Wednesday, 2 March 2011

England v Ireland - call this a preview?

 What is in a name?  The Associates, pictured right, were a Scottish post-punk band of the early 1980s.  So young was Fantasy Bob at that time that he cannot quite remember their achievements as they made a shallow impact and then faded back into obscurity. They were known for the histrionic voice and theatrical antics of singer Billy Mackenzie, who committed suicide in 1997.  Is there a lesson in the fickleness of fame here for the associates of this Cricket World Cup?  Could 2 March be the day that the associates bite back?

It is one of the charms of the British Isles that Fantasy Bob is thinking about  the England v Ireland match on the day of days for all Welshmen, St David’s Day.  Why the Welsh so revere David Gower to the point of making him their national saint has never been clear to FB, although it seems a pretty good choice.  Mind you, for once Scotland’s choice St Andrew Strauss is catching up fast.

And it is Strauss of all the cricketers on show at this event who has shown real depth and class.   To open with KP and be the dominant partner showing a greater range of shot (and better shot selection) is no mean achievement.   Is FB's memory sound when he recalls that Strauss was not being considered for the one day side only a year or so ago?  He has transformed himself as a player.  If Strauss maintains his current form then England can go all the way and should certainly be too powerful for the Irish tomorrow.  It disappoints FB to say this – it is about time the associates did something and the Irish should be the strongest of the four.  But they disappointed against Bangladesh in a match they could have won.

These two teams met at the 2007 World Cup in Guyana, when England won by 48 runs. Over half the players on the field will be survivors of that match including Paul Collingwood whose innings of 90 was the difference between the teams.  Colly hasn’t yet had to play his innings saving role, so positive has England’s batting been and it is unlikely that he will be called upon tomorrow, so flat is the wicket said to be.  But sometime in this competition he will be the get out of jail card.  FB stakes his library membership card on it.

In another baffling fact from the provider of baffling facts in outer space, FB learns that if Jonathan Trott scores 64 he will equal Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen as the fastest player to 1000 runs in one-day internationals.   FB is amazed because he doesn’t think of Trott as a one day player – but this is special company.  So FB must be mistaken.  'How can that be?' say his 3 loyal readers  in one voice.

England have chased well in this tournament – extremely well.  Indeed they’ve been even better than that.  Is it an opportunity tomorrow to see how they are at setting a total?  Their only victory in the recent Australian series was when they batted first and Trott top scored with 102.  (Actually this was the only time in that series that they batted full stop).  Is their bowling strong enough to stand an assault – from being such a rock of strength in the Ashes, it has looked shaky so far.  FB suspects that had India to chase the same total on Sunday they would have got there.

And then FB wonders whether England have used up their miracle decision already.  They maybe should have saved Billy Bowden’s astounding not outing of Bell for the knock out stages.  What exactly did it look like from Bowden’s point of view? All batsmen have been advised to come at least 2.5 metres down the track if they are going to get hit on the pad.  Sound advice.  In FB’s class of cricket being 6 inches in front of the crease is frequently deemed to be too far forward.

So that's a lot of things that have to go right for the Irish if they are to do it.

Patron Saint of Scotland

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