As is expected to be the case throughout the tournament, it was a batting day at The Oval on this first matchday of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Yet such is the modern way of things, Bangladesh’s total of 305 for six never looked enough against a formidable England batting line-up.
A Tamim Iqbal hundred inspired Bangladesh to the no more than par score of 305 but their innings rather fell away as England conceded just 47 runs off the last six overs, taking four wickets in the process including those of the well-set Tamim and Mushfiqur Rahman, who had put on 166 for the third wicket, in successive Liam Plunkett deliveries. The Bangladesh captain admitted that had cost them a more challenging target of 330 or 340.
“We were in a great position to score 330, 340 but we couldn’t,” Mashrafe Mortaza said. “We lost too many wickets in the late order. From 40 to 42 overs, we start losing wickets and after Tamim got out, Mushfiqur, the next ball, he gets out. But we couldn’t really go through that six, seven overs, and I think we were 20 to 30 runs short, especially on that sort of wicket.”
Overall it was a solid effort by England’s bowlers – although Jake Ball was expensive, conceding plenty of boundaries in the 82 runs which came from his ten overs – and Eoin Morgan was happy with the bowlers’ efforts on what he described as a “really good wicket to bat on” particularly as one of their frontline seamers, Chris Woakes, was forced off the field after just three overs of Bangladesh’s innings and didn’t return.
Morgan confirmed that Woakes, who bowled just two overs with the new ball, will have a scan tonight on a suspected side strain but, given the sombre nature of England’s captain at the post match press conference and the way Woakes left the field holding his jumper over his face, it is likely that the Warwickshire all-rounder will be out for some time. “He’s obviously been very impressive for us over the last couple of years and a mainstay, very reliable guy,” said Morgan. “And it is a worry when he goes off the field and can’t come back on and bowl. Side strains are a big confidence thing. He would definitely be a loss if he couldn’t play.
“I think some of the guys today picked up the load pretty well. When one of your main bowlers can only bowl two overs, it’s asking a lot of the rest of the team to be able to stem the flow. At one stage, Bangladesh looked like they were getting 330 and to peg it back from there I thought was a credit to them [the bowlers],” he said. “They adapted to the longer boundary. I thought they did well.”
Morgan was particularly pleased with how England’s bowlers managed to subdue the dangerous Tamim later in his innings. He took 27 balls to move from 80 to his century at a time when Bangladesh should have been accelerating. It was a period when England’s bowlers “did really well managing his strike rate,” according to Morgan before, with the pressure telling, the crucial wickets of Tamim and Mushfiqur fell in successive balls during the 45th over, bowled by the impressive Plunkett who finished with 4-59 from his ten overs.
England’s victory, with fourteen balls remaining which will help their net run-rate should they require it later in the tournament, was as comfortable as they come and the model template of how a one-day chase should be constructed. Morgan admitted he was always confident of chasing down the total which was achieved by Alex Hales and the skipper making half-centuries, and Joe Root’s tenth ODI hundred which gave those two batsmen a rock around which to build. Root finished 133 not out, his highest score in ODIs.
“At the halfway mark, we spoke about putting a couple of partnerships together or one guy going on and getting a big score,” said Morgan. “Obviously we did that pretty well today. Alex continued his form. Joe, unbelievable, as usual. And it was nice for me to get some runs, as well.”
Bangladesh looked short of firepower in the bowling, which called in to question their decision to pick eight batsmen rather than the off-spinner Mehedi Hasan or the extra pace of Taskin Ahmed. Mortaza described that decision as attempting to give “an extra bit of freedom to the batters,” but one which was perhaps more borne out of fear of another capitulation like the one they suffered at the hands of the Indian bowlers, dismissed for just 86, in a warm-up game. The Bangladesh captain admitted his batsmen could have responded “themselves a little bit better.”
Despite the ease of England’s chase, there was another failure for Jason Roy after his dismissal for one, caught at short fine leg attempting a lap sweep off Mortaza. It was the sort of shot that suggested a scrambled mind but Morgan confirmed his pre-match backing of Roy, confirming once again that the Surrey opener’s place was secure for the rest of the tournament.
“I thought he was terribly unlucky today,” said Morgan. “It was quite smart, bowling a slower ball from the opening bowler and brave. It was a big gamble. But that sort of stuff can happen. You can get out in that sort of fashion when you’re short on runs. But we believe in him.”
It is easy to say that Roy needs to be more circumspect in his approach – and it was a high-risk shot, attempted early in his innings, which led to his downfall – but that is neither his role in the side nor his natural game. To be effective and fulfil the role Morgan wants him to, Roy needs to be almost overtly aggressive. Today, simply, his shot selection let him down.
Morgan’s backing of Roy may seem to some to stand in contrast to England’s decision to drop Adil Rashid, a player who has missed just four of England’s ODIs since the last World Cup, for the extra seamer in Ball. The leg-spinner will likely have an important role to play as tournament moves on but it was a surprise that England changed their plans. Rashid was, after all, recently described by coach Trevor Bayliss as England’s number one limited-overs spinner during the Ireland ODI series.
“We felt given the opposition, they probably would have preferred to play against a lot more spin, as opposed to four quicks, and obviously Ben [Stokes],” Morgan explained. “So that contributed to how we wanted to balance the side and how we foresaw them playing. Their top three batters are lefties and the possibility of getting Joe [Root] or Mo[een Ali] on early was an option.”
It is, according to Morgan, not a contradiction to change the bowling attack to take account of conditions and the opposition, although it is debatable whether Ball had the intended impact, but resolutely stick to the same batting line-up. “I suppose we are trying to do two different things [with selection],” he said. “With the batting, the freedom we have able to play with is backed up by selection.
“You can’t ask guys to go out and play positive cricket and whack it everywhere – there’s a high-risk element – and then drop them as soon as they are lacking runs. On previous teams, that has happened and we don’t want it to happen. We want to reinforce confidence so the guys can go out and we can make 300 an easy score to get by playing real positive cricket. And contributing to that, both as a captain and coach, and selectors, by backing your own players up.”
It is a positive mantra that served England well in a comfortable but, given that any defeat may prove terminal in this condensed tournament, important victory. They will know, however, that sterner tests lie ahead.