Champions Trophy September 29, 2009

England's one-day masterplan

For all the high-tech scientific methodologies of 21st-century cricket, England may be establishing a new blueprint for tournament success in the modern hyper-crowded international cricket calendar
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We are so exhausted that we will surely win the Champions Trophy © Getty Images
 
Well, be honest. Did you see that coming from England? If you are claiming that you did, I want to see written proof, verified by an independent third party.

The latest upward surge in England’s wildly fluctuating 2009 has seen them give two outstanding and dominant performances in three days, including a new England record for sixes in a one-day international – 12 (twelve, honestly, twelve) (I saw them all with my own eyes) (albeit on television, so the possibility remains that the entire match was in fact a hoax).

Let’s put this in perspective. The dozen missiles launched by Shah, Morgan and Collingwood into the Centurion stratosphere on Sunday eclipsed England’s previous ODI record of 10 sixes in Napier two winters ago. Let’s put this in further perspective. England hit just eight sixes in the seven-game series against Australia just completed. And let’s now complete the perspective putting − Shah’s six bombs put him second equal on England’s all-time list for ODI aerial boundary blasts (as they will in due course become known to TV audiences); Morgan’s five place him fifth equal.

Once again, following their ultimately successful Ashes blueprint, England have shown that they are never more dangerous than when they have been playing like a bag of pumpkins (nor, worryingly for the rest of the tournament, are they more vulnerable than when they have been on fire). Expectations had been hovering between low and non-existent, even amongst those England fans who had noticed that the tournament was taking place. However, as in the Ashes, they deserve immense credit for rebounding from performances of rare ineptitude for which they were rightly slammed. What a thoroughly odd team.

England thus reach the semi-finals of an international one-day tournament for only the second time in ten attempts since the 1992 World Cup, whilst South Africa depart another event they had looked well-equipped to win, having conceded well over 300 twice in three rusty games.

For all the high-tech scientific methodologies of 21st-century cricket, England may be establishing a new blueprint for tournament success in the modern hyper-crowded international cricket calendar.

1. Ensure that you begin the tournament with your two most important players out injured.

2. Ensure that the remaining players are completely out of form, freshly demoralised after a massive drubbing.

3. Enter the competition with a batting order that habitually crawls along nervously, ineffectively and unexplosively.

4. Back this up with a bowling attack that has lacked penetration and control.

It will be interesting to see whether other teams have the courage to put this plan into practice with quite the same dedication as England.

It has been an interesting enough tournament so far, although lacking a classic match that has gone to the last over, and missing too many of the world’s leading one-day players through injury. With its simple, condensed format, almost every game has mattered, there is no obviously dominant team and even the pretend West Indies team has performed creditably. The entire tournament will take three fewer days than the England-Australia seven-match jeroboam of tedium. And more than a month less than the 2007 World Cup. If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, then (a) my career is in trouble, and (b) it is also the key ingredient in the recipe for interesting 50-over cricket tournaments.

A word too for Anderson and Collingwood. Anderson was expensive, largely ineffective and apparently exhausted in the Australia series, he has taken 6 for 62 from his 19.3 overs against Sri Lanka and South Africa. Collingwood, as generally happens when people start to prematurely question his value, has been at his decisive best.

Both players appear reinvigorated after being rested during the recent 6-1 clobbering. If any further proof were needed that the world cricket calendar is counter-productively, idiotically overloaded – and the case for the prosecution is already struggling to cram all the existing bits of proof into a giant skip to dump outside the courtroom – this is it. International cricketers should not need to be rested. Doing so devalues the concept of international cricket – how can it claim to be the best that nations can pit against each other, when some of the best are too knackered to crawl out of the pavilion?

The authorities responsible are clearly devotees of the foie-gras school of cricket scheduling – the more matches, series, travel and press conferences they can force-ram down the straining gullet of cricket, the tastier the end product will be. Sadly for them, cricketers are not French geese. This is a slippery slope, and there are few signs that the powers that be have any other intention than to shove cricket into a bobsled with no brakes, and kick it down that slope.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jennylee on June 24, 2011, 20:10 GMT

    Glad I've flinaly found something I agree with!

