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England vs West Indies, Chennai, 17th March 2011

Thank fook for that – although it would have been nice to go home…..England triumph against West Indies

An Australian chap I follow on twitter claimed today that this Cricket World Cup is boring, and asked “will the quarter finals hurry up?”

England fans wouldn’t tend to agree with that viewpoint, as their team’s path to the quarters has been anything but dull. Another titanic struggle in Chennai against the West Indies today has all but secured their route to the next round of the competition, but my word it’s been close!

There were times during England’s batting today when it looked as though they were down and out. 151-6 at one stage, with Tredwell and Wright at the crease, you thought a score of under 200 was on the cards, which would have been hugely sub-optimal on a flat wicket like this.

Thankfully though, Luke Wright came to the party, and scored 44 valuable runs off 57 balls. Bresnan also got 20, and with starts from Strauss, Prior, Trott and Bell, England had just enough to get over the line.

It all went so wrong for England when the West Indies started batting though. 243 all out; a modest total, probably 40 runs shy of a par score, began to be eaten up quickly as first Chris Gayle (43 runs off 21 balls), and then Captain Sammy (41 off 29) set about decimating England’s new look pace attack. Bresnan went for 16 in his first over, only to be replaced by Tremlett, making his first start of the tournament, who went for 18 first up. You could be forgiven for thinking it would be over in 20 over’s as they passed 50-0 in just 5 over’s!

But this isn’t 20/20 cricket, and as the ball softened, and pace was taken off the ball at both ends, England re-grouped and got back into the game. James Tredwell, also making his first start of the tournament picked up the first 3 wickets of the innings, (Gayle, Smith and Bravo) to stop the flow of runs and swing the momentum of the match.

Now, regular readers of this blog may remember that I gave Straussy a 3 point plan to turn England’s fortunes around last time out! One of them was to bring Tredwell into the team as we needed two spinners to compete on these sub-continent tracks, and certainly having Tredwell bowling so well and taking so many wickets (he finished with four), fully vindicated the decision to field 2 spinners.

Another thought was to rest Anderson and play Tremlett. When Big Chris got smashed for 18 off that first over I wondered what Jimmy could have done any better – in truth very little. West Indies are a massively entertaining team, but they are utter bludgeoners! Gayle, Sammy and the enormous Kevin Pollard can hit the ball with such ferocity and at the start of the innings, with the field in close and the ball hard; they can do some serious damage. If you can restrict them early, taking the pace off the ball as England did (eventually) with Swann and Tredwell, then you’re in with a chance.

As has been the way, England’s fielding was a little sketchy, with Bopara putting down a tough chance admittedly off Swann’s bowling – cue the now customary “Swann-scowl”. But Prior was pretty tidy and there were sharp catches by Strauss at slip and Tremlett diving to pouch a top edge off Roach from Swann’s bowling, this was a more England-like performance in the field.

And so a win, but again it was mighty close. My main worry is that, whilst the Australian’s, Indian’s and South African’s progress neatly to the latter stages of the competition with a pretty settled team, England are no where near so sure of their first 11. Sure, Shahzad’s injury meant he had to be replaced, but the other 2 changes were not enforced. That said, the make up of the side looks far better with two spinners, and Bopara now seems trusted by Strauss to bowl some over’s and pitched in with 2 wickets for 22 runs off 8.4 over’s today, which is very tidy indeed.

I’d still like to see Prior come down the batting order, and the more I see of Trott, the more I think he could open. Prior for me just doesn’t have the control to open an innings, but the way this crazy tournament for England is progressing, these are minor details.

So on we roll to the Quarter finals. There’s definitely a little bit of making-it-up-as-we-go-along to England in this World Cup. We sure were prepared for the Ashes, but this was a tag along we’ve had to navigate with whatever players we’ve had fit at the time, forming plans almost as and when the need arises. Still, it makes for amazingly exciting viewing doesn’t it?

And so to the next round. If we finish in 4th, and Australia beat Pakistan, then it’s a re-run of, err, the 7 pointless One Day fixtures we played against the auld enemy just a couple of months ago. Should have a game plan ready for them, then

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