x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Champions Trophy in English weather has all ingredients to entertain

Irony is England and Wales host the best one-dayers: conditions across country are varied and weather plays big part, writes Dileep Premachandran.

England's Jonathan Trott was effective in a 43-run knock against Australia but was considered slow such has been the pace of things. Getty Images
England's Jonathan Trott was effective in a 43-run knock against Australia but was considered slow such has been the pace of things. Getty Images

In his last column for Wisden India, before the start of the Champions Trophy, Michael Holding offered his take on the big one-day international tournaments.

"They're over-rated, with many boring contests," he wrote. "I'm hoping for good weather, good pitches and some good cricket.

"With two new balls, if the weather is overcast and dull, the batsman may struggle a bit. If the sun shines, we'll have more evenly balanced games."

So far, he has got his wish.

India and South Africa combined for well over 600 runs on the opening day, when bat and spin held sway. On the same pitch, three days later, Sri Lanka and New Zealand aggregated less than 300.

In London, West Indies edged out Pakistan in a thrilling contest.

The only damp squib was England's emphatic win over an utterly lacklustre Australian side.

There was much criticism of England's less-than-theatrical approach in the Australia game, with most pundits saying that they had been 30 runs short with the bat.

That was generous to opposition that looked so ordinary without the class of Michael Clarke to shore up the middle order.

Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell played the percentages expertly. It was not eye-catching batsmanship and there was a complete absence of the wow-factor, but after a shaky one-day series against New Zealand - lost 2-1 - it was exactly what England required at the start of the tournament.

Without Kevin Pietersen, England are not a batting side that you would queue up to watch. Trott averages 52, while scoring at 76 runs per 100 balls. The approach though is more tuk-tuk than racecar, and a far cry from what we have come to expect from the great No 3s of the past and present.

Viv Richards or Ricky Ponting, he most certainly is not.

Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler lower down the order add some oomph to the line-up, but when you compare them to India or South Africa, the impression is of solidity rather than flair.

India, West Indies and South Africa boast of three or four men capable of smashing an 80-ball century, as Shikhar Dhawan did on the opening day.

With England, you are far more likely to see one made from 120 balls - not tardy, but hardly pulse-quickening in this Twenty20 age.

The irony is that England and Wales undoubtedly host the best one-day matches. The conditions across the country are so varied, and the weather plays such a big part.

You will seldom get the bat-dominated bores that have sadly become common on the subcontinent, and groundsmen ensure that pitches are true enough to prevent batting collapses.

The surfaces are the key. There is usually pace and bounce for the quick bowlers, and the bounce aids the spinners as well. Strokemakers like Dhawan love it because the ball comes onto the bat, and the lush outfields mean that the ball usually races to the rope.

On rare occasions as in Cardiff yesterday, the pitch will be dry enough for the ball to grip and turn sharply and aid reverse swing, as well.

Right from Roy Fredericks hooking Dennis Lillee for six in the first World Cup to the unforgettable tie at Edgbaston in 1999, England has showcased one-day cricket at its finest.

If the first round of Champions Trophy fixtures is any guide, we have much more to look forward to.

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