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Alastair Cook stroked his magnificent jawline and could not believe the manner in which England had lost a game that was theirs for the taking
June 23, 2013
Cook stroked his magnificent superhero jawline as the Indians danced and screamed. The whites around his eyes were even more noticeable than usual. It was a look of confusion and defeat.
Maybe he was thinking back to the good old days when Ishant Sharma couldn't hit the pitch.
Because every ball from that moment on was an attack on English pride.
Ishant Sharma's slower ball started it. There have been Ishant Sharma slower balls that have ended up in fields surrounding cricket grounds. Somehow Eoin mongrelled his to midwicket. Eoin Morgan. The Eoin Morgan. Out with a chase in hand, but not won.
Ravi Bopara stood at the wicket complaining about the height of his ball for a second or two. This was Ravi's tournament, his bowling, his slogging and his ball-polishing skills. He had it all. He also had the timing and placement to hook the ball straight to R Ashwin at square leg.
Tim Bresnan has the sort of dependable face you can feel comfortable looking at in a crisis. Finally England scored another run as Bresnan sliced away a ball to third man. The refuge of the lucky man.
Now Ravi Jadeja was on: MS Dhoni's toy-sized Chuck Norris. Dhoni gave him a slip. He'd struck mad, crazy, genius, accidental luck with Sharma's wickets, but now he was hungry.
Bresnan scored a single off his hip.
It brought Buttler on strike, the back-up Morgan. The man who finishes games for Somerset. Buttler can make 19 in 11 balls look like a Sunday stretch on a sun lounger.
Instead he missed a ball by a distance. Jadeja hit the stumps. England had scored two runs in five balls. Buttler saw a ball in his arc, he tried to destroy it. It got him first.
Broad was now in, he started by hitting the ball straight to cover. There was no run. He ran anyway, then he dived, and almost ripped his shoulder out of his socket only to look up and see that Jadeja had taken the ball in front of the stumps and not even worried about the run out. It was as if he'd know there would be more chances.
The next ball would have three.
Ball 18.4 of the innings was a cricket representation of choking. Jadeja darted it in. Bresnan almost swept himself off his feet. India went up for the LBW. Bresnan panicked and left his crease. Tucker gave the lbw not out. Bresnan stopped. Broad kept running. Then Bresnan slipped. Rohit Sharma ran him out.
All it needed was an actual banana skin.
If India wanted to know exactly what was going through England's head, they'd seen an exact recreation. Had England won the game from that moment onwards, India would not have been able to look anyone in the eyes again.
Tredwell, the man least likely to save the woman from the oncoming train, was now slogging wildly, almost getting run out, and adding one run to the total.
Broad timed a ball, the first one timed since Ravi's hook, but hit it so well that a second run was not possible. Not that they didn't flirt with a run out. At this stage the running between the wickets could have only been more dangerous if they'd done it on fire.
Somehow England had played the previous ten balls so badly that they'd actually taken the pressure off themselves. They choked so hard they'd made themselves the plucky outsiders who could provide an upset.
Broad eyed up the field and decided that he would just try and hit Ashwin as hard as his arms can swing. His arms probably can't swing that hard, but hey, this is Stuart Broad, he was born for this. Instead he missed, Dhoni took off the bails, and then when Rod Tucker hesitated on the third umpire, stared him down until he did it. For the second time we had a stumping that everyone was 100% sure they knew the answer too, and then Oxenford pressed the random generator and Broad was saved.
Hitting Ashwin on this pitch was like trying to pick the eyes out of a cheetah with BBQ tongs. So it was nice that Ashwin gave England their one big chance, and took the pitch out of the equation and Broad swept it for four.
Now every single person in the world who was watching the cricket knew that Stuart Broad was going to sweep. Dhoni brought in mid off, sent out the square leg. Hitting Ashwin over mid off on a pitch like this for a left hander would take a robot with alien technology. England had a sweeping bowling allrounder who'd faced four balls. Ashwin went short, Broad clunked it, took one.
Tredwell again. There is no casting agent in the world that would ever pick Tredwell for this moment. Not against Ashwin. How would he get his bat anywhere this master tweaker? Well he'd do it as Ashwin dropped short, and Tredwell used every single fibre of his character to force the ball beyond mid off. In a not too distant past, the Indian fielder would have been slow. He would have dived over it. He wouldn't have dived in the first place. Instead Rohit Sharma chased that ball like it was his inheritance. He was Jonty Rhodes, Ricky Ponting, Trevor Penney and Clive Lloyd. The imagined four became two.
Now Tredwell had to hit a six off the man who in 3.5 overs had bowled a maiden, taken two wickets and had given away only 15 runs. Tredwell, the everyman. Frumpy. Plain. Limited. No Graeme Swann. Up against the might of India. Saving his country from the embarrassment they so richly deserved. Winning their first ever ICC 50 tournament with one big swing.
Never was a hero so unlikely. Never was a play and miss so likely.
You don't send James Tredwell out to take down a superpower.
India, superpower. Redux.
It was never supposed to be like this. Eoin Morgan was supposed to ice the game with a six over midwicket and an angry smile as Ravi Bopara jumped on him like a victorious elf God. There was to be no choke. No panic. No calamity. No loss.
Instead of being used in photos of the champions, Cook's jawline was cast as little more than a quick cutaway or a scratching post as he pondered how the hell England lost that game.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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