September 11, 2010

Mike Holmans

When mediocre was good enough

Mike Holmans
Steve Davies led England's aggressive innings with 87 from 67 deliveries, England v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Chester-le-Street, September 10 2010
Steve Davies starred in England's ODI win over Pakistan  © Getty Images
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It was a relief to have an ordinary game of 50-over cricket on Friday. (All right, 41-over cricket, but you know what I mean.) Neither England nor Pakistan played particularly well or particularly badly, and the team which played a little better than their opponents ran out the winners. That the winners were England was not very surprising: they've become a very good one-day team over the last 12 months, and the present Pakistan squad are probably only capable of being a good team rather than a very good one.

The absence of the alleged spot-fixers clearly weakens Pakistan's playing strength, though it goes a long way towards re-establishing their moral strength, especially with Shahid Afridi as their leader. All the gossip points to his having absolutely clean hands with regard to shady dealings with bookmakers, which is unsurprising given that shadiness has never been one of his characteristics: here is a man who cheats extravagantly in public, whether it be eating the ball or dancing in the middle of the wicket, so it seems very unlikely that he would waste his time committing crimes without an audience.

He was unable to work any leadership magic on the shell-shocked team for the Twenty20s, which were appalling games of cricket as a result: Pakistan were physically present but their minds were obviously elsewhere. But with the suspected villains on their way home and the news reporters congregating at Heathrow rather than Chester-le-Street, they managed to get round to concentrating on cricket and played tolerably well.

I'm not sure why anyone other than the authorities would be scrutinising these games for evidence of corruption: even illegal bookmakers know when to lie low, and I can't believe any player would be stupid enough to try anything with the spotlight on full glare. (Not that I have any high estimation of international cricketers' intelligence when Kevin Pietersen and Dimitri Mascarenhas have been exemplifying the “twit” in Twitter.)

But you'd have to be extraordinarily suspicious to find anything amiss with Friday's game. There were certainly fumbles and dropped catches by both sides, some batsmen got out to silly shots and some bowlers delivered some rubbish balls, but the same players also usually managed something approaching excellence on other plays. The no-balls were mainly by England, and Stuart Broad's irritation with being called was all too obvious, as is so often the case with England's nominee for Obnoxious Cricketer of the Year, an award which ICC should establish as soon as possible.

The game actually turned on one duel: Steve Davies had an exceptionally good game, largely because he was able to take full toll of Umar Gul having a very bad one. Gul was bowling the lengths and lines which have been very effective for him against most batsmen, but he didn't seem to notice that Davies is about as likely to come forward when batting as he is to volunteer to have his eyes poked with sharp sticks, and thus served up a menu which was entirely to Davies' taste.

Other than those two, though, what we got was ordinariness. In other circumstances, one might well complain about the flaws in both sides's performances, but on this occasion it was comforting to see little more than decency speckled with evidence of normal human frailty. It could quite easily have been a mid-season game between mid-table counties.

We can certainly hope that the remaining matches will be better exhibitions of international-class cricket, but Friday's routine mediocrity was just the sedative the game of cricket needed.

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Posted by hasan on (September 21, 2010, 22:20 GMT)

Broad JUST A LOUD MOUTH TRYING 2 EMULATE SIR IAN BOTHAM,HAV HIS MOUTH BUT NO PERFORMANCE TO BACK IT UP!

Posted by Azfar Imam on (September 20, 2010, 21:19 GMT)

How many 50 over World Cup has England have won ever before. None Pakistan has one Australia in 1992.Go Australia in Ashes. 5-0 Australia wins at home.

Posted by KD on (September 19, 2010, 21:39 GMT)

Those supporting Pakistan, do a reality check....this is a team of proven cheats, with people involved in drug abuse, ball biting, ball tampering and finally match fixing. England have beaten Aussies recently and Pakistan in tests even with their so called "talented" bowlers at the helm...So please dont point to conspiracy theories, because this English side is better than current Pakistani team anyday..Also the fact that it has to be Pakistan whenever their is talk of match fixing goes to show the value of ethics and fair play in the team...a reflection of culture may be

Posted by aafe on (September 19, 2010, 6:19 GMT)

Well why not England wins many matches, as they are playing not only eleven players but a whole media behind and sometimes helped by the elite ICC umpires like Doctrov and Hair. If English players delivered no balls, why don't they come under suspicion, simple because they want to get rid of lethal Amir & Asif and now these decent Englishmen are playing very great cricket. How England loose a match from 201/5 to 218/10 (no-one questions?) still Pakistanis are culprits. Still Pakistan with all their negatives are displaying some better cricket. What a shameful approach this is, You can't produce bowlers like Amir and Asif and you can't afford them to play for Pakistan.

Posted by Unanimous on (September 17, 2010, 10:59 GMT)

He is no longer Boom Boom Afridi but is Ball Biting Afridi>

Posted by unanimous on (September 17, 2010, 10:58 GMT)

Afridi is no longer Bom Bom Afridi but he is Ball Biting Afridi. The passion he seems to display is to hide his shortcomming. In short he makes more noise than play. He trys to keep his competitor team mates away . He is a misfit to captain Pakistan in the world cup next year.Why not try some other senior player as captain

Posted by Mohammad Asad on (September 14, 2010, 14:42 GMT)

Mohammad Asad from USA......

I am a cricket lover..and a good fan of Pak Cricket !! though I am Bangladeshi.... I guess England is the most balanced team in the world cricket now. They are getting so many wins on after another - over confidence !!! and that's why we have seen some lackness in the game.................. Afridi & Co. are trying to overcome the crisis / and on the re-organizing phase; focussing next WC... Losing Amir is a big blow to their attack..no doubt about it. But Pak have talents..they have to pick from young talents!!

Posted by Rick Massey on (September 11, 2010, 18:39 GMT)

Well said. This game fell well short of the spectacular. Good. At least it wasn't a staged event. No Hollywood here. Perhaps both sides were taking a respite, just playing for the joy of the game. Pakistan are regrouping. England are officially world-class (this admission from an Aussie)and have nothing to prove. As to your comment about Broad - was it Nasser who called him 'an angry young man'? I suppose Broad was absent the day they taught humility. But, hey, I'm old school; a dinosaur. As to Afridi, I used to think he was just another high-strung Pakistani cricketer - one of the debatable qualities that have made them so good to watch. I believe now he has a great passion for the game, which is there for all to see. I like him. As for cheating, I think that cheats look to perform their nefarious activities in a covert, rather than overt fashion. Afridi's just a likeable nutter. You don't cheat so that everyone sees you doing it. That's called having a brain fart.

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