Kohli and Sharma were knocking off the 8 an over needed during the middle spell, and with 12 overs left India were just 13 runs behind where England were – and as I said, it was a decent finish to the England innings but not unrestricted carnage. India finished just five down. FIVE. And for three of the last four overs, they seemed happy to push singles. It confused the commentators, and they were, you sense, putting serious bite marks in their tongues.
Sanjay Manjrekar, to his credit, asked Virat about those last five overs, and Kohli batted it away – what else could he do – by saying you’d need to ask those players their thought processes, but then talking some old nonsense about short boundaries, and England being well above par. The suspicions could not, and should not be allayed, but let’s take the most charitable explanation. England bowled well and restricted them, so the target was impossible.
All players owe it to themselves, and their players, to go for the win. India have a proud history, a very good team, with IPL hardened chasers, for whom 200 in 20 overs is something to be relished. 70 off five with five wickets left is something to tee off to attain. India have no real worries over net run rate, are probably nailed on for the semis, so the least they could do was have a go. Sourav was saying you can’t lose that game with five wickets remaining. You just can’t. If you are treating this as batting practice you are selling your fans, the people you need to pay your way, short. If you are taking them for granted then more shame on you. If one of the reasons I have seen has been given, that to lose this helped keep Pakistan out, then more shame them. Dhoni should explain himself. He really should. But let’s be real here. That’s not going to happen. Any Indian friends on here, if you come across anything on the wires in India, do let us know.
Look, I don’t want to take anything away from England. I feared for them today. They were taking a gamble on Roy’s fitness (and naughty that a bruised arm was allowed to be the reason he stayed off the field for the second innings – did he learn that from KP’s calf), but the 66 (aided by a catch off a wide! I’ve been there Jason) was a great start. Jonny Bairstow made a hundred, and well done to him. I loved that he went off on one this week, and the same old bores reacted the same old way (Vaughan – would it have been ok if he’d finished his conference “hashtag just saying”), and then came out and made a century. Ben Stokes was magnificent again – he really is having a superb tournament and showing the complete skills as a batsman he can sometimes show. Root caused some consternation with his knock, but he ensured there wasn’t a cascade of wickets and then probably kept Buttler out of the picture for a little too long, but 337 against India was always going to be a hard nut to crack.
The bowlers started well, and although Sharma and Kohli milked the overs of Stokes and Adil, Plunkett came on and removed Virat and it was pretty much downhill from there. Rohit’s century never seemed to be the killer knock, and even in the late 20s, early 30s overs he was still blocking back after hitting an early four in the over. A couple of barrages of fours might have caused some wobbles, but the wild wahoo just after he completed his century did for Rohit – a shot out of character and out of his class. The way Pant started, I think I would have wanted to get out of there! Had he overdosed on blue smarties, because he was driving me mad? (A word for the catch Woakes took to get rid of Pant, another superb effort).
England play their final game on Wednesday against New Zealand, who have put a couple of poor performances in for their last two games (and remember, were a missed catch by Boult from being beaten by Brathwaite last weekend). England have a dreadful record against New Zealand in the World Cup and will need to end that run. It is very likely that they will need to do so. India play their penultimate game against Bangladesh on Tuesday – a rapid turnaround, unexplainable for this tournament. If England lose, then Pakistan’s game on Friday against Bangladesh becomes the game to focus upon.
England win, go to 10 points, and will feel good about themselves. India will no doubt keep their thoughts to themselves. A penny for them.
A curious day. A curious game. A curious finale.
More curious comments below, please.
Perhaps India were playing to BCCI/ICC/ECB/Sky/StarTV directives to ensure England made last 4… #justsaying 🙂
They wouldn’t want the chance of another India v Pakistan match? Really?
Yes, because the possibility of losing to Pakistan in either semi or final could not be countenanced by the BCCI.
India have already been spoon-fed their fixtures in this WC (starting a week later than the others apparently because of the IPL, having 4 games left when some had two or max 3).
Yet for the continued good of ODI’s, (cashcow bilateral boredom) they must win the comp or lose closely to ENG/AUS due to some one off piece of brilliance, bur definitely not due to being totally out-thought or out-played.
This, the ICC has surely decreed (or been told to…)
I have to confess that possibility occurred to me before the Pakistan thing.
And I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature. Cricket post-2007 has made me into one though.
It was Dhoni turning down a single in the last over, an utterly, totally pointless thing to do that truly raised my suspicions. He had zero need to do that. By doing it, he looked like a tit. By doing it, he looked odd.
The same Dhoni who was heavily implicated as having done naughty things in the IPL betting scandal?
It is funny how many people who never want to see Amir again due to the 2010 spotfixing scandal are having no problem whatsoever with Dhoni’s involvement in that scandal.
But let’s just say if that had been Pakistan batting (and Pakistan and India having swapped places in the table) a lot of people would be highly suspicious of their approach, to say the least.
Lawrence expresses incredulity. I am not in a position to know anything. But what I do, is that if an England player pulled that stunt, he’d be excoriated. And rightly so.
If you ain’t giving 100 per cent to try to win, what’s the point of playing?
