England vs Australia: 2nd Test, Day Four

For England to win this match, they probably need to be bowled out sometime around the middle of tomorrow, for the chances of them declaring with any kind of reasonable target are minimal, particularly given their position 1-0 down in the series.  It is fortunate then that the batting line up did their part to remove the possibility of a tricky decision by (yet again) getting out early.  So much has been written about the flaws in the order, and the second innings was little more than a rinse and repeat of the first – Roy getting out early, Burns looking the part as a Test opener without going on to a big score, Root struggling at number three, Denly getting in and getting out again.

Buttler and Stokes arrested the slide batting to the close, but with England just 104 ahead and with only six wickets in hand, posting a challenging score is going to be difficult. As to what would offer a passable chance of victory, anything around 200 would be likely to be less than easy to chase, because although it is really only a two and a bit day pitch, there will be the added pressure of a run chase. Yet it is by no means certain England will get there, it is going to require some support from the tail, and at least one of the remaining batsmen to make a significant contribution.  If more than one does so, then the chances of a definitive result will start to recede, but these are wild fantasies given the batting performances so far, even if the lower order have done well.

Undoubtedly the biggest talking point of the day was Jofra Archer’s duel with Steve Smith.  It was a riveting, thrilling passage of play, with Archer’s speed rising into the mid-nineties and Smith for the first time look genuinely discomfited.  First the blow on the arm, which eventually resulted in Smith going for an X-Ray (fortunately showing no break), and then a sickening blow to the neck which left Smith on the ground, to retire hurt, and then to return for a frantic brief stay at the crease.

There are so many issues arising from this – firstly that Test cricket is testing, and that a fast bowler intimidating batsmen is entirely part of the game, and those who complained about that part are simply not worth listening to.  The next element was the reaction of Jofra Archer, based on he and Jos Buttler smiling and sharing a conversation a good five minutes after the event, but while Smith was still being treated some distance away.  Archer’s reaction was deemed in some quarters to be showing a lack of care, a lack of interest in the welfare of a player hurt.  This is unfair and presuming knowledge of the inner thoughts of another person.  It’s also something to which I can relate to some degree.  Some years back I hit a straight drive back which hit my batting partner (who wasn’t wearing a helmet) flush on the side of the head.  I can recall my reaction to it all too well – yes, absolutely I went to see if he was OK, but I was also utterly bewildered and confused by it.  That initial reaction was not so much to rush to his aid (as it undoubtedly is when a bystander rather than the perpetrator), but a confused one, denial that it had happened, and absolutely nervous laughter and attempts at humour.  It is entirely normal to be so uncertain in terms of reaction, and not to behave in the way that those on the outside might imagine someone should.  The mind in those circumstances is a maelstrom of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

As my batting partner left the field to go to hospital, I carried on batting, entirely on auto-pilot.  I lasted about 5 minutes before the dawning terror of what had just happened came through, and at that point the cricket field was the last place I wanted to be.  I spent much of the rest of the afternoon with a rising sense of concern and became progressively more upset.  I have no idea what was going through Jofra Archer’s thoughts, but I do absolutely recall my own state of mind when something not too dissimilar happened, and I am not prepared to act as judge and jury because someone didn’t react in the way that the court of social media wanted them to do in the moments following a genuinely sickening incident.

The ground did go completely silent as it happened, as grounds do when there is shock and concern, but when Smith came back on to resume his innings, a largely supportive crowd gave a standing ovation, but the ground also contained a few who booed.  Those who did are idiots, but it doesn’t take very many to do it out of a crowd of 30,000 to be extremely noticeable.  And while they might be idiots for doing that, there have been enough instances in Australia, England and elsewhere of related fools to forestall any attempt at claiming the moral high ground by anyone.  That’s not to defend in any way those at Lord’s who booed a brave and fine batsman, it is to acknowledge that morons exist everywhere, and selective outrage either in England or Australia when some in the other country are guilty of it remains endlessly tiresome.  More than that, it operates as a feedback loop, and doubtless there will be some in Australia next time around using that as an excuse to berate English players.  And so it carries on, with some pretending they are the good guys and the opposition supporters are not, with no grounds whatever for such a view.

Those present at the ground reacted with some surprise at the strong reaction on social media, suggesting that the boos that were clearly audible through the TV speakers probably were not indicative of a wider response within the ground.  Either way, it was unedifying and didn’t reflect well on those who did it.

As a passage of play though, it was utterly beguiling.  And there is the additional point about what it means for the remainder of this series.  Extreme pace makes any batsman, no matter how good, uncomfortable.  Smith has looked to be playing on a 25 yard pitch thus far this series, so much time has he had to play the ball.  For the very first time, he looked in trouble, and that means that he’s going to get a whole heap more of the same for the remainder of the series, which is no different at all to the way England players have been targeted by short pitched bowling by Australia, and something Smith himself will both expect and be up for the challenge set.  It means it’s going to be exciting, and intimidatory, and entirely within both the laws and the spirit of the game, just as it was the other way around.  When England were being bounced out by the likes of Mitchell Johnson, the frustration was that England didn’t play it better, not that there was anything at all wrong with the tactic.  In Archer, England have a weapon of not just pace, but extreme pace.  Given the number of overs he bowled this innings, the danger is in him being overbowled rather than used as a strike bowler, and his 25 overs in Australia’s innings ought to be a concern.

Smith aside, England had chipped away at the Australian batting order all day.  Archer was explosive, but Broad had been his usual efficient self with the ball, and collected four well deserved wickets.  Broad continues to be somewhat underappreciated, despite his 450 Test wickets, but his enforced rest over the winter gave him the opportunity to work properly on his bowling, and the results seem fruitful.  At 33, and without quite the athletic physique of his long term opening partner James Anderson, he may not be too far from the end, but his attempt to prolong his career reflects well on him – even his batting appears a touch more confident than it has been, albeit a long way from the days when he was verging on being a genuine all rounder.

Tomorrow might be a depressing day, a dull day or a thrilling day.  And the 98 overs scheduled will have to be bowled, which will make a delightful change.

Advertisements

Same old: England vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day Two

To the surprise of no one, England posted a modest total having been put into bat by Australia.  In itself, being inserted might have been a slight surprise, in that both teams said they would have bowled first, and perhaps reflects more on the fragility of both batting orders than the conditions in which this match is being played, for there appears nothing wrong with the pitch.

Bowling a side out on day one having put them in is always the hope, if not the expectation, and even if the surface offered some movement, it wasn’t one to cause palpatations in a decent Test batting line up.  The trouble is that England don’t have a decent batting line up, and haven’t done for some years.

Sure, there were some mildly promising knocks – Burns looks at home in Test cricket now, with the mental aptitude for the scrap.  His innings of 53 wasn’t without luck, being dropped twice before a superb catch from Bancroft at short leg sent him on his way, but he did at least look prepared to bat multiple sessions.  At this stage in his career it would be overly harsh to expect him to be the bedrock of the England batting order, but the reality is that if it’s not him, who else would it be?  Roy went in the first over, another poor shot from a player being asked to do a job to which he isn’t suited.  Roy has talent in abundance, but he’s not a Test opener – it’s not just that his technique isn’t particularly tight against the new ball, it’s that his mentality at the crease is that of a one day opener.  There’s nothing particularly outrageous in having someone who looks to attack at the top of the order, Warner and Sehwag made successful careers out of it, but while their own techniques have been questioned at times, their shot selection tended to be far better than Roy’s at this stage of his career.  He’s been given a poisoned chalice, made particularly acute by having him opening while Denly bats at four.  Whether Denly is worth his place in the team is a separate question, but he’s surely better equipped to see off the new ball than Roy is.  It’s a confused batting line up that doesn’t get the most from the talent at its disposal.

Root came and went, and with him disappeared England’s chance of a significant total.  Root attracts much comment because he is so far and away England’s best batsman, but he’s shown little sign that he’s more comfortable at number three this time than he was the last attempt at pushing him there.  It’s easy enough to say that anyone who can bat at four can bat at three, but they are slightly different roles, and some players are simply more comfortable in one position than they are the other.  Compromising the best player to compensate for the shortcomings elsewhere is a strange way of getting the most out of the batting order.

Buttler and Stokes didn’t last too long, and while the latter has plenty in the bank and looks the most technically adept player in the side, Buttler is struggling.  Again, this is only partly a matter about him, for Buttler coming in at 250-3 – or even 180-3 in this side – is a slightly different prospect to him coming in at 92-3 with the pressure on.  It’s just not really his game, and highlights the confused thinking concerning what is being attempted.  It’s not to say that he shouldn’t be able to adapt, but it is to point out that England are hardly likely to see the best of him when he’s permanently coming in in a crisis.

At 138-6 the writing was on the wall – that Australia recovered from an even worse position in the first Test is neither here nor there – but England did recover to some extent.  Bairstow often looks freed by having to bat with the tail, compiling a well made fifty thanks to sterling support (again) from Woakes in particular.   Australia reverted to the short bowling tactic, which worked well enough, for England do seem peculiarly vulnerable to short pitched bowling.  Bairstow was the last man out, trying to get some runs against Lyon with just Leach for company.  He got some criticism for his dismissal, but trying to hit fours in those circumstances is surely what he’s meant to do – fiddling around with a single at the end of the over won’t take anyone very far.  Execution certainly can be questioned, but runs were needed, he was trying to get them.  Blaming him for being the tenth wicket to fall seems harsh, irrespective of Leach’s last innings at Lord’s.

