When Southee and McCullum skinned England

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2 minute read

Skinned them alive? Probably not. Skinned them undead maybe, for England increasingly seem like zombies. Asked to explain England’s latest defeat, all Eoin Morgan could muster was “braaaains” in a long, drawn-out moan. “Skiiiill” and “caaaaalmness” were also lacking.

In contrast to England’s rotting flesh, New Zealand have a surfeit of vitality. Of course it’s easy to run around like giddy schoolchildren when you’re winning – but New Zealand are winning, so run around like giddy schoolchildren they do. The word ‘intensity’ has long since been rendered useless through repetition, but Kiwi fielders gave some idea what it once meant.

They also have a captain who can pick his moments. England were at one point 104-4 when Daniel Vettori had found himself at the front of the Eoin Morgan cheap dismissal queue. Brendon McCullum brought Tim Southee back into the attack.

It almost certainly wasn’t the plan – Southee isn’t the designated 26th over bowler – but it was a vote of confidence and recognition that the 26th over could be transformed into ‘the death’ through human intervention. Sure enough, eight overs later England’s innings – and pretty much the match – was over. Tim Southee had 7-33 and had hit the stumps four times.

After that, Brendon McCullum had fun. Half of Steven Finn’s deliveries went for six, while a quarter went for four, but the meaningful damage had already been done by the bowlers. This was just the gleeful snapping of lifeless limbs.

As for England, what do they do? Bring in a zombie and drop a zombie or stick with the zombies they’ve got? There’s not much they can do. Three of their batsmen have played fewer than 20 one-day internationals and it was notable that 50-match Joe Root was the only man to offer resistance. Confidence takes a lot longer to build than it does to destroy – just ask Ravi Bopara – so further changes will only result in a net loss.

As ever, England didn’t know their team before the World Cup, so what turned out to be their first XI didn’t really believe that it was the first XI. A fair few of them had never played New Zealand before, let alone in New Zealand. Perhaps they can build a bit of confidence with a couple of wins, but the confidence borne of a couple of wins is a fragile confidence because it hasn’t truly been earned.

England looked alive when they walked into this tournament, but the World Cup has a way of shining a light on decay.


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  1. Struggling to find any positives… erm, at least it wasn’t Australia? Maybe the Kiwis can beat them now?

    1. I don’t think you realise just how difficult instant positive-taking is. These guys are professionals, they’ve been taking positives for their whole lives, practicing day in, day out. Eoin Morgan apparently does three hours practice every day. The England team has a portable interview platform that they take round with them, complete with cardboard cut-outs of Mike Atherton and Paul Allot. Morgan stands on it and gets presented with a variety of things that he has to take positives from, one after another after another – things like a bag of shit, a photo of Giles Clarke’s arse, a Katie Price novel, the latest update on David Icke’s website. It’s rapid-fire stuff, but that’s how he’s able to take quickly positives from a situation that most ordinary people would think is an utter disgrace which should be unenduringly shameful for a captain.

    2. Let’s be honest. The death overs (35-50) have been England’s bane since the start of 2014.

      We should at least take solace from the fact that in both innings today they conspired to take those overs entirely out of the equation. It is a bold method and one that may take some time to perfect but by the 2259 World Cup (played in 4 innings of 27 overs each with a break for lunch, tea and a new meal called “Smoog”) they should have the technique perfected.

      Especially useful will be the new opening bowler: The Truemanator 9000, which will be a 150 ft tall mecha with a howizter for a right arm.

  2. Maybe they should call up some vampires to offset the zombie problem (although they’re probably only really available for the second innings of Day/Night games)?

  3. Anybody else feel NewZealand are peaking too rapidly too early. Afraid they are going to exhaust all their momentum in group stages and choke like SA in knock-outs.

    But have to admire their commitment to their cause. It is total, absolute. Led by the Mad Mac they are All-In in the high-stakes venture of winning a rare home world-cup.

    And its a pity that England cant be competitive despite high quality imports from various countries such as SA, ZIM, IRE etc.

    1. My Saffer colleague has made a major point of the one reason, in his view, that England are doing so poorly: no Saffers in the team.

    2. How dare you oppose the received wisdom. Everything has got better since the dark days of 2005 – 2013. Rejoice in this wonderful new world.

  4. At least as a result of rearranging the Ashes so that we’re all sick to death of that now too, they’ve gone into this world cup properly prepared.

  5. Huzzah! I was there. McCullum set attacking test match fields – often only having one man out even Root and Morgan looked OK(ish). Marvellous response to fielding restrictions. Defense nobbled? Arse, we’ll attack then. It’s like Morgan is still trying to figure out how to best utilize this new fangled over arm bowling in comparison. I don’t think his 4 slips lasted the first over (psst Eion… you needed wickets).

    1. But of course the ICC will legislate such that all fielders (including wicket keeper) must stand flat footed on the circle with their hands in their pockets (and keep them there) lest such displays of brio in the field continue to threaten lucrative 45 minute ad breaks. We were treated to random spectators running an obstacle course dressed up as sponsors products… FFS… I think the insurance policy narrowly defeated the roll-on deodorant… or something.

    2. Totally agree, Stephen.

      England made a fatal decision electing to bat first.

      If you bat second, you can get your match-losing collapse in early (e.g one for four after nineteen balls), yet still the crowd have been royally entertained for a full 50 overs before that and that vital commercial break has been unaffected by the rout.

      Pakistan know how to play the game.

    1. That Dunedin pitch has been an absolute cracker. It doesn’t so much favor the bowler as punish arrogant batting. Looking forward to seeing Scotland V Afghanistan there later this week.

  6. I finally watched some cricket yesterday.

    Well, a clip of Sharma’s “yes, no, yes, no, sorry” dismissal, anyway.

    What’s with the stupid flashing lights on the stumps?

    1. The idea is that they go on when the bails are removed so you can pinpoint the instant it happens. It’s an extravagant solution to a very minor problem. Which is kind of the ICC’s specialty, along with screwing over Ireland.

    Partners Runs Opposition Start Date
    DL Amiss, B Wood 158 v East Africa 14 Jun 1975
    MM Ali, IR Bell 150* v Scotland 23 Feb 2015
    MA Atherton, RA Smith 147 v Pakistan 3 Mar 1996
    G Boycott, JM Brearley 129 v West Indies 23 Jun 1979
    GA Gooch, RT Robinson 123 v Sri Lanka 30 Oct 1987
    G Fowler, CJ Tavare 115 v Pakistan 18 Jun 1983
    IT Botham, GA Gooch 107 v Australia 5 Mar 1992
    KP Pietersen, AJ Strauss 105 v Netherlands 22 Feb 2011
    EC Joyce, MP Vaughan 101 v Canada 18 Mar 2007
    KP Pietersen, AJ Strauss 91 v Ireland 2 Mar 2011
    A couple there that I forgot

    1. Or put another way, England hasn’t has a decent opening stand against a full ICC member in world cups since the 90s?

  8. Well, this is going swimmingly.

    I was going to support Scotland, but then they dropped Rob Taylor, so screw them too.

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