- For me, it is impossible not to love Pakistan cricket even with the retirement of two of my favourite cricketers, Misbah and Younis. No one (including myself) gave Pakistan a hope in hell of winning the Champions Trophy 3 weeks ago and especially after their tonking by India in the first game, but then Pakistan did what they have done in the past and suddenly raised their game in a big tournament. They comfortably beat the 3 best teams in the tournament based around a strong and balanced bowling attack that was able to both squeeze the opposition and take wickets at regular intervals. Now I must admit that I was no great fan of Mohammad Amir being allowed to return to international cricket, but his opening spell against India in the final is one of the best bowling displays that I have seen in the last 20 years and one, which India never recovered from. They even managed to drop Kohli and take his wicket the next ball, which in my opinion is peak Pakistan and the reason why they are impossible not to cherish. My only slight disappointment was the lack of comedy run outs, though they again provided one in the final. Magnifique.
- It’s a bump in the road and as much as I would love to bury Director Comma, to compare where England are in ODI cricket now to where they were after the World Cup in 2015 is like trying to compare apples and oranges. That being said, I think it’s only right that we should be bitterly disappointed, as the trophy was there for the taking. My main issue with England now is that they only have a Plan A, which is to try and hit every ball out of the park. This is absolutely fine on flat pitches, but we all knew that the Cardiff pitch was a used pitch, so surely the brains trust should have been a bit more sensible about the way we approached the game. I’m not saying 270 would have been a winning score, but it would have been a lot closer. Whilst this is not a fatal blow for Director Comma, there certainly will be more attention on the upcoming Test series.
- The easy answer would be England’s failure in the semi final, but that’s not the one I’m going to plump for. For me, the most disappointing aspect was the performance of the South African batting line up. On paper they had the best batting line up in the tournament, yet Hashim Amla aside, they performed terribly once again on the big stage. De Kock looked in woeful touch, David Miller looked like he’d never seen a white ball before and ABDV must have been tired from all that cricket he hasn’t been playing, though to be fair to him, there wasn’t a £million pound reward for him, so it must have been hard to motivate himself to perform. South Africa have been known as chokers for many years, but in this tournament they weren’t even close to that, they were simply abject.
- I actually quite like the format of the Champions Trophy, it’s relatively quick and the condensed nature means there are few meaningless games. It is certainly something that the World Cup could learn from, as it always seems like it lasts for an eternity and for all I know, the 2015 World Cup could still be going. Am I a big fan of white ball cricket? Well no, but at least a tournament that only lasts a couple of weeks might just about keep me interested to the final.
- This is a difficult one. There were a few great moments of the Champions Trophy, like the rare times that Atherton and Ponting were on commentary together, which was a blessed relief from the nonsense that the other commentators were spouting (yes I’m especially looking at you Michael Slater). Then there was the comedy South African run out, which summed up their performance in the tournament; however I’ll probably have to go with the obvious one, which was Stokes’ century against the Aussies. For me, beating Australia in any format of cricket always brings more than a smile on my face, this coupled with the clean and brutal power that emanated from Stokes’ bat on that day was a pure joy to watch. We all know that Stokes is incredibly talented; however we all know that he is at best inconsistent, therefore to put on that display after we had lost 3 early wickets was just superb. The thing that grips me when an in form Stokes bats is the sheer brutality in which he hits the ball, he is not a classic elegant batsman like Ian Bell or Joe Root, but he makes up for that by regularly depositing the ball into the second tier. It was especially sweet for him to do it against Australia as a number of their supporters essentially think he is an average player (yes Dennis I’m talking about you), so for him to ram that down the throats of his Australian detractors was a special moment, hence why I’m listing this as my favourite memory of the tournament. Actually scrap that, I’ve just seen that South African run out again, which has to be the purest piece of comedy gold that I’ve seen on a cricket field for a very long time. Funny cricket >> Good cricket in my opinion.
Finally, Dmitri / LCL / Misery Guts
- Pakistan winning the competition. What’s not to love?
There is a lot of goodwill out there for Pakistan, but as is usual with the twitterati, it has to be a bit overboard. Pakistan can be a capricious beast when it comes to the game, but they have good players, and we’ve all known that pointed in the right direction, getting a bit of momentum going, and a couple of players surprising us all can work wonders. We saw it with Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup. We saw it with West Indies in the 2004 Champions Trophy and last year’s World T20. We saw it with Pakistan in 1992. The “love” for Pakistani cricket is probably reflective of the need for us all to have a top tier of the world game with more than the Big 3 and South Africa putting up top class performances. The fear is that this won’t do anything other than paper over the cracks, like the West Indies wins in 2004 and the T20 tournaments. Oh, and is Mohammad Amir now totally forgiven?
