Are England the ultimate flat pitch one-day side?

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Alex Hales (via YouTube)

On June 19, 2018, England took the Australia bowling attack apart as if it were a giant Lego penis and grandma was coming over. The dismantling was rapid, efficient and utterly comprehensive.

They made 481-6, the highest total in the history of one-day internationals.

We strongly disagree with the idea that people want to see more boundaries, but there’s no harm in having the odd one or two of these front leg clearing festivals from time to time – and if they’re held against Australia, so much the better.

Honestly, if you’re tired of Australians being on the receiving end of world record totals, you’re tired of life.


There’s a temptation to almost write off these sorts of totals because they’re so ridiculous, but no matter how flat the pitch and no matter how short the boundaries, this sort of innings requires huge ambition and consistent execution. The Australians gave a sense of how difficult it is to pull off when they batted.

In contrast, England are good at this, in no small part because England are built for this. They’ve been conditioned to start hitting early and to keep on hitting throughout an innings. It is a very specific skill and they are probably as good at it as any one-day side has ever been.

This is in no small part because they tend to field nine, ten or even 11 capable batsmen – a ridiculous number which greatly reduces the consequences of any individual batsman losing his wicket.

They play accordingly. Even if that lower order isn’t ultimately called upon, its presence is liberating. The short tail effectively supercharges the top order.

A flat pitch bowling attack

England also have a bowling attack that is honed for high-scoring matches. This is a thankless and undervalued art and we want to quickly pay tribute to it because it is something that is almost wholly overlooked.

Some days you restrict the opposition to 350 and that is a very good effort – a fact that is currently acknowledged somewhere around zero per cent of the time. (When the batsmen saunter past such a target, everyone gushes about what they’ve done.)

England’s bowlers are at their best when the ball is flying to all parts. It’s counter-intuitive, because all people see are the boundaries, but the bowlers are very, very good at shrugging off the blows while unleashing occasional rapid stiletto stabs.

Bowlers should only be judged against what could have been scored on any given day. If every other side in the world would concede eight an over and you concede seven an over, that is literally match-winning.


A lot of people think that one-day cricket is all about flat pitch mega-totals these days because the only time they pay attention is when there’s a flat pitch mega total. However, two matches before England’s record total, the winnings score was 218-7.

The big concern for England is supposed to be whether their batsmen will be able to adapt on days when runs are likely to be less plentiful, but we’d argue the bowling is a bigger concern.

England’s one-day bowling strategy is all about variety. In recent times they have generally fielded a left-arm swing bowler, a right-arm new ball bowler, a leg-spinner, an off-spinner and a bang-it-in pace bowler. (They have no left-arm swing bowler for the World Cup.)

Variety is ideal when you want to ask the batsmen lots of different questions. It’s less good when conditions favour one particular type of bowling. When that happens in a 50-over game, all you really want to do is ask the exact same question as many times as possible, and that’s much harder to do when you have your eggs in so many different baskets.

If England have a weakness, this is it. This is where they will be beaten.


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  1. I think this also feeds in to why it is so important for England to field first. Sure, on the real roads it doesn’t matter much – England plough a load, and are better at doing that than anyone else, and defend it well because that is what the bowling is programmed to do.

    The biggest chink in this team is setting a total on a wicket where par is somewhere between 200-300. When they chase, they can often get out of jail because they have 10 batsmen (and also the other team can panic and aim for 30 above par in the first innings knowing this). But setting is a problem. It is partly a historical thing, pre 2015 England were so worried about par scores that they would make 245/5 and then realise par was actually 290. Therefore, post 2015 England do the opposite of that by gunning for 320 regardless and to hell with ocassionally being 20/8.

    I can’t see how they don’t make the semis next summer, probably topping the group, and that feels insane to say out loud. But I think the way they play allied with generally more used wickets in the latter stages of tournaments means that they might well need a fair slice of luck to win 2 knockout games

    1. I love everything about that post! KC take a bow. I agree with the statement about England’s variety potentially being their undoing but it’s highly likely Stokes and slightly less likely but still possible that Archer will bowl, I think with Plunkett in the side that might offset the weakness somewhat.

