Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

England camaraderie in the field indicative of a team of happy campers ahead of Cricket World Cup 2019

David Willey signal to bowler Chris Woakes that he had just got five wickets in Sunday's 54-run win over Pakistan shows a team rooting for each other

England's Chris Woakes celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman at Headingley. Reuters
England's Chris Woakes celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman at Headingley. Reuters

That old adage of the former Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona striker Steve Archibald about team spirit being “an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory” can make a lie of most theories.

England’s cricketers, after all, might not really be quite the happy campers they seem to be at present. But, if they really are conning us, they are doing a good job.

As they were setting the seal on a 4-0 series demolition of Pakistan on Sunday, one moment spoke of a very clear togetherness.

Chris Woakes, the fast bowler, bounced Pakistan tail-ender Hassan Ali, who top-edged to David Willey on the boundary rope.

Willey held the catch safely, and his first thought was to signal, 80 yards or so away to the bowler, that he had just got five wickets. Woakes, looking chuffed, reciprocated the gesture.

They were simple gestures that said a lot. It could not have been any more warm and fuzzy. They might as well have been sitting around a camp fire, singing Ging Gang Goolie, toasting marshmallows and listing all the things they all love about one another.

There is more to this, after all. Willey’s place at the World Cup is in serious jeopardy, given the pace bowling options that have suddenly ballooned for England with the arrival on the scene of Jofra Archer.

Willey might have been just minutes away from being told, “Sorry, but in actual fact it’s you who is having to make way. Chin up. But keep yourself fit, because there might be an injury, of course …”

And, still, his first thought was on celebrating the achievement of a guy who was technically competing for one of those places with him.

It gave substance to all this chat that often comes out of the England camp, about the value of team dynamic.

Often, when players have passed comment about a new interloper deigning to make a bit to get into their side, and that it might upset their happy commune, it has felt cloying. Certainly defensive and proprietorial.

This is elite-level international sport, after all. If a player of such obvious talent as Archer comes along, they deserve their chance - clique or no clique.

The same went with the principled stand that was taken on the Alex Hales issue. He had showed a fundamental lack of respect for his teammates, so they wanted him out.

That was a major statement about team spirit. The Willey-Woakes moment was only a minor, barely perceptible, one but it spoke just as eloquently.

Compare it, if you will, with the opposition. Down-on-their-luck Pakistan were spiralling rapidly towards a 10th successive one-day international defeat.

And that a side who, not so long ago, had appeared to be in passable shape in both the white-ball formats, harbouring justifiable hopes of success at the World Cup. Maybe they still do, but confidence must, at the very least, be bruised.

The make-up of Pakistan’s bowling attack for the World Cup is far from settled. And the English run spree has done nobody any good – bar Mohammed Amir, given that he has been absent.

In the preceding game at Trent Bridge, Junaid Khan had been fielding on the fine leg boundary with Mohammed Hasnain bowling.

He waved through a simple stop on the boundary. The ball passed through for four. Four runs added to Hasnain’s figures, then.

Yet, later in the innings, Junaid executes the sort of diving, flying, one-handed catch of which Jonty Rhodes would have been proud. Just, by chance, off his own bowling.

Clearly, there could be nothing more sinister to this than the fact Junaid is an ordinary fielder who occasionally gets it spectacularly right.

And cynicism should perhaps always be invoked when little shows of respect between teammates do look all warm and fuzzy.

But it was easy to tell from the demeanour of the outfielders in this series which side is No 1 in the world and which is struggling to make the pieces fit together.

Updated: May 20, 2019 11:08 AM

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