Monday, June 24, 2013

Heart-Breaking Champions Trophy Loss Is Lesson To England

England appeared to be on the cusp of an unlikely Champions Trophy victory on home soil. They were placed at 110-4 with more than two overs remaining and with Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan at the crease, batting well and already having posted a 64-run partnership.

It truly looked like England's long wait for a first ever 50-over international trophy was over. Ishant Sharma was bowling and had just been dispensed for a six by a Morgan who looked like he was just finding his stride.

Then what Morgan scooped a slower ball bouncer to mid wicket. It was a poor shot and a poor decision. However, it still felt only like a mini hiccup. The talented Jos Buttler came to the crease, and this is a team with a later order that includes some useful bats in Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and James Tredwell. Not to mention that Bopara had been looking imperious on 30 not out.

Next ball banished that comfortable feeling in an instant. Bopara - slightly unfortunately - nailed Sharma straight to square leg. Suddenly, India felt that they were back in the game and England looked on seriously shaky ground.

The next over confirmed most people's fears when Buttler fell first ball played an ugly shot and missing Ravindra Jadeja. Bresnan was then inexplicably run out and at 113-8, it always looked like there was a little too much for the remaining bats to do. Broad and Tredwell managed to add 11 runs. England had lost by five runs.

Alastair Cook expressed the team's devastation in post-match interviews. There's no doubt that this loss is a significant blow to an ODI team that is trying to develop ahead of the 2015 World Cup and a significant blow to England ahead of the summer's Ashes series.

It should be remembered of course that this was a strange tournament for England in many ways. They struggled earlier in the summer against New Zealand. However, victories over New Zealand and Australia in the group stages assured them of qualification for the semi-final stage.

A difficult match-up against South Africa was negated by a superb bowling and fielding effort led by James Anderson and Tredwell. They held the Proteas to a weak total and chased it down comfortably.

Against all the odds, England were somehow in the final against the team most consider to be by far the best ODI outfit in the world: India.

Things didn't go well initially. Rain delayed the start of play and reduced the game to 20 overs per side. With a top order featuring Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root, England were hardly perfectly prepared for a shortened game. However, they bowled and fielded well to restrict India to just 129 off their overs.

The fact is that winning big tournaments is very much about dealing with pressure and playing well in tight situations. England may have been fortunate to get where they did. However, they were in perfect position to seal a confidence boosting Champions Trophy triumph.

In future tournaments, this England core will need to utilize the lessons learned at Edgbaston on Sunday. If they do, then they've shown that they are figuring out how to be successful in ODI cricket.

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