In a long-forgotten but marvellous spoof disaster movie called The Big Bus the flawed hero hides the obligatory dark secret from his past. When it transpires that in a previous accident which left the passengers stranded he inadvertently consumed some stew made from human remains he says: "You eat one lousy foot and they call you a cannibal – what a world."
It is like that with England's one-day cricket team. You lose one lousy limited overs series, the team probably surmise, and they call you useless. Unfortunately, losing, like feet eating, allows people to draw conclusions.
England did it again yesterday for the fifth consecutive time against Australia before another packed house. They were playing, as they say in professional-sportsman-speak, for pride, as well as desperately seeking some form before the Champions Trophy.
They found it as well (no more) and in making 299, their highest 50 over score against Australia, there were some encouraging performances. Joe Denly made 45 at the top of the order before giving his wicket away and Eoin Morgan made an improvised maiden fifty for England before reverse sweeping himself out. These were causes for hope rather than dancing in the streets.
Unluckily for England they then ran into Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting, at the top of his form, which is a very considerable peak indeed, especially on such a lovely batting surface. With consummate style shorn of post-modern methods of making runs (such as reverse sweeps) and depending on timing, placement and power he scored his 27th ODI hundred. Though he was caught on the boundary for 126 from 109 balls he had left his side plenty of leeway and they won by four wickets with 10 balls to spare.
England bowled adequately, but fielded less so. All England have won so far in this series is the toss. By Sunday, the sides will have met nine times in limited overs matches this year (not to mention five Tests) and Australia will be back next year for another five one-dayers. No doubt if they can fit in a Twenty20 or two they will because, well, why not? Whatever else matches between England and Australia have going for them it is not rarity value.
It long since became clear that the England and Wales Cricket Board has no truck with the old showbiz mantra: "Leave 'em wanting more" and the policy can end only in everybody wanting less.
The plan this year, if there was a plan as opposed to grabbing a calendar and shoe horn to see what could be shoved in, was presumably to stage the NatWest Series as a kind of victory parade. Had the Ashes not been recaptured of course, it would have been been scuppered from the start.
It always looked suspect and has failed, partly because England have been found so dreadfully wanting but partly also because the Tests were the most important part of it. Playing a series of seven one-day matches after the Ashes is like expecting to hang around for the B movie after the main show – Gone With The Wind followed by The Big Bus, if you like.
England seem to be playing too much cricket and yet in the past year at they have played fewer one-day matches (18) than all the major countries except South Africa who have had a long rest during the English summer. Nobody, however, has felt deprived.
One-day scorecard: Trent Bridge
Fifth one-day international
England won toss
*A J Strauss lbw b Hauritz 35
J L Denly c Hussey b Johnson45
R S Bopara c Hauritz b Watson 18
†M J Prior st Paine b Hauritz 37
O A Shah c Paine b Johnson 31
E J G Morgan c Siddle b Bracken 58
D Mascharenas c Johnson b Watson 19
S C J Broad run out 22
A U Rashid run out 18
T T Bresnan c Bracken b Siddle 4
R J Sidebottom not out 3
Extras (lb1 w6 nb2) 9
Total (50 overs) 299
Fall: 1-61, 2-95, 3-105, 4-165, 5-192, 6-230, 7-267, 8-272, 9-278.
Bowling: Siddle 10-1-50-1; Bracken 8-1-43-1; Johnson 10-0-80-2; Watson 10-0-60-2; Hauritz 10-0-54-2; Clarke 2-0-11-0.
S R Watson c Mascharenhas b Bresnan 36
T D Paine c Rashid b Bresnan 16
*R T Ponting c Shah b Broad 126
M J Clarke c Clarke b Rashid 52
M E K Hussey c S'bottom b Mascarenhas 6
C J Ferguson lbw b Broad 58
D Mascharenas c Johnson b Watson 17
C L White not out 24
M G Johnson not out 18
Extras (w6 nb5 pens 0) 11
Total (6 wkts, 48.2 overs) 302
Fall: 1-45, 2-76, 3-209, 4-226, 5-255, 6-261.
Did not bat: N M Hauritz, P Siddle, N W Bracken.
Bowling: Broad 9-0-57-2; Sidebottom 9.2-0-43-0; Bresnan 10-0-76-2; Mascarenhas 10-0-49-1; Rashid 7-0-55-1; Bopara 3-0-21-0.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and R A Kettleborough.
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