Hazlewood and Cummins were the pick of the Australian attack, bowling with pace and accuracy, but again England didn’t make them work overly hard for their wickets.  Siddle had two straightforward catches dropped off him – enough to drive him to a burger this evening – while Lyon extracted significant spin considering it is a first day pitch.

If 258 doesn’t remotely look a par score, it does look a par score for this England team.  They simply don’t have the batting currently to expect much more, and tend to be reliant on the lower order even to get them to that kind of total.  And scores in the 200s don’t win many Test matches, unless the bowlers do something special.

Broad did his best to do exactly that, removing Warner for the third time in three innings.  Warner looks somewhat all over the place with his batting presently, head falling over and bat coming down at an angle.  Smith’s preposterous return to Test cricket has made it look as though a year out shouldn’t have an effect, but both he and Bancroft look rather out of sorts, and it’s understandable.

Archer opened the bowling with Broad, and certainly showed pace, regularly clocking over 90mph.  He had the crowd with him too, for little in cricket is quite so box office as a genuinely quick bowler in a Test match.  Whether that is converted into wickets is, naturally, the big question, but he does have all the attributes.  It is to be hoped he is used in short spells as a strike bowler rather than ground into the dirt as a stock performer.

The last hour of play England did look dangerous, suggesting that they are by no means out of this match.  But they are once again reliant on their bowlers dragging them out of the mire, something they do reasonably often, but cannot do all the time.  It remains to be seen if they can perform the miracle tomorrow, but with this England batting order, a lead of 100 is needed before even a modicum of confidence is there that England can press for a win.

As the saying goes, the first session tomorrow is crucial.  Because it is.

Finally, the day finished five overs short.  This is a constant factor, but if the authorities care little normally, to do nothing about it when an entire day has already been lost to the weather is nothing other than abrogation of responsibility both to the spectator and the game itself.  We’ve lost 58 overs already this Test match.  Losing five more through tardiness is beyond careless.

 

 

 

England vs Australia: 2nd Test, Day Two (ish)

After yesterday’s washout, we should get underway today at last.  The match is reduced to four days, with the follow on target down to 150, and with 98 overs scheduled for each of the remaining days.  Obviously, in terms of the latter, they won’t get 98 overs in, but that’s de rigeur these days, and no one cares about it anyway, but even so if the weather stays fair then there is a reasonable chance of a result.

England made it pretty clear yesterday that Jofra Archer was going to play, and while they could always change their minds, there’s no reason to assume they will.  Pattinson is certainly out, rested, for Australia, while Hazlewood replaces Starc.

Other than that, it’s pretty much as you were – England are fretting about how to get rid of Steve Smith, who has moved from world class batsmen to batting God in the space of a Test, and will doubtless provoke wild celebrations just by showing signs of human weakness at any point.  The two batting orders still look fragile, the two bowling attacks still look like they might run through the opposition.  Australia have the upper hand largely because of Smith, but there is no reason at all England can’t skittle their visitors – the problem is the lack of confidence in the England batting order taking advantage of it.

There was some talk in the media about replacing Denly with Curran, drawing a furious response from Nasser Hussain about what that implies about the England batting order.  He was right too, either England choose batsmen or not, and selecting a bowling all rounder on the basis of more runs would be a savage indictment on the selection process.  Yet the wider issue is that even the suggestion of it already is that savage indictment – the possibility that an all rounder might contribute more to the run scoring than a selected batsman.  And that it might well be true.

Let’s hope we have a full day’s play today, not least for those who have paid the £150 a ticket for their inadequate seating and the privilege of seeing on social media how the chosen people get to enjoy the dining options.

Comments as always below.

Same Game, Different Bat – 1st Test Defeat

In the build up to the series, there was little doubt that England’s batting fragility was going to be a factor in the outcome of the series.  Australia’s too for that matter, though while the quality of Smith was well known, it might not have been factored in that he’d score nearly 300 runs in this Test.  The difference between the two teams can in no small part be put down to his performance.

Coming into the final day, it might well have been the case that there was no reason England couldn’t bat the day to save the game, but that didn’t mean there was any confidence they would do so.  The batting line up of a few years back would specialise in rearguard actions, and while they didn’t always succeed, they gave it a damn good go on most occasions, and pulled it off more times than their fair share.

Not this lot.

Hardly anyone can have had confidence England could bat a full day, just based on recent history.  The number of batsmen who can be counted on to graft session after session is very few, and one of the most likely candidates can be found down at number nine in the order – and in the event was top scorer.  The moment the first wicket went down, the sense of inevitability was already there, while Jason Roy’s skip down the track and abysmal hack at the ball was indicative of the inability to play traditional Test cricket.  Four down by lunch, all out mid way through the afternoon session.  It wasn’t even close.  It didn’t threaten to be close at any stage.

While Australia (or Smith, specifically) deserve huge credit for digging themselves out of the mire at 122-8, England still had a chance to put themselves in a powerful position when they were 282-4.  Their eventual lead of 90 was useful, but not overwhelming, and it should have been more.  It only got to that many because of Woakes and Broad, and England’s collapse otherwise presaged what would happen in the second innings.

There will be the usual handwringing about what went wrong, and why it went wrong, plus the calls for selectorial changes.  Moeen Ali will likely be dropped, as much for his own good as anything else, so shorn of confidence did he look.  Denly too might be removed, but it won’t alter the fundamental problems that apply, and which can be laid squarely at the door of the ECB and their determination to sideline first class cricket to the margins of the season.  Not only is it that a focus on white ball cricket leads to a white ball cricket style of batting, it’s that those who do play red ball cricket are playing in conditions that don’t suit long innings.  That’s not to say it’s a direct cause of a collapse today, but a line can be drawn from it to a diminishing number of players who might be deemed specialists in long form cricket, and the subsequent selection of white ball cricketers to play in the Test team.  Roy and Buttler are fabulous players on the attack, not so much in today’s circumstances, or indeed the circumstances Australia found themselves in the second innings where they too needed to grind down the bowlers rather than play as many shots as possible.

Root afterwards said that England had been got out today rather it being a poor batting display, and while that’s true to a degree, England certainly didn’t sell their wickets especially dearly.  Lyon bowled well on a fifth day pitch that played as a fifth day pitch should, taking spin, and even had England batted well, it might have proved too much to resist.  But England batted only half a day here – 45 overs.  Even in challenging conditions, against a good bowler, it’s pretty poor.  And it’s not even an outlier.  Would it be expected that England would have done so even if the pitch hadn’t been taking spin?  Not really.

Root himself seems to be suffering from declining performances – from an admittedly very high level to a still good level overall – whether due to the captaincy, due to the batting fragility around him, or some other reason.  Bairstow can barely buy a run currently, nor can Moeen.  Only Stokes and Woakes appear to have the nous to bat long in the middle order.  Rory Burns at the top showed he could do it and if he manages that a couple more times this series, that at least will be one position filled.  Cook never did manage the fourth innings saviour act in his career, but at least you thought he might do.

It’s hard to be angry about a batting collapse several years in the making, and repeated on a regular basis.  This is where England are, and if they are to get back into the series at Lords, it will likely be on the back of Australia being every bit as flaky, bar one player.

Defeat is disappointing.  The entirely predictable nature of it irritates.

England vs Australia: 1st Test, Day Two Review

It’s perhaps a measure of the nervousness that England cricket followers have concerning the Test match batting order that Australia’s total of 284 felt imposing.  Perhaps a reflection on the recovery that added 162 for the last two wickets was part of that too – Smith’s brilliance, and whatever controversy follows him it is brilliance, taking Australia from a parlous position to one of at least respectability.

But the batting fragility of both sides has been noted in the run up to the series, and with England collapsing in a heap on a regular basis in recent times, mildly facetious comments about first saving the follow on did the rounds, not without some basis in genuine concern.

Instead, today was a throwback to old fashioned Test cricket – attritional, gritty, rarely flashy, with the England top order grinding the Australian bowlers down, another art of Test cricket seemingly lost on these shores recently.  Rory Burns was undoubtedly the man of the day, batting throughout – the first England player to do so since Cook in Melbourne, and given the conditions, this was the better effort on the day.  He only really started looking in good form when he passed the century mark, his whole demeanour changing to one of a player entirely at home in his role.  As with the five previous openers since the retirement of Strauss to score Test hundreds (though Root is obviously a special case) one swallow doesn’t remotely make a summer, but it was pleasing to see how Burns battled himself, placed a high value on his wicket, and fought his way through to a well deserved ton.  Who knows, it may even catch on.

His principal support came from first Joe Root and then Ben Stokes, a player whose batting is beginning to hold the upper hand over his bowling.  Stokes has arguably the best, most natural technique in the England team; it is a simple one, with the bat coming down straight and him remaining still at the crease, but it is also why he seems generally comfortable facing the second new ball.  His career batting record remains no more than passable, which may be a reflection on his workload as much as anything else (all round cricketers split their focus generally slightly to the detriment of the individual discipline), but as he matures, it might start to improve significantly.  Few things are certain, but his technique looks one with little to go wrong, while the interrupted nature of his career appears to have given him extra motivation.

As for Root, it was another fifty and out, and judging by his reaction to his dismissal, he’s acutely conscious of his failure to convert half centuries into centuries.  Even so, the amount of handwringing that goes on over a player averaging a shade under 50 when he is surrounded by those struggling to get over 30 is remarkable.  It might be something that he’s frustrated by, but it’s not the biggest problem in England’s batting line up and hasn’t been for all the time it’s been going on.  The only person who can sort it out is him, it’s not an ability issue, but it is one that stands out in a side where runs are at a premium elsewhere.

