There is old saying in one-day cricket that if six batsmen cannot win you a game, there is little chance seven will. However, over the years, captains have taken on this challenge and proved that ODI games can indeed be won by packing your side with batsmen. Sourav Ganguly did the same for an extended period when he had Rahul Dravid keep the gloves so that India to afford an extra batsmen. It was a ploy that worked very well for India even though Dravid wasn’t always convincing behind the stumps.
England have been trying something similar in this ongoing, rain-marred ODI series against Australia. Like India, they have also had their critics, but it must be said that at Cardiff on Saturday, it was their decision to go in with extra batsmen that won them the game, as a result of which they squared the five match series 1-1, with one game to play. England were chasing a low score to win the match, but were dealt a severe setback early on with the highly undervalued Clint McKay putting them on the back foot with his hat-trick early on in the innings.
Rookie Michael Carberry and skipper Eoin Morgan fought back well with dogged half-centuries. However, England were back in trouble after they departed almost simultaneously. It was here that their lower order batting came to the fore. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler has played some spanking cameos in a short yet impressive career. However, he had never been involved in a situation where he took the team home with a substantial knock. Saturday was to be that day. Buttler held his nerve exceedingly well at a time when the equation was getting tougher. Had he been dismissed, the Aussies would have been favourites, but Buttler ensured such a situation never arose.
Even as Buttler was amazing with his big hitting, England might not have triumphed in the must-win clash without the support of Ben Stokes. Although the latter looked ungainly for most part of the innings, the significant aspect was that he did not throw his wicket away. While Buttler went after the big strokes, Stokes rotated the strike well to ensure that England kept eating away at the target. By the time he was dismissed, the hosts were well within sights of victory, and even though James Tredwell’s incapability with the bat gave England a mini-scare, Buttler saw to it that there was no twist with some calm hits under pressure.
Earlier in the day, England’s bowling was also top-notch. Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin combined to not only expose the frailties in the Australian batting order, but even showed their prowess against quality batsmen. They first troubled and then dismissed Aussie skipper Michael Clarke and Shane Watson respectively. Australia recovered well courtesy a fighting knock by George Bailey, but James Tredwell himself put a poor start behind to keep England ahead with a wicket-taking final spell. Australia competed hard with the ball, but England’s gamble to have an extended batting order eventually proved decisive.
--By A Cricket Analyst