When, in a split second, the Australian umpire Simon Fry, TV official for England’s fateful match against Bangladesh, believed he saw simultaneously the bails being removed by Mushfiqur Rahim and the most slender of gaps between the blade of Chris Jordan’s bat and the ground as the batsman lay spreadeagled after a desperate dive, England required 38 runs from the last four overs to remain in the World Cup.
The law may be contentious on the issue of whether someone who has made their ground can subsequently then be deemed not to have done so, and the outcome divided opinion, particularly given the shadows cast by the lights, although Fry’s pictures will have been clearer than those available to TV audiences and on the big screen. However, in effect it decided the game, the fate of England, and who knows what chain reaction further along. Jordan is a powerful batsman, Chris Woakes was batting strongly and had Fry ruled otherwise, the momentum was already tilting England’s way.
This is in no way suggesting that Fry’s decision, which after all may have been correct, was the difference between their success or failure, something the insipid England batting had already achieved, but to point out the extremely slender thread on which fortune can hang. Had England somehow managed to haul themselves over the line, it would have left them with a tricky final group game against Afghanistan in Sydney, a win in which would definitely have sent them to the quarter-final in Melbourne, when the real challenge would start. From then, in one-off situations, who knows.
Instead, the final match becomes something of an afterthought for them and a source of huge incentive for Afghanistan to add their name to the list of associate nations that have toppled England. If England win, then it would be only what they ought to do; and if they lose, then given what happened against Bangladesh, few would actually be surprised. It has come to that.
England prepared as diligently as ever at the Sydney Cricket Ground – the manner in which they have trained and prepared has been first-class, something totally unmatched by performance – and afterwards Jordan, whose only game of the tournament had been at Adelaide Oval, spoke intelligently and honestly.
“There was anger,” he said of the dressing room afterwards,” and people were thinking about every single moment of the game and whether they could have done anything differently. It’s hard to put my finger on what went wrong because we prepared as best we possibly could, mentally, physically and technically.
“We beat a team, India, in the Tri-Series who are at the top of their table and we came in with confidence and real high hopes. There wasn’t really much to say afterwards because everyone was hurting, everyone was gutted. It was just a time for each person individually to reflect on the game itself and how they want to rectify it in future. There wasn’t much to say.”
He was sanguine about the decision that went against him, very much taking a rules-is-rules approach. “ It was surprising,” he said. “Me and Chris Woakes were standing there and everybody was in their fielding position as if the inevitable was going to happen. It was a bit surprising but the umpire had a decision to make and he made it. We have to move on from that now. The heads of cricket make the rules and all we can do is follow them and we can’t complain if a decision goes against you.”
Jordan also added his name to the list of those within the team, including Jimmy Anderson, who believe the captain and head coach are taking a disproportionate amount of blame for the team’s demise. “Peter Moores and Eoin Morgan have been a great partnership,” he said. “They’ve prepared everybody as best as they possibly can and, plain and simply, we just didn’t go out there and perform as well as we can and that’s gutting.”
England had made two changes for their match against Bangladesh and will be forced to make two, and possibly three, more for this final match before they head back to England sometime over the weekend.
Both Woakes and Moeen Ali will miss the game through injury, neither of them serious sounding but precautionary, with the squad for the three-Test Caribbean tour to be announced in England on Tuesday. Woakes has a “left third metatarsal reaction” – which sounds like a sore toe – but may be considered serious enough to miss the Caribbean tour; and Moeen has an abdominal strain on the left side, also felt while bowling, which also sounds more of a twinge than anything but could necessitate early Caribbean cover.
Also a concern is Ian Bell, who did not train and may not have been fully fit for the Bangladesh game. So a reshuffle could result in Alex Hales opening with Gary Ballance, James Taylor moving back to three, Ravi Bopara coming in to share fifth bowler with Joe Root and James Tredwell replacing Woakes. There could also be a move to push Jos Buttler higher up the order.
This could be the last ODI for a number of players. England will be looking at those who will not be around for the next World Cup and will surely not select those again. This could include Anderson, Stuart Broad and Bopara of those who have in excess of 100 caps. Simply not to select them hereon in would be undeserving: expect a few retirements from the short form of the game.
Afghanistan v England, Sydney Cricket Ground, Friday, 3.30am (UK time)
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