England go with a bit of right-arm fast-medium

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Soumya creams a Ball ball (ICC)
Soumya creams a Ball ball (ICC)

‘Will four right-arm fast-medium bowlers be sufficient?’ England apparently asked themselves before the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

‘No, better make it five,” they concluded, for reasons that were clear to no-one.

It was very odd. One of the few things we said about England’s likely strategy for this tournament was that they seemed very keen to field a varied attack. They had a left-arm swing bowler, a leg-spinner, a fast bowler and a finger spinner to offset the inevitable right-arm fast-medium.

So what did they do for the first match of the tournament? They picked five – FIVE – right-arm fast-medium bowlers, binning their left-armer and the leg-spinner who’s been taking all the wickets and playing all the games.

That number of right-arm fast-medium bowlers again: five.

And yes, we have reclassified Mark Wood as fast-medium for this assessment – because once you have four right-arm fast-medium bowlers, 5mph of extra pace really isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest of them.

Much is said about England’s batting line-up. That’s the thing everyone seems to get all het up about, as if 300-plus scores are still some kind of unusual thing that only England have mastered. We’ve regularly heard that the batting is great and the bowling poor – but that’s really not the case.

What people overlook is that England have been putting out a bowling line-up that is shaped to defend large scores. That sounds stupid on the face of it, but it isn’t.

If you’re defending a low score, you need several bowlers ideally suited to the conditions, whereas when runs are there to be had – as they so often are in modern one-day internationals – no type of bowler will be ideally suited to the conditions. In these instances, variety can buy you a crucial advantage.

Worryingly, England started looking a bit fast-medium today.


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  1. Fortunately Woakes made sure they effectively only had four. Good of him. At which point, the extra pace of Wood and Plunkett did make just enough difference.

    Ball was the most right-arm fast-medium of the lot, and was treated as such.

  2. I was furious when I saw that line-up. And not just because I’ve picked Willey in my fantasy side. There’s a decent chance England will make 306 and make the bowling selection irrelevant, but I think it’s highly unlikely that Bangladesh would’ve made that many against England’s strongest attack.

    It’s particularly frustrating because, as you say, it’s near enough impossible to fathom the reasoning behind it. It’s not like the players picked are actually better than those left out, so it’s not as if picking Willey and Rashid would’ve been simply for variety: they’re actually better ODI bowlers than Ball, Plunkett or Wood as well.

  3. Having picked Willey over Ball for the Puerile XI I was just as cross.

    Ball was smacked around painfully today.

  4. Surely the thinking was that the Bangladesh batsmen could tonk a spinner into oblivion whereas they aren’t so run-scoring flash against fast-medium.

    I’d save your anger for later games, if England go into one of those on a pitch like the Oval with the same type of bowling line up again.

    But they won’t.

    1. David Willey’s confidence will doubtless rebound upon reading your words.

  5. Presumably the ICC dropped the use of runners in international cricket because it’s deemed risible, a bit slapstick?

  6. I guess I should have picked Iqbal as my ‘power player’, then.

    The thing about Fantasy Cricket is that, even when things go well, you still feel you’ve made a horrible mistake.

    1. Hang on – I’ve got 20 ‘Group stage transfers’ left? So I should have just picked people who were playing today and then transferred them out for people who are playing tomorrow?

      This format seems to reward the keen and/or competent at the cost of the lazy and/or still asleep.

    2. Precisely our issue with fantasy cricket. It always ends up as some micromanagement tactical transfer operation.

    3. Nope. Joe Root was the ‘power player’ of choice.
      Let’s have a recap of that table.
      Top: me
      Not top: everyone else

      1. I thought there were only 20 teams in the league and didn’t notice the Next 20. Update:
        Top: me
        Not top: 56 other teams.

        I will enjoy reading the other 37 humourous names after my celebratory bestial bacon roll.

      2. I didn’t even have Root in my team, Mike.

        I should’ve picked Rain Stopped Play as my Power Player today….

      3. Inzid going with Ronchi the Wonky Donkey over Tom Latham has scuppered me today.

  7. Well, that was nice and comfortable. Almost a sense of inevitability to it (nothing to do with the batsmen, just that if you’ve got a team with 2 wicket down and 130 to win from 20 overs, its almost a given these days).

    1. Mid Western only scored 181/8 in 50 overs.

      Armed Police must have bowled gun-barrel straight…and when they bat, I expect some of the Armed Police shots to go to the boundary like a tracer-bullet.

    1. “You’ve been Ben Coad.”

      Sounds like a thing. Like being Tangoed.

    1. I can only play the badly mistimed swipe to leg. Suggests the batsman is modelled on a late career Paul Collingwood.

      Still, I keep racking up threes so maybe the badly mistimed swipe to leg has had a bad press.

    2. The bowler really mixes it up. The batsman, less so. We managed one shot into the offside and a handful of sixes, but yes, threes to cow corner are very much one’s bread and butter.

      1. Consecutive filthy long hops/slow bouncers, followed by the spearing, fast yorker – unplayable! I’m consistently too early on the shot, whatever the delivery.

      2. My computer seemed to seize up once I made 50, the frame rate went all funny and nothing seemed to work.

        Insert Alistair Cook/Joe Root joke here.

    3. Try batting with your eyes shut. The sound effects for the ball’s release and bounce are good enough to time the ball. I discovered I could bat better without sight… hit far more sixes for some reason.

  8. In other news…

    …love the idea of Catch 22 watch in Cricket Badger. In particular the idea of issuing the book to every cricketer and then seeing who uses the phrase in the least relevant/appropriate way. The example in this week’s badger is quite a long way down the “but that’s not…” road.

    1. Sometimes they’re so far away from the correct usage that it’s hard to do the comparison in your mind to confirm that they’re wrong.

      1. Indeed, KC. That very thought went through my mind while I was reading your Cricket Badger Catch 22 watch paragraph.

        As for the Major Major reference, Edwardian, I always struggled to take John Major seriously, partly due to that character from Catch 22.

      2. I’m going to dig out the book. I remember that the chapter on Major Major Major Major made me laugh out loud.

  9. Isn’t “England shall field a line-up of right-arm fast-medium bowlers” enshrined in the Laws of Cricket?

  10. Rashid expected to miss out again apparently, with Woakes likely to be replace by Willey OR… let another RFM in Steven Finn.

      1. That would be ideal, but it’s not what Ali Martin from the Guardian is saying.

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