Denly, Roy and Buttler were the wickets to fall cheaply, of whom Denly looked the most comfortable.  Getting out early is a fact of cricketing life, and not especially relevant in the context of a good England total, as long as these others make contributions in other innings.  And therein lies the challenge for what is undoubtedly a brittle batting order.

Apart from a period after Australia successfully got the ball changed – provoking outrage from those with incredibly selective memories who seemingly aren’t aware England do this all the time – the movement on offer to the bowlers was limited, as befitting how a day two pitch ought to play.  The exception to that was Nathan Lyon, who found significant spin off the surface suggesting the latter part of this Test could become tricky to bat on, and highlighting the importance of England’s first innings.  Australia’s seam attack is certainly a potent one, and at some point this series they are highly likely to rampage through England’s batting order.  The pleasure in today was the resolute way they were held at bay, even though they certainly bowled with threat.

267-4 represents a fine day for England, and with two set batsmen, albeit against a still new ball, plenty of power to add given England’s middle order.  Yet the nagging doubt remains that this is a side that could fall in a heap, in which case parity will hand a major advantage to Australia.  Two flawed teams, particularly in the batting, but against all the odds we have a highly promising Test match unfolding.  Perhaps it is that above all else that is causing this particular game to become something of a pleasure.

Empty Church’s Bells are Pealing

It’s been a couple of days since England’s extraordinary victory in the World Cup final, and the fallout from it continues to irritate, amuse and entertain. Perhaps most remarkably, for a game of cricket in recent times, the result and the manner of that result dominated the airwaves and print not just in a manner unseen since 2005, but also in a way that few cricket followers could have imagined was possible any more.

It is an interesting counter-factual to wonder – assuming England still won – to what degree the coverage would have been reduced had it not been such a spectacular conclusion, for the sport could not have been luckier in having the first free to air broadcast of English cricket in 14 years be so dramatic. The peak audiences via Channel 4 and the various Sky channels were fascinating, in that nearly 8.4 million people watching cricket at about the same time as an epic Wimbledon Men’s final was concluding showed that the appetite for live sport, broadcast to the nation is not only undiminished, but perhaps might even be increasing. The astounding audiences for last year’s football World Cup weren’t just extraordinary for a multi-channel age, they were extraordinary full stop. In this particular instance, approaching 19 million people were watching cricket or tennis, and while there was doubtless some double counting in the figures as viewers channel hopped, it really ought to put to bed once and for all the idea that live sport is not “consumed” primarily via social media platforms or in bitesize. It just isn’t.

Cricket fluked it.

The average viewing figures are perhaps more indicative, in Channel 4’s case of 2.4 million, and 2.1 million in the morning. These are mightily impressive figures, given on a similar basis to the peaks, it is likely that the various Sky channels were adding maybe another 1.5 million to the total, and when the British Grand Prix averaged 1.8 million on the same day. That the World Cup final could average perhaps twice as many demonstrates a latent interest in watching cricket that the blithe statements of the ECB over the years appear to have failed to factor in. Certainly, that it was a final, with England in it, means interest was bound to be higher than, say, a June Test against Bangladesh (if they’re ever invited again) would achieve, but this is not particularly unusual for any sport where peaks and troughs depending on the attractiveness and meaning of the fixture are routine.

For this cricket fan though, it wasn’t the viewing figures, it wasn’t even the finish to the match itself that resonated most deeply. It was the various reaction videos posted online in the 24 hours following. Fellow England sports teams celebrating are de rigeur, pubs and clubs doing the same following a World Cup football match likewise. Last year I was even in a fanzone for England’s knockout tie against Colombia and the celebrations of that victory and my little video of it even ended up on the news. It’s normal. Some might even say it’s boring and repetitive. But this was for cricket, for God’s sake. Watching Trafalgar Square go berserk, watching pubs doing the same was intensely emotional – not because of the win, not because of the manner of the win, but because the game so many of us love had crossed over not just to the mainstream, but right to the heart of the English nation, even if just for one day. A month ago it would never have remotely occurred to me that this could ever happen, that the outpouring and explosion of joy in numbers that cannot possibly be pure hardcore cricket supporters was in any way possible. It was an affirmation of the power of communal sport watching, and only sport can ever multiply the effect so dramatically. It reached into the national psyche to the extent that EastEnders slipped in a reference on Monday to Ben Stokes and England’s victory in a (presumably) hurriedly filmed scene. Cricket had gone viral.

More than that, it was confirmation of the power of mainstream broadcasters having sufficient mass to offer that shared experience, and to reach out beyond the keen adherents of a particular game, to those who aren’t just occasional followers, but who aren’t followers at all. Social media is representative of nothing but itself, and should never be cited as wider opinion, but the anecdotal instances of people who have never so much as mentioned cricket before gushing over how exciting it was remains heartwarming and moving. And in its rarity, infuriating.

For while this match was available to the public, it goes back behind a paywall starting tomorrow with the Women’s Ashes Test on Sky, along with the rest of the domestic county programme and England’s entire international one, again. Next summer, assuming the Hundred survives intact the grumblings about it from the professional game, there will be the occasional domestic match on the BBC, and a couple of international T20s. As an aside on this point, it is curious how having two different formats on show is not considered likely to be confusing to the new market the ECB are after. Having made such a big thing of the game being inaccessible and requiring simplification (people seemed to cope on Sunday), to then show different versions of roughly the same length is utterly bizarre. Viewing figures will probably be perfectly passable, at least initially as much due to curiosity as anything else. But the ECB were perhaps playing both ends against the middle of this particular debate; if the viewing figures are strong, they will claim success. If not, they could use that to justify selling the game to Sky by saying there clearly wasn’t sufficient interest. Sunday rather holed that argument below the waterline, but then so have audiences for multiple other sports and still been ignored as precedents.

The ECB’s response to the public reaction has been interesting. In advance of the final with the announcement of it being on Channel 4, they were full of praise for their “partners” at Sky and their willingness to share a once in a generation event with the wider public, yet afterwards, and quick to spy an opportunity, the tone changed to become more self-congratulatory. Colin Graves, never a man to put one foot in his mouth when there is room for two, talked about how it took a while to “persuade” Sky to share the coverage, which may or may not be true, but rather beautifully throws their beloved partners under the bus while claiming the credit for themselves. Graves, of course, did also say a while back that terrestrial television didn’t want cricket, which given the alacrity with which Channel 4 cleared all available schedules to show it on Sunday must represent the best disguised indifference in some time.

Never let it be said that the ECB are slow to claim credit for a positive outcome, even ones where they have been instrumental in lowering the bar to such a subterranean level that almost anything can be considered positive. Perhaps for them the worst part of the explosion of coverage following the final was that it came to much wider attention that the intention from next year is to remove 50 over domestic cricket as a top level competition. The small band of cricket tragics (not a term used by anyone at the ECB yet, but given “obsessives” seems fine, it’s probably only a matter of time) might have been vocal about this for some time, but for the wider public, a sense of puzzlement at learning of the removal of the format in which England have just won the World Cup was delicious to many an angry cricket lover.

Sunday’s success re-ignited the whole debate about free to air broadcasting and the importance of such exposure to different sports. Sky themselves covered this question on their news channel on the Monday, before presenter and correspondent came to the shock conclusion that no, free to air wouldn’t be a good thing for the game and that an entirely unrelated broadcaster called Sky Sports had been hugely beneficial, indeed positively benevolent towards cricket.

This haze of celebration will not last long. The memory will fade quickly for most, being an occasionally referenced event whenever the word cricket is raised in polite company. It might be that a few children pick up a bat or a ball as a result, and it might be that an older person (“fogey” – Nasser Hussain) has an interest re-ignited. This is nothing but good news, and while the ECB’s long standing policies will waste the opportunity presented, it is more than anyone dreamed possible a month ago. It’s just that it was, as Matthew Engel put it, day release from confinement on compassionate grounds rather than anything more substantial.

One other small impact of the final – the politicians got involved. It’s been said that the art of leadership is to work out where the people are going and get in front of them. The large audience and thrilling outcome led those who have been noticeable by their complete uninterest in the game to start pontificating about the importance of widespread access. The chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Damian Collins invited Colin Graves to attend to talk about participation levels, but Collins was on the same committee in 2016 that talked about summoning Giles Clarke about the Big Three takeover, and that didn’t go very far. The most likely outcome here is that as the circus moves on, the various comments, questions and deeply held convictions will evaporate like a morning mist as they always have. To some extent, this isn’t even something to blame them for – the diminution of cricket’s importance is never more clearly shown than by the complete indifference of our elected representatives towards it. No votes, few angry constituents, fewer still bad headlines. For a hugely unpopular sporting body like the ECB, that normally works out just fine.

Over the next 12 months, this success will be used to justify the introduction of the Hundred. More than that, it will be used as part of the genesis of the Hundred. But it won’t work. All of the contradictions, media spinning and straight out lies have been skewered by the simple act of allowing the public a glimpse of a game fast disappearing into a wealthy self interested niche. It will not change the path on which we are set, but it will provide the most obvious of counterpoints to the already weak arguments made for the hatchet taken to the sport by its supposed guardians.

World Cup Final: England vs New Zealand – Live Blog

It’s 9am, and cricket is about to start on Channel 4. Anyone can tune in, it doesn’t need a day pass, it doesn’t need a subscription. Just turn the television on, or if you’re one of those millions the ECB insist don’t “consume content” this way, use the 4OD app and stream it. Either way, the England cricket team are there to be watched by everyone for the first time in 14 years.

