You will read much today about Eoin Morgan’s 100, the mighty hitting of Faulkner in the 49th over, his edge over the ‘keeper in the 50th and his calm two boundaries thereafter, but, if you want to know where the game of cricket is now, on the 17th January 2013, you will find it in the five minutes it took to play out over 48 in Australia’s run chase: dot, dot, two, two, one, dot.
“Are you mental, Third Man?”
At the start of the 48th over, Australia were 271 for 9 in apparently vain pursuit of England’s 300 for 8. No side had scored more here in an ODI second innings. 30 to win from 18 balls look a tall order.
Faulkner, not out 39 had just struck a couple of 6s and was in the groove. At the other end, Number 11 McKay was 2 from 8 and it was England’s best chance of clinching their first victory of a nightmare tour.
Over 48: Bresnan bowling; the longer boundary to the leg side, the longer straight boundary at the bowler’s end.
70mph off-cutter. Little pace. Faulkner, on top of it, plays calming to point. Dot.
Ball two; Bresnan repeats the medicine, taking pace off, dragging his fingers across the ball. Faulkner, again calm and collected, over the ball, plays it back to the bowler. Dot.
To the third ball, Faulkner plays softly off his hip so they can return for two.
The fourth ball is shorter, but Faulkner continues to restrain himself, making sure the ball is played down for another two.
Fifth ball, shortish again and Faulkner pulls stiff armed but carefully to leg for a single.
Bresnan uses his only chance against McKay to bounce him. Was he ever going to try the hook? It sails to the ‘keeper, dot.
This was consummate modern cricket. 30 wanted off 18 balls. So, “we’ll take a low risk route, and ensure we get a chance of an over with the shorter boundaries leg side and straight. We can do 25 off 12. It’s only two a ball”. Mate.
For Australia, it might have been Warner, or Finch, or Marsh, or Maxwell, or Haydon, or Johnson, but it was Faulkner. For England Morgan, Buttler, Bopara, TM is searching …
Cricket; it’s still mental, but it’s got physical.