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There was a rumour that England had ‘solved’ one-day cricket

Ben Stokes finds a gap in the field directly above him (screengrab via ICC)

Ben Stokes finds a gap in the field directly above him (screengrab via ICC)

Not the case. It was perhaps true that they’d solved modern one-day cricket… but then they came up against Pakistan.

As we said the other day, Pakistan don’t care what year it is. They don’t care how other people are approaching one-day cricket these days, they just do their own thing. Pakistan’s thing is ‘bowling sides out for just over 200’.

England’s thing, by contrast, is buying wickets. They like inflation. With both bat and ball, they splash runs about with abandon and never really worry about the cost.

In the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, the purse strings tightened and England discovered that they had lost the ability to sniff out bargains.

The home team dropped 118 runs on Pakistan’s first wicket alone. Regardless of the opposition’s reputation for providing easily affordable wickets, from that point on they were only ever heading for bankruptcy.

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If Jason Roy is “due” what will happen to all those runs he saved up?

Jason Roy edges two cricket balls (ECB via Twitter video)

Jason Roy edges two cricket balls (ECB via Twitter video)

Just because someone’s due, it doesn’t mean anything’s actually going to happen any time soon. Trust us on this.

Referring to Jason Roy, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur alluded to the concept of dueness, saying: “We had a discussion in the bus this morning. I was particularly worried that Roy hadn’t fired yet because I think he’s very close to something quite good.”

Arthur went on to question Jonny Bairstow’s credentials as an opener, so it seems fair to assume that the opposition are in favour of England naming an unchanged side. Such is the nature of pre-match bullshittery.

Eoin Morgan deployed all of the ifs in his armoury when floating the possibility that England might make the change. They all paled in significance beside the fact that he was entertaining the prospect at all though.

If someone’s a marginal selection, standard practice is to talk them up and bolster them. Failure to do so rather implies that the decision has been made.

Assuming Bairstow plays, what happens to the great stockpile of runs that Roy has been painstakingly hoarding now?

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Pakistan don’t care what year it is

Hasan Ali dismisses Suranga Lakmal (via ICC)

Hasan Ali dismisses Suranga Lakmal (via ICC)

“300-plus scores? No, thank you. We’ll just persist with our old approach of bowling the opposition out for slightly less than our own low score, if that’s all right with you.”

Pakistan held South Africa to 219-8 off 50 overs. Sri Lanka managed a whopping 236 all out against them. Pakistan being Pakistan, the latter was almost enough.

But it wasn’t enough.

Pakistan – supposedly the most crisis-raddled of all the sides – swan into the semi-finals like a swan that’s decided to walk even though it has a broken leg.

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Australia suffer forestation

Mark Wood bowling some fella with a full bunger (via ICC)

Mark Wood bowling some fella with a full bunger (via ICC)

That’s our way of saying they were Wooded.

We wrote about the benefits of having Adil Rashid in your side a couple of days ago. Mark Wood offers something similar.

Remember how the middle over used to be? It was like the batsmen saw everything in high-definition and everything moved smoothly and predictably.

Wood and Rashid make it more like you’re watching a shonky internet stream. Everything’s jerky and irritating and every time you settle, there’s another bout of buffering. Eventually you lose your rag and clog a full toss to cover.

They weren’t the only ones to successfully derail an innings either. Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan thought he’d take wickets with his first two balls and then just kind of carried on from there.

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Why Shakib-al-Hasan is just about the finest shoe we’ve ever owned

Shakib al Hasan doing some smiting (via ICC)

Shakib al Hasan doing some smiting (via ICC)

Sometimes you buy a pair of shoes and it’s only after the first prolonged wear that they reveal their true feelings towards you. The sides rub, the soles feel like they’re made out of wood and the uppers are so rigid that they actually gouge into your ankle.

‘Accursed footwear!’ you think – and you resolve never to buy clogs again.

Other times, you buy a pair of shoes and they love you more and more with every passing day. They mould to your feet. They give, they accommodate, they love. They become the shoe equivalent of Golden Boy.

This is kind of how we feel about Shakib-al-Hasan. We chose to make an early investment and he just keeps on paying us back, like a debtor addicted to forget-me-nows.

Yesterday, Bangladesh were 33-4 chasing New Zealand’s 266. They were, to almost all observers, already beaten. Shakib then made a hundred and so did the team’s mononymous former number eight, Mahmudullah and Bangladesh won.

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Sri Lanka force Virat Kohli to use the other knife

Knives (CC licensed by David Harris via Flickr)

Knives (CC licensed by David Harris via Flickr)

Imagine you have a good knife and a really shitty knife. You regularly use both, but the shitty one’s kind of shitty. It can cope with cheese and maybe a courgette, but you’d never risk it on an onion or something like that.

One day you want to slice a tomato. Tomato slicing is not a task you entrust to a shitty knife. That’s how you lose a finger. So you pick up the good knife, you position it on the tomato and apply pressure.

