Originally published at The Phoenix Nest. You can comment here or there.
So, we finally managed to win a match on this tour, beating New Zealand this morning.
We even did it with Pietersen out injured, which has to be a result of sorts.
However, we still have a very serious problem with the batting lineup. In this match, we had one man who we could realistically expect to get plenty of runs, and to do it quickly - Flintoff. Now, this wouldn’t be too serious a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s batting at #6. Today, he came in around the 30th over. If the top order bat well, and don’t give away their wickets, he might not bat at all, from #6.
I thought the situation was bad enough even when we had Pietersen at #4, but now…
It’s well established that to get a big score in one-day cricket, you need to hit big during the opening overs. This is in direct contrast to Test cricket, where you generally aren’t concerned with scoring quickly, and want to settle into your innings. Every other major Test-playing country has someone in the opening ODI partnership who’ll go for the big runs, even though they bat much lower down the order in a Test. The most extreme example I can think of right now is Gilchrist, who opens for Australia in ODIs, but bats at #7 in Tests. I can’t help but think that this single fact, more than any other reason, is why we’ve barely won a one-day match in the last few years. It was less of an issue when Trescothick was around, and in form, because he could, and would, hit some big runs, but now we’ve got a fairly inexperienced side, and most of our batting lineup are touch players, much happier working the ball through the gaps in the field for ones and twos, than smashing it away to the boundary. In Test matches, that’s great. In ODIs, not so much.
With the current regulations, you’ll often have the fielding restrictions in place for the first 20 overs of the match. Getting ones & twos isn’t easy in those circumstances, so the easiest way to get runs is to go over the top. We can’t afford to continue going at around 3 runs per over while the fielding restrictions are in place, and then hope to get the runs required later. Certainly not while most of the other sides are going at 5 or more per over in the same time. The statistics show that when we’ve lost a match in the last year or so, the other team have pretty much universally scored faster than us. If we bat first, it takes them less overs to reach the score, whether we’re bowled out, or bat the full 50 overs. If we bat second, we’re either bowled out, or run out of overs. When we win, it’s usually because we’ve bowled the other side out, so have had more overs to work with.
The simple fact is that we don’t score fast enough. Flintoff was still there at the close today. Who knows how many more runs he may have scored, at a similar rate, if he’d come in 5 overs earlier, or 10 overs. This time, it was enough. Just. Next time, it probably won’t be. He was left stranded against Australia in the previous match as well, scoring 47 after coming out in the 38th over. That gave him 12 overs or so. If he’d been moved just one place up the batting order, he’d have come in a full 20 overs earlier. Who knows what he might have achieved with those extra overs to play with. Would he have scored enough extra runs to have won the match? Probably not, but Australia would have had to work harder for it.
Simply put, we can’t afford to have our destructive batsmen in a position where they’re left stranded at the end of 50 overs. Flintoff, and Pietersen, need to be moved higher up the order in ODIs (and especially Twenty20, hell, I’d be tempted to open with those two in the Twenty20 World Cup in the autumn), if we’re to entertain the idea that we can compete with the best sides in the world.
Oh, and Vaughan appears to be injured again. The only ray of hope we have, is that it’s not the same knee, and they claim he’ll be fit to play in friday’s match against Australia.