England are a team utterly without breadth

England are a limited batting side. Most of the players have plenty of shots and they’re seemingly limited to a style of play where they use them all.

This article isn’t going to be a paean to the blocker. It’s about a lack of flexibility; a lack of range. England are a side whose ‘brand of cricket’ is incredibly narrow and this makes for a team who look great on their day, but who don’t enjoy all that many days.

England were asked to bat for two days. They failed to bat two sessions. If they’d instead fallen just one ball short, the match result may have been exactly the same, but at least there’d have been signs that their cricket had some breadth.

There was no shame in failing to secure a draw through their second innings efforts, but here was an opportunity to show that a different style of cricket was within their capabilities. What they instead showed was their sole dimension with searing clarity.

Lights flashed, klaxons sounded, aeroplanes trailing coloured smoke wrote ‘this is what we’re shit at‘ in the sky.

The mistake is to see the rearguard as a distinct style of cricket rather than an extended spell of a style of play that is a key part of everyday Test cricket.

On this occasion, England needed to spend two days avoiding high-risk shots, identifying dangerous deliveries and coming up with ways to nullify them. On another day, they might need to adopt a similar methodology for a shorter period, against one particular bowler, or for one particular spell.

Sometimes things aren’t in your favour and all you can do is try and improve your odds enough that you’ve a chance of surviving until something changes. A two-day assignment is deflating and dull, but it is also a magnificent opportunity to hone this kind of decision-making.

England were bowled out for 133 in 44.2 overs and the only guy who got past 30 was the one guy who didn’t really need to worry about this facet of the game anyway. The longer they’d batted, the less time they would have wasted.

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22 Appeals

  1. I’m not quite sure I buy this narrative that they’re all reckless cowboys teeing off at the first sign of trouble.

    Moeen, Bairstow and Broad played stupid irresponsible shots. The rest were bowled out by a very good SA performance.

    Ok you can argue about the techniques of Ballance & Jennings. But it’s not like they were dancing down the pitch and aiming over cow corner.

    Let’s not get carried away. It’s 1-1.

    • King Cricket

      July 17, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      It’s not necessarily just about being reckless. It’s about finding a way – a different way. For example, Ballance is still back on his stumps, regardless of the situation or the bowler. We’re not inclined to the view that this is always a terrible thing – but sometimes it is.

      And are you honestly telling us that when Cook’s out in these situations, you don’t just assume that’s it for England? We do, and that’s a pretty damning indictment in itself.

      • Yes, absolutely. I just think the media is overreacting a bit. Agnew is losing the plot, saying it was the worst collapse he’s ever seen and calling them ‘champagne cricketers’.

        A few years ago England were being slammed for going into their shells when battling to save a match (see Adelaide 2006). Everyone said they need to put pressure back on the bowlers. This is right. Continue to play positively. Just don’t hit it to the fielders.

      • King Cricket

        July 17, 2017 at 10:37 pm

        Think everyone’s just a bit irritated because the second innings fold is very much a thing for England.

        158, 236, 195 and 207 in the four losses to India; 164 in the match they lost to Bangladesh.

        Even the 253 in the defeat to Pakistan was the kind of innings where you feel like they’ve added it up wrong. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/913647.html

      • @Sam: my favourite video of an exasperated Aggers losing the plot … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlQu9gSyWKA

  2. This (not being able to bat for a draw) is not an England problem, this is an international cricket problem. Sure one can point to a couple of SA blockathons in the recent past, but I’m willing to bet good money that any other team wouldn’t have fared much better.

    • King Cricket

      July 18, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Without disagreeing, England strike us as being particularly inflexible and particularly poor at second innings batting regardless of the specific aim.

  3. The thing that annoys is that they seem to give off this air that this kind of thing is somehow beneath them. I’m sure that’s not how they feel, but it’s how it looks to a lot of people. And they seem unable to read and adapt to match/pitch conditions.

    It comes across as an ego thing – we are too good to be dominated even for a short period. Hmm, not really.


  4. Tense finish to the Women’s Semi-Final, No 10 batter hitting a 4 from the antepenultimate ball (and the first she had faced) to win it.

    (Insert South Africa choke in Semi-Final again reference, but in an ironic way, yeah?)

    • They didn’t come anywhere close to choking. Before the tourney I’m willing to reckon nobody gave them a chance. They’re easily the least wealthy women’s team of the semi-finalists. They looked out of it at the halfway stage, both in the match and in England’s innings. And they pushed England almost all the way there.

      …but yep, South Africa, major tourney, so obviously they choked right?

      (NB Not for a moment implying that you actually believe it, Herr Webster. Others will.)

  5. Hmmm…

    … oh go on then. Given that KC is himself such a stickler for correct English, I am compelled to be a pedantic “doos” and highlight a grammatical error in his third para above: to wit, the mistaken application of the modal auxiliary *may (present)/might (past)*. Admittedly this is a very very VERY common error these days, and for some reason is particularly favoured by professional journalists, but… I didn’t expect to read it here.

    Now, as for the cricket… I agree with whoever it was (erm… think it was a guy onTalksport, plays cricket himself at club level – Andy Jacobs?) who said today that the most worrying element in all this was Rooooooot’s utter disbelief at being “betrayed” by Michael Vaughan. The latter said nothing unreasonable, and nothing that most of us watching – between our fingers – weren’t already thinking; it really does seem as if, having finally dragged their ODI team into the modern era, England are now mentally incapable of playing any other way. The match was really lost in the first innings, and yes, the Saffers bowled very well, but… really? – those batsmen could not possibly have played those bowlers better than they did? This is supposed to be a wonderfully deep batting line-up; Philander is a clever bowler but hardly all that quick, and Morris would not even be in the test squad, never mind the playing XI were it not for injuries and defections etc. It must have been *possible* to play better – they just didn’t. And yes, the end result is that it looks as if they didn’t even try.

    I mean, Moeen Ali… seriously… I can only assume he didn’t even notice the trap which had been set. In his mind that ball must have been heading straight to the boundary, rather than straight down the throat of the fielder placed at square leg (earlier in the same over) for precisely that shot: that’s an attitudinal problem, not a technical flaw. (Bairstow is the one everyone was talking about, but Graeme Swann made a very good case on TMS for that dismissal being brought about by the very tight bowling leading up to it: when JB was finally presented with a ball to hit, it was just a reflex to hit it, but that wasn’t because the batsman was only looking to play aggressively. So yes, that’s an example of a really well-executed bowling plan. Mooen fell right into a very obvious trap at the very first time of asking.)


    • King Cricket

      July 19, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Should actually have been a “would”.

    • Yes – it was a bit odd that they couldn’t seem to fathom why everyone thought they’d come across as completely reckless. Which game were they watching?!

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