It never rains but it pours

They celebrated like they’d actually won the World Cup. And good on ’em. But Ireland’s win against England on Wednesday morning neither felt as dramatic nor embarrassing as our previous losses to minnows. In fact, it all felt a bit hollow – as most victories by Duckworth Lewis tend to feel.

The hardest step in sport is always the final one, when victory is dangling in front of you. And now, thanks to the Melbourne weather – honestly, does it ever stop raining in Australia? – we’ll never know if Ireland were actually capable of taking it.

England still had plenty of batting left with Moeen (who had just started to accelerate), Livingstone, Curran and Woakes; therefore I rather fancied us to recover and get over the line. One big over from Livingstone, for example, and England might have won the game at a canter. Oh well.

Duckworth Lewis finishes are always unsatisfactory. Imagine if they’d stopped the Man City v Aston Villa game at the end of last season after 75 mins. Villa would’ve won 2-0 and Liverpool would’ve been crowned champions. City wouldn’ t have had a chance to make their dramatic come back and Villa, who are serial bottlers (I have the mental scars to prove it), wouldn’t have been required to see the game through… which I always suspected they wouldn’t manage . Would Ireland have found the bottle when it really mattered?

Having said that, the underdogs played extremely well to put England behind the 8 ball in the first place. They cobbled together just about enough runs, with captain Andy Balbirnie making 62, and the bowling of Josh Little was superb. Once again, England’s top order let them down. If only Jonny Bairstow didn’t like golf.

I have to admit that I find England’s batting line up a tad curious. I try not to overanalyse T20, as it’s always unpredictable and any individual can win any game from any position at any time, but I’m not sure if I like Stokes at 4. I’m not sure if I like Buttler opening either, although he’s clearly had success in the role in the past. My logic re: Buttler is simple: good finishers are a lot harder to find that explosive openers. And Jos is one of the best finishers I’ve ever seen.

Sadly, whatever the whys and wherefores, England are now deep in the T20 World Cup mire. In fact, we’ll probably have to beat both Australia and New Zealand to progress. And even then we’ll obviously need to win both the semi and the final to lift the trophy. That’s four wins in a row – a tough ask in format that can be quite random and volatile. Australia will be absolutely determined to knock us out in the next game – although it will be a high-pressure contest for them, too.

I’ll be disappointed if England are eliminated early on as I rather fancied us to do well in this tournament. However, our white ball cricket has clearly regressed under Matthew Mott – who I thought was a bit of a strange choice at the time – and we’re probably missing Eoin Morgan’s leadership as well. I actually think we might have lost against Afghanistan if they’d included another spinner. All the pressure was relieved when the seamers came back on.

If England do go out, of course, thoughts will obviously turn to who might triumph instead. Will it be India, who fought back so impressively against Pakistan the other day? Will New Zealand finally lift a white ball trophy? Will South Africa surprise a few people (if the rain ever allows them to take the field)? Or will the Canary Yellows annoy everyone by retaining the trophy on home soil? The latter outcome would go down like a cup of hot sick in my household. Lol.

Who is my money on? It’s difficult to call. However, I just have a sneaking feeling that India might do it this time. Virat Kohli was sensational the other night – one straight six from a ball just short of a length was one of the best shots I’ve ever seen – although they’ll certainly need to move up a gear.

One could argue that India have underperformed in T20 internationals over the years considering (a) their resources, and (b) the popularity of the IPL, which remains the toughest T20 domestic competition out there. This was one of the issues raised by Ishant Sharma in his recent interview on the Betway Blog – although he was quick to point out that India have probably been a little unlucky in the past, too:

If you look at the last World Cup, the toss made such a big difference to results and India lost all of the first three tosses.

Yes, the IPL is the biggest league in the world and India has loads of squad depth, but that doesn’t change anything if you lose the toss and have to bowl with a wet ball in dewy conditions.

It was very difficult for teams bowling second to grip the ball in that tournament, so hopefully India get a bit more luck this time.”

Well, you won’t get any arguments from me re: the toss in the last T20 World Cup. It’s no surprise that the eventual winners, Australia, won every toss going.

Although India’s current XI isn’t exactly pulling up trees so far, and they’re certainly going to miss the injured Jasprit Bumrah, it would be absolutely typical of a great player like Kohli to emerge as man of the tournament after all the stick he’s had recently.

I’m also impressed that India can afford to leave out a man like Rishabh Pant. Sharma had identified Pant as a potential danger man but the selectors preferred Dinesh Karthik against Pakistan. Suryakumar Yadav is another player to watch according to Sharma. He averages nearly 40 in T20Is at an astonishing strike rate of 176:

He’s very difficult to bowl to.

I think in the last few months he has changed his game a bit. He’s gone from being a good player to someone who is a 360-degree player.

As a bowler, he doesn’t give you any kind of option. He plays with the field brilliantly and makes you feel like it’s impossible to stop him from scoring.”

When you throw in the likes of Rohit Sharma with the bat, and Kumar, Shami and Ashwin with the ball, there’s plenty of class in India’s ranks. I guess it just depends on whether they can gain some momentum. I think that the win against Pakistan could well provide exactly that.

Anyway, that’s all from me today. Don’t forget to tune in next time when I do a complete volte-face and back Ireland to win it all instead. Sometimes I honestly think there’s little point in making predictions when it comes to T20s. But where would be the fun in that?

My credibility as a forecaster of cricket matches was shot a long time ago anyway. I’ve got nothing to lose at this point. Unlike Matthew Mott, Jos Buttler, and Co.

James Morgan

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