It’s a treat of course. A special occasion, a one off. And the sheer delight at cricket opening itself to the masses is tempered by the absolute fury that it can have been 14 years since this was last the case. For a sport, any sport to have hidden itself away for so long, as a deliberate strategy, remains extraordinary, and extraordinarily stupid.

The way the ECB have been banging on about “engagement” in the last few days is the mark of an organisation desperately trying to justify its own actions, using every possible matrix to try to deny the consequences of its own conduct. It’s a common tactic of course, the same kind of adding up that led Manchester United to claim they had 659 million fans, through amongst others sleights of hand including all those who support other clubs but who play United and thus count as being interested in them, but with cricket, the numbers are so frighteningly low to begin with that the exaggerated numbers are more terrifying than reassuring.

Still, today is a chance, a rare opportunity, for someone to stumble across the game that we love, and be hooked by it. It’s a common memory for so many of us, to have played in the back garden or the street, and to discover it shown on tv and be drawn in. Times have certainly changed in the world of broadcasting, but a central tenet of sports adherence has not – in order to fall for a game, it has to be seen, it has to be watched. Today can only be beneficial. But the sad part, the desperately sad part, is that instead of being a foundation on which to build, it is instead a one off, a quick glimpse through the palace gates at the riches beyond and little more. Celebrate this instance, but remain furious that it is all we get.

It will be intriguing to see what kind of viewing figures are gained, and it’s not hard to imagine that the ECB’s worst nightmare is if they are strong. They’ll certainly be higher than anything gained on Sky over the last few years, but a strong latent interest will shine a light on their policies like nothing else. Naturally, they’ll protest that it justifies their Hundred approach of showing the odd game to the public, and how they intend to capitalise on reaching non-cricket fans in future. That’s the trouble with the ECB – you can write their responses yourself, if you can bear to continually write sentences including the words stakeholders and engagement.

Of course, this is an ICC event, and the granting of free to air coverage is entirely the decision of Sky, so the ECB claiming credit would be laughably misplaced, but it is unlikely to stop them.

But this is an unqualified “good thing”, an unexpected bonus for those who might well be able to afford a Sky subscription, but who care enough for the health of a sport that they want to see everyone exposed to it, who want everyone to get the chance to appreciate it. Of course Channel 4 are going to switch to the Grand Prix, they’ve had that scheduled for ages, but it is not like the early years of the century – everyone, and I mean everyone, now has digital television and can switch. Perhaps just as importantly given cricket’s absence from the wider airwaves, some who tune in for the motor racing might just hang around for the cricket afterwards as well.

It’s sunny, it’s exciting, and we’re all going to watch cricket. What a fabulous day, and there will be a new winner of the Cricket World Cup. What’s not to like?

As for the game, England are warm favourites against a New Zealand team that epitomises the cliche about them being more than the sum of their parts, but who have some outstanding cricketers in their ranks too. There seems little doubt the team winning the toss will wish to bat first, and that the pitch will be a batting friendly one for such a showpiece occasion.

We’ll all be joining in with the live blogging and commenting during the day, so the usual reminder that auto-refresh is a plug in that we’ve not come across yet, so you’ll need to manually refresh the page. Oh the hardship…

09:10 – 5 Live have started the build up, Sky have started the build up, and half the Channel 4 audience are seeing for the first time that a World Cup has been on for the last 6 weeks.

09:17 – I remember the 1992 World Cup, getting up at 3am to go down to the student union to watch the final. My mate Jason was going to come with me, but overslept the little shit, so I was stood outside his house cursing his name as he drifted. He eventually turned up at about 9 I think.

09:30 – the irony of the Sky feed showing bits of the 2005 series on Channel 4 but with the Sky commentary.

09:50 – interesting watching the interview with Eoin Morgan. Some in the media have been falling over themselves to praise people behind the scenes, like Strauss. It surely can’t be too difficult to give the bulk of the praise to the bloke who has been in charge of the team for the last four years. He’s the one, not a suit.

09:55 – toss delayed to 10:15. So presumably a delayed start too.

10:16 – New Zealand win the toss and bat. Probably not an easy decision given the overhead conditions. Same side for New Zealand. Morgan says he’s not bothered about losing the toss and that it was a 50/50 call. England also unchanged.

10:29 – “I got a duck in the World Cup final, it’s not that bad!”. Brendon McCullum is great – all the pontification about pressure and so on, and he offers a healthy dose of perspective.

10:38 – is it just me who really, really hates anthems before a cricket match?

Ok here we go. Not really nervous, not like before the football or rugby World Cup matches. Odd in many ways, I’d like to be.

10:45 – having said that, it’s worth England being in the final for the sheer bitterness of some of our Australian friends in particular. Marvellous.

Massive wipe at the first ball by Guptill. Fantastic to see, and what I’d hope to watch down the local club.

It’s a World Cup final and we’ve got Michael Clarke on comms. Did we deserve that?

Boy that pitch looks green. 5-0 after 1.

10:53 – great decision from Erasmus not to give a catch behind, and a good one from Morgan not to review it. Have to say, first instinct was it was out. Nope, hit the back leg.

10:55 WICKET! Nicholls lbw to Woakes. It’s been reviewed…oh this looks stone dead. Wow, going over the top. Must be going blind. So overturned, as you were. 8-0 off 2.3

11:00. 10-0 from 3. There’s movement for the England bowlers out there, but surviving the first half hour is going to be key.

I’m absolutely certain that my (abysmal) bowling arm came over at the same speed as Jofra Archer’s. But the ball dribbled out for me and goes down the other end like an Exocet for him.

11:03 – 22-0 from 4. Decent start.

How come I always get the promotion email about World Cup matches from the ECB well after the game is underway?

11:06 24-0. England have started reasonably, there have been a couple of alarms, but no more than ought to be expected.

Archer is perhaps bowling a bit short. The speed is starting to crank up though.

11:10 WICKET! Probably anyway – Woakes bowls full to Guptill and pins him in front. It’s been reviewed, and yep, that’s out. New Zealand also lose their review. 29-1.

Woakes has been good this morning, looking much the more dangerous of the opening attack. Kane Williamson arrives at the crease…

A general thing about reviews. Dharmasena hasn’t had a great tournament, but his error in giving Roy out in the semi-final would have been overturned had England not burned their review on a desperation attempt to prevent Bairstow’s dismissal. So it is here with New Zealand, by hoping for a miracle, they’ve now put themselves at risk of a mistake later. For all the criticism about a wrong decision, teams bring a lot of it on themselves with Hail Marys on ones where it’s a fair enough decision. My sympathy is in short supply.

11:20 bit of short pitched bowling from Archer to Williamson. A fast bowler pinging a batsman is great stuff. As long as you’re not the batsman. 30-1 from 8

Nicholls is struggling a bit here. 10 runs off 26 balls and looking a tad fretful with it.

11:28 Always easy to slate the commentators, and some are woeful. But it’s Atherton, Bishop and Smith on currently. They’re bloody marvellous. Can we have them on for the rest of the day?

1135 40-1, given it’s not easy out there, New Zealand will be pretty pleased with this start. Could have easily lost the final in the first hour, but they’re in the game.

1142 Bit of an iffy first over from Liam Plunkett, but everyone knows this entire game is about watching him bowl, and particularly watching him bat.

1148 50 up, in the 14th over. Been a bit of a struggle, but it’s fine. They’re in the game.

1150 Kane Williamson 4 not out off 24 balls. Which says above all else that people can get too stressed about the early part of an innings, because if he’s still there in 20 overs time, he’ll have a big score. Mark Wood into the attack.

1155 Mark Wood is getting more (away) swing than anyone else. Swing hasn’t been a big part in this tournament, it’s a pleasant surprise to see some.

95mph from Wood. That’s rapid.

1156 and that’s drinks.

1159 Hmm Stokes is limping a bit. Seems to be ok now, ran around the boundary well enough just now.

1202 68-1 from 16, and here’s Danny to take over.

1206 Tight over from Wood. New Zealand seem to be targeting 250-270, which has to be too low against this England team?

1210 Seven from Rashid’s first over, with not much spin off the pitch. It might be worth bowling Stokes a bit early on and seeing if the pitch if more receptive to Adil later on…

1214 Seven again from Wood’s third over. New Zealand are accelerating, and the English bowlers aren’t seeming very threatening in these middle overs so far.

1219 Another seven runs from Rashid’s over, and again no real threat.

1223 Seven runs from Wood’s end too. Since Woakes finished his 7-over spell, New Zealand are scoring at 6.4 runs per over, which could lead to them scoring over 350 altogether. Very worrying…

1226 Better from Rashid, only four of this one, but nothing to worry the batsmen. Ominous.

1230 WICKET. Williamson given not out edged behind, but that decision was by Dharmasena so England have reviewed. Huge spike on the UltraEdge and Plunkett has got Williamson out. Huge wicket from nowhere!

1242 A couple of tighter overs after the wicket and the pressure is back on the New Zealand batsmen. Losing Williamson could have cost New Zealand 50 runs or more from their total.

1248 WICKET No need for Dharmasena to fret about this decision. Plunkett bowls a full ball and an inside edge rips out Nicholls’ off stump. Amazing what happens when you bowl full.

1302 Three tight overs from Plunkett and Rashid, New Zealand’s wheels are spinning but they’re going nowhere fast. Stokes has apparently recovered and is bowling his first over.

1306 Stokes keep it tight, conceding four, and now it’s DRINKS.

13:08 – Dmitri taking over now. Teddy permitting.

