It is the scale of the transformation that continues to befuddle. Three months ago England came back from the World Cup in disarray. They had been timid, frightened of their own shadows, and the night in Adelaide when they plunged wretchedly to defeat against Bangladesh seemed to be disastrous for the professional game in this country.
The most disheartening facet was that everyone seemed to expect it and no one seemed to care. Same old England. It would take time to heal both the team and the public’s disenchantment.
And now here we are, heading towards the climax of a one-day series which has witnessed the revival of the team and the format. England have scored 300 or more in each of the four matches against New Zealand, and in the fourth at Trent Bridge two nights ago they made an unprecedented 350 to win by seven wickets and level the series. Eoin Morgan, their captain, who was one of the saddest parts of that night against Bangladesh, is thrillingly restored.
It barely seems to matter what happens in the deciding match on Sarturday. England knew they had to do something and cleared the coaching decks. They may also owe a debt to their opponents, who simply keep on coming.
By now, England have demonstrated time and again that they have indeed changed and the public, well the public loves them for it. The atmosphere at Trent Bridge on Wednesday was so joyous that it was as if the Ashes had been won (maybe in another three months they will have been, but that is another story).
“I’ve never seen crowds get behind us as much as in these last four ODIs,” said Steve Finn, himself, like the side, revitalised. “I think that has stemmed from the way we played in Birmingham in that first game. I think that got people behind us and galvanised people’s interest and gave us belief that we can go out there and do what we say we want to do. I think that stands us in good stead for the rest of the summer.”
Finn is one of the bowlers – the poor bloody infantry – who are being made to pay for the refashioned 50-over game of which England are now belatedly part. His 1 for 51 in Nottingham was a heroic spell in the circumstances.
“It’s like playing a long Twenty20,” he said. “You almost have to accept that you’re going to be hit for boundaries, you have to accept that people will play good shots. It’s just trying to make sure they are playing good shots to get their boundaries and they are not hitting bad balls. It has changed big time since the World Cup.”
Perpetually exciting though all this is, something has to give, or rather be given back to the bowlers. When the ball patently refused to swing at Trent Bridge, it was soon clear what would happen.
The scoring rate in the series so far is 122 runs per 100 balls, more than in any one-day competition of five matches. If the teams between them score 287 runs in Chester-le-Street tomorrow, they will break the record for the number of runs scored in a series of five matches.
Achieving the correct balance is everything. Less recalcitrant balls would help and so would a slight relaxation of the fielding restrictions (five men outside the circle, not four). But it is so breathtakingly attractive that nothing much should be changed.
It will not, cannot, should not be like this in every match but once more with feeling in Durham’s northern powerhouse would be welcome.
Meanwhile England have named two uncapped players, middle-order batsman James Vince of Hampshire and left-arm pace bowler Reece Topley of Essex, in a squad of 13 for the Twenty20 match against New Zealand next week.Reuse content