Before I did all this faffing around changing hosts, I wrote this little piece about the recent ODI series between England and India, and, to keep it relevant because I’d taken too long to write it, the two Twenty20 matches against the West Indies that followed the week after. It wasn’t quite ready to post though, and it got put on the back-burner for a bit as I prepared for the move. But here it is, ready to indulge your cricket loving eyeballs! The series against India was a bit of a damp squib. Both teams fielded weakened sides, with players either being injured, or, as in Kevin Pietersen’s case, rested, and, due to the weather, not one of the five matches went the full distance of 50 overs per side. England came out three-nil winners, with one of the other games being a tie and the other being abandoned. The result doesn’t tell the whole story though, as the games were all pretty close, with India showing much more fight than in the Test series, and they were unlucky not to win at least one game during the series.
England batted second in every match (they won the toss each time and chose to do so), and they chased pretty well, especially as several times their target was revised part way through. With Pietersen out, a lot was resting on Eoin Morgan’s ability to score quick runs in the middle order, but he picked up a shoulder injury and, although he played and fielded in the first ODI (the match being abandoned before he had a chance to bat), he was out for the rest of the series. So England were left with a big hole in their batting line-up without the two men who are probably their best ODI batsmen. Ravi Bopara came into the side in Morgan’s place and played very well, scoring the most runs of any England batsman during the series, 197, and having the highest average, 65.66, with a strike rate of 101.54. England chose Ben Stokes for the first four matches; he made his ODI debut in the one-off ODI against Ireland that preceded the series, but he didn’t make much of an impression against India, making 27 runs off his two innings. For the final match England chose to give Jonny Bairstow his debut, and he made a huge impact with 41 not out off just 21 balls, which helped England reach their target with 10 balls to spare. It was an impressive innings; the three sixes he bludgeoned in the match meant he was England’s second highest six hitter of the entire series, behind Craig Kieswetter who hit six. He will likely have a long England career ahead of him.
There are still doubts about Cook as a ODI batsman, though his performance in the series calmed these somewhat. He averaged 42.25, scored two fifties, and had a respectable strike rate of 94.41. His captaincy was generally solid, but there were signs that he still has much to learn. In the third match India were 58/5 after 19 overs, but the next wicket fell at 170/6 with the first ball of the 45th over, the partnership between MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja helped by some questionable field placements which, while restricting boundaries, did allow singles almost freely. The eventual total was 234/7, and after rain England needed 218 from 43 overs, which they managed to do with seven balls to spare, but it was a much harder chase than it needed to be. England still aren’t as ruthless in the one-day game as they are in Test matches, and they seem unable to win a one-day game in a really convincing way; they win Test matches by an innings and/or a huge amount of runs, but ODIs always seem to come down to the last few overs.
India will be disappointed they didn’t win any games, but they made a much better showing of themselves than in the Test series, although they fell short of playing like the World Champions that they are. They were without Tendulkar, who had a toe injury, for the duration of the series, and several others picked up knocks as the series progressed. By the end of the series, many of the players looked tied, and, while their batting wasn’t too affected by this, it showed in the field, with them lacking much of an edge, letting England recover when they were in trouble. The series marked the end of Rahul Dravid’s ODI career, and as such he will be a little bit disappointed as he had a modest series, scoring 124 runs at an average of 24.80, not being able to continue his great form from the Tests. The captain Dhoni experienced the opposite, playing well in the one-day games after a disappointing Test series. He scored the most runs of any batsmen from either side, 236, and had the highest average too, 78.66. It was a good series for him with the bat, and, while he didn’t captain his side to a single victory, there’s no denying his hands were tied somewhat with the absence of some key players, which was out of his control. I think it’s very hard to judge the strength of either team on the basis of this series alone; both teams were missing some big players, and all the games were shortened by weather, making comparisons difficult. England may have won, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the better side.
After the ODI series England played two Twenty20 games against the West Indies, a contractual obligation stemming from the ill-fated deal the ECB did with that dodgy Texan billionaire Allen Stanford a few years ago. With Stuart Broad, England’s designated captain in the shortest form of the game, injured, it fell the Graeme Swann to lead the team, which featured a whole host of younger players, many uncapped. In the first match England were magnificent, bowling the West Indies out for a total of just 125, and then chasing the total down without losing a wicket and off just 15 overs and two balls. It was a great team effort, with their sharp fielding also being worthy of mention. But the second match was much less praiseworthy; England restricted the Windies to just 113/5, but a lacklustre display with the bat left them 88 all out off 16.4 overs. They lost four wickets from run-outs, which is pretty inexcusable, especially considering the small target they required. It’s unfortunate that such a successful summer has ended with a defeat, but it serves as a reminder that England can’t afford to rest on their laurels, and that, while they are the number one Test team in the world, and the reigning World Twenty20 champions, they are still beatable.