Pathetic England at end of tether
England 117 West Indies 117-2
Saturday 28 March 2009
There comes a moment when a team have had enough chances. It is that time when all the goodwill has been used up, when all the idle protestations about talent simply waiting to be fulfilled are falling on deaf ears, when the suspicions about mediocrity are proven. For this England team it was yesterday at the Kensington Oval.
England were bowled out for 117 in 41.3 overs, West Indies scored 117 for two in 14.4. The figures in a match eventually decided by Duckworth-Lewis indicate an uneven contest. They tell only half a tale. Of all England's disappointing limited overs performances this winter – and they stretch back to November when all they did right in trying to win $20m on offer in the one off Stanford match was turn up – this was perhaps the nadir.
The third one-day international against the West Indies was a grim manifestation of all their shortcomings. The tourists' total was not in the end among their top 10 lowest and the rate at which an exemplary West Indies side chased the target did not, quite, consign them to their quickest defeat. But it was too low and too quick.
England were dreadful. Their approach, their method, their technique, their control, their nerve were all exposed.
It was terrible enough to be funny. The ill-executed hook shot was a favourite of the upper order with the lame prod to point close behind. The length ball thunderously struck for six by Chris Gayle was also up there as was the carefree clip off the legs with a similar outcome. It was funny enough to be nonsense. How the little dog laughed to see such fun.
Gayle made a stunning 80 from 43 balls with eight sixes of increasing ferocity. If ever such an innings could be deemed an irrelevance this was it. The damage on England's souls had been inflicted much earlier, mostly by the bouncers of Fidel Edwards, the probing of Lionel Baker and Dwayne Bravo, whose canniness produced 4 for 19 and made him man of the match.
Andrew Strauss, England's captain, made no attempt to disguise the truth. "It was pretty humiliating and fundamentally pretty embarrassing," he said. "There are 11 guys in that dressing room right now feeling pretty down on themselves. It wasn't a contest, we didn't play well. There wasn't enough thought in the way we batted, but we have to take it on the chin.
"We didn't react well to the wicket. We all made the same mistakes. The crucial thing is you learn from your mistakes but if we're honest with ourselves, we have done that kind of thing batting wise too often."
All of this was true and all that was missing was the deep feeling that England really are not up to it. Their deficiencies were compounded by a routine interview given before the match by Kevin Pietersen. Routine, that is, except in one respect. Pietersen had divulged that the events of January, when he was deposed as England captain after his rift with the coach, Peter Moores, had left him drained. "It's been a heck of a tough time and I'm at the end of my tether," he said.
The last four words did for him. He is a professional cricketer playing in probably the most idyllic circumstances imaginable. He is entitled to be a trifle weary and homesick after a long tour, but the history of human endeavour, indeed of Pietersen's own admirable efforts to make so much of himself, suggests that it is pushing it a bit to be at the end of his tether.
The job from which Moores was also sacked is yet to be filled and Andy Flower, who is in temporary charge for this tour, has impressed many sound judges. To a player, the team have spoken highly of him but their exhibition yesterday could have been designed, stroke by senseless stroke, to ensure that Flower is not appointed.
West Indies are on top of their game and pertinently they recognised this when they had the opposition where they wanted them. Early morning rain entailed a late start and a reduction in overs to 45. The proceedings began sedately enough, though there was just enough evidence to suggest that the openers were allowing themselves to be pinned down. The first time they tried to break out they were done for.
Strauss took on Edwards' short ball but was much too late on the shot which ballooned high behind slips. Two balls later Ravi Bopara also hooked, also late and saw the ball spoon to mid-on.
There was a brief lull as Pietersen and Owais Shah attempted to regroup. Pietersen's first shot in anger was another hook, which by the time it ended in the hands of deep square leg was a shot at the end of its tether.
In the next over, Shah, who has looked out of sorts since the Test series, tapped a short, wide one to point. And in the over after Andrew Flintoff, returning to the team after injury, hooked a short one to fine leg. No bordello could have contained such obliging hookers.
So it went abjectly on. Paul Collingwood was leg before to one which might have missed leg stump but which might not have done. Matt Prior prodded to point before Dimitri Mascarenhas and Gareth Batty spared England from the ignominy of acquiring their lowest total, 86 against Australia at Manchester in 2001. Actually, they did not deserve this. It was batting with lowest total history written all over it.
Mascarenhas ended it with another misplaced hook. Gayle then, tumultuously, took charge and how England needed the sanctuary of the dressing room.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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