Time was, your ‘finisher’ batted at six in one-dayers. Then it was seven. Today, Australia had a man who now averages 53 in 50-over internationals batting at nine. It worked out okay for them.
The last wicket partnership
At 244-9, Australia were some way from victory, but James Faulkner engineered a win by hitting 69 off 47 balls. For four balls of the over, he blocked or hit sixes and then he looked for a single off one of the next two. He found that single four overs in a row, allowing him to monopolise the strike such that his batting partner, Clint McKay, faced just nine balls out of 33 – even though he was blocking everything.
Credit where it’s due or was it England’s fault?
Well, it was a bit of a masterclass from Faulkner in how to chase down a steep total accompanied by the tail, but it was also a bit of a noviceclass in how to prevent someone from doing that.
The singles were arguably more damning than the sixes, but after Ben Stokes had been lifted over the ropes three times in two overs, it also seemed odd to keep him on for the penultimate over. He promptly went for two more. There’s much to be said for backing your players and giving them a chance to fight back, but in hindsight this was wrong.
It was also wrong that Ravi Bopara only bowled five overs. Whatever you might presume about how Faulkner might have waded into his medium-pace, the evidence disagreed. Ravi only conceded 19 runs and Faulkner scored just seven off the 10 Ravi deliveries he faced.
England are deeply mistrustful of dibbly-dobbly medium-pace, but dibbly-dobbly often works. What rarely works at the death is the most generic form of fast-medium, as purveyed by Stokes and Bresnan. This is what professional cricketers spend most of their life facing. The timing’s ingrained.