13:10 – Rashid bowling his 8th over, with no wickets. Four singles from the first four balls and then two dots. Think they aren’t really taking a chance here, putting their eggs in a 250-270 basket. There’s not a lot in this wicket, so I’m not sure that’s a top idea.

13:12 – Ben Stokes on for his second over. All quite low key so far. Latham pulls the second ball firmly for a single to backward square. Ross Taylor does pretty much the same to the next ball, but just a single. No getting away from the lack of boundaries. Another nick for a single off the fourth ball. Two leg-byes off the fifth ball as it flicks off Taylor’s hip to fine leg. Wide off the sixth ball which went right over the blue line. Kumar being a bit harsh. Guided down to third man for a single off the last ball. Seven off it – 141 for 3.

13:18 – Not sure this will be enthralling the nation. Mark Wood replacing Adil Rashid, to bowl his fifth over. First ball he nails Taylor in front, and with no review he has to go. Is that New Zealand’s last chance to post a big total? Erasmus is fireproof at the moment. Has he got this right?

WICKET – Ross Taylor LBW Mark Wood 15 – 141 for 4

Our band sings (well I do) this song, and our guitarist plays a damn sight better guitar solo than this. Neesham in. Is the game gonna go his way? LBW was too high, so congratulate Guptill for blowing the earlier review. And let’s see Erasmus get some grief (I don’t mean that, but Kumar got stick for some stuff earlier today on the back of a bad decision on Thursday). No runs from the next four balls. Make that five. A wicket maiden from Mark Wood – 141 for 4 from 34.

13:24 – “Funny How the Missus Always Looks The Bleedin’ Same” – How am I ever going to get that lyric into a blog post title? Stokes on again. One from the first, full bunger not dealt with for the second. Two left-handers in now. Stokes strays on to leg stump and Neesham clips it through mid-wicket for a rare boundary. First in 15 and a half overs according to Bishop. Follows up with a wide. Neesham clobbers the short ball through wide mid-on for another four from the fifth ball. A driven single makes it 11 off the over and the score with 15 overs to go at 152 for 4. Are we seriously expected to pay £20 extra to watch Dillian Whyte?

13:28 – Wood gets smacked first ball by Neesham but no run. Blocks the second, with Wood registering 92 mph on the speed gun. Evades a short ball third up, but connects with the fourth – Woakes dives to save three runs on the boundary. Jimmy giving it big lash early on. Play and miss on the fifth. Blocks the sixth, with just one run from Wood’s sixth over. 153 for 4.

13:33 – Stokes removed, and Liam Plunkett back on. First ball to Neesham who hit straight to backward point first up. Drop and run on the second ball. The Barmy Army trumpeter plays, whether you like it or not. Dot ball. Michael Clarke doesn’t remember much about the 2015 Final. Just like I don’t recall the early days of this blog. Plunkett goes short, and Latham goes for a pull, for four. Bounced before the “rope”. Quick single next ball. Dot ball off the sixth ball. Six from the over. 159 for 4 from 37.

13:37 – Latham times a ball through the covers for four from Wood’s first ball, but follows up with a play and miss to a pitched up delivery. Lovely to see the ICC dignitaries enjoying the cricket. Latham to third man for a single. Let’s see those ICC characters again. The public demands it. Dot ball to Neesham off ball four. Nothing from the fifth, a short ball Neesham ducks under. A squirted dab into the offside gets Neesham a single. 6 runs from the over, 7 from Wood’s last three, and it’s 165 for 4 with 12 overs left.

13:41 – Wasted. That’s a tune for the MCC members. Might be about the 2005 legacy, eh? Dot ball first up from Liam, just missing off stump. This is Plunkett’s ninth over. Dab down to third man for Neesham. Ah the Women’s world cup winners. What a legacy they’ve built since, aided and abetted by the ECB. Single to Latham, then two for Neesham. Not fireworks by any means. Neesham hits the next ball for four, an offdrive off the back foot that Woakes couldn’t reach. Then Liam gets his revenge, fooling Neesham who lofts it straight to mid-on and it is caught by Joe Root.

WICKET – Jimmy Neesham Caught Joe Root Bowled Liam Plunkett 19 – 173 for 5

A key wicket for England as in comes the Big Man. I’ll call him CdG for the purposes of this live blog. It is easier.

13:47 – Wood gives up a single to Latham first ball, and CdG now faces. He takes two to wide third man to get his score going as those lags, the Barmy Army, sing Livin’ On A Prayer. No more comment offered. Nothing doing from a misjudged shot third ball for CdG. A full ball on leg stump is beautifully timed, but Bairstow dives and the ball goes in clean and is returned rapidly. Still two runs, but great fielding. Dot ball from another 92 mph delivery. Wood is rapid at the moment, so no way he stays fit this summer! Single from CdG – 179 for 5, with six from the over. 10 to go. dum de dum dum dum dum.

13:51 – Lovely to see the full ICC box again. Half expect to see that Infantino chap turn up. Last over from Liam – two dot balls to start the 41st. What the public wants is more ICC freeloaders on screen. Single to deep midwicket for CdG off the third ball. Short ball clopped to deep midwicket for a single by Latham, who is onto 25. Oh, it’s our PM. For at least another week. Play and miss off the penultimate ball, so Liam has one more. 3 for 42 at the moment. It’s how he finished, a dot ball. 181 for 5. Here’s Ray Winstone. I miss him “having a bang on that”.

13:56 – Archer back on, and a single for Latham to start. Archer has 5 to bowl. Play and miss to the 85mph second ball. A total miscue from a short ball for CdG gets a single as it balloons off his helmet over backward point. I now get a two minute break. Latham strokes a single from the fourth. Sharp single from the big man, which would have been tight if hit. Wide from the sixth ball. Bouncer off the last ball. 186 for 5. 8 overs remaining.

14:01 – Single off the first full pitched delivery from Wood, as it goes down to fine leg from CdG. Single off the second. A run a ball gets New Zealand just around 230. 4 leg byes as the ball flicks CdG, a nice and nasty bonus. Two runs for CdG as he takes on Adil’s weak arm and gets home. Chopped down to third man for a single off the fifth ball of the over. Latham miscues a short one for a single. 10 off the over, and it is 196 for 5. I see Naylor has cheesed off some of the parish. Ah yes. One of my early blogging inspirations. And another of my regrets.

14:06 – Single from the first ball of Archer’s over. Another leg bye off the second. No, Simon, it hasn’t gripped the country. Stop telling nonsense. Short ball flapped for a single by Latham. Wide given for the next bouncer. 200 up. Miscue doesn’t carry to cover from CdG. Had a few of these through the innings. They’ll get ’em in leg byes as CdG is through early and it ricochets for a single. Wide off the supposed last ball of the over. Still six off the over so far. Wide again. Short and wide of leg stump. Single off the last, pictures of MCC eccentrics and 8 from the over. Pip Pip. 204 for 5 with six to go.

14:11 – Wood’s final over. No run from the first ball. Swing and a miss from the second. Lovely shot for six over mid-wicket by Latham as he picks up a straight full delivery from Wood. Wood hits Latham a midships the next ball. Top edge falls short of Archer who pings in a return to prevent a second. Buttler gathers and slings the stumps down, it is being reviewed and CdG is just in. A lot closer than it looked. One run. Bouncer, not given wide off the last. Wood done. 1 for 49. 7 from the over. 211 for 5. Five overs left.

14:16 – We are the army, the barmy army, we are mental and we are mad. Single for Latham from the first ball. Single for CdG from the second. Slower ball dabbed for one by Latham again. Wood clutching his rib at the end of his spell. Three weeks from the Ashes. CdG gets tied up with another short ball. Dot. Slower full ball means CdG mis-times. No run. Slow ball bouncer (78) and CdG waves what looks like a stick at it. 3 from the over. 214 for 5. 24 balls remaining.

14:19 – We interrupt the generic pap music to say Woakes is coming back. Wood wanders off. Hurry up and bowl Chris, that tune is dreadful. Latham pushes a single first ball. Slower ball is tucked behind square for 2 off the second. Single from the third ball. Latham cross bats a single. Slower ball is chipped in the air by CdG and he loops it to mid-off.

WICKET – Colin de Grandhomme Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 16 – 219 for 6

James Vince gets his name on a World Cup Final scorecard. More than KP and Sir Al ever did! In comes Mitchell Santner, but Latham is on strike. Stroked to midwicket for a single. 220 for 6. 6 runs from the over. 3 overs remain.

14:26 – Archer to Latham. Single down to deep backward square. Single to Santner for the first run of his innings. Dot ball from a short ball third up. Driven single for Latham on the fourth ball. Single to Santner. Single to Latham. Dull. 5 from the third last over, and barely a chance taken. 225 for 6.

14:29 – Appeal, Woakes for LBW against Latham. Review. Missed run out. Need the lav. Ted’s asleep. Doesn’t look out, although he did wander. Pitched outside leg. A run taken. Santner clumps one to midwicket. Single. Lazy cricket gives New Zealand five runs. Short ball bouncer, wide, boundary. Muppets. Wide full toss, slow ball, chipped up, and Woakes gets another wicket. Horrid cricket.

WICKET – Tom Latham Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 47 – 232 for 7.

Vince becoming a legend here. The catchmaster. Wonder if Vaughan can leverage that into an Ashes place. Someone shoot the guitarist. Woakes bowls a beamer to Santner, no ball and a free hit, which Santner misses (a slower ball telegraphed by second class post). Quick single again, a direct hit is missed, but probably safe. Vince not quite the legend. Woakes last ball to Henry is slower, and Matt massacres it over cow corner for a one bounce four. 238 for 7. 13 from the over. Last six…

14:37 – First ball, Santner move across, ball goes over leg stump. Dot. Another quick single second ball. Throw misses. One run to Santner. Bouncer third ball is adjudged as a wide. McCullum ranting on about 240. Full and straight next, and it smacks into off on the full.