  • ted on October 4, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    surely making sure you dont play australia in a tournment would be your best and easiest bet

  • maximum6 on October 1, 2009, 23:44 GMT

    I like the Champions Trophy. It seems like a good thing compared to 7 match ODI series and the World Cup, the biggest waste of space in cricket since the excellent 1992 one, with its pointless exercise of minnows getting thrashed by the big teams-sorry Ireland,you are the least of offenders. The Champions Trophy is usually to the point and relevant.

  • waterbuffalo on October 1, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    replying to UriGagarin, the first man in space,I stopped watching the game after ponting got out, thought it was a done deal, the pitch was terrible but australia would still stroll in, then I read the next day that pak took it down to the last ball, now the problem is I would rather have faced India than Oz in the final. In 99, we beat them and lost horribly in the final, I fear the same thing will happen again. I hope England will beat the Aussies and it will be 19992 all over again. Come on England! But what are SA doing with their pitches? They should be embarrased, I mean, I love bowling, but 205? What is this, 1982? If SA can't be bothered to host the Champions Trophy it should be held in India every time. They can't even sell out when their own team plays. Stick to football and forget about cricket, SA. Don't waste our time.

  • UriGagarin on September 30, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    Re waterbuffalo : Well the PAK batsmen played like they didn't want to win and then the Ozzies came out to make sure the couldn't lose ,so it looked like it would be a dull quick victory but we actually ended up with a last ball thriller. Which was fantastic . I was wondering whether Pakistan would do something like that - after all NZ have been hit by injuries - actually extending Andy's formula by another number : make sure that any in form players you do have get injured during the course of the series.

    Who would you rather face - a sick NZ or a mercurial England - given that coming second will be at the Wanderers. I'm sure there must have been some of those thoughts going on.

  • polonius948 on September 30, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    "the more matches, series, travel and press conferences they can force-ram down the straining gullet of cricket, the tastier the end product will be. Sadly for them, cricketers are not French geese". Prime Zaltzman.

    Anyone who has a passing interest in world affairs and the satire thereof, but with a distinct cricket flavour to it, I can highly recommend The Bugle, Andy's Times Online podcast with John Oliver.

  • Richard S on September 30, 2009, 12:12 GMT

    I called it, On Mike Holmans blog about the pointlessness of the Champions Trophy. I said I fancied the chances of England becuase the ball was swinging so much. Go and have a look

  • Dheeraj on September 30, 2009, 8:56 GMT

    Very well written Andy. About your formula for success and teams trying it out, I think India did give it a go, but only overdid it. They left out not two but THREE of their key men (Sehwag, Yuvraj & Zaheer), came in with bowling attack that lacked penetration AND WILL, and a batting order that is best described as dominos inviting to be blown away let alone fall. Now I understand why India are in such a miserable position in the tournament. Thanx Andy for helping me solve this puzzle

  • waterbuffalo on September 30, 2009, 7:14 GMT

    I'd like to start off by apologizing for being off-topic, but I figure this is the best blog to be off-topic. Here is how I see it, Andy, may I call you Andy? England losing to NZ complicates matters for India. If Pak wins, they play Eng in the semis, if they lose, NZ, which would you choose? Eng pounded 320 against SA, and they have a good bowling attack and they aren't even missing Prior. NZ are the walking wounded, Bond is great, but honestly, with spin alone Pak can beat NZ. Now, the enmity toward Australia can't be underestimated, even with a new team; it is one thing keeping India out of the semis, it is even better to keep Australia out. I tell you this, if Wasim was captain, I guarantee Pak will lose today, with Younis there is a 20% chance that he will try to actually win. You see the Pakistanis have not forgotten about the ICL/IPL debacle, and the way the BCCI has bullied the PCB for the better part of 4 years. That could work against the Indians, on the other hand, it's OZ.

