Stuart Broad could not have had a worst start to his international captaincy career. He lost the toss, selected a strange side, got the opening pair wrong with the bat and the ball, and lost the game comfortably. Of course, not all these eventualities can be blamed on Broad, but a team is ultimately a captain’s responsibility, and England came third in Bristol.
The omission of Ian Bell was extraordinary. England continually misuse or overlook Bell in one-day cricket and it is hard to see why. He is an artist, at the peak of his powers, who does not have to do anything different in any form of the game. Just bat. That will be good enough for any attack. Look at it this way, if you were a bowler, who, at present, would you rather bowl at – Michael Lumb or Ian Bell? It is no contest. So, it follows, always do what the opposition least wants.
The abject way the England openers set about things was worrying. Both Craig Kieswetter and Lumb tried to hit extravagantly over the top before they had the pace of the pitch or the measure of the bowler. They tried too hard. Contrast that with the silky movements of Mahela Jayawardene, who eased Chris Woakes for a straight six in the third over, with a glide up the wicket and an easy swing of the bat. Twenty 20 is not about slogging, it is just about purpose.
Apart from the excellence of Pietersen and Morgan, England’s batting was totally forgettable. And then they opened the bowling with Woakes and Jade Dernbach. Here were two ODI novices with half-a-dozen appearances between them, bowling at two men – Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya, with a mere 785 one-day internations between them. There was only one winner, though that is not to say that Woakes with his thrusting temperament and Dernbach, with his variety, will not make good one-day cricketers.
So Broad – England’s best one-day bowler – had a trying day. I suspect Alastair Cook might have the same experience as he takes over the one-day captaincy. He hasn’t got the game to dominate one-day innings – it is very much about power and range, especially at the top of the order – nor really the bowling attack to take control of versatile Sri Lankan batsmen.
It is a strange call from the usually savvy England management, but they just haven’t quite yet ‘got’ one-day cricket in the same way as they have Test cricket. The messing about of Bell underlines that. He could be England’s saviour, and for all Cook’s general qualities, it should be Bell or Morgan who is England’s one-day captain in all formats.