Lutters’ World Cup lines (part four and five)

If you only listen to one bit of advice from me please let it be this: whatever you do don’t bet on the England cricket team.

You never know what side’s going to turn up. Within the space of a few days, they have lost to rank outsiders Ireland and then beaten an imperious looking South African team.

Had I been a betting man, I’d be searching for someone with a spare room right now.

So what difference was there between Wednesday’s defeat to Ireland and Sunday’s victory over South Africa?

I think that there were a number of factors in the victory against the Springboks:

1.England have an excellent record against Graeme Smith’s men in recent games. That is bound to play on a player’s mind during the game.

2.England have been given a kick up the backside by their defeat to Ireland because, and this is taking nothing away from Ireland, it was an embarrassing result.

They’ve probably been putting in an extra 10 per cent in training since their defeat in Bangalore in order to ensure that they don’t have to go through that again. It’s a common issue in sport that you up or lower your standards to the opposition that you are facing. Ireland are perceived as not great, South Africa are one of the best in the world.

3.It was a totally different type of wicket, one that offered the bowlers some hope. As a bowler myself, there’s nothing more demoralising than steaming in (in my case, ambling) and letting it fly onto a featherbed of a track. It doesn’t matter where you bowl, the ball will more than likely disappear. I know it’s the same for both sides, but that’s not the point.

4.England’s fielding improved (it couldn’t get any worse), but this could be due to the fact that there wasn’t so much pressure on each half chance as there was on dead tracks. When chances are at a premium, there is always an extra bit of pressure to catch it. I know that they are paid handsomely to deal with that pressure, but they are only human.

Despite all that has gone before, it was a great result for England, and finally Collingwood has got the axe. He may be a lovely bloke but he’s not been good enough to warrant a place in the side. His replacement, Ravi Bopara, scored a half-century and wasn’t required to bowl, so his selection was justified. Sussex skipper Michael Yardy will be looking over his shoulder, though, as he is not performing that well. I think that it would be a mistake to replace him with James Tredwell (I presume that’s who would come in for him) – he’s never going to run through sides but he is difficult to score off, and his batting can be very useful, although hasn’t been so far.

We’ll see I suppose, but England’s next game is against Bangladesh, a supposedly weaker side than them. On current form England will get smashed, but as I said at the beginning, keep your money in your pocket.

PART FOUR

From the sublime(ish) to the ridiculous, England go from a decent performance against India to what can only be described as a shocker against Ireland.

The result on Wednesday will surely see England struggle to qualify, especially having tied a game. And it won’t be the first time either that England have fallen foul of supposedly weak opposition. The Netherlands knocked them out of the Twenty20 World Cup in 2009 at Lord’s.

So what went wrong? The easier question to answer would be “what went right?” to be honest, but you’d be finishing this article about now. 327 for 8 from 50 overs seems alright, but actually it’s about par on those pitches.

This World Cup will be blighted by the fact that most games will be a willow-dominated affair. Three England batsmen got half-centuries but none went on to post a big score will be troubling to the management.

England’s batting has looked frail in recent months during limited overs cricket. Only Jonathan Trott can really put his head above the parapet with any real confidence at the moment, the others performing in patches.

The bowling department looks fragmented with only Bresnan and Swann able to offer captain Strauss any real consistency. Anderson somehow remained in the side at the expense of Ajmal Shahzad, when the young Yorkshireman clearly deserves his place head of his Lancastrian team-mate purely because he offers something with the bat. Collingwood only bowled five overs at an economy rate that bettered all bar Graeme Swann’s, and his batting has been poor for a while.

Bopara will almost certainly replace him in the next game, or at a push, Luke Wright. Other than that, England don’t really have too many options, but changes must occur, and personally I’d like to see Pietersen go. For someone who is supposedly as good as he is, he’s been awful for a while. Great players don’t play great innings as sporadically as KP. He knows that his name is one of the first on the teamsheet, and therein lies the problem: it doesn’t matter what he does he will always play in the big games (the Pakistan series last summer was not a big series).

Richard Halsall, England’s fielding coach, will be both tearing his hair out (what’s left of it) and checking out the job supplement in The Cricketer one would have thought. England’s fielding has been woeful at best. Dropped catches (and plenty of them) once again blighted the performance and only enhanced the lack of quality with the ball.

One must credit Ireland, though, it is a game that will go down in history, and would have done whoever was playing. The fact that it’s Ireland only makes the result even more astounding. Kevin O’Brien will never play an innings like that again, or if he does, I imagine that he’ll be qualifying for England pretty soon.

I saw a great comment from an England fan on the BBC’s Live Text service saying something along the lines of “I assume that Ireland will now be taking all our best players now”, like England have done with Ed Joyce (who has now become Irish again) and Eoin Morgan in recent years.

The result, although terrible for England is a great one for cricket and the competition.