Saturday, June 28, 2003

This is one confusing cricket team

After playing very well to win a series against Pakistan last week, and playing pitifully to lose to Zimbabwe on Thursday, England today took on South Africa at the Oval in south London in the second game of the triangular one day series. South Africa played badly in the World Cup, and we are still trying to figure out how good their side is under new captain Graeme Smith. Smith won the toss and elected to bat, and the England side couldn't really contain the South African batsmen. Jacques Kallis in particular had a good day, scoring a fine 107. Boucher provided good support, scoring 55, and Pollock and Hall scored some quick runs at the end to give South Africa a very good 6/264 off their 50 overs.

This should have been hard for England to chase, but it wasn't. Trescothick (deputising as captain as Vaughan was out injured today) and Vikram Solanski scored exactly 200 for the first wicket (off only 31.6 overs) before Solanski was out for 106, his first century for England. England then lost a couple of quick wickets, but there was never any real danger. Trescothick was then sensibly cautious, and also scored a century, being 114 not out when England scored the winning runs for the loss of four wickets with one ball short of five overs to spare.

What can be said? Obviously it was a good win for England. At this point I have no idea how good England are. Actually, I think they are quite good, but they clearly don't have the mental strength of Australia. They can play well, but can lose focus as they did on Thursday and in the field today, although their batsmen saved them today. They don't have the ability to consciously turn the focus on when it is really needed. Australia can do this, and this is what makes Australia so impressive.

Of course, the other way of looking at it is that England have played five one day games so far this season, and when Trescothick has batted well they have won and when he hasn't they have lost. A cynic might say that in the one day game, they are simply way too dependent on one player.

I don't think this is true, but England need someone else to chip in, particulary on occasions when Trescothick has failed. Solanski was terrific today, but Trescothick was also, and that must have helped. (Still, it is very encouraging to see more players of Indian background coming into the England side. If England are to put good sides on the field in the future, that is where many of the players are going to have to come from). Dare I say it, the full time England one day captain needs to lead by example. When he is back, Vaughan needs runs. In one day cricket, he has not yet done so.

In other cricket, the second test between the West Indies and Sri Lanka continues. (I commented on day one elsewhere. The gist of it was that Fidel Edwards, playing in his first test and only his second first class game, took five wickets and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 208). This morning it looked like the West Indies would make a big score and take control, particularly when they were 0/38. However another inexperienced fast bowler, Ratnayake Nissanka, playing in only his fourth test, took five wickets for Sri Lanka. Aided ably by Muttiah Muralitharan (who took the vital wicket of Lara), the West Indies were bowled out for 191, and the match was back in the balance.

Sri Lanka then needed to bat well in order to set the West Indies a big target. Despite the fall of wicekts, the pitch looked okay to me. Given Lara, Sarwan etc are in the West Indian side, and given that Lara has scored five centuries in his last five matches against Sri Lanka, the larger the total the better.

As it happened though, the wickets continued to fall, this time shared between Collywood, Taylor, and Edwards. At stumps, Sri Lanka were 5/129. Given that Tillakaratne is still there Sri Lanka could make a decent score, but the chances are they won't. My money is on a target of around 200 being set, and the West Indies making it easily, mainly because I don't think Lara is going to fail for the second time in the match. Although, given how wickets have been falling, who really knows? It's a good tight match between two quality sides, and these are good to see.

No comments:

Blog Archive