WICKET – Matt Henry Bowled Jofra Archer 4 – 240 for 8

Next man in is Sweet Child Of Mine (not so sweet with this clown on the guitar) Trent Boult. Three balls left. Slow yorker. Dot ball. Boult drives the penultimate ball for a single, and scampers down the other end. Last ball to Santner who has five from eight balls at the tail end of the innings. It’s a bouncer and Santner ducks!!!!! A dot ball without a shot being played. Curious and even more curious. Innings over 241. Just 242 to win. New Zealand going to need early wickets. I think this is England’s to lose. It’s not a great wicket, but it isn’t 241 in 50 overs. England never took their feet off New Zealand’s throat.

We have a half hour break.

15:09 – Sean on the decks for the upcoming passage of play. How is everyone’s nerves? The Sky commentators seem to be confident of an England victory, i’m not so sure mind!

15:12 – This new ball is going to be crucial in the outcome of the final. If England can see off Boult and Henry and be 40-0 off 10, then they become overwhelming favourites

15:14 – Roy is a lucky boy. Boult raps him on the pads and NZ review, umpires call saves England from the worst possible start. Must admit that looked dead in real time. Just the single from the over.

15:21 – The ball is doing all sorts at the start of the innings, i’m glad i don’t have to face Boult and Henry on this. Roy connects with one sweetly down the ground. England’s first boundary.

15:27 – Steady from England here with Roy keeping hold of the strike. The Kiwi bowlers still looking dangerous mind, they need a wicket in the few overs though.

15:32 – Bairstow joins the party with 2 boundaries off Trent Boult. Are the Black Caps getting a little desperate now?

15:36 – OUT: Well they’re not getting desperate anymore, Henry gets Roy with an out swinger that is caught by Latham. Root comes to the crease and England will need something big from the Test captain.

15:43 – This has been a fascinating passage of play and kind of resembles the morning of Day 1 at a Test with a good old fashioned battle between bat and ball. ODI cricket is so much better to watch when there is something there for the bowlers as well as the batsmen.

15:50 – Bairstow playing Boult very sensibly here, leaving the one that goes across him and then a lovely pull for 4. Oh look, Tom Harrison is in the crowd, desperate to jump on any successful bandwagon no doubt. I hope Bairstow hooks one into his mush.

15:53 – Henry bowls a maiden over, he has bowled a very fine spell here, much fuller than the England bowlers. The Big Man is loosening up and coming on to bowl, the conditions could certainly suit De Grandhomme’s type of bowling.

15:56 – Many people commenting how flat the atmosphere is at the Final. It’s pretty much like every Lords international i’ve been too.

15:57 – CHANCE – The Big Man drops a relatively straight forward catch of his own bowling from Bairstow. How costly will that drop prove to be??

16:06 – Tense. The squeeze is on here from the New Zealand, England have to be a careful not to get bogged down here. 2 boundaries from Bairstow, the first a nice push of his legs and then nearly chops on next ball relieves a bit of pressure. Meanwhile:

16:12 – New Zealand bring on Ferguson for his first bowl of the game. England didn’t face him during the group game, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against him and that tremendous moustache.

16:16 – Root is getting bogged down here, not his fluent self by any means. An ambition LBW shout from De Grandhomme and then an ugly swipe from Root.

16:17 – OUT! A horrible innings from Root comes to an end with another ugly swipe and a tickle behind to Latham. New Zealand are most definitely still in this.

16:19 – Drinks and a good time to handover the reigns to the ice cold TLG. I’m going to hide behind the sofa meanwhile

16:20 – well now, TLG here and this is interesting. Tight and nervy all round. You’d say objectively that England ought to win from here, but there’s that nagging doubt and the pressure is on.

16:26 – A quick switch across to the laptop, as this blog has now got so long the WordPress app is struggling to load it properly.  I mentioned the tension with this game, and the cynical old sods writing this are all a bit tense.  Which is strange, considering it’s a feeling that’s been absent from all of us for quite a few years now.  Which just goes to show that once this ridiculous game has wormed its way in, there’s no stopping it.  Oh it’s 65-2.

16:31 – A gorgeous cover drive from Jonny Bairstow, but which is then followed by WICKET! As he chops on to his stumps from Lockie Ferguson.  It’s been coming too, he’s cut a few past his own stumps, with his bottom hand being overly dominant today.  England are in a bit of strife.  72-3

16:37 – Anyone wishing Moeen Ali was in the batting order today yet?

16:39 – Just two off that over.  Funny thing with England, if they go after the bowling, you back them to pull off a run chase, but the moment they get hesitant and cautious, you can almost see the nerves.  That’s not to say they should be having a slog at it, they’re probably approaching it the right way.  But it doesn’t half look as if they’re worried.

16:44 – 82-3.  You know, it’s almost like England on free to air tv hasn’t gone away, I’m pretty sure we left it in 2005 with England in a tense tight sitution.

16:47 – You’re thinking you don’t mind really if New Zealand win the World Cup, aren’t you?  Decent bunch of chaps, not Australian, underdogs, punching above their weight, a victory for cricket and all that.

16:49 – Checking our stats page, it seems we had a visitor to the blog who searched for “cricket for posh people”.  You what?

16:50 – WICKET! Oh drama.  Is Morgan caught?  Yes he is.  Pretty poor shot, and a fine catch from Lockie Ferguson.  England are in trouble here.  86-4 is not a promising position, and Ben Stokes is going to have to try and pull the fat out of the fire once again this tournament.

16:56 – 24 overs gone, 89-4.  Two new batsmen at the crease, both destructive, and with a target that’s modest enough it can be whittled away quickly.  But England have little room for manouevre now, the batting quality remaining is good, but we’re very much into the all rounders.

17:00 – How are the fingernails?

17:03 – Extremely unimpressed with Arron in the comments for drawing the England/Jimmy White parallel just as I was thinking about it and before I could write it.

17:04 – 98-4.  It’s interesting seeing people think the pitch is not up to scratch.  There’s something in that, given it’s not rewarded stroke play.  On the other hand, if this goes to the wire, then irrespective of anything else, the viewing figures are going to soar, and the chewing of fingers is going to reach cannibalistic levels.  For that’s the point, it can be certainly stated that fours and sixes might drag in the uninitiates (T20 suggests exactly that), but drama is what really does it, whether high scoring or low scoring.

17:09 – Stokes eases the pressure a bit with a crunching straight drive to bring England’s hundred up.  The required run rate is just starting to climb a bit, up to 6.22.  Manageable certainly, a problem if a wicket or two falls.  And just to expand that earlier point, I’m not convinced that this is a poor spectacle right now.  Earlier in the day that could be said, but you don’t have to be a county member or a club player of 20 years standing to understand this is very tight.

17:15 Nelson up!  111-4.  These two are starting to look more at ease now.  You know what’s going to come next…

17:21 – A few singles here and there.  Nothing is happening but everything is happening.  Cricket is so good.

17:26 – Buttler cuts just out of reach of Guptill, and it races away for four.  Naturally, it gives the commentators the chance to talk about what would have been the catch of the tournament for the thousandth time.

Expect much, much more of this kind of thing if New Zealand win.

17:31 – 136-4.  Starting to tick over nicely.  And up comes the 50 partnership, that to channel my in Ronay is as welcome as a Green and Black’s ice cream on a hot day ooh aren’t I a clever one.

17:34 – time for a Powerade Hydration Break*.

*Just fuck off.

A masterclass in “I don’t know what the hell to say because I’m nervous, so I’ll state the bleeding obvious”.  We’ve all been there.

17:40 – 35 overs gone, 141-4.  A healthier looking scorecard, but still on a bit of a knifedge.  Those dull middle overs eh?

17:43 – Big lbw appeal against Buttler, Dharmasena says no, and we go to a review…looks to be heading down the legside though.  Yep, missing leg completely according to Hawkeye, so that’s New Zealand’s bowling review gone.  And since he’s had such a kicking from so many people, a good decision from Dharmasena, albeit not the hardest he’ll have had to make.

17:47 – Don’t bowl there.  Short and wide to Buttler who crashes it past point for four.  Stokes is the more conservative of his pair, with Buttler looking to be the aggressor.  Runs required is now under 100.

17:50 – The pressure is beginning to switch around.  New Zealand are now starting to badly need a wicket.  Required rate 7.24 though, and rising.

17:53 – Gorgeous straight drive for four from Buttler off Neesham.  Seven off the over, just what England need from here.

17:55 – Stokes in on the act, hooking Ferguson in front of square for four.

17:59 – 5-5 in the final set in the tennis by the way.

18:01 – Of course, if England do win this, they will be the only country to have won cricket, football and rugby World Cups.  It doesn’t matter much, except that it’ll cause an outbreak of fury amongst Australians and comments about it being a United Nations team.  It’s worth it for that alone.  166-4.

18:02 – Ah the Buttler ramp shot.  How good is he at that?

18:03 – Into the last ten overs, 72 needed, six wickets in hand.  You’d say England really ought to do it from here, or at least you would in a normal JAMODI.  In the World Cup final?  Feels a bit more fraught than that.

18:05 – Three balls gone this Ferguson over.  Three dots.  Pressure…And a wide follows.  But a fine over with just three off it.  Required rate edges up to 7.66

18:09 – New Zealand are putting the squeeze on here.   Just four runs off that over.   177-4, eight overs to go.

