Monday, March 14, 2011

Cricket World Cup 2011 : England Not Out of it Yet

Despite Bangladesh grabbing the fourth place ahead of England in Group B today, England still stand a good chance of winning the ICC World Cup 2011.  The task is straightforward; they must win their next four matches.

As they have shown with their performances against India and South Africa, England are capable of beating any team in this competition.  Of course they have also shown that they are capable of losing to almost any team in this competition too, but this is largely the nature of one day cricket where there is a scarcity of  time and balls to even out the uncontrollables that in cricket of all types, from matches played in Parks to those on famous Test arenas, habitually come in lumps.
England had the worse ‘end’ of the conditions in their match with Bangladesh.  They batted on a slow and low wicket conducive to spin, but then with the arrival of a heavy dewfall bowled on a surface with enough zip to delight any batsman and with a ball as slippery as a flying fish.
There is only one thing harder than defending a total with a wet and bloated red cricket ball and that is defending the same total with a wet and bloated white cricket ball.

Batting on a slow and low wicket places an enormous premium on a batsman’s balance and a technique built around a strong back leg that anchors and braces the base.  Just look at the physical foundations on which the great Tendulka and Sehwag form their strokes.

Somewhere close to the top of a list of batting bulwarks lead by these two wonderful batsmen is Eion Morgan. Morgan gave a fine demonstration of balance and bat control built around the firmest of bases, the two legged tripod of zen control.

On such a wicket batsmen have to get close to the ball and be firmly grounded in order to get sufficient leverage.  This is Morgan’s natural technique added to which he arrived at the wicket with less mental baggage to juggle than his team mates.

Their approach was typical of modern attack with its formula of clearing the front leg and opening the chest, the downside of which is that it so easily take the batsman and his weight away from the ball.

This is fine when the ball is coming on and there is pace to be converted into power.
On a slow wicket, however, it is not room that is required but the good old fashioned proximity that takes the head to a position over the ball and produces a point of contact ‘under the nose’.  In short, cricket striking not baseball striking.

It is difficult to adapt to such conditions during a match when pressure speeds up time and redoubles the mental confusion, especially when this is not your grooved technique.  But those horrid conditions have come and gone and, if their mental consequences are safely quarantine, the experience should not influence England’s approach to the next match.

Chennai awaits them.  The West Indians await them.  Gale awaits them. Opportunity awaits them.  How badly do they want to stay in the competition?  That will be the most significant determinant of the result.

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