Lumb makes good on gifted opportunity
If success in sport is largely due to taking chances, Michael Lumb may yet end up a double World Cup winner.
Lumb, who already has a World T20 winners' medal, earned himself a decent chance of gaining a place in England's squad for the World Cup in 2015 with a century on ODI debut in Antigua.
It was an innings that so nearly did not happen. Had a scheduling quirk not persuaded England to select their T20 team for an ODI series, had Alex Hales not pulled out with a thigh strain and had Eoin Morgan not been ruled out with a knee injury, then Lumb would not have played. At 34 years of age, he was England's oldest debutant in this format since Paul Nixon seven years ago. He could have been forgiven for thinking his chance had gone.
But perhaps this was the sort of innings that could only be played by a man who knew he had one opportunity left. Perhaps it was the sort of innings that could only be played by a man who knows he is in danger of being remembered not just for that winners' medal, but for being something of an unfulfilled talent.
To put into perspective what an impressive achievement this innings was, Lumb was just the ninth man from any country to register a century on ODI debut. He becomes just the second England player to do so too following Dennis Amiss, who managed it in 1972. Had any of his colleagues managed to scored more than 44, it would surely have helped England to victory.
That it did not was largely due to some wretched death bowling and some hapless batting. To concede 100 from the final seven overs of West Indies' innings is reflective not just of some marvelously flamboyant batting from Dwayne Bravo, who enjoyed a fine game with bat, ball and as captain, and the typically selfless Darren Sammy, but of some muddled, inexperienced bowling.
The charitable interpretation for England's final 15 overs in the field - 15 overs in which they conceded 157 runs and allowed West Indies to recover from 112 for 4 - is that they were giving opportunities to inexperienced bowlers with a view to the challenges that await in Bangladesh. Certainly there is little other obvious reason for Stuart Broad to prefer Chris Jordan to himself towards the end and little other obvious reason to have not thrown the ball to the vastly experienced Ravi Bopara, playing his 100th ODI, Ben Stokes or even Luke Wright. He did, after all, bowl in that World T20 final.
While Broad later claimed that the plan had been to bowl yorker length outside off stump, Hawk-Eye analysis showed that England actually delivered only one or two yorkers in their entire 50 overs. For all the talk of practicing such deliveries in recent days, there was precious little evidence of improvement. A tally of 11 wides and no-balls, plus the extra deliveries they offer, is unacceptably profligate at this level.
The batting was almost as concerning. While Moeen Ali shaped up nicely with bat and ball before squandering his wicket away with a loose stroke, England's middle-order lacked the composure required to play the sort of innings that Jonathan Trott once made seem so simple that his ability was routinely questioned. Their struggles against Sunil Narine not only underlined what a terrific bowler he is in such conditions but suggested that, in future, West Indies may play more than one spinner. Nor does it bode well for the trial by spin anticipated in the World T20 in Bangladesh. Bopara, for such a talented and experienced player, rarely seems to deliver when the pressure is on.
The shame about all this was that it denied Lumb the support his innings deserved. This is not the first time he has sensed a glimmer of a chance and seized it. In February 2010, representing England Lions against the England side, he impressed to such an extent in scoring an unbeaten 58 to help his team to victory that he was somewhat surprisingly drafted into the World T20 squad. While he never scored more than 33 in the tournament, his positive batting ensured the speedy starts required and played a meaningful part in England's subsequent success.
He has learned to deal with setbacks, too. While his Nottinghamshire team-mate Hales, whose injury may have cost him a rare opportunity, struggled to contain his disappointment after the county refused to allow the pair to appear in the 2013 IPL auction, Lumb knuckled down and accumulated over 1000 Championship runs despite the challenges of a tricky home pitch at Trent Bridge. Such characteristics are greatly valued by this England set-up.
His List A record was modest, however. Nottinghamshire may have won the YB40 trophy, but Lumb passed 50 only once in the campaign and averaged just 24.64. In normal circumstances, his form would not have warranted even consideration for ODI selection.
Nor was this a perfect innings. For his first 20 or so runs, he was comprehensively outplayed by the elegant Moeen and, harsh though it sounds, he might have been expected to see his side home having built such a solid platform.
Quite what England do with him now remains to be seen. In a different era, Lumb might be considered an automatic choice for the 2015 World Cup, which will be in progress at this time next year, but even without Kevin Pietersen the England top-order is a crowded place. Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Trott all have strong claims on the top three positions, while Joe Root and Stokes filled the role without much success in Australia. Moeen, with his offspin perhaps providing an edge in selection meetings, may also be a contender. Hales may yet come into the equation, too.
Certainly Lumb has earned himself an opportunity. But it may be worth reflecting on the example of Kim Barnett who, in 1988, won the Man-of-the-Match award on his ODI debut and never played again. 34-year-olds are not just given few opportunities, they are given fewer chances if they fail.
There were other bright spots for England. The use and bowling of the spinners was intelligent and impressive and Moeen and Lumb's opening stand should have been a match-defining foundation. But unless the death bowling improves rapidly, it is hard to see them challenging in Bangladesh.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo