Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Negative England Scared To Win

Today was a day where England could have won a test match. In an incredibly strong position overnight at 170 odd ahead with only two wickets down, England could have hit out in the morning and given themselves 70 overs to bowl Sri Lanka out. Instead, they nurdled it around in the morning, had an unneccesarily long hit in the afternoon before packing up an hour early because they were bored.

The Andocracy have long spoken of their desire to be world number one, and to create a team that dominates world cricket. Today was not the performance of a team who can dominate anybody. The gameplan was wrong from start to finish, and it appears patently obvious that Strauss much preferred to 'not lose' rather than rolling the dice and actually going for the win. Had you offered Strauss the draw at eleven this morning, he would have taken it. And that's the crux of the matter - would the West Indian team of the 80s have 'settled' for the draw? Or the Aussie team of the 00s?

The batting this morning. Yes, Alastair Cook has been in great form of late, and everybody wants to make a ton at Lord's, but at that pace? In the morning session Cook only added 21 runs to his overnight score, which understandably selfish as it was, shouldn't have been tolerated. Making a hundred at HQ is always going to be a big thing for a player, but as vice-captain and part of the senior management team, Cook should have recognised that nurdling his way to the ton wasn't going to help the ultimate cause of winning the test match for England. While Pietersen was a touch more attacking, it appeared clear that he too was after personal runs rather than a selfless acceleration for the team, which is why England stagnated big time after drinks. Herath turned the screw, and Cook and KP were happy to block it out and slowly push their way towards three figures. This meant that England weren't as far ahead as they should have been at lunch, and were unable to declare at the interval (which may have been in the original plan).

After lunch Bell, Morgan and Prior all swung the blade, but the longer they stayed out there, the less time England had to skittle Sri Lanka. Strauss should have known that a Dilshan-less Sri Lanka would have had no interest in chasing anything, and should have declared the moment Cook brought up his ton. As it was, he stayed on, paralysed by the fear that Sri Lanka would chase down runs at 8 an over and he'd look a fool. If anything, the lack of bravery was far more foolish than a bold declaration at 2 o'clock. And so we watched as time ebbed on, as Cook, Morgan, Prior and even Broad came and went, for not much gain.

The bowlers, I thought, were OK, but Sri Lanka were in full defensive bunker mode. Sri Lanka's full strength plan of playing P Jayawardene at 6 with Maharoof at 7 has left a very long tail, and is very collapsable. With Dilshan unable to bat unless in the direst of emergencies, Sri Lanka were there for the taking. Even though taking seven wickets in 15 overs is unlikely, the decision to shake hands seemed odd when England were only one wicket away from Maharoof, and two away from the bowlers. And if England had learnt anything from Cardiff, it's that the pressure of batting to save the game can do funny things to batsmen. As it was they'd had enough, with Strauss shaking hands and leaving the fans a touch bemused.

I went to Lord's today hoping to see a really attacking display of top test cricket from England as they pushed for a win. Instead, I saw a meek display of going through the motions from a team happy they didn't lose. If England are to be the world's best, they have to grow a pair and have a real go at days like this. We've seen in the past that Strauss can be a very defensive captain who likes to be 100% he can't lose before going for the win. If he really is to lead England to the number one spot, he's going to have to roll the dice every once in a while, in order to win the biggest prize of all.

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