The measure of England’s task in the World Cup was made abundantly clear as they lost their second and final warm-up match to Pakistan. As preparation for facing the might of Australia in their opening fixture of the tournament on Saturday it was far from ideal.
Pakistan deserved their victory, mounting a recovery from 78 for four which needed consolidation followed by acceleration. It was marshalled by their 40-year-old captain, Misbah ul Haq, who made 91 not out from 99 balls and paced the chase perfectly.
He could not have played a lone hand and Umar Akmal’s belligerent 66 from 65 balls was the perfect complement. England could not take enough wickets and by the end found it impossible to contain their opponents.
There was a feeling that England might have made too few, though even in these days of mammoth hitting 250 remains well within the confines of respectability. It also had the advantage of being made on a pitch used only two days previously, albeit for a mere 52 overs.
As it was the last practice before the business begins in earnest, England thought it advisable to ensure their entire squad was given some middle practice.
Although they have almost certainly decided on their team to play Australia, the tournament hosts and favourites in front of a full and boisterous house at Melbourne, it was important for the reserves to have a bash.
Gary Ballance, replacing the incumbent number three, James Taylor,
responded with a well-crafted fifty. It is small wonder that many wonder why Ballance, scorer of three Test hundreds last summer, is not in the team already. His time will come, though it should perhaps have come for this tournament.
There was the usual uncluttered manner to his work, his first innings since breaking a finger, and by the time he slog swept in the air to deep mid—wicket he had already established that he is read should the need arise.
Ballance and his Yorkshire colleague (and former flatmate) Root put on 66 for the third wicket. Root went about his business pragmatically. There was one six, pulled off the front foot, and only four fours in his 85. Yet still it came from only 89 balls which showed his acquisitive intent and the determination of his running.
England’s loss of Moeen Ali in the second over was hardly ideal, though more worrying was the departure of the captain, Eoin Morgan for this third duck in four innings. Although Moeen has not often been out in the early exchanges but nor has gone on. He has played nine innings since his last ODI fifty and neither of the warm-up matches has yielded much of a dividend.
Given the licence he has been given, Moeen is entitled to be out to the new ball occasionally but somehow he must learn the value of going on when set. Saturday would be as good as any occasion to show that he understands this.
A change of fortune would also be welcome for Morgan, who has struggled since his scintillating hundred against Australia here last month.
The last thing England want is a captain making no runs.Reuse content