On the first Saturday in April, the final of the Cricket World Cup will be played in Mumbai.
Given the evidence presented in Australia these past few days it is fanciful to suppose that England may be one of the teams taking part.
Much more likely is that they will turn up, look determined at the opening ceremony and then take up the early return flight option after the group stages, the advantage of which is that it saves the ECB a heap of money on hotel bills. England recognise that they are a one-day work in progress but the manner in which they succumbed to Australia yesterday by 46 runs – a whopping margin in a low-scoring match – suggests that at present it is all work and no progress.
The second match of seven in this one-day series was there for the taking. Australia were 33 for 4 and then 142 for 8 and, although they recovered to give themselves a serviceable total of 230 following a record ninth-wicket partnership between the recalled Shaun Marsh and the utterly improbable figure of Doug Bollinger, it was nothing that any self-respecting side should not have tracked down with something to spare.
England's batting, however, was as limp as a wet lettuce. Where during the Ashes it stood tall and proud here it was insipid. The highest score in their innings was 32 and player after player was dismissed in a careless fashion. Nobody remotely matched the cool purposefulness of Marsh, who made a wonderful 110 from 114 balls on his return to Australia's side.
Marsh's innings was an object lesson in control and the second top-drawer century to be played for Australia in this series following Shane Watson's 161 not out in the first match. It would be easy – and there would probably be an element of truth in it – to blame a kind of post-Ashes malaise. But that is what happened in 2009 when they regained the urn and lost the subsequent one-day series 6-1. They promised that there would be no recurrence but it seems clear that it is beyond their power to prevent it.
Andrew Strauss, the captain, made no attempt to conceal the ineptness of the display. "It was a very poor day," he said. "The seam bowlers did an outstanding job and we were in a great position but that partnership between Marsh and Bollinger gave them some important momentum going into their bowling stint.
"It was a poor performance with the bat. When you're chasing that score you need one guy to get 80-odd and none of us did that. There were lots of twenties and thirties and too many early wickets. We didn't go about our batting as well as we should have done. We're going to have to sit down and chat through it and make sure we don't make those mistakes again."
He had it in one. But added to these travails, England keep getting the balance of their side wrong. Once more they picked only five bowlers, when six should be the minimum in any limited-overs match, and their selection of two spinners also proved to be wrong. Both Mike Yardy, who is less proficient against left-handed batsmen, and James Tredwell, who looks to be struggling to make an impact at this level, conceded too many runs, 105 between them in 17 overs.
England have omitted Paul Collingwood for understandable reasons so far in this series, but have also found no place for the other all-rounder, Luke Wright. This policy has left them dangerously stretched, particularly yesterday when the conditions demanded a fourth seamer which they simply did not have, though Jonathan Trott delivered three tame overs.
This should not detract from Marsh's exemplary innings. England had started impeccably after choosing to bowl and all three of their fast bowlers, Ajmal Shahzad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, made the helpful conditions work for them. It was in so many ways a reprise of England's strategy during the Ashes when they squeezed Australia until the pips came out.
But the support bowling allowed Australia to get away. Marsh and Cameron White put on 100 for the fifth wicket when White was outsmarted by Yardy and there followed a further mini-collapse. There was perhaps no legislating for the innings played by Bollinger. He had batted only four times in his previous 27 matches with a top score of three, but, astonishingly, it was possible to confuse some of his strokes with those played by his fellow left-hander Marsh. Their stand of 88 from 70 balls was Australia's highest for the ninth wicket.
For the first time in the winter there was the sense and the sight of England losing it in the field. Heads did not exactly drop but nor were they held high. The pursuit of the target saw them at their worst.
The fates decreed the first wicket to fall. Amid much soul searching, Matt Prior had been recalled to the side for this series and for the World Cup in place of Steve Davies because the selectors favoured his batting. Prior edged his third ball, from Brett Lee, to slip and was gone for a duck. He had already missed an opportunity to take a running catch off a top edge from White on three which might have changed the course of Australia's innings. Ah, the pitfalls of selection.
It never improved. Strauss was leg before, Kevin Pietersen was bowled off an inside edge next ball. Trott, for whom this sort of position could have been specifically designed, and Ian Bell set about refashioning the innings.
They were doing it proficiently too until Trott pulled a long hop to short midwicket and Bell square drove a wide one down the throat of point. These were the most culpable in a list of dismissals vying with each other for softness.
The match was littered with injuries, of which Nathan Hauritz's dislocated shoulder was the worst. Tim Bresnan had to bat with a runner because of a strained calf and Shaun Tait limped off with a thigh injury.
Bollinger bowled as robustly as he batted. But there was only candidate for the man of the match award. England need to put forth some nominees soon.
Second one-day international, Bellerive Oval: Australia beat England by 46 runs
England won toss
S R Watson b Shahzad: 5
†B J Haddin b Shahzad: 5
*M J Clarke c Bell b Bresnan: 10
C L White c & b Yardy: 45
D J Hussey c Strauss b Tremlett: 8
S E Marsh c Bell b Tremlett: 110
S P D Smith b Shahzad: 0
N M Hauritz c Trott b Bresnan: 2
B Lee b Yardy: 0
D E Bollinger c Shahzad b Tremlett: 30
S W Tait not out: 0
Extras (lb7 w8): 15
Total (48.2 overs): 230
Fall: 1-6, 2-15, 3-21, 4-33, 5-133, 6-136, 7-140, 8-142, 9-230.
Bowling: A Shahzad 10-1-43-3, C T Tremlett 9.2-0-22-3, T T Bresnan 9-1-37-2, I J L Trott 3-0-16-0, J C Tredwell 8-0-44-0, M H Yardy 9-1-61-2.
*A J Strauss lbw b Bollinger: 19
†M J Prior c Watson b Lee: 0
I J L Trott c Hussey b Smith: 32
K P Pietersen b Bollinger: 0
I R Bell c Smith b Lee: 32
E J G Morgan c Tait b Watson: 21
M H Yardy run out: 22
T T Bresnan c Watson b Bollinger: 19
J C Tredwell lbw b Bollinger: 16
A Shahzad run out: 2
C T Tremlett not out: 1
Extras (lb6 w13 nb1): 20
Total (45 overs): 184
Fall: 1-12, 2-36, 3-36, 4-83, 5-96, 6-140, 7-147, 8-178, 9-180.
Bowling: B Lee 9-0-39-2, S W Tait 5.5-0-30-0, D E Bollinger 9-0-28-4, S R Watson 9-0-32-1, N M Hauritz 8-0-36-0, S P D Smith 2-0-5-1, M J Clarke 0.1-0-0-0, D J Hussey 2-0-8-0.
Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) and P R Reiffel.
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