England provided the man of the match in the fifth one-day international of their long series against Australia in Brisbane yesterday. It was not, needless to say, one of their batsmen, who appear to have forgotten that the most elementary part of their job is to score runs.
For the fourth match of the quintet so far the tourists failed to compile a sufficiently large total and went down to a lame 51-run defeat which handed an unassailable 4-1 lead to Australia. The scene was one that has become absurdly familiar in the three weeks since the Ashes were so gloriously retained: batsman comes to crease, looks at ease, decides to play big shot for unknown reason and either misses or hits ball in air to fielder.
Television viewers or radio listeners might by now be bombarding the stations in question with complaints about too many repeats. England were asked to make 250 on a Gabba pitch that was quick and largely true. It was never likely to be elementary but England made it seem mountainous.
"We've all got to put our hands up because we have all been part of it," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "One of the improvements we have made in one-day cricket over the last 12 or 18 months has been a lot of our batsmen getting bigger scores more consistently. We have fallen into bad habits in this series with 20s and 30s and soft dismissals. That has been plaguing us throughout and that is what has ultimately cost us the series. We can't hide away from that, we have got to try and remedy it for the last two games and going into the World Cup."
This overshadowed the performance of Chris Woakes, who in his second one-day international took 6 for 45, the second-best performance by an England bowler in this form of the game. If four of his wickets were garnered by catches in the outfield, he also delivered the ball of the match, a sharp lifter to Cameron White which seamed away and took the edge of the bat, which alone was worth the other five.
The whole of England's attack once more acquitted themselves adequately as they have done throughout the last three weeks. Ajmal Shahzad, however, limped off with a hamstring strain after Chris Tremlett had been omitted because of a side strain. The bowling resources are being stretched thinly. Since much of the attack has largely been understudies to the bowlers who will be going to the World Cup it has further compounded the batsmen's collective felony.
The sublime has become the ridiculous. Where England bestrode the world of batting in the Test series they have been utterly subjugated in the limited-overs matches. There has been only one exception to this in Jonathan Trott and he, as if succumbing to a grotesque contagion, was out first ball yesterday.
Batsman after batsman in the top order made errors of judgement, failing to assess the state of the game. Once more, England went in with seven batsmen, which is usually one too many but might have been four too few on this showing. It was (almost) forgivable that they lost three wickets for 22 as Brett Lee pawed the ground like a lion on the loose.
But the dismissals themselves were soft, Matt Prior making room where there was none, Trott glancing to short fine leg and Strauss pulling a barely less ferocious Doug Bollinger to mid-wicket. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen then put the match back in England's control. The board was ticking over once more, there was no cause for panic.
However, Pietersen swatted a pull at a slow bouncer, the ball de nos jours and soon after Bell dragged on, failing to move his feet while cutting. In between Eoin Morgan, of whom so much was expected, played another perplexing stroke, lofting his fourth ball to deep extra cover. It should perhaps be recalled that Morgan often carried the batting in the year before this series.
"I don't think it's a hangover from the Test series," said Strauss. "It's a different form of the game and, like anything in the game of cricket, you get a couple of low scores, it gets harder and harder to get big scores. But our decision-making hasn't been very good on these wickets. In one-day cricket you have got to decide when is the right time to attack, whom is the right bowler to attack and when is the right time not to attack. We just haven't done that well enough. They're very good wickets out here and Jonathan Trott has shown us the way to go out and get big scores."
He claims not to be worried about the World Cup but form is a capricious beast and does not return on a batsman's whim. It would not be entirely meaningless if England could rediscover a semblance of it in the two matches still to play here, dead rubbers though they are.
"I think you have to accept the World Cup is being played in an entirely different part of the world and you have to adapt a slightly different style of cricket anyway," said Strauss. "It's always the case at the end of a tour that even a few days at home refreshes you and then you can turn up at a World Cup, a massive event, excited; and we're looking forward to it. But our batting group has got to be better than it has been." Nobody was arguing.
Brisbane (One day): Australia beat England by 51 runs
Australia won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
S R Watson c Collingwood b Woakes 16 0 2 20 39
†B J Haddin b Finn 37 0 7 52 61
S E Marsh c Strauss b Collingwood 16 0 0 30 46
*M J Clarke c Strauss b Woakes 54 0 5 74 106
C L White c Prior b Woakes 16 1 2 16 10
D J Hussey b Woakes 34 0 2 46 58
S P D Smith not out 24 1 1 25 54
M G Johnson b Anderson 16 0 2 19 18
J W Hastings c Collingwood b Woakes 13 0 2 11 12
B Lee c Sub b Woakes 0 0 0 1 2
D E Bollinger run out 6 0 1 4 5
Extras (b2 lb3 w11 nb1) 17
Total (49.3 overs) 249
Fall: 1-48, 2-72, 3-96, 4-113, 5-178, 6-190, 7-212, 8-233, 9-234.
Bowling: J M Anderson 10-1-42-1, A Shahzad 8-1-46-0, S T Finn 10-0-61-1, C R Woakes 10-0-45-6, P D Collingwood 10-1-36-1, I J L Trott 1.3-0-14-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
*A J Strauss c Smith b Bollinger 3 0 0 16 24
†M J Prior b Lee 14 0 3 15 22
I J L Trott c Bollinger b Lee 0 0 0 1 4
K P Pietersen c Lee b Hastings 40 0 4 51 71
I R Bell b Hastings 36 0 1 61 81
E J G Morgan c Johnson b Smith 2 0 0 4 1
P D Collingwood c Hastings b Watson 18 0 1 27 33
C R Woakes c Haddin b Watson 8 0 0 25 26
A Shahzad c Haddin b Bollinger 9 1 0 23 24
J M Anderson not out 20 0 3 30 55
S T Finn b Watson 35 1 5 24 33
Extras (lb2 w5 nb6) 13
Total (45.3 overs) 198
Fall: 1-20, 2-20, 3-22, 4-95, 5-98, 6-103, 7-128, 8-128, 9-145.
Bowling: B Lee 7-0-21-2, D E Bollinger 9-1-57-2, M G Johnson 8-1-29-0, J W Hastings 9-0-35-2, S P D Smith 8-0-29-1, S R Watson 4.3-1-25-3.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and R J Tucker.
One-day series results
Sun 16 Jan: Australia beat England by six wickets
Fri 21 Jan: Australia beat England by 46 runs
Sun 23 Jan: Australia beat England by four wickets
Wed 26 Jan: England beat Australia by 21 runs
Remaining one-day fixtures
Wed 2 Feb: Sydney, 03.20
Sun 6 Feb: Perth, 03.20Reuse content