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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

England save energy and allow lights to go out early

Another low scoring ODI played in Adelaide today in ideal conditions saw England give short measure to the
spectators and their supporters as they capitulated for a pathetic 120 in 37.5 overs. As the picture above shows, darkness had not completely descended (except upon England's confidence) when the match concluded with Jon Lewis tamely snicking Shane Bond to Stephen Fleming at slip for his fourth catch of the innings. Yes, it was the kind of match we don't often see in this form of the game in Australia (though this season has produced some exceptions): one where the ball dominates the bat.

Only one batter - NZ's Jacob Oram - was able to impose his footprint on the match with a well-constructed (solid platform, later aggression) 86 which enabled his team to come off the ropes of 5/67 to reach 210 all out of the last ball of the 50th over. Each England bowler, except for Jamie Dalrymple (3 overs for 22, inc 2 wides) bowled well, though probably the Black Caps scored 20 -25 runs more than they should have.

Why? Because the England fielding was substandard. One or two chances were put down, but there were several instances where fielders did not even try to catch balls hit in the the air which the Australians and, on today's showing, many New Zealanders, would make an effort to dive or leap for. Ed Joyce was the main, though it must be said not the only, offender. At least twice Oram lofted balls towards midwicket, but each time Joyce tamely slowed down and waited for them to bounce and, on another occasion, to reach the boundary. An Australian - Symonds, Ponting, Clarke, perhaps Hussey - would have dived, and more often than not completed the catch. Paul Nixon, who is very visible on TV for his aggressive wicketkeeping, also has some odd habits: he bounces up and down on his haunches like a jack in the box as the bowler delivers and, when taking returns from the outfield, stands in front of the stumps, not behind them as the textbook (and commonsense) advises.

When England batted the NZ went into boa constrictor mode, squeezing the breath out of the top order. With five specialist bowlers, none of whom was hit out of the attack, there was no need to fall back upon the dibbly dobblers Astle and McMillan. First Franklin, then Vettori, Oram and Bond harried the English, except for Joyce (47/70b), into submission, with magnificent support from the field. If there was a faint hope that Joyce could muster the tail it was shattered by a magnificent catch in the outfield by Mark Gillespie. Shortly after this Nathan Astle caught Panesar with one that was almost as good (the photo doesn't really show how difficult it was, but the caption is a good description). I can't imagine any England player in today's team today who could have matched either of these efforts. That's one of their problems, and one which they'll need to think hard about before Friday's confrontation with Australia.


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