I hesitate to use the word security when talking about Pakistan, what with their cricket matches being played in the UAE because of it. But, in my opinion, England lulled their opponents into a false sense of it during the Test series...so as to improve their ODI ranking.
After all, England are already on top of the world when it comes to Test cricket, but are languishing in the lower regions of the one-day international table. So, with the opportunity to increase their standings in one-day cricket, what’s three Test losses? Well, actually, it saw England drop from 125 points and a healthy eight-point lead over India, to leading by a single point. But who’s counting? Apart from me, obviously.
England haven’t even really been close to winning a significant limited-overs tournament (little brother Twenty20 excepted) in quite some time. England’s last final was the 2004 Champions Trophy (like a mini World Cup to the uninitiated amongst you) when Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw broke English hearts in a magnificent lower-order partnership to seal the trophy for the West Indies. I know, I was there.
Before this series started, England were in sixth place in the world when it came to one-day cricket, one position below Pakistan. After three wins and a series victory (with one game to play, at the time of writing), they have swapped over and England have moved into fifth.
Fifth?! I hear you exclaim. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in England’s ability in the shorter format, does it?
So, why do England struggle in one-day cricket? Part of it is England have never known which players constitute their best team, and in which positions. How can we forget when Nick Knight was dropped from opening the batting in favour of...Nasser Hussain?
And every wicketkeeper, since Adam Gilchrist made the position his own, is now expected to open the innings. Thankfully, England have finally seen the error of their ways in that regard and dropped Craig Kieswetter down to six. He just needs to improve his wicketkeeping now...
An obsession with packing the team with all-rounders hasn’t helped in recent years either. All England have ever really had is a mix of bits and pieces cricketers who weren’t good enough at either discipline to be able to hold down a place in the Test side. So, why were they thought to be the solution in one-day cricket?!
Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel are England’s only all-rounders in the current ODI team. Ravi has scored two half-centuries in his two innings so far in the series and is being talked about as displacing Eoin Morgan in the Test team. And Samit has picked up five key wickets and, somewhat unexpectedly, taken a couple of great catches. Job done.
On an equally positive note, I wonder what odds you would have got 18 months ago on Alastair Cook being England’s best ODI player.
Not only was he not in the team, but his Test place was also under scrutiny after an indifferent summer. Throw in a majestic Ashes campaign with the bat, a double hundred against India and the one-day international captaincy and Cook is now boiling over.
It cannot be a coincidence that, with Cook leading from the front with two hundreds and an 80 in this series, England are beginning to compete. Not only that, but he has been a pleasure to watch, outscoring opening partner Kevin Pietersen, and at a greater strike rate. Not an accusation which has ever previously been levelled at Cook; Saturday saw just his third ever six in one-day cricket.
So, in the hope that I haven’t just jinxed them for the remaining ODI and the three Twenty20s which follow, things are looking up for England in one-day cricket. They could even reach the heady heights of fourth with another victory. Perhaps a 3-0 whitewash in the Tests wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Now, if they could only manage to master both formats at once...