  • Aby Mathew on September 30, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Oh Comeon, i did predict england could go , on to semifinal, they could even meet australia/pakistan and beet them as well and win the trophy as well. Pity u didnt publish my article last time around. Perhaps u didnt want anyone to contradict ur views. England arent the worst odi team , just have trouble crossing the final hurdle. ( perhaps they need to follow kirstens advice before the game).

  • Jennylee on June 24, 2011, 20:10 GMT

    Glad I've flinaly found something I agree with!

  • ted on October 4, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    surely making sure you dont play australia in a tournment would be your best and easiest bet

  • maximum6 on October 1, 2009, 23:44 GMT

    I like the Champions Trophy. It seems like a good thing compared to 7 match ODI series and the World Cup, the biggest waste of space in cricket since the excellent 1992 one, with its pointless exercise of minnows getting thrashed by the big teams-sorry Ireland,you are the least of offenders. The Champions Trophy is usually to the point and relevant.

  • waterbuffalo on October 1, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    replying to UriGagarin, the first man in space,I stopped watching the game after ponting got out, thought it was a done deal, the pitch was terrible but australia would still stroll in, then I read the next day that pak took it down to the last ball, now the problem is I would rather have faced India than Oz in the final. In 99, we beat them and lost horribly in the final, I fear the same thing will happen again. I hope England will beat the Aussies and it will be 19992 all over again. Come on England! But what are SA doing with their pitches? They should be embarrased, I mean, I love bowling, but 205? What is this, 1982? If SA can't be bothered to host the Champions Trophy it should be held in India every time. They can't even sell out when their own team plays. Stick to football and forget about cricket, SA. Don't waste our time.

  • UriGagarin on September 30, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    Re waterbuffalo : Well the PAK batsmen played like they didn't want to win and then the Ozzies came out to make sure the couldn't lose ,so it looked like it would be a dull quick victory but we actually ended up with a last ball thriller. Which was fantastic . I was wondering whether Pakistan would do something like that - after all NZ have been hit by injuries - actually extending Andy's formula by another number : make sure that any in form players you do have get injured during the course of the series.

    Who would you rather face - a sick NZ or a mercurial England - given that coming second will be at the Wanderers. I'm sure there must have been some of those thoughts going on.

  • polonius948 on September 30, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    "the more matches, series, travel and press conferences they can force-ram down the straining gullet of cricket, the tastier the end product will be. Sadly for them, cricketers are not French geese". Prime Zaltzman.

    Anyone who has a passing interest in world affairs and the satire thereof, but with a distinct cricket flavour to it, I can highly recommend The Bugle, Andy's Times Online podcast with John Oliver.

  • Richard S on September 30, 2009, 12:12 GMT

    I called it, On Mike Holmans blog about the pointlessness of the Champions Trophy. I said I fancied the chances of England becuase the ball was swinging so much. Go and have a look

  • Dheeraj on September 30, 2009, 8:56 GMT

    Very well written Andy. About your formula for success and teams trying it out, I think India did give it a go, but only overdid it. They left out not two but THREE of their key men (Sehwag, Yuvraj & Zaheer), came in with bowling attack that lacked penetration AND WILL, and a batting order that is best described as dominos inviting to be blown away let alone fall. Now I understand why India are in such a miserable position in the tournament. Thanx Andy for helping me solve this puzzle

  • waterbuffalo on September 30, 2009, 7:14 GMT

    I'd like to start off by apologizing for being off-topic, but I figure this is the best blog to be off-topic. Here is how I see it, Andy, may I call you Andy? England losing to NZ complicates matters for India. If Pak wins, they play Eng in the semis, if they lose, NZ, which would you choose? Eng pounded 320 against SA, and they have a good bowling attack and they aren't even missing Prior. NZ are the walking wounded, Bond is great, but honestly, with spin alone Pak can beat NZ. Now, the enmity toward Australia can't be underestimated, even with a new team; it is one thing keeping India out of the semis, it is even better to keep Australia out. I tell you this, if Wasim was captain, I guarantee Pak will lose today, with Younis there is a 20% chance that he will try to actually win. You see the Pakistanis have not forgotten about the ICL/IPL debacle, and the way the BCCI has bullied the PCB for the better part of 4 years. That could work against the Indians, on the other hand, it's OZ.

