March 18, 2011

Mike Holmans

England win over West Indies a huge relief

Mike Holmans
England celebrate a narrow win, England v West Indies, World Cup, Group B, March 17, 2011
England continued to thrill with their narrow win over the West Indies, but their fans would appreciate the occasional sedate march to victory  © Getty Images
Enlarge

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping - so that's what I did.

As far as I was concerned, England's 243 would not be enough and when Chris Gayle smashed Tim Bresnan's first over for 18, it all looked pretty inevitable. Gayle is usually one of my favourite batsmen to watch, but this time I wasn't in the mood. Had it been an ODI in a bilateral series, I could happily have sat back and wallowed in some extravagant strokeplay, but watching him hammering nails into the coffin of England's World Cup was just going to be too painful. I wandered out to buy food for dinner and have a relaxing cup of coffee.

When I got home and checked the score on ESPNcricinfo, it was 204/6, which was still hopeless for England. I opened another tab and caught up on the news. Then I noticed that the score had flicked round to 223/9, which made it bearable to turn on the TV and watch the end. Knowing the result made it essential to watch the highlights later on to find out how the drama had unfolded.

What a relief! It's not that I care too much about the World Cup - to me, and to a large number of other England fans, retaining the Ashes was far more important than winning a one-day tournament, however prestigious – but I still don't want England eliminated embarrassingly. I generally like seeing Bangladesh do well, but on this occasion I think I can be excused for hoping that South Africa thrash them and put English qualification beyond doubt. After all the tensions of England's actual matches, the last thing I need is to be on tenterhooks all weekend waiting on India beating West Indies.

At least the management have rid themselves of their superstition about the need for Jimmy Anderson's run-leaking and have acknowledged that Paul Collingwood's form has been left down the back of his sofa at home. I'm also pleased that they have seen sense and stopped believing in Michael Yardy as a second spinner: Yardy is a very useful cricketer whose slow-medium bowling works quite well in T20, but he is not worth ten overs in the longer format.

England have a pleasantly large pool of quality bowlers, which made replacing Anderson easy. Collingwood's bowling has always been extremely handy, though, and Strauss has hitherto shown little confidence in Ravi Bopara as a fifth/sixth bowler. This was a tougher decision, but when Bopara removed Darren Sammy he probably inked his name on the team sheet for some time to come.

Whether these personnel changes will bring any more consistency to the team's performance remains unknown. The only constant so far, to my chagrin, has been Jonathan Trott, whom I nominated a while back as my least favourite England player.

I suppose his lengthy stays at the crease have had the saving grace that they have afforded me the opportunity to refine my dislike. At least he acknowledges the shorter format by being not quite as meticulous with his crease excavations, but now I know why I wish he were someone else.

I don't have a problem with his strike rate. His job is to keep the runs ticking over while he acts as an anchor, a job which Rahul Dravid did with considerable success for India. Dravid was frequently blamed for India losing an ODI, the contention being that he was putting too much pressure on the other batsmen – once memorably described as “using up all the hot water” and adopted as group-speak ever after - which always pained me because I am a big fan of his. That I dislike Trott should not prevent me allowing him the same latitude, and it does not.

One may well feel after his regulation half-century that it would be better if he had scored another ten in the time he had at the crease, but criticising his strike rate is rather like criticising a driver who keeps to the speed limit. If the team's game plan revolves around a reliable backbone, then it's the rest of the batsmen whose job is to hit the big shots, and you can't blame the anchor for them not fulfilling their part of the bargain any more than one can blame Graeme Swann for not bowling more maidens if the pace bowlers foul up.

I now know that what irks me about Trott is that he plays everything possible, and quite a bit of the improbable, into the leg side. There are fine strokes to the leg: the on-drive and hook can be magnificent. But they are played with the batsman standing tall while Trott hunches his shoulders over the ball for the nudge, the push and the nurdle. It's undeniably effective and he is very successful with it, but attractive it isn't.

