Whilst England’s mini-revival in One Day International cricket would appear to be hauling itself back on track after Friday’s victory over New Zealand the focus has been taken off the role of the management in England’s malaise. They have managed to successfully deprive three promising players of any semblance of confidence.
Owais Shah had a fantastic return to International Limited Overs cricket against the West Indians last summer. Finally it appeared as though one of county cricket’s more talented players had arrived on the big stage to stay. Yet he played only five of the following seven games against India as consistency of selection seemed to evaporate. However, Shah scored his first century in that series and went to Sri Lanka in good form. In the second match of that series, with England one down, Shah hit a crucial 82 to win the game. His performances then tailed off in the remaining three matches. However, surely he had done enough to earn a Test recall, especially after his last outing on the sub-continental pitches of India, where he struck a vital 88 and 38.
However, despite his performances and his expertly wristy play of spin, he was overlooked and in stepped a young Ravi Bopara, scorer of just one fifty in his 19 matches to that date. Bopara had experienced a dismal ODI series in Sri Lanka with a high score of 27 not out. Bopara, clearly out of form already, was thrown in at the deep end and how he drowned. He managed 42 runs from 5 innings, including three ducks. His confidence plummeted to its lowest ebb surely. Time for a breather perhaps, not for the England management though. He replaced Dimi Mascarenhas for the first two ODI’s in New Zealand and contrived to lose England at least one of those games, whilst he joined in with the general malaise. Meanwhile, Shah, surely demoralised by rejection after promising performances, has scored just 38 runs from his 3 innings in New Zealand so far. Good work Team England.
Now, for the final part of the puzzle, Mascarenhas. He waited a long, long time for the chance and when it came he eventually grasped it with both hands after an early struggle with the bat against the West Indies, batting in an unfamiliar number seven position. Economical bowling in that series was followed by more of the same plus some wickets against India in the four matches which he played. He also scored a terrific 52 from 39 and 36 not out from 15 in his only two innings. Finally England had a man who could replicate the Andrew Flintoff of old,s death hitting. 31 from 14 and 11 from 7 followed in the T20 Internationals versus New Zealand, coupled with bowling figures of 4-44 from 8 overs. Surely he had secured his place for the ODI’s. No! In came Bopara and Mascarenhas, when he did finally appear in the third ODI, took a bit of stick during his 7 overs for 55, not helped by his captain’s use of him, or the hit his confidence most likely took from being dropped. What are England playing at?!