Thursday, 30 May 2019

Match One.

So here we are, it's taken four years to get here then it sneaks up in a rush, the first day and first match of the world cup, England vs South Africa from the Oval.  It's a 10:30 start but I remember ahead of time and what's more I have managed to conquer technology and get the TMS commentary to come out of my phone!  

South Africa won the toss and decided to field opening the bowling with Leggy Imran Tahir??  Jason Roy takes a single from the first ball of the tournament and Johnny Bairstow edges the second into the keepers gloves!!  Oh fuck it's 1-1  A nervous dread takes me over, my thinking has been all about England and I've forgotten that South Africa are a seriously good team, this will not be easy.  First game nerves and home team pressure, oh shit!!

But it's okay, Root and Roy calmly do what they do and the runs start to tick over.  Both batsmen pass fifty and the partnership is over a hundred.  This is easy now, back to normal England ODI procedure...  But then both set batsmen get out within a few balls and oh no, panic stations again 'We can't lose the opener, we can't!  But if we do it's only one game and South Africa are a good team...'

By now Morgan and Stokes are at the wicket and once again the runs are flowing and my nerves are slipping away again.  Morgan gets to fifty and they raise the century partnership from here we should kick on...  But Morgan gets out and Buttler doesn't hang around long either 247-5 and I actually feel sick!  South Africa have some control now but Stokes stays in and top scores with 89 and with our strong tail around him the score reaches 311-8.

My first thought is will 311 be enough?  What?  It's ridiculous to think this but I've become so used to England scoring 350+ and teams coming close.  At any other World cup this would be considered a brilliant score and likely to be a match winner but the game has changed.  As I mentioned the last time the World cup used this format was in 1992 in Australia and New Zealand.  This is interesting to me as I was in Australia at the time and watched a few matches.  In that tournament the score of 300 was passed only twice and these were in the same game.  In the third match of the competition Zimbabwe posted 312 with 115 from Andy Flower but Sri Lanka chased this down with seven wickets and four balls to spare.  But here and now in 2019 will 311 be enough?  And WHY DO I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT ODI ALL OF A SUDDEN?

South Africa bat, England open with Woakes and Archer but the Saffers look comfortable, that is until Archer hits Amla on the grill with a quick bouncer and he has to leave the field.  The same bowler strikes soon after taking two wickets to leave South Africa 44-2 with the captain gone and I'm breathing easier.  However while De Kock is at the crease there is still a chance and the nerves are beginning to build but when he hits Plunkett towards the boundary and is caught by Root then I can breathe once more.  A couple more wickets fall in quick succession; Duminy plays the kind of dumb shot he's well known for and Pretorious runs himself out (No not Oscar, you should go to hell for thinking that), at last I can enjoy watching a certain England win.

Amla returns to the crease and with Phehlukwayo swinging the bat I'm starting to think something extraordinary could happen.  I was right but it wasn't an Amla masterpiece it was a brilliant catch on the boundary by Stokes, taken one handed, running backwards, with both feet off the ground.  I was literally struck dumb, no words.  It is definitely the best outfield catch I've ever seen, the unlucky batsmen being Phehlukwayo, (thank you cut and paste Phehlukwayo, Phehlukwayo).  That left the score at 180-7 and now the game was as good as over.  Stokes came on to bowl and of course he took the last two wickets, South Africa bowled out for 207 in 39.5 overs.

So 311 was enough...  England bowled and fielded brilliantly and looked a really good team.  This was a clinical, brutal, crushing defeat of a good team.  England really could win this competition, on this form they will be unstoppable.

Back in 1992 the tournament started with the twin hosts playing each other in Auckland with the Kiwis coming out on top.  On the same day England scored 236/9 in Perth with 91 from Robin Smith.  In reply India made 227 and were bowled out in the last over, Dermot Reeve took 3/38 and Ian Botham was man of the match.  Somewhere I have a diary which will tell me where I watched this match but I'm buggered if I can remember where it is but I have a foggy memory of a rainy day in Sydney, listening to the radio in the flat...

Image result for Cricket World cup 1992

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