- Bump in the road or major setback?
A major setback. Absolutely and don’t pretend it is anything else. The aims of this administration, under Empty Suit, the new man in the cupboard and the Comma is to win a white ball world trophy and now two have slipped through their grasps. While the T20 was a total freak, this wasn’t. England had played well, but as the Lord’s game against South Africa showed, there’s a collapse in this team on a semi-regular basis. My hope was it would come in the Australia game, not the semi-final. Now we’ve got all sorts of confused messages / excuses about wickets, home advantage, changing teams and even knockout cricket. England have made considerable strides in the ODI format, becoming a thoroughly entertaining and refreshing team to watch. We are short of killer bowlers. We have a high risk strategy based on the law of averages that someone will come off. It’s a recipe for getting hot in a tournament and winning it, but I’m not sure it’s one for world domination.
It also kept a media, who want to anoint Comma as the saviour of English Cricket, in their boxes. Pakistan winning shows you don’t need a long-term strategy, mass adoption of rigidity, and clearing the decks for world tournaments. Pakistan aren’t quite as off the cuff as the image is put out, but they have shown what can be done without the Comma way. It will be interesting to see if the acerbic line from Vic Marks is adopted by some of the media men. And as for Bayliss and Farbrace? Were they invisible during the tournament?
- Biggest disappointment at the CT?
AB de Villiers. It is hard to go off a cricketer like AB, but I am. He played like a drain in the competition and after a few crap hit and giggle games, is going to sit out the test series. If you are going to absent yourself from that form of the game, you’d better be damn sure that you make runs. After a quiet IPL, and now a really poor CT, AB is going to put his feet up while his colleagues try to keep their excellent record in England intact.
I’d also say Jason Roy, but by England getting knocked out, he got to play in the semi for Surrey and made 92. So not that disappointed!
- What’s your view on the Champions Trophy? Great or grating?
The format is pretty good, but then I am not overly wowed about “group games”. In fact I’d love it to be 16 teams and a straight knockout with a random draw, but that is hopelessly naïve, doesn’t guarantee an India v Pakistan game, and might mean one of the “Big 3” gets knocked out which, as we all know “ruined” the 2007 World Cup. So we have to make do with this format which gets the gig over with in 17 days. I’m not going to moan about venues, or weather or so forth. Ticketing at major sporting events is, by and large, a fucking joke wherever you go. Now, because India have lost, no doubt, there’s talk of scrapping it. England 2013 is credited with saving the CT, and now it’s seen as its burial ground. What a metaphor for the past four years of world cricket administration.
- Your favourite memory of CT17?
A few. For the first time in ages I heard two people, who don’t generally talk about cricket, commenting on the progress of the semi-final between England and Pakistan. That’s something refreshing. The game needs exposure, and it needs people to respond. Something, however small, to cling on to.
I didn’t get to watch a lot of this competition, for reasons explained a little in Saturday’s piece. What I did see wasn’t particularly memorable, so I will pick out being at Guildford on the 9th of June and hearing the news that Bangladesh were on the way to the next round as Shakib and Mahmudullah making hundreds. A great day watching county cricket, a lovely stream of news as Bangladesh made another stride forward. As I said, we need more teams to be at the top table, not fewer.
It wouldn’t be me, though, without a couple of moans. ICC events means the moron quotient when it comes to commentary is accentuated. While Ponting, Athers, Sanga and Brendon McCullum are nearly always worth a listen, the Warne / Slater axis, and the old stagers who don’t seem to be able to get sacked like Ramiz Raja make it a depressing experience at times. However, for all that, there was no Nick Knight, and at least Sky had Ian Ward introducing the highlights. BBC, in their infinite wisdom chose Ed Smith. Good grief.
I also got really bored with Twitter. That’s fine. I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon. Yes, that’s possible. I could go into great detail, offend many, bore most, but the quality of discourse is going downhill. If it weren’t for Innocent Bystander, I could go mad. I’ve muted a few, got annoyed at others.
Finally, the CT will be forgotten very quickly. It’s almost the League Cup of cricket, and I’m not even sure it is on that level. Well done to Pakistan. You may well have killed the competition off. You gave it a fantastic burial. Zindabad, or whatever.
So, what do you think? Answer the five questions in the comments below if you feel like it. Have a go at our answers if you feel like it. I couldn’t deal with the formatting, so put the answers individually.
Meanwhile, Chris sent a cryptic message to the questions. As he travels his way around SE Asia, and taunting us in the process, his response “GFRLF” is one I can’t decipher.