England have won a game at this World Cup, and they have won it well. After two defeats that were so comprehensive that they were roundly derided and mocked, they have claimed a victory. Many have spoken of them failing to make the knockout stages of this event, some would argue that they still might not. What comes next will decide how far England go, but they have negotiated a game against Scotland that was looking more of a tripping hazard with each passing day.
Sometimes a win is not just a win, and we saw that here. England had nothing to gain by winning this game and a huge amount to lose by stuffing their lines. Scotland, a 'mere' associate, should not come close to challenging the English. Ahead of this match there were all sorts of stories circling about this England squad and how they would react to their appalling performance against New Zealand. There were discussions of as many as three changes to the team for the game against Scotland, although these did not materialise. We were told that the team hotel was the scene of meetings after meetings with more meetings added in.
Peter Moores said that he was offering no excuses for the performances so far. He told us that preparations for the games against Australia and New Zealand were as good as they could have been and that; “Everybody can sing in the bath, not everyone can sing on a stage.” It is fortunate that the England management were not looking to find excuses for the way their team has played until now, because there really isn’t one.
England were as low as they have been in a period where there have been lots of lows going into this game. From the 5-0 drubbing in the Ashes, to the World T20 loss to the Netherlands, to losing at home to Sri Lanka in Tests for the first time, to a disastrous away performance in ODIs on a return trip. This has been a tough time to be an England supporter, and their worst ever start to a World Cup only made things worse.
So it was with all of these mental scars still fresh that England took on their nearest neighbour. There is no way Scotland should compete in a game against England. Cricket Scotland have about 3% of the annual income of the ECB, a much smaller player base and none of the high tech facilities that England’s players take for granted. Quite how far England have fallen was summed up by Paul Collingwood, a former England captain who is working with Scotland as a coach, saying it’s “going to be an amazing feeling if we can get that first-ever World Cup win under our belt, there’s no better time than against England.”
It is not unusual for coaches to give their sides a big up in pre match press conferences, but Collingwood’s comments did not sound ridiculous. Yes, England were huge favourites, but Scotland had a chance against a demoralised and brow beaten team.
Those concerns of an upset disappeared with England’s highest opening partnership in 10 years... only to reappear when it was broken. The last time an England opening pair scored more than the 172 that Moeen Ali and Ian Bell put together today the epic 2005 Ashes had not even began. When Ian Bell fell trying to accelerate having struggled to get any sort of fluency England had an absolutely stunning platform to build on and Moeen undefeated on 108.
The same old worries came flooding back as England failed to capitalise on this strong start and once again the middle order meekly crumbled in the face of some persistent if uninspiring Scottish bowling. They went from 201-1 to 252-5, including three wickets for just two runs. Having looked set for something in excess of 350, England limped to 303. The first 30 overs of England’s innings saw them score 172 runs without loss. In the next 20, they made 131 for the loss of eight wickets.
England will no doubt talk of the positives that can be taken from the batting performance. There was a fantastic opening stand, a brilliant hundred from Moeen Ali and a total of over 300. However, once again they failed to put together a complete batting display. 303 was always going to be enough if England bowled anywhere near their best, but on a good pitch against limited bowling they should have scored many more. Against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan they may well be made to pay for giving away such a dominate position.
Wickets fell steadily throughout the Scottish batting effort, but when Preston Mommsen and Kyle Coetzer were batting together Scotland were in with a chance, but when the two set batsman fell within eight balls of each other those hopes disappeared. It became a procession as Scotland’s required rate spiralled upwards and wickets tumbled. As it was the Scots made 184 to lose by 119 runs, but they performed creditably against a more experienced and better funded side.
England deserve some credit for the opening stand and the way that they bowled. Moeen Ali’s 128 and 2-47 was a fine performance. England fans have been calling for victories, and they got one here. The difficulty is this England team needs more than wins against sides they should beat and discussions of “positives” in post-match press conferences.
These well remunerated and brilliantly resourced cricketers should not be putting in the performances that they have been. They have no credit left in the bank, and today’s win adds little to the balance.
They have scored over 300 and won and there is still a feeling that they have let their supporters down. That is perhaps the best example of how far these players have fallen in the minds of those that follow them. A big win against Sri Lanka on Sunday will arrest the decline.
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2015 12:26:47 IST