England and Pakistan are warming up for the World Cup. In the third match of the series, Pakistan batted first.
They started off scoring at a run a ball, then picked it up to almost seven an over through the middle phase of their innings, then lifted that again to 9.4 an over for the final ten overs.
“What a beautifully-paced innings,” said someone who still doesn’t get it.
“Well that was a massively inefficient way of going about things,” said England.
England’s view is that if you’re scoring 9.4 an over at the end, then it’s clearly an eight-or-nine-an-over pitch. If you’re not scoring at that rate from the start, you’re basically pissing away runs.
One-day cricket in England is increasingly a game of ensuring you fully cash in with the bat. In the last four years, the average run-rate has been over a run a ball.
A run-a-ball is par.
It’s not enough to cash in. You have to fully cash in. You have to cash in more than the other guys do. That’s the game now.
England start hitting early and they keep on hitting throughout their innings. It is a very specific skill and they are probably as good at it as any one-day side has ever been. They are built for it. Whether they actually make use of their all-rounders or not, the long batting line-up effectively supercharges the top order.
They also have another key and hugely undervalued ingredient, which is a bowling attack that doesn’t generally become dispirited when the opposition appear to be taking them to the cleaners.
Bowling in one-day cricket involves a great many trips to the cleaners, but just because you’re familiar with the route, it doesn’t mean you have to stride to your destination willingly. You can still put up a struggle.
They get a bad rap, England’s one-day bowlers, but this is largely because of ingrained perception. People think 350 is always a spectacular score and that the bowlers who have surrendered such a total have, by definition, performed dreadfully.
This is not true. Sometimes 350 is a spectacular score, but sometimes it’s a normal score. Sometimes – and it seems a bit mad to type this – but sometimes it’s not actually a particularly good score at all.
England often play on pitches where the only real impediment to run-scoring is your own ambition. On days like that, maybe conceding seven an over’s good. Maybe it’s match-winning.
England’s bowlers are good because they usually find a way. They change the angle, they change the length, they change the pace and usually someone or other gets a wicket.
And when they don’t, they just do what they can do. They try and turn the sixes into fours, and the fours into twos, and the twos into singles. No-one’s ever going to give them any real credit for this when their bat-wielding team-mates are having such unignorably obvious fun. But it matters. It matters a lot.
England’s bowlers are very good at a job that no-one properly values.