England won another ODI yesterday. Perhaps that’s not so strange anymore. The manner of the victory, however, was more than a bit surreal.
For starters, the result hardly seemed to matter considering events in Paris over the weekend. All eyes were on Wembley last night, not the treadmill of international cricket at the fag end of a tour.
The nature of England’s win was also slightly peculiar. Although it was slightly odd (but extremely welcome) to see Jos Buttler back in form, I’m actually referring to Pakistan’s absolutely abysmal batting display.
The Pakistanis started pretty well. They reached 92-1 before losing 7 wickets for just 69 runs. They also lost 3 wickets to run outs – and they were lucky it wasn’t more. The running was shambolic. Their attitude seemed half-hearted. At one point, they didn’t hit a boundary for approximately twenty overs. Weird.
During and after the Pakistani collapse, there was some chat on social media about whether the ‘home’ team were deliberately throwing the game, or at the very least fixing aspects of the contest.
I don’t think this was the case – Pakistan just seem to be an erratic team – but I can understand why their performance raised some eyebrows. The Chris Cairns hearing has put corruption back into the spotlight; therefore cynics are bound to be suspicious when strange things happen.
It’s all very sad when it comes to this. Not only does it call Pakistan’s integrity into question, it’s also takes something away from England’s performance. James Taylor and Jos Buttler both batted extremely well. Accusations of corruption demean their match-winning efforts too. Basically nobody wins.
Events at Wembley were even stranger – not least because the game between Germany and the Netherlands in Hannover had been postponed immediately beforehand. There was an emotional atmosphere in the ground and football hardly seemed to matter.
It was even more bizarre to see England play well against another major European nation. These nights usually go as follows: everyone bigs up England before kick-off, then we run around chasing shadows all night while failing to keep the ball ourselves for more than three or four (sideways) passes. A 0-2 defeat inevitably ensures.
What follows next is yet another national debate about the paucity of world class talent available, England players’ lack of technique, the number of foreign players in the premier league, and a number of tedious radio phone-ins in which ‘John’ from Dagenham vents his spleen about the manager … whoever the poor sod happens to be at the time.
None of that happened last night though. Roy Hodgson’s team played some decent football, scored two lovely goals, and broke quickly and dangerously when the opportunity arose. We actually looked half-decent.
After the game all the talk was about a teenager called Dele Alli. In normal circumstances this brilliant teenager would be Brazilian, Italian or Argentinian. All our supporters and the media would drool over him: “if only our system was capable of producing such a free-spirited, naturally talented, potential genius”.
No doubt said young player would already be on the books at Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich or somewhere exotic. But no. Not this time.
Dele Alli is an ordinary English lad from Milton Keynes. He came through the ranks at MK Dons (“who are they?” … “exactly”) and he currently plies his trade at Tottenham. How boringly refreshing.