I’m more or less the Mike Bassett of the cricket world. My time as England manager has seen me lose warm-up matches to Kent and Essex. It’s Hampshire next, can we find some form on the south coast ahead of the World Cup? I really hope so.
Whatever lineup I pick here is going to be pretty close to the team I send out for our first World Cup match and I think the main problem so far has been we aren’t scoring runs quickly enough. The top 3 have been fine, they can stay. I’m going to try Flintoff at 4 to utilise some big hitting and then Thorpe at 5 and Ramps at 6. That means there’s still no room for Nasser, and with this pitch looking slower I’ve no choice but to recall Tuffers at the expense of Bulbeck, who is perhaps unlucky to miss out.
Really I just need to field more Mullally’s. Here he rips through the Hampshire top order, reducing them to 36-3 before returning to remove a fourth. 58-4 and everything is good. 86-5 is better, even 109-6 is decent. So how did they get to 200-9? The tail wagged, yes, but Darren Gough is really starting to get on my nerves. His 10 overs cost us 51 runs and with him only taking 1 wicket, his place is looking under threat. Silly Darren.
So, 4 an over. That should be easy. The opening partnership is typically strong, though it ends on 44 as Knight departs. Stewart departs just 8 runs later to leave us 52-2 and even when Hick is removed for 17, we should make it home from 81-3. Then before you can say silly mid-off, we’re 94-6. Vincey tries to save us but it’s even beyond him. 157 all out. A new low.
So on to the World Cup, our World Cup, and it’s Sri Lanka. I’m assuming they are better than Essex, Hampshire and Kent, which means this is going to be tough for us.
How do you solve this problem? I have no idea. I’ve left the batting lineup the same and brought in Bulbeck for Tuffers. They have Murali so any spin option we have will be poor in comparison. One other change – Thorpe is captain. I trust Thorpey, even if he’s been average so far.
We win the toss and bat. My theory is I don’t want to face Murali on a worn pitch. It’s probably a very negative approach to the World Cup but I’m fragile.
Stewart and Knight are like heroes to me. The one constant in a horrible world of change and such is their custom, they put on 50 for the first innings. After seeing off 12 overs of pace, it’s spin at both ends. Murali is kept out but Chandana bowls Stewart. That’s ominous. I didn’t pick a spinner today, remember. They just keep coming. Knight, Hick and Flintoff are all accounted for before Thorpe and Ramps but on 80 delicious runs to get us to 150. Both depart shortly after and mainly thanks to Vince “the legend” Wells we get from 155-6 to 198-8 at the end of our overs. 31 overs of spin.
So can Sri Lanka manage what we couldn’t against Hampshire? The openers start well, even Mullally cannot contain them, then out of nowhere, Gough forces Atapattu into a waft and Bulbeck pouches. 44-1, 10 overs bowled, the game is still in the balance.
De Silva arrives and smashes a 6 off Angus Fraser but Wells manages to bowl him to keep us in with a chance. Wickets are key. Unfortunately, another doesn’t arrive until they have 163 on the board, the economical Mullally rewarded with Kaluwitharna edging to slip. Although Gough does remove Jayasuriya to at least have respectable figures, we’re well short in all departments and it’s a 6 wickets loss. Incidentally, Graeme Hick bowled 10 overs of spin and was my most economical bowler by far. I guess I’ll have to shoulder some of the blame on this one.
Great start. Kenya next…
Two losses in one terrible episode. Everything is terrible. See you next time, where we’ll try and avoid humiliation against Kenya.