Is this really the best England can do?

It never fails to amaze me reading the contrasting opinions from our feedbackers at Cricinfo while covering these one-dayers, especially with England in such limp form. Of the 1000 or so emails, a fair chunk criticised us for our anti-England stance, accusing us of racism, bias toward Ireland and whatever else. What game were they watching? The one we were watching was between a feisty, energetic team full of lively promise and intent. The other was England at their timid best.

I defy anyone to tell me their performance today was anything better than average. They were half asleep; at times careless; more often than not timid or cautious in their intent and generally lacking authority. This is not, I assure you, to demean Ireland. They have exceptional ability, but class will invariably out – as it did today. The manner of the victory was so mundane, so unimpressive that it was hard to distinguish who was the minnow.

Why bat first on that pitch? Boyd Rankin, Ireland’s towering fast bowler, utilised the conditions expertly and made Ed Joyce look even more clueless. Vaughan should have sent them in, knocked them over and ticked off the runs. Instead, Ian Bell again puffed out his chest, rolled up his sleeves ala his mentor, Alec Stewart, and tried to assert his authority on proceedings in the form of strutting. All this showmanship is fooling no one. Runs is what England need from him, not peacockery. Pietersen was glamorous and brilliant, but got bored, leaving Collingwood to make something of the innings which, inevitably, he did. Without his burst, Ireland would’ve won today.

And then the bowling. Saj Mahmood looked okay initially, but was far too wide of the off stump and his once excellent surprise slower ball is being used as his escape hatch far too often. Anderson mixed the dreadful with the delightful in equal measure, as is his wont. Six balls on, or just outside off stump. It really is not that difficult and I remain flummoxed as to why England cannot do it. And Monty, for all his control, has forgotten how to flight the ball. I’m also convinced there is something amiss in his action; he’s pushing the ball through, straining…the balance at the crease on delivery has gone and there’s no loop.

All in all, England just look pissed off and don’t want to be there. Know the feeling.

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