Don’t panic. DON’T PANIC. Welcome back to 1999, where I’m trying to re-write history as England coach using ICC2. If you missed the first episode, we lost to bloody Kent in a 50 over warm up. We didn’t just lose, we got destroyed. 8 wickets. 10 overs to spare. This is not good.
We’re off to Essex, thankfully a long time before there were awful reality shows about it. Having said that, this squad looks like they’ve been on an all-night bender round Essex, look at the state of this:
In the interest of rotating the squad and getting a look at everybody, all four who sat out the first game are in. Hussain is out, with Stewart taking captaincy duties, whilst Dominic Cork pays the price for his awful bowling spell. Mark Ealham is also sacked off for similar reasons. Flintoff, Wells and Bulbeck are in whilst the pitch shows no signs of turning, so Angus Fraser replaces Tufnell. The Essex charge will be lead by Australian Stuart Law and sometimes England player Ronnie Irani.
I’ve lost the toss – I blame Alec – and wisely, Essex put us in. Having seen the hash we made of the first match, I’d rather chase. Sadly, I can’t choose.
We make a reasonable start, the openers did well in the first game and they get to 40 here without any issue but a change of bowling accounts for Alec Stewart – Irani tempting him into an edge to slip. That brings in form man Graeme Hick and he sets about the bowling – particularly poor old Ashley Cowan. But with the partnership on 49, on comes the off-spin of Peter Such and with his second ball he bowls Knight for 31. Did someone say this pitch wouldn’t take spin?
Our middle order is becoming a concern. We build from 90-2 and Hick brings up a second consecutive 50, but on 56 he edges Cowan to slip and away he goes. 137-3 becomes 154-5 as Law snares Thorpe (22) LBW and Flintoff is clean bowled by Such for 8. Crikey. Vince Wells and Ramprakash steady the ship, putting on 50 before Wells is stumped off Such in the penultimate over. We reach 212-6, with Ramps unbeaten on 39. It’s probably nowhere near enough.
We need to take wickets if we’re going to win and I think Mullally and Gough bowled well last time out with the new cherry so let’s stick with that. I’m rewarded instantly as Mullally bowls Robinson for 3 and then Law for 1. His opening 5 overs cost just 7 runs and account for 2 wickets, whilst Gough also only goes for 7 but without reward. I decide to save them for a spell in a little while if we are under the cosh and Angus Fraser replaces Mullally. It might be my lucky day as second ball he takes a smart caught and bowled to remove Irani for 3. Bulbeck comes on at the other end and as the fielding restrictions end, Pritchard and Hodgson start to take the attack to the two new bowlers. Just as I’m starting to think Bulbeck was a mistake following two consecutive boundaries, he foxes Hodgson with a slower ball and takes a dolly return catch. 53-4 from 16 overs, but Pritchard has carried his bat so far. He needs removing.
Pritchard and Grayson begin the rebuilding job, and as Fraser has gone for 20 from his 3 overs so far I bring back Mullally to slow them down. Vince Wells is on at the other end and he’s steady, eventually Pritchard gets frustrated and shoulders arms to Vinny and is clean bowled. 104-5, 20 overs to go and so far, much better.
Just as those grey skies (metaphorical grey skies, it’s actually a lovely day in Essex) look to be clearing, we go 8 overs without a wicket and it costs us 60 runs. That’s brought the run rate right down, not helped by Gough’s latest over going for 13. Mullally is brought back – he has only 2 overs remaining but has gone for just 14 so if he can break this partnership, we’ll be laughing.
He can’t. An LBW against Grayson is turned down who then rubs salt in the wound by taking 8 from the remainder of the over. Bulbeck throws in a maiden in between but with 8 overs to go, Essex are 180-5 and only need 4.1 an over from here. It’s time for Vince Wells.
His first ball goes for 4 and I’ve got that sinking feeling. But no. 4 dot balls follow and then he’s only bloody bowled him! The 83 run partnership is over. But we need more. Bulbeck is smashed for 10 and it’s Essex’s to lose. Can Vincey save us again? He keeps them down to 4 from the over. Fraser returns and spoils a perfect over with a long hop that Law takes 4 from. Essex need 10 from 4 and it becomes 9 from 3 as Vince keeps it on the money. Now what?
Gough has 2 overs remaining, but he is wicketless so far. Fraser also has 2 overs but his figures of 1-48 are not inspiring. Bulbeck has 1, he’s 1-42 though so sod it, Goughy. Do your thing. They take 8 from the over. Why always me? Angus Fraser bowls a maiden, because why not, so Essex still need 1 run from the final over. Gough offers it up and Grayson takes it. We’ve lost. Send help.
Nobody has horrific figures. Some are better than others, yes, but it’s depressing.
Losing to one county was bad, but to lose to two? Wow. It’s Hampshire next, you won’t want to miss that. It might be about to get even worse…