Preservation of net run rate? Lose by 30 with odd tactics and wickets in hand not trying to hit boundaries? Instead of what? Losing by 45/50 if all went tits up. Does that explain playing possum in the last 5 overs?
India have Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to get the win to seal their semi place. They had a free shot to eliminate a top rival who could beat them in that semi. Are they that scared of losing their last two games?
It’s mad if you don’t raise your eyebrows.
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I have noticed over many years reading many English journalists, in many sports, that they have almost a pathologically refusal to except that some matches are dodgy. Some of the worst are football journalists who can’t bring themselves to dump their romance of the game. They will often say……”it’s impossible for one or two people to guarantee a fix.”
Even when you could bet on certain events like time to first corner or throw in, and players would boot the ball out from the kick off, they would mutter about how it’s all a good laugh. A bit of fun. But “Players would never deliberately lose a game.”
When the Hansie Cronje fixing was revealed people still didn’t want to except it, including some England players who were in matches they thought at the time they had genuinely won. It makes the whole thing meaningless. Yet we aren’t surprised at fraud in any other business. We just sigh and groan , and say it’s inevitable. Why do we so want to believe that it can’t happen in sport?
Match fixing is the worst for all concerned. Players (giving their all) fans (giving their time and money) It’s the biggest F you to all concerned.
So far various reasons for what happened yesterday are…..
1 To help eliminate Pakistan because of rivalry?
2 To help eliminate Pakistan because they fear them more than England?
3 Kohli protesting about short boundaries?
4 Dhoni protesting about almost anything?
5 India were testing England in a game they didn’t need to win. Playing on half throttle. See what England had at the max.?
Or maybe England were just the best team on the day, and nothing happened. Maybe Lawrence is right it was all ok….
But to pretend that fraud just doesn’t happen is naivety in the extreme. He should try reading the business section of newspapers, And as we keep being told by administrators….. sport is now a business.
I’ve seen a number of people say that if you think Dhoni was deliberately setting out to lose that game then you are a conspiracy theory idiot. That’s really not the point. I don’t care if Dhoni is past it or not, although he seemed to make a habit of winning CSK games in the IPL recently, so not sure if he’s past it there too. His scoring rate was also not bad, but Dhoni deliberately set out not to even have a go. At the best he was being selfish for his own average, at the worst, well, who knows. I don’t and you can’t accuse without proof.
As a sports fan I am asked to believe in what I watch a lot. I’m asked to believe that in an endurance sport like football, there is no performance drug problem. I was asked to believe a man riddled with cancer can recover and win seven Tour de Frances on the level. I’m asked to believe that Roger Federer, eliminated from Wimbledon a few years ago by nobodies, has found the fountain of eternal youth, and that Nadal is as clean as a whistle despite all his knee issues. I’m asked to believe the man with 9 of the top 10 times (sort of) for 100m is the only one never to have failed a drug test. I am told to believe that Mohammad Amir’s no-ball nonsense all those years ago is the only rigged incident anyone knows about, and that when a news story tries to open the covers on it, no-one should believe it. That’s the tip of the iceberg.
So when you see something strange like yesterday am I just to ignore it? Were Nasser and Sourav mad to raise their eyebrows? Was Sourav crazy to say “I can’t explain that” when Dhoni paddled a half-tracker to backward square for a single? I’ve watched sport long enough to know when a commentator is saying something when he codifies it. One thing is certain. If something bent was going on (and not trying to win falls into that category when you are the best side in the world), there would be more than enough people to call out those crying foul as the problem. That’s what fandom does. I’m pretty much past that.
As a cycling fan, every single winner of the Tour de France comes with an asterisk now. It’s because I’m being asked to believe something I can’t. Yet I still watch. I’m the problem. Until I give up, I always will be.
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I’m just astonished that Lawrence Booth would claim that anybody who even raises an eyebrow at what happened yesterday is living in a mad, mad world.
Maybe the real madness is those who refuse to look at cold hard reality. And as you point out, there is no shortage of examples of real mad things happening in sport.
I don’t claim to know what happened, and I make no allegation, but it looked odd. Maybe it was just someone playing for an average? But If that was a knock out game, I don’t believe India finish the game like that. Even if they still lose.
To add some context.
In the last 8 world cups excluding rain affected DLS targets I can find only one example of a team failing to chase losing 5 wickets or fewer being Canada in 2003 which was arguably face saving exercise.
There is almost no precedent in a World Cup match in the modern era (post 2000) for holding so many wickets in hand when chasing a target.
We all know this is not how teams chase in the modern era.
I am open to hear the reasons why, but there was NO serious interest to chase this total once Pandya was out.
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If you’ve watched ipl then what happened in last 5 overs wouldn’t have surprised you
All CSK batsmen were out of form with the exception of Watson
India didn’t pick the right team for this pitch and opposition but I hope in the semifinal they would have learnt something and apply it
For example if Kedhar Jadhav is not going to bowl then Dinesh Karthik might be a better option
Against England in this kind of pitch the extra seamer might be a better option than one of the spinners, may chahal can miss out
Maybe bring Jadeja in instead of kuldeep too
Don’t think Sri Lanka are mathematically out, but they’re net run rate is horrible (-1.186). Would take a statistical miracle for them to get through…
Scrub that, it’s calculated on wins first, then NRR. SL are out….
