Cameron Ponsonby expresses the merits of just sitting back and enjoying what’s in front of you.
T20 is the most volatile format of cricket. On average, even the best teams tend to only win two-thirds of their matches as the shortened nature of the game brings the underdog back into the contest. To paraphrase the great Formula One commentator Murray Walker, “anything can happen in T20 cricket, and it normally does.”
So far in this World Cup, England have made a mockery of that notion. Three games have produced three victories of laughable dominance. West Indies were bowled out for 55, Bangladesh were brushed aside by eight wickets before Australia were defeated by the same margin and with 50 balls to spare. Whether England win or lose this competition as a whole, it must be remembered that this is a phenomenally talented England side who we are lucky to watch.
You also get the impression that England themselves are well aware of this. And that often can be a criticism of a team. Starting to believe your own hype is normally indicative of when arrogance is floating around or when complacency is creeping in. But England’s players don’t so much give the impression of knowing how good they are as much as knowing how good those around them are. And there’s a difference.
Speaking after the game, Liam Livingstone heaped praise on the world-class talents of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid and how it was an honour for him to be able to learn from both of them. He then went on to praise the phenomenal hitting of Jos Buttler. His admiration for his teammates was tangible and the ability to rub shoulders with them an obvious privilege. And yet here was a player whose bowling had today kept Moeen out of the attack and whose batting has seen him rise to become one of the hottest properties in world cricket. Livingstone is a world-class player in his own right and yet is clearly desperate to embrace the opportunity to learn even more about the game that playing in this team provides. It’s an incredibly healthy combination.
Overall, there are times for measured analysis and there are times to just sit back and enjoy. And today’s performance from England was the latter. Because everything worked.
With Aaron Finch opening the batting and a well-known penchant for off spin, Moeen, who had opened in the previous two games was held back, and Rashid instead took the new ball. The over went for six runs and alas, it had worked.
The second over saw Chris Woakes enter the attack and dismiss David Warner with his second ball. The third over saw Chris Jordan come on and take a wicket immediately thanks to a spectacular one-handed catch from Woakes at mid-on. It’s working. It’s all working. Get M on the phone and tell them that everything’s working.
Woakes was nipping the ball around and hitting Maxwell on the pads, Rashid was ripping googlies and hitting Stoinis on the pads, Jordan was bowling yorkers and hitting Cummins on the stumps and Mills was bowling slower balls and getting hit into the stands (that bit didn’t work, sorry Tymal).
Such was the dominance of England’s bowling display that Moeen, who had entered this game as England’s joint top wicket-taker, wasn’t required at all and Livingstone instead bowled a full allocation of off-spin and leg-spin depending on whether a right-hander or left-hander was on strike.
And that is the beauty of this England team. Yes, their three wins have all come from batting second, but such is their quality that their versatility is undeniable. The notion of strength in depth isn’t a cliche here but a matter of fact. England are capable of winning in multiple ways as their bowling showed today and their flexibility with the batting line-up against the Windies proved last week. All in all, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morgan arrived at the toss against Sri Lanka in a button-down shirt with a wine menu in hand asking Dasun Shanaka how he and his team would like to be beaten this evening.
“Early powerplay wickets, followed by enforcers in the middle and then a belligerent batting display from Jos Buttler and Jason Roy? Certainly, sir.”
A moment that encapsulated the standard of this England team came in the 16th over of Australia’s innings. Jordan bowled to Ashton Agar who slammed the ball at the speed of light through cover, only to see Eoin Morgan dive to his right and prevent a certain boundary. The camera panned back to Agar who screamed a four-letter word into the Dubai sky in sheer frustration. This wasn’t an act of marginal gains in action from Morgan and England but an example of a team who are excelling in every component of the sport that they are competing in.
T20 cricket is the most volatile format of cricket. And as good as England are, there is still no promise of a World Cup coming at the end of it. But in the meantime, let’s enjoy it. After all, anything can happen in T20 cricket, and it normally does.