You’ve done it a thousand times before, it’s always worked perfectly, but on this occasion the blade fails to penetrate the skin. Instead it slips back towards your hand and gouges into your fingers. ‘Brilliant,’ you think. ‘The good knife’s gone all shitty. What the hell am I supposed to do now?’

There’s nothing you can do. You set what was once the good knife aside (because for some completely inexplicable reason you’ve never invested in a nice whetstone, so it’s basically blunt forever) and you instead grasp the shitty knife. The shitty knife has just been reinstated as the best knife.

You then proceed to mash the tomato to useless pulp.

Point is, from time to time you’re going to find yourself in a position where something that you routinely rely on suddenly lets you down and you end up having to use the back-up thing as the main thing.

This is what happened when Sri Lanka doled out the hammery to Ravindra Jadeja.

Jadeja went for 52 runs in six overs and Virat Kohli was left thinking: “Wait… what?” – or something along those lines.

He was then forced to make the exact opposite bowling change to the one he’s been conditioned to execute whenever he’s been confronted with an instance of bowler hammery in the past. Instead of bringing Jadeja on, he took Jadeja off.

So what happened? Well, Jadeja had become father to a baby girl earlier in the day. Even if the skiver didn’t show up for the debilitatingly intense bit, that kind of a thing can seriously blunt a man for pretty much the whole of the rest of the day.

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England are taking swigs of Adil Rashid again and it’s made them a better team

ICC

ICC

England are also through to the semi-finals. A handful of percussive mid-sized innings and some hearty bowling were enough to dispatch New Zealand.

Jason Roy was still there, continuing his ill-advised experiments with flips and flicks, and Adil Rashid was back. England’s template was therefore pretty much back in place after a brief reversion to darker days for that Bangladesh match.

The home team don’t necessarily expect great things from their batsmen. They really just hope that at least a couple of them will come good and that the rest don’t waste too much time.

Roy is at least fulfilling the second part of that – although with the forced and unforced absences of Chris Woakes and David Willey having grown the team an actual tail, they won’t want too many others to join him. We do however suspect that should Roy revert to trying to hit the ball in front of him, all will be well.

For his part, Rashid gave the team stumpings off wides. A lot of England fans remain suspicious of this kind of thing, but when batsmen find life predictable and predictable is enough that they’ll be able to chase down your score, you need to make things unpredictable.

The range of possibilities when the ball leaves Rashid’s hand is great. And if for some reason Eoin Morgan were to feel that this were disadvantageous on any given occasion, he could always bowl someone else.

Better to have the hip flask in the desk drawer and not quaff from it than to find yourself enduring a difficult day at the office with no perfectly healthy liquid coping mechanism at your disposal – that’s what we always say/slur.

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British Weather through to semi-finals of Champions Trophy

rainy-3

After a dominant performance against Australia/New Zealand and a narrow victory over Australia/Bangladesh, the British Weather has booked itself a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.

After displaying dreadful, relentlessly sunny form throughout May, UK meteorologists were left fearing that their side would be knocked out during the group stages. But there’s a reason why bookies fear the UK climate and it has pulled two magnificent performances out of the bag to move through to the last four with games to spare.

As so often, the hero in the match against Australia/Bangladesh was Regular Outbreaks of Rain. As the required run-rate dropped, it steadily imposed itself on the game until the result was in no doubt.

With Heavy Cloud Cover and Bad Light set to perform alongside each other in the semi-final after being unavailable for this day-night game, the British Weather will have high hopes of making the final, no matter who it comes up against.

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Video: Yuvraj Singh goes nuts against Pakistan

It’s nice to see that Yuvraj Singh’s nuts-at-the-end-going capabilities are largely undiminished because going nuts at the end has always been very much his thing.

For their part, Pakistan’s end-nutsiness is largely irrelevant these days because they can’t reliably manoeuvre themselves into a position where it would be appropriate to deploy the long handle.

As an England fan, we can offer hope that there may one day be an end to the familiar ill-timed run-outs and forlorn trying-to-raise-the-run-rate catches in the deep. Don’t ask us when though. All we’re willing to say is that it could happen.

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India and Pakistan resolve to fulfil fixture obligation despite Abdul Razzaq’s retirement

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

The cliché is that cricket is a religion in India, which has always seemed to us to greatly overstate the importance of religion in a country where such things are basically ten a paise.

Pakistan’s pretty keen on the sport too. It’s good to find things you have in common.

As an outsider, matches between these two teams are a delight. They’re shorn of the tension borne of having any real preference who wins and yet are riddled with zillions of reminders that what is happening is A Big Deal.

And the fixtures are so rare too. You can’t often say that about international cricket.

If we’re to go digging for a cloud beyond this lovely silver lining – which of course we are – it comes in the form of team selection. No Stuart Binny for India and quite inexplicably no Azhar Mahmood or Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan.

The latter (again) announced his retirement from international cricket two days ago, which must rank as a particularly magnificent effort even by Pakistani standards.

The show goes on though. Our in-depth preview is that India have the better recent record but Pakistan have been in Birmingham for slightly longer, which surely must count for something.

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