We’ve seen Dhoni do that before – at times it’s felt like he was staging a one-man protest against his team giving him a duff hand. I remember a series where he ended up doing that twice!
Dhoni frequently takes comfortable games into the last over. He frequently hits the winning runs. He hoards the strike. He’s good enough to do that, and get away with it. He is idolised by his public. I just don’t understand him doing that (and his strike rate proved he could score) yesterday. I’m in no position to accuse him of anything underhand.
That’s a very delicately poised statement. ” I just don’t understand him doing that…I’m in no position to accuse him of anything underhand.” I guess it’s all that can be said with the currently known information. Are you a lawyer?
All I can say is it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. I don’t believe it was a properly contested match.
Not a lawyer, but have a law degree! I’m mindful of what I write on here. I have plenty to say on Dhoni offline. We do have to be careful, which is the point.
If you are being charitable and said he drew up the bridge because there was no chance to win, and that protecting the net run rate was the main aim, then I call nonsense. India have a net run rate of 0.85 in favour, Pakistan 0.79 against. Pakistan would have to beat Bangladesh by millions. I think it’s something ludicrous like if they kept the same run rate against – just 5 an over (so Bangladesh made 25), Pakistan would, batting first, need to make 400 just to get to parity on their run rate. And presumably another 400 to get up near India’s rate. I file that under “unlikely”.
I don’t know. Maybe I am just too cynical these day. It’s not as if anyone has given me reason to be like this.
Maybe I’m being incredibly dense, but why would NRR even be a factor in that game? The easiest way to make NRR irrelevant is to get more points than the teams you’re trying to beat. Since India had more than England or Pakistan to start with, and had a game (or two) in hand, why would they do that? To make 500% sure they eliminate NZ?!
Be that as it may, India had no chance when Dhoni came in to bat, and not for the first time he chose to protect his average instead. After 11 balls faced, he’d missed a few deliveries, hit a boundary, was batting at 100, and they needed 78 off 36. That game was done and dusted.
There’s definitely a story here, but IMO it’s about Dhoni’s power in this team and his ability to get away with things other players would be buried for.
I hope what you say is true, and it will be preferable to the alternative. But I don’t agree with your claim that……. “India had no chance when Dhoni came in to bat.”…… 78 off 36 is not very likely I grant you, but impossible?
If that was the final do you think he would have played like that? Let’s say one over goes for 20, and then two overs go for 14 each. That would leave 30 off 18. That has been done many times in 20/20.
India scored one 6 in their whole innings in a match where their captain moaned afterwards was played with a short boundary.
I don’t know much about 20/20, in fact I find it boring and do my best to avoid it, but I do understand it has increased what batsmen think is possible and 20 an over is considered routine in certain contexts. 78 off 36 doesn’t seem impossible. Maybe the field retrictions in ODI’s are different and make it impossible, I’m not sure.
I also find it hard to judge Dhoni, the guy is old, and past it, yet keeps producing the goods, so I don’t know what to expect from him anymore.
But it wasn’t just about Dhoni, India seemed to soft pedal on the innings.
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Looks like SL vs WI might be developing into a decent game, despite being a dead rubber.
Quite an interesting pleasure hearing Sanga commentate on SL.
International teams across the world should be thinking about recruiting him into coaching.
For my mind, he is channeling Swiss Tony. I hope legglance can explain why keeping wicket is like making love to a beautiful woman
Sorry to say, but I do hope that with the exit of SA we also see the exit of Mr Mbangwa
More like wanting to, but you’ve got these bloody great gloves that stops you.
One of the sad things is that you only get “good fast outfield” along with “batting friendly pitch.”
I struggled to put my finger on one of the things that irritated me about some of the pitches earlier in the tournament and today I realised it was in fact not about he pitch, it’s that a good fast outfield rewards classical shots (you can get 4s along the ground) whereas some of these sticky long grass outfields we’ve had (partly weather related) reward the aerial game too much by comparison.
“Classical” not quite the right word, b/c it’s not just classical shots, it’s finesse and timing shots.
30 overs gone in the 2nd innings and I think we can stick a fork in this game absent a miracle.
To be fair, Malinga did the key damage right at the start of the innings, from there it looked unlikely… but now it’s really at the outer edges of possibility.
I don’t think there’s any practical way to fix the law, so I don’t have any proposal, but that thing that happened to Brathwaite just now is a nonsense in sporting terms.
As far as I can make out he just backed up way too far. Happens to everyone at some point in their career (think even someone as quick as AB was run out once or twice like that).
Allen finally came good – when the West Indies were eliminated. Then a silly runout to keep this match in the balance.
Yes, it was a nicely tight match, although Pooran’s fatigue robbed us of it going to the final over.
Mathews gets the wicket of Pooran with his first ball in ODIs in 18 months. It’s a silly game.