  • Aby Mathew on September 30, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Oh Comeon, i did predict england could go , on to semifinal, they could even meet australia/pakistan and beet them as well and win the trophy as well. Pity u didnt publish my article last time around. Perhaps u didnt want anyone to contradict ur views. England arent the worst odi team , just have trouble crossing the final hurdle. ( perhaps they need to follow kirstens advice before the game).

  • Sajid on September 30, 2009, 3:53 GMT

    we all keep on forgetting the most beautiful and basic thing about the beauty of cricket!!!!! Did some one ever say that cricket is at its peak with Assaults carried on by Sir Richards or Sachin, or at at the battings of dravids and laxmans, or at that ball of century of Warne,,,or for that matter, mony denying victory to aussies........

    please enjoy cricket and forget those issues created and brought in fashion by commercial interests......

    Amen.......

  • Kit Boyes on September 30, 2009, 2:51 GMT

    Having decanted England's winning formula for a semi final berth, Andy Zaltzman says; "It will be interesting to see whether other teams have the courage to put this plan into practice with quite the same dedication as England." Um...(checks facts 1 through 5)... New Zealand are looking pretty dedicated...

  • Mylord on September 30, 2009, 2:45 GMT

    The kiwi game was a give away - who wants the appealing and annoying lankans in the finals ? send them packing and hope the Indians will also go that way today - It is time England won a trophy for their cabinet.

  • Satyendra on September 29, 2009, 21:34 GMT

    Hi Andy,

    Probably i am the only one person who thought England is going to do well. Infact i had mentioned this to my friend Raghu and we have a friendly bet on it too. This is was before England played their first match.

    I still believe that England can do it..

    -Satya

  • Dani on September 29, 2009, 21:26 GMT

    Brilliant as always Andy. Can't wait for your next installment.

  • Venu on September 29, 2009, 20:49 GMT

    See how top 4 teams are struggling to make it (or have already left) and bottom three, except WI, have easily made it?

    Hence England's master plan is working!

    Are there some cricketing ghosts in RSA, having some fun????

  • Harvey Winston on September 29, 2009, 20:37 GMT

    Don does have a point.

  • Cam on September 29, 2009, 20:21 GMT

    Admit it, England are just emulating NZ. JoeS is right.

    1. Ensure that you begin the tournament with your two most important players out injured. - Ok so Shane Bond is miraculously intact, but Oram never saw daylight, Ryder lasted two games and Tuffey not even that.

    2. Ensure that the remaining players are completely out of form, freshly demoralised after a massive drubbing. - just been smashed twice in tests and twice in ODIs in Sri Lanka, not to mention a 5 wicket loss to Sth Africa in the first game. AND a capitulation to a Sth African state side in a warm up match.

    3. Enter the competition with a batting order that habitually crawls along nervously, ineffectively and unexplosively. - Our openers are ok and our tail is ok, but generally numbers 3 to 7 either behave as described, or go out.

  • kp on September 29, 2009, 20:18 GMT

    come on andy. England are going to win this and prove all of you wrong. keep it up lads

  • GH on September 29, 2009, 20:16 GMT

    Aaah....against New Zealand today it looks as though number 3 comment was appropriate for the English...."a batting order that habitually crawls along nervously, ineffectively and unexplosively".....hahahha

  • K IKram Ul Haq on September 29, 2009, 20:08 GMT

    well england have shown that they can change from game to game...the ODI defeats against australia were payment for getting ricky ponting to accept defeat in tests...the sixes obviously make england a hugely different team...their bowling lineup also seems better and barring Ravi Bopara even Eoin morgan is catching things behind teh stumps...methinks that even swann thinks that he can keep wicket...obviously one cant expect morgan to dive too far...new zealands bowling today was much better even though the entire english team thought that new zealand might be easier opponents if they get to the final...new zealnad however have a jittery batting lineup although shane bond seems to have improved a lot over a few days and even grant elliot troubled the english batsmen..a good outing should be appreciated...