      1. Having Stokes in as a sixth bowler does reduce that weakness a decent amount.

        With four pace bowlers and 2.5 spinners (Root being the half) they can flex to accommodate conditions a little.

  2. You know when England last played Australia at Trent Bridge, and bowled them out before lunch for 60? Well, I was there for that. I recall mentioning that here.

    Anyway, guess what? I was there again yesterday. Clearly my presence acts as a talisman for a mighty England performance, or maybe it is that the Aussies can’t play properly under my stern and forthright gaze. Whatever it is (and it has to be one of these), I’ll be writing to the ECB for free tickets for England Australia matches. They’d be fools not to see the logic in this.

    As for the match, it was all a bit strange. Apparently Stanlake (who I prefer to think of as Stan Lake) topped 90mph in the first over, but that isn’t how it looked. If anything, the Aussie bowlers looked a bit slow. Maybe this was the pitch, but when England were bowling the ball seemed to be hurrying the batsmen a lot more.

    21 sixes, 41 fours, 62 boundaries in all. Twenty-six overs went for 10 or more, nine went for 15 or more. Amazingly, Australia were actually ahead of England till the 14th over. On a flat, do-nothing wicket, the best bowling performances by a mile were from two spinners.

    Did I mention that I was there?

      1. Aren’t you going to ban him for attending the cricket, and then actually mentioning it? This kind of behaviour can only spread if not dealt with quickly

  3. I find myself feeling, alongside the obvious delight and euphoria, an ill defined sense of shame and embarrassment over this result. Am I alone?

    1. Are you sure it’s not just normal everyday latent shame and embarrassment that you’re ascribing to the match for want of an obvious alternative?

      1. The possibility had occurred to me, but your sage words make the transfer of those feelings to simple self loathing inevitable.

  4. There is something to be said of a mindset that 2 years ago we were aghast that England could score 350 in 50 overs and we were purring contentedly, even if they struggled to close out the game with the bowling. Now we’re lamenting (in only the most moderate terms) the “failure” to achieve 500 as if the preceding 23 years of misery had never happened.

    I really hope that the ICC somehow change the playing conditions of ODIs before the next World Cup. Ideally so the teams have to bat carefully and considerately for 50 overs (preferably by conserving wickets for a bit of slapping it around in the final 10) and then rely on fast-medium right handers for the bowling.

  5. Langer has been discussing things:

    I’ve never seen nothing like that today.

    Some may mock this statement, of course, but I think they have missed the point. What Langer was trying to say was that the perfection of England’s batting yesterday is somehow universal, a Platonic archetype of perfection, if you will. Therefore, whenever one sees a horse, for example, insofar as it is in itself a projection of an ideal (perfect) form, it must contain elements of perfection that can only be found in total in England’s ODI team. Hence his accurate statement of never having seen anything that in some way does not approximate yesterday’s innings.

    Also, Australia lost by a short head (Marsh, Stoinis, Finch, etc.) . Did I say I was there?

  6. Not sure if it’s something that has changed on this site or (far more likely) something that has been changed in the firewall settings at work, but I can only get on the main page now at the office, if I try and comment or click through to read comments I get the message ‘the connection to the server was reset while the page was loading’.

    Any suggestions on how I can articulate a ‘pressing business need’ for access to the comments (and therefore get the site whitelisted) would be welcomed…


    Imagine having a terrible bowling day and being hit for the world-record T20 score.

    Then imagine, later that day, being hit for the new world-record T20 score against a different team…

    At least you just achieved two records in one day, which is one more than can be said for the other two teams.

  8. The only thing that would’ve made things better was if any one of the commenters had actually attended the match. Pursuing the Comments Section, I see none did. Which is a shame.

  9. So what you’re saying is that England’s flat track ODI bowling strength is a weakness. On a bowling track they need to pick bowlers like their Test team. And, of course, having so many similar bowlers is a recognised weakness of the Test team so maybe they should start picking their ODI bowlers for Tests.

    1. I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t room for Anderson in the ODI squad, just as a horses-for-courses selection if it’s cloudy or a green wicket. Dude has destroyed sides in the past.

      Of course, the question then becomes “who does he come in for?”. Especially once Woakes is fit.

      1. Problem being of course that it seems the white ball will refuse to move, regardless of conditions

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