18:13 England probably need that one big over.  But they’re struggling to score at the moment.  Lots of singles, not many boundaries.  Creative from Buttler, almost scooping it, changing his mind and running it down to fine leg.  But only for a couple.  Six off that over.  OK, but no more than that.  8.42 an over needed.

18:17 Trent Boult returns.  Buttler crashes it over extra cover for four and goes to 50.  And Stokes joins him with a single down the ground.

18:23 – 53 runs needed from 36 balls.  Fantastic shot from Buttler, again over deep extra cover.  48 from 34.  Followed by a, well, a hoick, that heads down to third man.  Fine piece of fielding on the boundary saves a couple of runs.

18:26 – WICKET!  That’s huge.  Buttler skews it off the outside edge out to deep point, and the sub fielder Tim Southee runs in and takes another fine catch.  The game takes another twist as Woakes comes to the crease.  196-5.

The ECB have all the luck.  They do everything in their power to hide the game away from as many people as possible, and then when they fluke a game being shown on Free to Air, they get a thriller to remind everyone what is missing.

18:29 – Woakes gets off strike at the second time of asking.  England need a boundary or two, and it’s all on Ben Stokes.  The pendulum has swung dramatically with that wicket, and New Zealand might well be favourites here.  Four!!  Stokes somehow pings it through midwicket off the back foot, lacking any kind of finesse whatever.  But it’s unlikely anyone cares at this stage.

18:34 – WICKET!  Woakes has a massive heave at Ferguson, and it goes straight up in the air.  Latham makes an awful meal of it, but clings on, just.  And at this stage, no runs off a ball is a nice bonus.  All of which means it’s Plunkett time.  203-6

Plunkett can’t get his first couple of balls away, which is hardly surprising given the situation.  But it all adds to the ever spiralling required run rate and the pressure.  But wait, he then responds by belting it through midwicket for four.  But that’s it for the over, and again England are short of what they needed.  They have a chance, but it’s getting harder and harder.

Hussain is on commentary talking about the pitch dying and what a clever and brave decision it was to bat first.  Not so sure that was said by too many at the time.

18:40 – Right, 34 needed from three overs.

Four!!  Again over midwicket from Stokes.  30 from 17 balls.

Next ball through square leg for one.  Five off the first couple of balls is just what was needed.

Lads – get me a drink will you?

Plunkett too goes towards cow corner, and picks up a couple of runs.  Good over so far for England.

Dot ball.

Down the ground this time, the pair scamper for two.  217-6

And a single to finish the over.  24 runs needed from 12 balls.

18:44 – We’re all perfectly relaxed aren’t we?  Indifferent.  Calm.  Utterly chilled, right? Neesham to bowl the penultimate over, and England really need it to be a big one.

Single for Plunkett.  23 off 11.

Single to Stokes.  22 from 10.  A super over has been mentioned – I think England would take that right now.

18:47 WICKET!!  Plunkett goes down the ground, but doesn’t get the distance.  England are falling short here.  The one positive is that Stokes is back on strike, but this is now needing something spectacular.  22 from 9 as Archer comes in.

Six!!  Wow, that’s extraordinary.  Stokes goes big over deep midwicket, and Boult catches him, but his foot treads on the boundary rope.  Guptill is quick to signal it was six as well.  16 from 8.

Single from Stokes.  Archer has the last ball of the over to face.  WICKET!!  Archer has a slog, misses and is bowled.  England are 8 down, and it’s going to be entirely down to Stokes to pull off a miracle.  15 needed from the final over, or 14 to take us to a Super Over.  Which would be fun, wouldn’t it?

18:52 – Right, the final over, to be bowled by Trent Boult, who has been excellent as ever.

Stokes declines the single.  15 from 5 balls.

And again.  15 from 4.

Six!!  Bloody hell.  Stokes absolutely smashes a slog sweep for six over midwicket.  9 from 3.

Well that is accidental, but probably controversial.  It counts as six runs, as Stokes hits a couple, and as the throw comes in it deflects off him for an additional four overthrows.  Completely accidental, but this puts England right in the box seat.  Never seen anything quite like that.

I need a drink.  So do the umpires it seems, as they have a chat, but it went for four overthrows, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  Sheer good or bad luck.

3 from 2

WICKET!! More mayhem.  England go for 2 runs to try and get Stokes back on strike.  Rashid is run out by a mile, but Stokes is back on strike.  2 needed off the last ball, but 1 for a super over.  What drama.

Here we go:

WICKET!! It’s a tie!!  Surely!  England go for two, but Wood is run out, and we have a super over.  Jesus Christ.  That was the most extraordinary final over I’ve ever seen – the six caught on the boundary, the accidental four overthrows, the two run outs.  What a finish.  What an incredible finish.

Fantastic innings from Stokes.  What a magnificent bowling and fielding performance from New Zealand.  Who the hell do the teams pick for a super over?  How big is Channel 4’s audience right now?  Where the hell is that drink?

19:08 SUPER OVER

Stokes and Buttler come out to bat for England.

Outside edge from Stokes, over third man, and they sprint three runs.  Buttler on strike…

A single.

Four runs!  Another slog sweep from Stokes, that goes flat through midwicket and beats the diving fielder.  8 runs off the first three balls and it’s a fine start from England.

Single.  9-0 off 4 balls.  Buttler back on strike.  A six would be nice…instead it’s a fine yorker, that Buttler screws out to deep extra cover.  Nicholls doesn’t pick the ball up and they get two.

Four!  Buttler goes over midwicket!  That’s a big total in one over, and New Zealand need 16 to win.

It’ll be Archer to bowl for England.  If the scores are level, it comes down to who hit the most boundaries, and that’s England.  So New Zealand do indeed need 16, if they get 15 then England will win.  Which is kind of a pity, because I was thinking we might have super overs for the rest of eternity, in a glorious, never ending arm wrestle for the title.

Guptill and Neesham come out to bat.  This can’t be easy, it’s been seemingly years since they batted today, and to have to come out, fresh and tee off for one over is a bit of a challenge to say the least.  England have the advantage already, even without having scored 15 runs off theirs.

Archer bowling from the other end to that he’s been bowling from.  Interesting call.

Starts with a wide.  15 from 6 now.

Fine yorker second ball, but it’s drilled down the ground by Neesham for two.  3 off the first ball effectively.

Six!  Huge over midwicket from Neesham.  And suddenly New Zealand are almost there.

Two runs.  A misfield from Roy allows a second run.  5 from 3 needed.

Two again.  3 from 2.  England really need a wicket.

A single.

And here we go, two runs needed from the last ball.  Not only did it go to the last ball of the normal game, not only did it go to a super over, it’s gone to the last ball of the super over.  What a game.

England have won the World Cup!  And even at the last, it was extraordinary, a run out going for the second run.

Collecting thoughts from that finish is going to take a little while.  Sport is just the most incredible thing, and that was the most extraordinary possible finish.  Undoubtedly this will be shown again and again over the years to come, and please God the TV audience on Channel 4 was enormous.  I’m sure it would have been, because word would have gone around about the utterly incredible conclusion.

England finally get their hands on the World Cup, New Zealand, have the consolation which is no consolation at all of being the unluckiest runners up they could possibly have been.  It can’t be said England deserved the win, because it can’t be said that New Zealand deserved to lose.  But someone has to win, and someone doesn’t.  The deflection off a diving Stokes to go for four overthrows was probably the margin between the sides at the end, and that probably says it all.

After such events, the “Greatest of All Time” comments come out of course, and usually cause eye rolling, but in white ball cricket, that might be hard to argue against.  This one really might well have been.

England have been gracious in their interviews, New Zealand are understandably crushed.  At this point, I’ll call time on the live blog, and go and get something to drink.  Thanks for the company, and of course the comments are still open.  TLG.

 

 

 

World Cup Semi-Final: India vs New Zealand

After 45 matches, and into the third calendar month of the competition, we finally reach the semi-finals.  Three games to go, the secret tournament gets to the business end amid a frenzy of indifference in the host country.

The semi-final stage really ought to be the one where the anticipation is huge, and where the wider audience is tuning in far in advance ready to view a showpiece occasion.  In New Zealand, Australia and India, that could well be the case.

This has been repeated in numerous quarters ad nauseam, but it doesn’t make it any less true, or less concerning, nor is it a dig as Sky Sports, no matter how sensitive their employees are or how “outrageous” they consider articles on a blog lamenting the invisibility of the game to be.  That they are so touchy tends to re-inforce the truth of the complaints – no one gets so irate unless it has touched a nerve.

Still, while the viewing figures for today will be as miserable in this country as they usually are, it is a World Cup, it is a semi-final, and a big event for the cricketing world.  And the two teams involved today have had sufficiently contrasting recent form to make India overwhelming favourites.  Despite their defeat to England, they have looked every inch potential winners of the competition, whereas the Black Caps three successive defeats have resulted in them stumbling into the knockout stage on net run rate.  The outcome of this one ought to be obvious.

But underdogs though they might be, New Zealand’s malfunctioning batting order do have enough to cause problems, and have the bowling attack to make any opponent queasy.  Their slump has been a rather surprising one given the quality on offer, even if player for player, the Indian team would be reckoned superior overall.  New Zealand embrace their underdog status at the best of times, and with this one, when someone as notable as Sachin Tendulkar wishes MS Dhoni all the best for “the next two games” it will certainly provoke a wry smile in the Kiwi camp.

India should win.  New Zealand have been poor.  But it could be fun if they decide to show up for it.

Comments below.

