As anticipated, England didn’t have things all their own way during the one-day series against Bangladesh. The loss of the second match showed a resurgence of bad habits – failing to finish the hosts off when they were 169-7, and a top-order collapse in reply. Still, after tempers flared in that series leveller, England showed impressive control and composure as they took the decider by four wickets on Wednesday.
Given that England’s top-order was stuffed full of new or inexperienced recruits; and that Jos Buttler was leading the side for the first time; and that the team was accompanied at all times by dozens of armed soldiers, a 2-1 win was even more impressive. Buttler mostly handled himself well, aside from getting all sweary when provoked by Bangladeshi fielders in the second game. Ben Duckett and Sam Billings both played high-class innings. And Adil Rashid pulled off the great leg-spinner’s trick of picking up wickets with the filthiest of deliveries.
The key now is for England to take the positive vibes into the upcoming test series, the squad having been joined by the likes of Gareth Batty and Haseeb Hameed, both of who are tipped to play in Chittagong next Thursday. After Duckett’s displays in the first and third ODI, he may be in line to join Hameed in making a test debut, slotting into the middle order in preference to Gary Ballance. He deserves the chance, though Jos Buttler will also be in the selectors’ thoughts.
But the success of the ODI side this week has implications beyond the next two tests. The fact is, England looked full of confidence despite fielding a far from first choice XI. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan will certainly return when England revert to the shorter format in January against India, but Alex Hales will face a scrap to get back into the side. And all of a sudden, almost nobody can take their place in the starting line-up for granted, which is surely a good sign.
In England's time of plenty, Aussies left wanting
While England’s 50-over form looks in fine fettle, Australia appear to be in something approaching freefall, fresh from a 5-0 thumping by an AB de Villiers-less South Africa. Remarkably the Aussies have never before been whitewashed by such margin in an ODI series.
With the exception of David Warner, Australia’s batting was insufficiently weighty against a South Africa attack which was itself not at full-strength. The Aussie bowlers by contrast toiled against inspired performances by the Proteas’ top and middle-order. Even in cricket, stats aren’t the be all and end all. Yet it is telling that the least expensive Australian bowler among the eight used in the series was Scott Boland, who went at 6.33 runs per over.
Injuries have counted against Australia but whereas England are showing strength in depth in ODI cricket, the Australian cupboard suddenly seems very bare indeed.
Tough lessons to learn from Hughes tragedy
With things going against Australia on the field, it has perhaps been less easy for players not to have been distracted by the ongoing inquest into the death two years ago of Philip Hughes. It has been a deeply uncomfortable affair, with disagreements between witnesses – including those who played in the match in which Hughes was killed – about the extent to which short-pitch bowling and sledging reached improper levels in the period before the tragedy. In particular, witnesses have been at odds over whether Doug Bollinger, one of the bowlers playing for South Australia that day, directed a sledge at Hughes to the effect that he was going to ‘kill him’.
There has been no suggestion of any deliberate attempt by Hughes’s opponents to harm him and the coroner has made clear that his death was the result of a terrible accident. For the Hughes family, however, there is a need for answers and for a proper consideration of whether the existing rules of the game need revision – not only around the protection a helmet should offer but also with regard to the use of bouncers and ungentlemanly conduct more generally. It is perhaps no surprise that hearing players repeatedly answer questions with “I can’t recall” led family members to walk out of the courtroom.
Philip Hughes’s death may have been highly unusual. But that doesn’t mean there are not lessons to be learned. Cricket Australia – and the MCC and the ICC – must not be closed to the possibility that the laws of the game should be rewritten.Reuse content