Alastair Cook was left “crossing his fingers” over the fitness of key fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Steven Finn with just a week to go before England’s opening ICC Champions Trophy clash against Australia.
Their absence was keenly felt at Lord’s yesterday as England lost the opening game of their three-match series against New Zealand by five wickets.
At the start of play, it was believed that the decision to rest Finn and Broad from the first two matches of the series with shin and knee injuries respectively was merely precautionary. The England captain’s post-match press conference led to a reappraisal of that analysis.
“It is a little bit more than [precautionary],” revealed Cook. “It’s not ideal but [the Champions Trophy] is another week away, we’ve got a good medical team and fingers crossed.”
The lack of control and penetration demonstrated by Finn and Broad’s understudies – Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes and Surrey’s Jade Dernbach – means Cook will probably be keeping those fingers crossed for the next seven days. Despite acknowledging the size of the boots they had to fill, Cook’s criticism was veiled with gossamer.
“[Broad and Finn] are key parts of our one-day team and experienced campaigners and world-class bowlers,” Cook said. “Obviously they are quite hard boots to fill but it gave [Woakes and Dernbach] an opportunity today to show everyone how good they are.”
It was an opportunity neither took. The 24-year-old Woakes’ six overs went for 45 runs and the only thing consistent about his display was his generosity of width. Dernbach did pick up the wicket of Brendon McCullum but the soft manner of the dismissal will have been of scant consolation.
“The guys who were coming in haven’t got that experience yet and probably don’t know their games quite as well as those two do,” was Cook’s own piece of generosity towards Dernbach and Woakes.
He also accepted that the paucity of the total was a mitigating factor, “When you’re defending a small total, it’s quite hard because you end up trying not to chase it but you know that the only way of trying to win that game is to bowl them out so you do end up chasing a little bit.”
The England captain did not bother veiling his criticism of the batsmen or the “nothing score” they mustered. “Certainly, the first 50 overs was where that game was lost. We said after 20 overs that 260 or 270 would be a par score on that wicket,” he admitted.
“We pretty much got ourselves into a position to do that at 120 for 2. Obviously losing those three wickets quickly took the sting out of our innings. It was like a nothing score, 230.”
Unlike Woakes and Dernbach, England’s batting order do not have inexperience as an excuse. “There is a lot of experience in our dressing room. We won’t need to tell the batters, everyone knows that a top score of 37 doesn’t often win you a game of cricket.
“You always try to look at the positives as much as you can. The good thing is that everyone got in so it doesn’t seem to be a form issue, it just seemed to be one of those days when no one stuck their hand up and took responsibility and batted throughout the innings.”
Too often England’s players were guilty of throwing their wickets away when well set. Four batsmen reached the 30s but a mixture of injudicious reverse sweeps and careless cross-batted shots meant the home side failed to master what Cook calls “the art of one day cricket”.
“I think you can look at pretty much all of our top five dismissals, they were poor execution of the shots but probably the right shots. That is one-day cricket, trying to find the perfect balance of risk and reward.
“I don’t think we were too far off today but just didn’t execute quite as well as we could have done. The art of one-day cricket is that of risk and reward and actually I don’t think our shot options were the bad options, it was just the execution of them.”