 

World Cup Matches 44 & 45: Sri Lanka vs India, Australia vs South Africa (and a bit of TV, FTA and the ICC)

And so we arrive at the end of the group stage, and more by luck than judgement, there is even a little bit to play for in the last two games. Not in terms of qualification though, after Pakistan’s always likely to be vain attempt to gatecrash the top four ended in victory, but not by enough, against Bangladesh.

Thus, it’s merely the order of the top four that is in question, and the incentive, such as it is, of who plays whom in the semi-finals. The most likely outcome is that Australia will play New Zealand at Old Trafford, and that India will play England, once again at Edgbaston. It’s probable that India and Australia would prefer to play New Zealand, both because of their recent stumbles, and also because England are unquestionably a side everyone else fears somewhat, even if they would certainly feel they can be beaten. But it’s hard to see beyond victories for both the Big Three members playing tomorrow, and that the semi-finalists includes them plus England is unsurprising, if somewhat depressing. But then, the whole structure of cricket at a global level is intended to allow them to maximise their income and power, so it is exactly as desired in the corridors of power. In most sports, an unexpected outcome in a tournament is something to be celebrated, only cricket responds by trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Today Sky Sports announced that if England reach the World Cup final, it will be broadcast free to air. At present it isn’t quite clear what “free to air” would mean, but it appears highly unlikely it will be via a mainstream channel with a large reach. This isn’t so surprising, there are other major sporting events on the same day, such as the men’s Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix (another outstanding piece of scheduling for cricket), and clearing the decks for six hours of cricket at short notice is somewhat impractical, albeit it would be amusing to see the response if a main broadcaster expressed interest in doing so. What seems more likely is for it to be on something like Sky Mix, or even online via Youtube or Sky’s own app and website – the BT approach to screening the Champions League final.

Such an initiative is to be welcomed, but the focus and pressure on Sky to allow it to be shown free rather lets the ICC specifically, and the ECB more generally given this tournament isn’t in their purview, off the hook. The World Cup is behind a paywall because the policy of the ICC, as instructed by its members, was to maximise revenue in their TV contracts. The moment that was the intention, pay TV was always going to be the only outcome. The principal contract for England, India and Australia is held by Star Sports, who paid $2 billion back in 2014 for the rights to ICC tournaments up to 2023. It was for them to then sub-contract to national broadcasters and, naturally as a business, to maximise their revenue accordingly. Everything stems from that, the drive for revenue at every stage, and the reason why such tournaments not only won’t be on free to air, but effectively can’t be.

This isn’t Sky’s fault, they too are a business trying to make money, but it is the ICC’s for making the financial aspect the key one. To suggest, as some notable employees of Sky have done, that this is down to the free to air broadcasters failing to bid is a specious argument – they simply cannot financially compete on the same level as pay TV, and see little point in spending money preparing bids, or even considering preparing bids, for something they cannot win. It almost certainly is the case that the kind of wall to wall coverage required is now only in the purview of the satellite broadcasters here, but it’s still a matter of justifying the status quo by pretending that the creation of this situation is entirely separate from the bidding processes in the current market.

Where it does get more interesting is in the argument as to whether some cricket on free to air would benefit Sky themselves. This is one of those that only those inside broadcasting (we’re outside that too) can answer, but holding expensive rights to a sport in major decline cannot be a healthy financial position for them either, even if the fear in the future is that cricket sinks so far that Sky will be able to buy all the rights for a song as no one else cares. It seems unlikely this will happen for as long as there is more than one pay TV broadcaster, for cricket is a boon for them, filling lots of screen time for comparatively little cost compared to, say, drama. In any case, to say no one else cares about cricket is a weak defence. Firstly, the single positive of the Hundred, that there will be some shown on the BBC, implies otherwise to at least some extent, but more than that, if more cricket is of no interest to the terrestrial broadcasters, it’s because cricket isn’t of sufficient interest to them. But it was, at one point. And now it isn’t. For the ECB to have failed to nurture their broadcast partnerships over the last 15 years has been an abrogation of their responsibilities to the game. At another time, a World Cup the majority were unable to watch would have provoked howls of outrage. Now it is largely indifference whether they can or they can’t, and limited awareness that it’s even on.

Equally, there is the wider argument about the role of the various governing bodies. It is simply wrong to argue that all the ICC can possibly do is sell the contracts to make as much money as possible, because it isn’t what other sports do at all. Wimbledon could certainly make far more from selling off their event to the highest bidder, but refuse to because they value the exposure they get on the BBC. More pertinently, World Rugby, for their own showcase World Cup, specifically talk about finding free to air partners. Indeed, their wording is very precise:

“Securing deals with major free-to-air broadcasters who are passionate about sport is central to World Rugby’s mission to make rugby accessible in a global context. With each Rugby World Cup we are broadening the sport’s reach and appeal through a broadcast and digital strategy that is aimed at reaching, engaging and inspiring new audiences within existing and emerging rugby markets.”

This is completely alien to the approach taken by cricket, to the point that it is diametrically opposed in almost every clause in that paragraph. Very few people are so single minded as to believe that everything should be on free to air, irrespective of contract value, and given World Rugby’s activities and attitudes in other areas, it’s hardly that they can be held up as notable supporters of the common man and woman in every aspect. But it is a striking difference in strategy, to intend the widest possible audience for their blue riband event.

It is highly noticeable that Sky appear to feel they are on the defensive about this whole subject. It’s not necessarily why they’ve made the decision to offer the final conditionally free, but also how some of their staff appear to be spending considerable time messaging cricket supporters and blogs with impassioned defences of their position. It’s a different approach, certainly, and perhaps not a coordinated one, but the righteous indignation, when it isn’t even them who are bearing the brunt of the annoyance, is interesting.

What the viewing figures might be for any final, broadcast for free, with England in it will be interesting. It really isn’t just the free aspect either – buried away on a minor channel that only subscribers are aware exists is not going to cause a dramatic change, although in a perfect scenario, a very tight, exciting final might just allow word of mouth to spread, and for non-adherents of the game to seek it out.

For this is a positive, without any question. How big a positive is more debatable. If the stars were to align, then just maybe it could grab attention, even with all the competition. This is what every cricket fan surely wants.

One other small item. It’s been reported that the other counties are displeased with Warwickshire for offering guaranteed contracts with the Birmingham Phoenix franchise in an effort to lure them to the county. This is the kind of esoteric, obscure item that barely anyone notices, but has a big impact. For the Hundred franchises are meant to be entirely separate to the counties. But what did the other counties expect? That this would be adhered to? That it wasn’t really going to go down the route of concentrating power and wealth in the hands of the chosen ones? We get accused of being cynical too often, but to not see this coming is extraordinarily naive on the part of those upset by it. It’s more likely to have been a deliberate strategic approach by a governing body that has long disliked having 18 counties to deal with.

Update: the article concerning the recruitment for the Hundred has been pulled, and according to George Dobell, a retraction sought. Curioser and curioser.

Comments as ever below.

World Cup Match 38 – England vs India

It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. Still in the group stage, England are near enough already playing the knock out stages, following Pakistan’s last gasp win over Afghanistan. It wasn’t meant to be this way, with the ECB expressing their determination four years ago to prioritise the one day side over the Test team, and with an undoubtedly powerful England batting order smashing teams to all parts in the years running up to the tournament. Whatever the cause, it’s gone rather wrong here, and instead of a serene march to the knockout stage, England instead will probably have to win against both India and New Zealand to get through.

There have been some items of misfortune – Jason Roy tearing a hamstring was less than ideal, but England have also brought much of it on themselves, both on and off the pitch. The removal of Alex Hales from the squad looks like so much hubris, and did so at the time. Certainly, a case could be made for it being principled, but since principles are a movable feast within the ECB hierarchy, it was hard to accept that at face value, particularly given the mess made of it. It smacked of expediency at the time and looks unwise now. It’s certainly not to say that England wouldn’t still be in this position with him in the side, but it is to say that assuming that England were so powerful it wasn’t much of a risk to kick him out has deservedly come back to bite them. Not for the first time either, and as ever, one is left wondering whether the same action would have been taken with a player deemed more critical to the team at the time.

Instead, James Vince played, showing all the shots, and getting out. His lack of permanence, the situation in which England find themselves in and the lack of a decent understudy all mean that England are quite likely to take a risk on playing Jason Roy today. He’s certainly needed.

Jonny Bairstow’s comments in the media did have a kernel of truth in them, for it is certainly the case that the media are always quick to leap on failure, but it isn’t the media that have lost three games already, and it isn’t the media who have put England under such pressure at such an early stage, they’ve managed that all by themselves. Failure is inevitably going to attract criticism, whether from former players, the media or fans, and particularly so when England’s tag as favourites at the start of the competition did have at least some grounds for it.

Now, England are perfectly capable of winning against India, and indeed against New Zealand too. Indeed, they’re quite capable of winning the next four and lifting the World Cup, but as things stand, and given the uncertainty in the side, it’s not something anyone would feel too confident about. Perhaps in some ways it benefits them to focus minds on the next game rather than any further than that. And should they win both group matches remaining, they’ll be battle hardened in a way that none of the other teams are. This is what’s known as taking the positives.

Should England lose though, there is the added awkwardness in the ECB’s decision to effectively abolish 50 over cricket as a top level domestic competition from next year, and if for no other reason the ECB will be praying that England pull the fat out of the fire this time around to avoid even more awkward questions about future World Cups. That’s one for the future, for today it’s simply about finding a way to win, on an Edgbaston pitch that may well be conducive to spin again.

Comments below