The English cricket team cannot buy a win down under. The test team is already in disarray; in virtual tatters, the real head count is yet to be assimilated, nobody knows if there will be any survivors. There was one survivor though- a young lad in his debut test series by the name of Ben Stokes. An all-rounder, England’s only bright spot in the 5-0 mauling.
The kid is now in tatters. As part of the ODI team, he has experienced what his journeyman teammates went through during their horrid Aussie summer. The English ODI team has always blown hot and cold. They have never been world beaters as such, though they’ve had their phases. They still struggle to win bilateral overseas contests. The closest they came to winning a major crown was at the Champions Trophy at home in 2013- where they choked and surrendered, handing the trophy over to India instead. Their world cup campaigns have always ended outside the last 4.
But surely, their ODI team- led by the same Captain- couldn’t have barreled to greater depths than the men in white. The scoreline after 2 matches seems to indicate the familiar sinking trend; it reads 2-0 to Australia, but atleast their opponents have shown some spunk.
What is the use of spunk if snatching defeat from the jaws of victory becomes a habit? Ben Stokes, the hero of this doomed tour, in a cruel joke, became recipient to one of the most shattering English ODI defeats in years. Not because it was a series decider or an important game, not because it was a game changer or anything of that sort, but because England were 0-6 heading into the ODI with nothing more to lose. Except more of their dignity.
And so they did.
300+ had never been chased down at the Gabba. Eoin Morgan, an absentee from the test team, announced himself in fine style- mauling the Aussie attack to put up this imposing total. What’s more, the Aussie batting hero from the first match- Finch- was dismissed by Jordan for 0. Finally, England were to taste sweet success. There was just the matter of running through the rest of the brittle Aussie top order. Warner soon went, as did Clarke, but comeback kid Shaun Marsh hustled his way to a 50. Out-of-form Bailey went after a start, and then it was time for that precocious talent Maxwell to step up. He did, blasting the Aussies back into the game with a belligerent half century. Haddin went after a brief supporting role, as did Coulter-Nile.
James Faulkner came in at no. 10.
It was the same guy that had blasted his way to the fastest ODI century by an Australian in Mohali. Many said it was a fluke, a one-off that was a mistake because it displaced ‘real’ batsmen like Hayden from the top of the list. Faulkner was a bowler, after all. How dare he.
The Gabba, on Jan 17th 2014, was surely no fluke. It was a magic trick.
Faulkner, after being belted for over 70 runs in his 10 overs as a bowler, smashed 65 runs of the last 6 overs with only no. 11 McKay for company. From 244-9, Australia won the match with 3 balls to spare.
Faulkner spared nobody, not even poor Ben Stokes– whose fairytale run seems to have come to an abrupt end. A first ball duck didn’t add to his confidence either.
Many experts said that it was perhaps one of the finest ODI innings ever played. It could be true, because Faulkner didn’t win it with the middle order for company- he didn’t win a match they were supposed to win. He won a match they were supposed to lose. He snatched a match from England’s tight grasp and stamped his name all over their buttocks.
There is not a thing right Captain Cook can do on this tour. His captaincy has come in for great criticism, and there was a lot he could have done to break that last wicket partnership (where McKay contributed 2*). In the end, the Aussies hailed their greatest finisher since Michael Bevan.
A bit too early for that, only a year into his all-rounder career, but even MS Dhoni would have been proud of the astounding finish.
What’s more, to add further woe to England’s already miserable trip, a fact still remains: An Englishman is YET to score a century on this tour.
Morgan (Ireland) and Stokes (New Zealand) must feel really sore after this miraculous defeat.
2-0 with 3 games to go. Who would bet against another 5-0 to end possibly the most one-sided tour in recent history between two test playing nations?