When you write an OBO, you often forget the game straight away – it’s an intense process, you’re in the moment for three and a half hours, and then the moment has passed. It’s like sitting an exam in your favourite subject. But Monday’s thriller between England and Pakistan has stayed with me for a full 36 hours. There’s one question nagging away: how did the world’s greatest chasers, playing at home, on their favourite ground, against a team out of form, manage to lose?
As in any good thriller, there are several suspects.
1 England’s fielding Poor old Jason Roy’s drop is threatening to become as famous as Ben Stokes’s catch, but it was costly (Hafeez added another 70 off, from memory, 51 balls). And England’s ground fielding was shoddy. “It cost us 15 or 20 runs,” said Eoin Morgan, himself one of the offenders. They lost by 14.
2 Extras England conceded 20, Pakistan only eight. Bung in a few overthrows and, again, you have the difference between the sides.
3 Fast bowlers England’s were faster, but Pakistan’s were more incisive. Jofra Archer (who actually bowled well) ended up with 0-79, and Chris Woakes only took wickets at the death. The first scalp for an England seamer came in the 33rd over. Mark Wood was excellent (2-53), but Ben Stokes didn’t come to this party (0-43) and Liam Plunkett was badly missed. Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz took five wickets between them, and they struck at vital moments.
4 Leg spinners England’s main wicket-taker in one-day cricket is Adil Rashid, partly because Morgan so obviously trusts him. Not on Monday: Rashid’s first five overs went for 43, and his second five never came. Shadab Khan, by contrast, opened the bowling, removed Jason Roy, and returned to deceive Joe Root with his quicker ball.
5 The hundred When Joe Root reached three figures, he was the first man to do so in this World Cup. But there is such a thing as a match-losing century (just ask Pakistan, who made a few of them in May). Root, superb as he was in many ways, struggled to lift his strike rate above a run a ball, and he ended up with 107 off 104. The overall asking rate was seven an over, so if he went at six, his partners had to go at eight. The great Jos Buttler managed it, with 103 off 76 – he and Root, house-mates last winter in Sydney, are beautifully matched. Chris Woakes managed it, briefly. But nobody else could do it, and Morgan and Stokes ate up 36 balls between them while making only 22 runs. Compare and contrast with Sarfaraz Ahmed (55 off 44 balls) and Pakistan’s last five batsmen (46 off 30).
Conclusion: it’s a funny old game. And a complicated one. Now over to Adam Collins – see you after lunch.