Lutters’ World Cup lines (part six)

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I HATE to say “I told you so”, but frankly, I did. England put their qualification for the quarter-finals of the cricket World Cup in jeopardy once more with a meek performance against another poor opposition by losing to Bangladesh in Chittagong.

The day didn’t start well for our boys by losing the toss. The pre-match waffle mentioned that dew would be an issue as the sun went down, and so it was. The home side understandably opted to bowl with a dry ball as they had numerous spinners who would’ve struggled to get much purchase with a damp one.

Matt Prior’s dismissal was sloppy, and although one must acknowledge that he was careless not to have made his ground as Rahim prised a stump out of the ground, you have to understand that no-one means to get out like that. That doesn’t excuse it, but a great deal of credit ought to go to the quick-thinking Bangladeshi keeper.

England’s batting once again failed to live up to the promise that it shows on paper, and perhaps a memo to the ICC about producing paper pitches might give them a chance against the West Indies on Thursday. Only Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan (noticeably not a English bone between them) performed well with the willow, with the catch to dismiss the Irishman, sorry Morgan, being a great “snag” by anyone’s standards.

The tail failed to wag to any great degree and what can only be described as a mediocre score was posted. Credit to the Bangladesh side, who held their catches and bowled tightly to keep England’s scoring opportunities to a minimum.

Having bowled so well against South Africa to keep them down to 165, your average England fan might have felt that England were still warming the box seat. England had opted for the lone spinner policy once more on a turning pitch, having dropped Michael Yardy in favour of Paul Collingwood. Yardy hasn’t been great with the ball in this tournament, but he is generally more reliable on these surfaces than Collingwood. The Durham man’s batting is better than Yardy’s, but at number 8 (where Colly was in the batting order), surely that’s not overly relevant.

I find the selection policy of the England management in this tournament baffling. I hate repeating myself, but teams ought to have a minimum of two spinners on these pitches.

England’s fielding was okay – no-one pulled up any trees out there, but jobs were generally done. The bowling was as a whole, awful. Twenty three wides were bowled; I repeat: TWENTY THREE WIDES! That’s shocking. A reasonable club attack would be miffed with that stat.

Ajmal Shahzad bowled a couple of unplayable deliveries to dismiss Hasan and Islam and is a real prospect if the selectors would only give him a solid run in the side. Tim Bresnan has become a consistent performer too. Graeme Swann moaned about a damp ball to umpire Harper (I’m not sure how he’s still on the ICC panel by the way, he’s awful), but I’m not sure what the England spinner expected the umpire to do. He still bowled reasonably well despite the moistness but will probably end up with some sort of fine for dissent.

Jimmy Anderson really ought to be collecting his tracksuit from the dry cleaners for the next game, though, although I doubt he will. He is a fantastic performer with the red ball but has never been consistent with a white one. If Yardy was dropped for bowling poorly, Anderson should be, too. Bowling is what he’s picked for after all, and he’s not doing it very well.

Despite this, England should still have won. As a cricketing colleague of mine said: “England are the new Pakistan….totally unpredictable”. He’s absolutely right.

Sales of that hair dye which “covers up the greys” must be rocketing in the heartland of England fans’ local chemists. I’m not sure how much more I can take of this. I daren’t predict Thursday’s result, although the West Indies have looked pretty good in the tournament thus far, so that bodes well for England.

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