Champions Trophy Thoughts

Quite simply, I’m gutted that England couldn’t quite get over the line again.

I was there in 2004, peering through the Oval gloom to watch Browne and Bradshaw win a game for the West Indies which was as good as lost.  Seeing England lose that final was a gut-wrenching experience.  It had been such a glorious summer and, for once, the stars were aligning on a one-day side that had always underperformed.  But, then came the West Indies’ lower-order heroics and the headlines of England finally winning a major title were replaced by goodwill tales of Hurricane Ivan inspiring the Caribbean side to an unexpected victory.  It was impossible to hold any ill-will against the West Indies that day (and, hey, my ambition of seeing Brian Lara bat in the flesh was finally fulfilled), but there was the feeling that this was as good as it was going to get for England in a long time, and they had blown it…

Well, here we are nine years later, and the same thing has happened.

England are undoubtedly a better ODI side now than they were then.  Back in 2004, luck went their way, they were performing off the back of an excellent test match summer, and they were the side most equipped to play in the gloomy English autumn.  I think it’s fair to say that the current England side are playing to a better level far more frequently than their 2004 counterparts.  This was reflected by their (slightly bizarre!) number 1 ranking in the ICC’s ODI table last year.  However, I still maintain that we are not a good enough one day side to consistently win many games in a row.  Whenever a string of results start going England’s way, it is not long before a series of losses.  There simply isn’t the consistency in performance that would allow a team to win a major tournament.  We saw it in this tournament: England are very good at playing a particular type of one-day game: bowl skilfully (although with no real express pace), take wickets and restrict the batting side and then bat diligently to knock off the runs.  The Sri Lanka loss in this tournament showed that England do not have flair players who can alter the course of a match.  If the chips are down, they are really down.

And this is why I am upset about today’s loss: this was another chance for England to win a global trophy when things had fallen into line for them.  It was the conditions that suited them, they had the momentum of an English summer and they had won an important toss.  But, as soon as the match became a 20 over contest it became a lottery, a farce.  It is unfortunate that there was no reserve day and the full 50 over match that we all wanted to see could take place.  India were always going to win a T20 contest – they are T20 kings with all their IPL experience.

So yet again, England conspired to lose a final that they should have won, but this time it was more excusable: India’s T20 experience marked them out as favourites the moment that the overs were reduced.  And I am actually fairly positive about the 2015 World Cup.  For once, England are not coming straight out of a tiring Ashes campaign and the Australian conditions should play to their strengths.  If England can keep this same band of players together, bringing in new talent and developing the youngsters (such as Jos Buttler) then they have a real chance of at least making the final, I would say.  So at least this tournament has been an important stepping stone in that direction.  Even if it could have been so much better than that…