The Kennington Oval in London resembled the flattest Chinnaswamy pitch, with boundaries that seemed shorter than most New Zealand grounds. When the ECB said they would ensure that the English cricket team would reflect a fresh change and guard post the World Cup, with a new look, fearless attitude and fresh faces, they weren’t kidding. The grounds, pitches are all part of their plan to instill positivity and confidence into their own batsmen.
It’s unusual to see an English ODI team play a 50 over match like they’re extended Natwest T20 blast matches. Most of their predecessors were still stuck in the 16th century, as demonstrated by their reluctance and completely dated style of cricket in World Cups. They never got the formula right, always a century behind the modern limited over styles.
But this English ODI team, barely recognizable from the one that flopped in the World Cup, bears all the brightness and madness of the youngsters coming up the domestic ranks. Names like Roy, Hales, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Billings, Rashid (an English leg-spinner!), Plunkett, Jordan and Finn are not names you usually associate as a team playing international cricket together. There’s no Cook, Bell, Anderson, Broad and any of the senior players, except Morgan—who is leading a side even he isn’t very familiar with.
Perhaps that’s why they are playing the way they are. They don’t know their own strengths and weaknesses yet, like an infant crashing out of an egg raring to go—and they’re really testing a very strong Kiwi team.
After demolishing the Kiwis in the first ODI by more than 200 runs, many felt that McCullum and co. got revenge by putting up 398 in the first innings. But the way England came at them, with Morgan finally proving why he was always highly sought, New Zealand must have realized that they’re facing a bunch of Mad-Maxers too. They have more experience and game-play at every level, but to face an unpredictable bunch of talented players who don’t really resemble Englishmen…it’s an alien situation to be in.
If Tim Southee hadn’t pulled off an absolute stunner on the boundary after Rashid drilled the final ball of the penultimate over for (what he thought was) six, England could very well have pulled off their highest ever ODI chase. With 24 required off 7, it would have gone down to 18 off the final over, which was very possible despite the unfortunate rain break and D&L intervention. Southee relayed the ball back to Boult, showing some incredible presence of mind, thereby getting rid of dangerman Rashid at the right time. The Kiwis still don’t quite know what sort of batting line-up has hit them in England—with no test players except Root and Stokes left in the ODI line-up. This ‘new’ England seems to be working so far, and despite the series reading 1-1, the Kiwis don’t look like the most exiciting team out of the two anymore.