  • Appuhamy on September 29, 2009, 19:02 GMT

    For England' credit I think this is according to their plan to knock dangerous Sri Lanka out of Semi's so they have one less good team to worry about.

  • Special on September 29, 2009, 18:59 GMT

    Good article for sure

  • Zach on September 29, 2009, 18:52 GMT

    I totally agree with Peter Parker's comments. No test matches are scheduled for India from May 09 until atleast Aug 2010, for Sri Lanka from Sep 09 until atleast Aug 2010. I couldn't see beyond that and didn't for other countries. Not a fair indicator I agree but if all 3 formats were evenly spread out, specialists for formats wouldn't have much to complain. The rest should be properly managed and looked after.

    The manager/coach could plan and build a great squad and field the best fit team taking injuries and rotation into consideration.

  • Dr.Frank Silva on September 29, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    Come on England. If ever there was a tactical game and a plan this must beat them all. Super England boys playing like school children against New Zealand. Is that to keep Sri Lanka away from the semi finals. May be not. Mind boggles

  • Don on September 29, 2009, 17:29 GMT

    Lol! why is it as soon as England win more than 1 game articles appear everywhere? Theyre in the middle of being smashed by New Zealand as we speak. Honestly let it go, they are NOT good.

  • Miten on September 29, 2009, 17:15 GMT

    England are indeed the masters of the bell curve - lots of lows followed by this dramatic rise but as if trying to maintain the form - drop just when you start having any expectation ala this game against the Kiwis.

  • syed on September 29, 2009, 16:17 GMT

    You wrote; "What a thoroughly odd team"

    Want to compete with Team Pakistan?

  • lizzyp on September 29, 2009, 16:14 GMT

    Yaaayyyy.... normal service has been resumed. A nice rearguard action (Jimmy A in action again, a la Cardiff) has saved us from total abject failure, but the signs are there - somewhere later today or at the end of the week there will be total humiliation. Again.

  • JoeS on September 29, 2009, 16:12 GMT

    "It will be interesting to see whether other teams have the courage to put this plan into practice with quite the same dedication as England."

    New Zealand have, and it seems to be working well for them so far.

  • Peter Parker on September 29, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    What's wrong with a full international calendar? Teams just need to accept the fact that players will not be able to play every match, and rotate them accordingly. This values having depth in the squad, and adds something to the manager/coach's role. They have to rotate their players while still maintaining the balance of the team. Also, this allows more players exposure to the international game.

  • Fayyaz on September 29, 2009, 16:03 GMT

    Andy: The blue print you have mentioned is not new!!!! Paksitan is using the same blue print since 1992 world cup.

  • MSH on September 29, 2009, 15:38 GMT

    The formula is actually simpler - win the toss, win the match! Bat first at Centurion, bowl first at Wanderers.

  • jogesh99 on September 29, 2009, 15:35 GMT

    Yes i did Andy, and the proof is in the comments section of your last post, so send me an autographed copy of Zaltzman's Rantz first edition asap. God, if it wasn't for you, I would completely give up on 1-day cricket, its so tedious. And an England-Aussie final looms - thats so inviting for a sub-continental like me (dood, if we are 'sub,' what does it make England, that puny little island in the middle of nowhere?).

  • addy on September 29, 2009, 15:20 GMT

    Good article but after 3 days of magic now england are starting to play like england again.I dont think they can reach the final after they face teams like pak or aussies .Hope they suprise me

  • Martin Rogers on September 29, 2009, 14:54 GMT

    on the subject of rest and quality, to bloomin right mate

  • Rashid on September 29, 2009, 14:53 GMT

    Add to the list: Schedule a "nobody wants" 7 match ODI series against AUS before a major tournament.

