Shock after shock after shock:
I’m thoroughly enjoying the super 10 stage of this World Cup, it’s the most exciting I can remember for a long time.
Why? In the first match, hosts and favourites India restricted dark horses New Zealand to 126 from their 20 overs. It was expected to be an easy chase, especially as New Zealand had left out 2 or 3 of their front line bowlers. What India didn’t factor in was New Zealand’s spin trio of McCullum, Santner and Sodhi. India were skittled for just 79. The tournament had started with a bang, India losing, chasing a small total, on a spinning track.
The very next day, Chris Gayle made England look very average with one of the best centuries you will ever see. The Windies chased down 182 with the best part of two overs remaining. As an Englishman it was frustrating to watch, but for the rest of the world it was majestic. I’ve said it before, and heard it said millions of times, a strong West Indies means a strong cricket.
It got better. New Zealand won a close match with rivals Australia before South Africa swatted a poor English bowling display for 229. It was the sixth highest T20 score in history, and included three quick fire 50’s from De Kock, Amla and Duminy. South Africa lost.
In a World Cup where India couldn’t chase 126, England raced to 229 with an over remaining. The 230th run came up 4 balls later and England, led by Joe Root and Jason Roy, had pulled off one of the greatest victories of all time.
A few weeks ago I compared this England side to the one, which went to the last World Cup in India. At that one, England pulled off a shock victory by defending 171. There’s something about India and playing South Africa that allows England to play out of their skins!
The woes of pace:
Talking about England, a little needs to be said on team selection.
Side: Roy, Hales, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Stokes, Ali, Rashid, Willey, Jordan, Topley
On the bench: Billings, Vince, Dawson, Plunkett
With scores of 182 and 230, there obviously isn’t a lot wrong with that batting line up. Roy and Hales can get England off to a flier, Root and Morgan are our best batters against spin and that’ll allow Butter and Stokes to explode at the end.
The problem is our bowling. Those batting scores are great, but the fact we’ve lost one and narrowly won the second suggests we have serious problems in the bowling department. Chris Jordan had a decent match in the first, but got taken for 49 in just two overs against South Africa. Willey’s economy rates are 11 and 10, Topley’s are 10.15 and 16.5 while Stokes’ are 14 and 11.5. In good news, Ali and Rashid are bowling well!
There’s no question that one or two of our pace men need to be rested for the next match against Afghanistan. For me, it’s Jordan and Topley. There’s talk that Jordan is in the side for his yorkers and death bowling, however none of that was evident against South Africa. The other is Willey or Topley, I’d go with Topley because Willey with the new ball is getting some swing and looks more dangerous.
Who comes in? I think Plunkett has to. He has more pace and bounce than any of our bowlers and usually does well when playing for England. The second replacement is more difficult. I like the idea of going to five bowlers, there will be less of a “someone else will bowl well” attitude, and plus Vince and Billings are good young batters who deserve a chance on the world stage. However, that’s not what I’m going to recommend. Instead, I think Dawson should come in. Liam Dawson is a 26-year-old spinning all-rounder who can offer an extra option with the ball while strengthening the batting at the same time.
At some point this summer I hope to outline a plan for a three-tier test championship as well as taking a look at how the planned changes to the county championship will affect the county system.