Chris Waters: ‘New England’ must not be confined to the one-dayers
REGARDLESS of the outcome of today’s fifth and final one-day international between England and New Zealand it has been a magnificent series.
The teams are locked at 2-2 going into the match in Durham and only a fool would predict the eventual winner.
From the moment that England set the ball rolling with victory in the first game at Edgbaston, scoring a national record 408-9 in the process, it has been that rarity of rarities: an ODI series to capture the imagination.
New Zealand hit back with wins at The Oval and at the Ageas Bowl, before England levelled things up at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, and the previous clamour for a decisive third Test between the sides has almost been forgotten amid the sheer fun of it all.
Essential to this enjoyment has been the refreshing manner in which both teams have played fearless, attacking cricket.
England fearless and attacking?
You’d better believe it.
Under interim coach Paul Farbrace, who has done a magnificent job incidentally in lieu of Trevor Bayliss taking over full time, England have been a shadow of their shackled selves under former coach Peter Moores.
Alex Hales and Jason Roy are an explosive combination at the top of the order; Joe Root is in purple form; Eoin Morgan has regained heights that some of us thought he would never regain, while Jos Buttler has been Jos Buttler – brilliant, instinctive, savagely destructive.
England, who appear to have fed off New Zealand’s exhilarating approach under Brendon McCullum, as well as learned from it, have played in a manner that might have carried them deep in the recent World Cup.
After their struggles in that competition, their supporters are simply happy to see them playing in such a free-spirited way – so much so, the results have become almost incidental.
So England lost a cricket match the other day?
Hey, no dramas.
At least they are giving it a go, which is the most important thing.
If this ODI series has taught us anything, it is that New Zealand are not the only side who might actually play better when performing in a positive manner.
That is doubtless true of all sides to some extent, and yet McCullum has openly admitted that New Zealand have struggled when they have played with what might be termed a conservative approach.
One has only to think back to the recent Test series and, in particular, the match at Headingley, when the Kiwis scored at close to five runs per over throughout the contest.
It was ridiculously fast scoring, fraught with risk, and yet it helped New Zealand to a famous win.
Next month, the Ashes rolls into town and England essentially have two options.
They can favour a conservative policy – not necessarily a cautious one, but one very much mindful of the opposition’s strengths – or they can do what they have done in this one-day series and really go for it.
To beat a side like Australia, a side brimming with strengths and star-studded quality, there seems little mileage in playing a conservative game.
It is a bit like playing Barcelona in the Champions League; sooner or later, you know they are going to score, so you might as well push up the field in an effort to fight fire with fire.
With that in mind, it is not particularly encouraging that Moeen Ali has been selected ahead of Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid for the pre-Ashes training camp in Spain at the end of this month.
That would suggest that Rashid is not the first choice spinner for the opening Test at Cardiff on July 8.
Rashid is a potential match-winner with the ability to destroy the Australian tail.
Ali is a very fine bowler, but he is the conservative option – someone who might not let anyone down, but someone who might not take anyone down either.
Watching England in the last few days has been a breath of fresh air.
But the new England must not be confined to ODI cricket.