Cricket is a sport in which most followers expect their heroes to adhere to a higher standard of fair play and sportsmanship.
The recent incident of ‘Mankading’ (who on earth coined that phrase?) – when Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake ran out England’s Jos Buttler who had strayed out of his crease at the non-striker’s end at a key point in the final and deciding ODI in the series was disappointing to see and thankfully remains very rare.
The last incident I can remember is when Kapil Dev ran out South Africa’s Peter Kirsten, apparently without warning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzbFy_elb8k
Differing accounts of Tuesday’s shambles say Senanayake warned Buttler twice or just the once. Either way, it wasn’t cricket. The bowler shouldn’t have done it and the captain should have over-ruled the appeal. He didn’t, it happened so we are left to count the cost of a strain on the game.
What I don’t like, however, is England using this unsavoury controversy to shield yet another highly mixed performance during a ODI series.
Sri Lanka are a decent side – but without the wicket taking machine that was Muttiah Muralitharan in the line-up and home advantage you would have expected England to win the series.
They didn’t and a lot of the blame for that must be laid on the batting line up. The top order is too pedestrian and in-consistent. Cook, Bell, Ballance and Root are fine exponents of the longer game but don’t work well enough when the number of overs are limited. Morgan can be a fantastic player – on his day. Overall a dynamism is somewhat lacking. These days a score of 300 is merely par for the course rather than an exceptional total. England rarely look able to get close enough to that total, let alone beat it. All of the top order are perfectly capable of hitting a pretty 50 or so – but usually at a rate of less than a run a ball. At least one of the order needs to be regularly reaching three figures – and at a decent rate. They shouldn’t be relying on Butler and Chris Jordan to be the catalyst late on for a push to a half decent total. By the time they are usually at the crease it is often too late.
Buttler needs moving up the order with perhaps Alex Hales opening the batting. Bopara has to go – neither good enough with bat or consistent enough with the ball – Chris Jordan and, when he returns, Chris Broad can fill the all-rounder slots.
When Yorkshire signed fast bowler Liam Plunkett I presumed he was of an age where he had moved to the county for a final swansong before retirement and media work. He seems to have been around for ages. He is only 29, however, and still has many good years left in him. The move to the White Rose has clearly re-invigorated his career and today’s England re-call is ample reward.
Anyone who thinks Andrew ‘Freddy’ Flintoff will struggle on his return to first-class cricket for Lancashire should watch this incredible catch. It might take a few games for him to get back to full pelt but it’s clear he’s still got it. Good luck Fred (even if is first game back is against Yorkshire!)
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