There was a chance to arrive at the ICC World Cup yesterday. A chance to demonstrate intent and belief. To really put down a marker and make other teams a little nervous of playing us. And having reducing Bangladesh to 65-6, I made the fatal mistake of thinking we might actually do so. How stupid of me. From that moment on, we were treated to the most turgid, dull and frankly depressing display I have ever seen by an England one-day side in victory (I use the term merely for definition purposes because it felt like defeat).
Firstly, rather than roll the Bangladeshis over for 80-odd by applying maximum pressure, we relaxed, got sloppy and let them get to 143. Still a poor score but far more than they should have accumulated. But that wasn’t the really terrible thing. Oh no. The batting, now that was truly miserable. Now the Bangladesh attack is neat and tidy. A couple of accurate medium-fasts and a trio of left arm spinners. But there was no spin in this pitch, and no movement off the seam. Just a bit of bounce. Nothing to bother England’s finest. Ahem.
From the first ball, my gloom developed. Instead of tinkering with the order, sending in Freddie to do real damage against the pacemen, Bell and Vaughan prodded and poked around. At 7-0 all the runs were extras. I stifled my first yawn. What the hell were we doing? I’ll tell you…we were gently accumulating runs while keeping wickets intact. What for? Good grief, even at a gentle five an over, the game would have been done in less than thirty overs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then the wickets started to fall. I suspect our players were so bored they began falling asleep at the crease. It’s the only explanation for the pathetic display they put up.
And so we batted our way into deeper and deeper trouble. Bangladesh could even have won. I fail to understand our tactics. Flintoff clearly hates coming in against spin bowling. So don’t let him. Put him in at 2. Pietersen is an aggressive and splendid batsman. Put him in at 3, not 4. Show some guts, for god’s sake. And if you lose a couple of wickets for 70 after eight overs, so what? Job done already because your dogged accumulators can come in and clean up, can’t they?
This was not entertainment. This was death by a thousand feeble prods. I didn’t even watch the end. It was too excruciating. A rerun of Location, Location, Location provided more guile, surprise and excitement. The case for the prosecution rests.