India’s series-clinching defeat of England was in doubt for large portions of England’s run-chase, as Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff valiantly hauled England back into contention. But had they seen England home it would have concealed a desperate lack of flexibility in the side’s batting – and perhaps most fundamentally, a lack of collective skill.
The decision to open with Bell and Bopara, as if it was a 50-over chase rather than a 22-over one, betrayed a complete inability of England’s management to think on their feet. Bell has shown signs of being a good one-day opener, playing second fiddle, but simply lacks the explosive hitting crucial in a match that was virtually a Twenty20.
England needed to show intent from ball one to chase down the target of 198. Instead, they mustered a paltry 21 from their first six Powerplay overs, a familiar tale. They should have done everything to ensure their best players faced as many balls as possible – obvious, perhaps, but they palpably failed to do so. Opening with Shah, alongside Bopara, and having Pietersen at three and Flintoff at four would have showed a flexibility that would have worried India. Bell’s 12 runs from 15 balls hardly constituted the flying start England needed.
Owais Shah played an exceptional innings, displaying his powerful straight-hitting and unorthodoxy: finally, he has cemented his role in the one-day side, though his best position remains the subject of conjecture. Yet had he taken England home it would only have concealed their pitiful efforts at the start and end of the innings, at their complete inability to adapt to the demands of the situation. Put simply, they appeared to be playing a different game from India, lacking firepower at the start and end of the innings and, save for Shah, Flintoff and Pietersen, the ability to hit sixes.
This side below may be the best England can muster in Indian conditions in 50-over games, although it probably still isn’t good enough:
Harmison (given that Sidebottom is injured)