In the grand scheme of things, this is no more significant than my detestation of parsnips or a feeling that the Mission Impossible movies would have been better with Johnny Depp instead of Tom Cruise, and I shall be very happy if Trott crabs his way to a match-winning hundred in the World Cup final. Just don't ask me to enjoy it.

RSS Feeds: Mike Holmans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shermaine on (December 23, 2011, 22:46 GMT)

A really good aneswr, full of rationality!

Posted by Dan on (March 21, 2011, 16:43 GMT)

"The facts of the matter is that England is rarely able to play good ODI cricket and against stronger sides when the going gets tough they are found wanting more often then not!"

That's a top piece of analysis. At this tournament England have beaten with little India and seen off the minnows from SA and WI while they have lost to the giants of Ireland and Bangladesh.

Posted by Sancho on (March 21, 2011, 14:50 GMT)

It is a sad commentary on the state of the English cricket fan (and indeed on English cricket) that a bilateral test series is given more importance than the world cup. The Ashes were great- and certainly winning them was fabulous. But unfortunately for English cricket - that seems to be the only thing important to the fan, the English media and who knows, maybe even the English cricketer! It is surprising to see that their win in the 20-20 World cup (a world cup) got almost no prominence whereas an Ashes win (in 2005) got the entire team OBEs. If England wants to get anywhere big in the world of cricket they needs to move beyond their Ashes obsession. They have won 3 of the last 4 Ashes - they need to put their sights on a bigger stage now.

Posted by Sohaib on (March 20, 2011, 15:51 GMT)

Its getting a really boring and predictable excuse by English fans & writers about England's chances of winning the Cup by saying that the team has ashes fatigue and anyway they don't care about it enough compare to Ashes ! Well folks keep your ashes for yourselves, the rest of the cricketing world do care a lot for the World cup including your Ashes rivals Australia, maybe not as much as Ashes but they care for it atleast !

The facts of the matter is that England is rarely able to play good ODI cricket and against stronger sides when the going gets tough they are found wanting more often then not! So stop giving excuses !!!

[Mike: I'm not making excuses for the team. I'm merely saying that from my personal point of view, I won't be particularly disappointed if England don't win the World Cup.]

Posted by Girish on (March 20, 2011, 15:22 GMT)

Perhaps you should suggest that England not play the world cup at all, since Ashes is all you care about.

Posted by rocky on (March 19, 2011, 17:30 GMT)

You certainly do not seem to be an england supporter Forget Ashes man the win was amazing but tats history nobody gives a damn about it at the moment.....england have the best bowling attack though a dent has been made by broad's absence..stuart broad and jimmy anderson are probably the most lethal combination on a swinging track....faith in anderson by ECB is justified no qualms if he gets hit coz he is a wicket taker...Trott has a 50+ average and his strike rate in this WC is just amazing too....bevan batting wasn't beautiful to watch either but there is no player walking on god's green earth who could match his finishing abilities under trying circumstances....so give the guys a break if their batting is not the mirror image of text book perfection coz they are here to win the WC not the best batting stance contest!

Posted by Talha Amanullah on (March 19, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

So what your saying is that you love England yet have little confidence in them that you cant bear to have a hope that they might pull out a rabbit out of the hat??? For goodness sakes, if the past matches have shown us anything is that England can make a match outta anything! So next time, suck it up, be a man, and watch the match! I myself am a huge England fan, but know that the ashes isnt everything...thats the difference between Aussies and Poms, and why the Aussies have been dominant for so long, they wanna win everything no matter what, not just the ashes. And as for Jonnathon Trott, he knows himself hes not an attractive player, neither was Allan Border, but they get the job done and thats what matters...id rather see a nitty gritty 50 by trott than a beautiful 25 by Ian Bell because in the end, the scorecards and results dont say, AH, HE PLAYED WELL BUT WASNT BEAUTIFUL, or IAN BELL WAS IN GREAT TOUCH BUT COULDNT GO ON..NO, its says who wins and who loses and thats what matters

Comments have now been closed for this article