Wednesday, April 18, 2007

England trundle away into a dark hole

So, give or take 100 runs, I predicted the score almost perfectly. I also got Andrew Strauss’ and Paul Collingwood’s scores right. Unfortunately, some marmalade must have clogged inside the old Predictoron, as everything else was way off.

Fortunately, we in Ayalac are a fore-sighted bunch, and we adopted the prudent strategy of making Contradictory Predictions. That’s right, long ago doubts were expressed about the Go-Slow approach to the early innings. Let’s quote myself on the 8th March:

But, what happens when England lose their upper-order cheaply? The sloggers are exposed and, if they lose their wickets, an imperfect start turns into a disastrous end. ... Arguably, the insurance of consequence-free early hitting provides a greater buffer to a side wanting to “play it safe”; obtaining quickly the comfort of runs. Whereas nurdling singles can only succeed if executed over a long duration, and with wickets in hand. Pinning our hopes on preserving wickets might undermine confidence further, and place more pressure on the lower order to “catch up”.

This was exactly what happened. The openers did nothing with the many overs they faced, pressurising the exposed middle order to improve the 1.0 over rate, and this proved too much.

The first 45 balls of the England innings saw four scoring strokes. FOUR! You can’t expect to win a match like that. My original view of playing it slow was to get the singles, nurdle it about a bit. But England weren’t even going slowly, they weren’t moving at all.

Moreover, “playing yourself in” requires the batsman to feel bat on ball. To hit into the gaps, to get a sense for the pitch and the bowling. Shouldering arms for six overs does not do this. As we saw with the wickets of both Michael “I’m in” Vaughan and Ian “I’m seeing it like a beach ball” Bell. The first overs were just, quite literally, wasted.

Perhaps England were a little mesmerised by the Irish success against Bangladesh on the same pitch. The Irish openers stayed in for 25 overs for not much, and managed to launch a successful attack at the death. However, the key to Ireland’s victory was keeping those wickets. England’s failure just shows you how risky and even radical this strategy is.

If a useless blogger could have predicted this why couldn’t an entire team of backroom experts? Why the hell am I better than Duncan Fletcher? What is wrong with the world?

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