Contrary to popular belief, twenty20 cricket is as old as the hills, having been played particularly in northern club circles since the early 1900s. Appropriately England’s match-winning tactics with the ball in St Lucia borrowed much from the club ground and the village green. The professional stereotype – the fast medium seamer of predictable line and length has, for these purposes, been cast asunder.
Go to any club ground the length and the breadth of England on a summer weekend and you’ll see some of the fare England served up yesterday at the Beasejour Stadium. There will be seasoned trundlers subtly varying their grip on the ball or their position on the crease, the kind of variations frustrated England watchers have been clamouring for year in year out. There will be off spinners cannily using the breeze to drift the ball away from lustily swung bats. And there will be bowlers who defy description, shuffling to the crease to bowl slingey left armers from around the wicket that don’t appear to do much but are perennially hard to hit.
So yesterday we Ryan Sidebottom curling an early swinger away to snare the once great Sanath Jayasuriya, whose scores this tournament read like an internet banking passcode 0-3-6-5-0-1. We had the burly Tim Bresnan, looking every inch the club stalwart, propelling little off-cutters and the odd quicker one, then surprising Dilshan with an awkward straight bouncer which he spooned to deep square leg. The lanky Stuart Broad weighed in with extra bounce to get the prize wicket of Mahela Jaywardene. Later on he bowled an over of liquorice allsorts, off cutting bouncers, leg cutting slower balls. The batsmen looked totally flummoxed.
Graeme Swann’s subtle variations of grip and flight have become a familiar sight these last 18 months. He outwitted Kumar Sangakkara with a bit of old fashioned loop, the over-spun ball dipping in flight, finishing up a tad shorter than the batsman expected as he advanced up the pitch, and catching the leading edge as he sought the long on boundary, the ball ending up in long off’s hands. And then there was Yardy, the indescribable purveyor of left arm all-sorts. There’s the slow teaser bowled from infront of the stumps and the fast sneaker fizzed from wide on the crease. Very Todmorden 3rd XI and very effective. There was the chase into the outfield to field the ball off his own bowling too.
Towards the end of the innings England had four legside boundary fielders and bowled slower and slower. Clever. Its much harder trying to hit slowish bowling over the offside. Another philosophy often employed in village cricket. Against batsmen almost too sophisticated for their own good, it worked a treat. And, in that perennial debate about the ‘nationality’ of this England team, here’s a revelation – all five of those bowlers are as English as marmite.