ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

England v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai

The life of the party lives another day

Not having England at the business end of the tournament would just not be right. The World Cup needs them nearly as much as they need it

Sambit Bal in Chennai

March 17, 2011

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Ravi Bopara struck twice with his medium pace, England v West Indies, World Cup, Group B, March 17, 2011
It was a game for the outsiders, with Ravi Bopara's medium pace proving crucial to the cause © Getty Images

England are still alive in the World Cup, and just as well. Schizophrenic and never short of thrills, they have been the life of this tournament. Fittingly, they produced another flawed performance, yet inspirational and resilient, to ensure that they won't be boarding the flight home tomorrow morning. They have spent an eternity on the road so far this winter, but not having them at the business end of the tournament would just not be right. The World Cup needs them nearly as much as they need it.

If anything, England have displayed a near-miraculous ability to calibrate their game to the relative strengths of their opponents. But today they found an opponent more truant than them, and just as England had blown their previous match as much as Bangladesh had won it, today the West Indians lost it as much as England snatched it from them.

Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, and a vital member of the English troupe not so long ago, spoke almost enviously about the resilience in the opposition camp which kept them in the quarter-final reckoning. The 18-run margin may look huge in a relatively low-scoring game, but on the field, it was almost as tight as Jonathan's Trott's disputed catch on the long-on boundary - a massive moment which was, after inconclusive replays, called a six.

That was the sort of moment that could have crushed England. West Indies were less than 40 runs away from their target with Ramnaresh Sarwan and Andre Russell, playing only in his second ODI and batting like a braveheart, having added 54 for the seventh wicket. Russell's dismissal would have left them 204 for 7 with no more batting to follow. Instead they jumped to 210 for 6. With a catch having gone down in the outfield earlier, England would have been excused for imagining divine injustice.

But instead they regrouped. The field closed in. One more man was brought in to the circle. James Tredwell, a county veteran but World Cup rookie, who had kept England in the game with three wickets in his first four overs, replaced Graeme Swann and produced a tight over that yielded only a run. Ravi Bopara then chugged through another tidy over that was only ruined by a fortuitous squeeze from Sarwan that ran away to third man for four. But clearly the incident of that catch seemed to have unnerved the West Indians more than the English.

Till then, the West Indian batsmen had played boldly and adventurously; more adventurously perhaps than the occasion demanded. It looked fitful and desperate, but it was working. Nine sixes had been clouted, and Russell alone had hit three, each a clean blow over the straight field. But suddenly, with the knowledge that victory, now in their grasp, could have slipped with that catch on the boundary, they grew fidgety and edgy. And England had the men to prey on their nerves.

With four balls remaining in his tenth over, Tredwell went round the wicket to pin Russell on the crease. And back for his final over, Swann got a ball kick up to Sarwan and a forward short-leg had been posted to accept the inside-edge. Sulieman Benn survived a close lbw, but Kemar Roach went to a feeble loft to mid-off, and finally, Benn charged down for a desperate second to be run out by a yard.

By then England had already recovered from a middle-order collapse of 4 for 40 to post a score that could be defended, before weathering an early blitz from Chris Gayle, who clubbed the quick bowlers so ferociously that England, who opened with Swann, had spin at both ends by the seventh over.

But the moves that would prove decisive were made before the toss. In some ways, England's hands were forced by circumstance, having lost first Stuart Broad and then Ajmal Shahzad to injury. But instead of trusting the experience of James Anderson and Paul Collingwood England plumped for Tredwell and Luke Wright. It was a gamble because as Andrew Strauss admitted, as composed on the field as he is before the cameras, the new players may have come in mentally fresh, but they also did so without match practice, and in Tredwell's case, not a single wicket at ODI level.

But as was the case with Devendra Bishoo, the little Guyanese legspinner whom West Indies chose to blood, this was a match for the outsiders. Wright, who has spent most of his time in this World Cup as a substitute fielder, played perhaps the most important role of his stop-start international career to save the English innings from imploding. The West Indians made it easier for him by switching to their lesser bowlers when England were under the cosh, and by dropping their intensity on the field, but Wright batted intelligently, building gradually and then taking boundaries when opportunities came to swing his arms.

