England vs Pakistan Third ODI – The Final Over of the Day
Ball One – Haris Sohail flunks out
So much white ball cricket concerns concentration and details. England were slightly slow in the first few overs of the match, a misfield or two and Third Man beaten on the inside by an edge (unforgivable in my book – and Duncan Fletcher’s) betraying a whiff of complacency that was swiftly banished. Pakistan, on the other hand, had looked good before a piece of schoolboy running from Haris Sohail gifted his wicket to the hosts when well set. Rather like the last advice to give to kids doing their exams just now “Always read the question”, “Always run the bat in” feels too obvious to say. But it’s not.
Ball Two – Are Pakistan not too sixy for their shirts
Imam-ul-Haq crossed 100 before he hit his first six in a beautifully judged innings without which Pakistan would have been a rather sorry state, almost half the runs his with 12 overs to go. One wonders about the balance of the Pakistan batting on flat pitches with two new white balls to flay. Do Pakistan have enough weight of shot if Fakhar Zaman goes early? Maximums obviously tick the scoreboard along at a higher rate, but also pin boundary riders to the sponge, opening up opportunities to turn ones into twos, the temptation for fielders to creep in less seductive if you think one’s going over your head.
Ball Three – Denly hidden for most of Pakistan’s innings
England selected Joe Denly (at least in part) to see what he could do with the ball. Like many a wrist spinner, he struggled to land them in his first over, but was then hooked by Eoin Morgan ne’er to be seen again. It would have been a risk to bowl him nay longer, but plenty of Morgan’s other options were going the distance, so the extra runs conceded would have been mitigated. Of course, Morgan may have wished to avoid damaging Denly’s confidence, but seventh into the attack with just six deliveries to show your skills isn’t exactly something that promotes pushing out your chest when the World Cup rolls into town.
Ball Four – Jason Roy: the King of the Swingers
England’s weight of shot is really extraordinary, three huge sixes in the first ten overs and many drives, cuts and pulls played at a full-blooded 10 (sometimes they do give the impression of going to 11, especially Jason Roy). It is, perhaps, this element of the game that England have improved more than any other in the years since the last World Cup’s meekest of exits. Some of that change is the result of practice, some the result of selection and some the result of a freeing up in attitudes towards failure. It’s a revolution and a very rare example of England cricket leaving the rest of the world to catch up.
Ball Five – Nonpareils
At the first drinks break in England’s
assault innings, this table showed that of 122 openers to have scored 1000 runs in ODI cricket, the first and second names in the “highest strike rate” metric belong to the two men we were privileged to be watching. The game is moving on.
(Thanks to Rob Smyth for that gem).
Ball Six – Cricket,
but not as we know it
England’s approach with the bat has eschewed much of the fancy-dannery that can come unstuck on shirtfront pitches. Essentially, England play classical strokes, but hit the ball extremely hard. Without reverses, ramps and slogs, the visceral thrill of seeing a ball fly in the air is supplemented by an appreciation of the aesthetics of batting. T20 hitting can take on an aspect of baseball, but, at Bristol, England were definitely playing cricket.