Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Cricket update

Yesterday, England played their first game of the season against quality opposition, the first match of a three match series against Pakistain, played at Old Trafford in Manchester. This was Michael Vaughan's first game for England as captain. Somewhat perplexingly, Vaughan has been given the captaincy England one day side (for which he has never performed very well as a batsman) but not the test side (for which he has performed brialliantly as a batsman). Okay, I understand why the England selectors have done it (Nasser Hussein has retired from one day cricket, and the one day captaincy has been given to Vaughan as preparation for one day tacking over the full time captaincy role) but I question the move's wisdom (I think Vaughan should be given time to get his game right before being given the captaincy).

In any event, my feelings on the game are mixed. England were unimpressive with the bat, but managed to get back into the game due to some good bowling and fielding, but in the end the fact that they had scored too few runs ultimately prevented them from winning. My verdict on Vaughan's captaincy is somewhat mixed, because in the end he made one of the cardinal errors.

In any event, England got off to an excellent start, scoring 0/45 off 6.5 overs, 1/63 off 9.5, and 2/96 off 14.5, and even 4/152 off 31.4 wasn't terrible, although by that point the had lost a wicket or two too many. However, nobody could go on with a start, their middle order collapsed, and they slumped to 8/169 off 38.5. The last couple of batsmen did the only thing they could, which was grind out the last 10 overs, and England ended up with an inadequate 9/204 off the 50 overs. Flintoff top scored with 39, Solanski got 36, McGrath 33, and Vaughan 27. They needed one or two players to go on with it, but nobody did.

When Pakistan were 0/60 off 17 overs or 1/116 off 30.2, it looked like Pakistan would romp home. However, thanks to good bowling from Anderson, Giles, and a very welcomly back from injury Darren Gough, England managed to get Pakistan to 5/158 and then 8/194. However, Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Sami (who had impressed earlier with the ball - the man can bowl really fast) got Pakistan home with four balls to spare. A narrow win to Pakistan. Despite a good fightback, England were never terribly likely to win. They were about 20 runs short with the bat. Had they got 20 (or even 10) extra runs, they probably would have run.

And what was the mistake? The very inexperienced Rikki Clarke (playing his first match for England) bowled the last over. Even if the situation is desperate and wickets appear needed at once, the best captains manage to keep at least one over from one of their best bowlers for the very end. In practice, it doesn't make a lot of difference if Darren Gough bowls nine overs or ten early on, but it makes an enormous amount of difference if he has one left at the end. Vaughan hasn't quite got this yet.

Two more one day games between England and Pakistan between now and Sunday. Plus, we have the very interesting first test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Updates from me as appropriate.

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