Monday, 3 June 2019

Match six

England's first game looked pretty one sided on the scorecard but it felt anything but for most of the day.  However the next three matches were totally one sided; Australia crushed Afghanistan, New Zealand mashed Sri Lanka and West Indies thrashed Pakistan.  Game five was a bit better, Bangladesh set a good target and South Africa couldn't chase it down to leave them 0/2.  Once upon a time Bangladesh beating a major team would have been a shock but no more, they do it too often...

So today and the sixth match against Pakistan who we've already beaten five times this summer, what could possibly go wrong?  Their bowling line up looks much stronger with the inclusion of Riaz and the cheat Amir.  England win the toss and elect to field, by the time I settled in front of the TV the match was well underway and Pakistan were cruising with Imam and Fakar going well.  Cue Moeen Ali who comes on to bowl with a tight and testing spell that accounts for both openers.

I had a busy morning so took TMS with me but I didn't like what I heard.  England were missing crucial chances, like Hafeez badly dropped before he'd got started who then went on to top score with 84.  Unlike the first match England's fielding was sloppy and we were leaking runs that we shouldn't.  By the time I got home the innings was wrapping up, Pakistan finished on 348-8, a very good score but not beyond this England team in normal circumstances but this is the World cup with extra pressure.  We're going to have to bat well.

Once again the opposition opens with a spinner and once again it works, this time it's Jason Roy who departs but not before crunching a couple of fours.  Root comes to the wicket and together with Bairstow a partnership forms and the scoreboard ticks over nicely, things start to look relaxed... Until Bairstow edges to the keeper with the score on 60.  Two down and things are not looking good.

After being dropped at Slip Root goes on and makes the batting look easy but at the other end part time spinners are making hay, both Morgan and Stokes fall to poor shots without causing Pakistan too much discomfort.  At 118-4 off 21.2 overs Pakistan are well on top.  I have a sinking feeling, it's hard to see England winning from here.

Then comes the partnership of the day between Root and Buttler who both make the game look easy and the feeling of despair starts to slip away.  There's some cracking shots, some great running and a bit of luck, the runs come quickly and crucially the wickets remain intact.  Both batsmen pass fifty and keep going.  Strangely instead of feeling more relaxed I can feel my nerves building again, bit by bit I'm becoming a gibbering wreck.  There's still a long way to go, still a lot that can go wrong and every ball seems to be taking me closer to the next disaster.  The partnership passes 100 and still I feel impending doom.  Not even Root reaching his century can ease the tension!  Then he gets out for 107 and it seems my premonition has come true, we still need 101 to win!  We need another partnership!

Mo comes in and he looks terrible, he should have been out twice and he can't get the ball off the square but somehow he sticks in with Buttler who looks sublime!  On 99 he hits his 76th ball for four!  The celebration is muted, he knows he still has a job to do.  But he's out next ball and any hope slips away.  I'm no longer nervous, it would take something very special for us to win from here now.

Woakes comes in and is hitting the ball well, somehow he and Ali put a partnership together but the required run rate is climbing...  Ali still looks shocking and it's almost a relief when he gets out but when Woakes falls to the following ball our last glimmer of hope has gone.  England finish the fifty overs 15 runs short at 334-9.

So what went wrong?  Firstly Pakistan batted well but England would feel that they should have kept them down to a lower total.  Secondly Pakistan's revamped attack was pretty good too but three of England's top five got out to piss poor shots.  Jason Roy had a crap day but he'll come good another time. It was definitely the best game of the tournament so far but that doesn't stop me from feeling gutted. That's ODI cricket for you, on their day, any team can come good and win against the odds as opposed to test cricket where over the course of a series the best team will win.

Back in 1992 the sixth game saw the hosts Australia lose for the second time, thrashed by nine wickets at the SCG by South Africa who were playing their first ever one day international.  I was at the match, high up in the Brewongle stand, discretely cheering for the Saffers.  Elsewhere New Zealand won their second game and West Indies thrashed Pakistan...  Oh and while I remember after twelve completed innings in the current tournament we've already had five scores in excess of 300 and I'm sure there will be a whole lot more.

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