  • Ahmad on September 29, 2009, 14:51 GMT

    LoL, great article mate. I am impressed by the logic. I've not followed the Australia v England series more than just checking the margin of the drubbing so I didn't know Anderson just came off a rest period. I guess teh teams playing less cricket are the teams actually performing...barring South Africa. Pakistan has had very little cricket as well but we are enjoying what we have on show. Good work.

  • Abul Hasan Jafri on September 29, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    Excellent. I love Andy's sense of humour. He is my favourite writer on Cricinfo. I look forward to more of the same in the future. Keep up the good work.

  • AS on September 29, 2009, 12:37 GMT

    Good article. But the main question that needs to be answered is - Have England got enough in them to go all the way? Although they have started off the campaign incredibly - albeit against all odds - Do they have enough in them to finish it all off in style? They will have to be ruthless if they are dreaming of world dominance in one day cricket. Strauss' leadership has been excellent and the bits and blob players are somehow standing up to the pressures of international cricket. This side reminds me a lot of the NZ sides in the past during the Chris Cairns, Chris Harris & Dion Nash days - but with a better variety of bowling at their disposal. A better English side (atleast on paper) snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against a not so strong Windies side a couple of Champions Trophy ago. Does this side have the confidence to go a step further? Time will only tell!

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  • AS on September 29, 2009, 12:37 GMT

    Good article. But the main question that needs to be answered is - Have England got enough in them to go all the way? Although they have started off the campaign incredibly - albeit against all odds - Do they have enough in them to finish it all off in style? They will have to be ruthless if they are dreaming of world dominance in one day cricket. Strauss' leadership has been excellent and the bits and blob players are somehow standing up to the pressures of international cricket. This side reminds me a lot of the NZ sides in the past during the Chris Cairns, Chris Harris & Dion Nash days - but with a better variety of bowling at their disposal. A better English side (atleast on paper) snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against a not so strong Windies side a couple of Champions Trophy ago. Does this side have the confidence to go a step further? Time will only tell!

  • Abul Hasan Jafri on September 29, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    Excellent. I love Andy's sense of humour. He is my favourite writer on Cricinfo. I look forward to more of the same in the future. Keep up the good work.

  • Ahmad on September 29, 2009, 14:51 GMT

    LoL, great article mate. I am impressed by the logic. I've not followed the Australia v England series more than just checking the margin of the drubbing so I didn't know Anderson just came off a rest period. I guess teh teams playing less cricket are the teams actually performing...barring South Africa. Pakistan has had very little cricket as well but we are enjoying what we have on show. Good work.

  • Rashid on September 29, 2009, 14:53 GMT

    Add to the list: Schedule a "nobody wants" 7 match ODI series against AUS before a major tournament.

  • Martin Rogers on September 29, 2009, 14:54 GMT

    on the subject of rest and quality, to bloomin right mate

  • addy on September 29, 2009, 15:20 GMT

    Good article but after 3 days of magic now england are starting to play like england again.I dont think they can reach the final after they face teams like pak or aussies .Hope they suprise me

  • jogesh99 on September 29, 2009, 15:35 GMT

    Yes i did Andy, and the proof is in the comments section of your last post, so send me an autographed copy of Zaltzman's Rantz first edition asap. God, if it wasn't for you, I would completely give up on 1-day cricket, its so tedious. And an England-Aussie final looms - thats so inviting for a sub-continental like me (dood, if we are 'sub,' what does it make England, that puny little island in the middle of nowhere?).

  • MSH on September 29, 2009, 15:38 GMT

    The formula is actually simpler - win the toss, win the match! Bat first at Centurion, bowl first at Wanderers.

  • Fayyaz on September 29, 2009, 16:03 GMT

    Andy: The blue print you have mentioned is not new!!!! Paksitan is using the same blue print since 1992 world cup.

  • Peter Parker on September 29, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    What's wrong with a full international calendar? Teams just need to accept the fact that players will not be able to play every match, and rotate them accordingly. This values having depth in the squad, and adds something to the manager/coach's role. They have to rotate their players while still maintaining the balance of the team. Also, this allows more players exposure to the international game.