England haven't been the best team in the World Cup. In fact, a theoretical chance still exists - if Bangladesh beat South Africa and West Indies bounce back to beat India - that they could still be eliminated before the quarter-finals. But unlike some of the more fancied teams in this tournament, they are yet to lose to a top side, and with Bangladesh and Ireland out of their way, who knows how far they can go.

But for the moment, let's be grateful that they are still there, keeping the World Cup throbbing and turning. Are they really the new Pakistan, as Swann suggested immediately after the win? Who would have ever said that about an English side?

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 25 
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Posted by vinod on (March 19, 2011, 8:49 GMT)

I totally agree with Madanmohan. All the readers who comment on cricinfo are particularly hash against England. They have done a fantastic job by beating the supposedly favourites SA , and keeping India (hot favourites of many) at bay. They did well to beat the Windies and I am sure that whoever will be their opponent, they will win the Q/f

Posted by sankalp on (March 18, 2011, 21:06 GMT)

Group B standings after tomorrow: 1) South Africa 2) India 3) England 4) West Indies

Given Group A, quarterfinals look really exciting!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 18, 2011, 18:57 GMT)

For all sore losers-)) The big teams in Group B lost or almost lost( India) to Eng this WC so please stop this moaning about why Eng won or why someone lost- who gives a damn? The champions get the trophy and who cares whether you think they deserve it or not? Eng have beaten the fav of this cup SA and almost beat India the other fav so why should they not get this WC? Good luck lions, your resilience and scrapping spirit is a whole lot better than individual brilliance and is what will win the crunch games - you have shown so already and am sure you will go all the way!!!!! GO LIONS!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 18, 2011, 12:06 GMT)

Sorry England it's matter of time for you to return home. Actually had WI play more sensible cricket you would have been on the big bird going back home right now. When the time was right for WI to take the power play they did not with the score below 30 runs had the power play been taken then that would sealed a perfect victory for the WI. Imagine WI lost the match without even trying to take the power play which would be to their advantage.

Posted by Simon on (March 18, 2011, 11:32 GMT)

The Windies must be kicking themselves for not selecting a certain S. Chanderpaul for this game. Fair play to Russell, he played well for a youngster.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 18, 2011, 9:17 GMT)

Well hard to digest but thats precisely wats happening ....England has shown more unpredictability which seems bizzare by even Pakistans standards , while pak is following the stale , dull path upto the quarters which hithertofore england has been all famous for .....Lets see if pak can get jealous and reclaim their position / status by actually winning against Aus by a huge margin : )

Posted by Andrew on (March 18, 2011, 7:38 GMT)

Awesome from England but they still need to relook the squad! Bopara and Bell need to step up or get out.... give another batsman a turn to prove his worth

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 18, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

luck of the champions ...any1...?? sumthing tells me that England will go all the way this time

Posted by vinod on (March 18, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

It was a game for the outsiders, exactly. since Bishoo and Bopara who were not in the originally announced squads of their respective countries excelled with the ball. Nothing much was expected of Tredwell, but he delivered at the right time at the right instance. Luke Wright was never given a chance to play and the only opportunity he got he used to hold English innings together. As Nasser Hussain was talking to Darren Sammy during the presentation, I also believe that using the off-spinners of Gayle would have made a huge difference. Tremlett was far from his best and Bresnan also had an off day. Looking at the success of Bopara, Trott and Bell could also be handy yesterday. The five overs bowled by Tremlett should have been shared by these two top order batsman. Anyway England has given a new dimension to ODIs, losing to relative minnows, (Ireland & Bangladesh) beating heavyweights like SA and WI and giving a top fight to the most favoured India

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 18, 2011, 6:03 GMT)

WI are a talented side but they lack the commitment and fighting spirit of England.Hence they lost a match that they should have won.

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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