Pyjamas are on but ODI team need wake-up call
Sunday 30 August 2009
For the next three months, England will play one-day cricket. By the time it is up, it will have become demonstrable that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Equally, it is also true that England cannot get enough. They need large doses of limited-overs cricket if they are to have any semblance of a chance to meet the other part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's mission statement of winning a major one-day trophy, the World Cup, the World Twenty20 or, needs must, the Champions Trophy. Since the first part was winning the Ashes, and few thought that was a reasonable proposition in this decade, anything is possible.
Starting today in Manchester and ending in Durban on 4 December, England have a programme of four Twenty20 matches and a minimum of 15 one-day internationals (depending on progress in the Champions Trophy next month). The T20s include two against Australia and two against South Africa and England have at least responded by making a specialist selection.
Or at least they eventually did. The leading run scorer in this season's domestic competition was Jonathan Trott (525 runs in 11 innings). He was not in the original line-up but having made a century in the Fifth Test, he was summoned when Andrew Flintoff dropped out.
Trott will depart when Andrew Strauss returns to lead the side in the 50-over format. The first of seven matches against Australia is on Friday at The Oval. Otherwise, the T20 and ODI squads are identical, the selectors seeming to have taken the view that they are inter-changeable or that if you are good enough for one you are good enough for the other. They are probably not correct but it is difficult. The T20 internationals tend to be played as a bit of fun before the serious limited-overs business of the ODIs – ignoring the fact that the shortest form of the game is such a smash hit – and although it may be different at home it can get to be an expensive business abroad if players are drafted in for a couple of fun games.
For instance, England play two T20 matches in South Africa before the five match 50-over series. There might have been a case for picking James Foster, who was such a crackerjack behind the stumps in the World T20, but that would mean his being there barely a week. It seems clear then that, Strauss apart, the view has been taken that one-day stuff is all the same any day.
The nine matches at home, ending, with the crassest of timing in Durham on 20 September, when the players will barely be able to move because of the impediments of their Arctic fleeces, will now take on the form of a victory tour. Everywhere England go, they will be feted as Ashes heroes, though only eight of the 15 who played in that series will be involved.
There will be a feelgood factor to proceedings. Australia are beatable too, though England's side is raw. The tourists have lost their last five T20 matches and in the longer limited-overs format were given the runaround home and away by South Africa last winter and pushed by New Zealand.
England's squad contains three players with fewer than 10 one-day caps and a fourth, Eoin Morgan, who played the first 23 of his 25 games for Ireland. It does not look the most mobile of fielding units, another reason, apart from his batting, for being slightly disturbed by the absence of Ian Bell. Owais Shah may be on borrowed time because of his fielding but he made 75 last time out in Birmingham and is still capable of outrageous shots.
England will desperately miss Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff. If they win without them they may be going places.
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