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Nathan Leamon, England’s analyst, ranks the team’s fielding performances after every match, but they did not need a Cambridge maths graduate to tell them how poor they were against Pakistan, with a catalogue of errors telling its own story.
Leamon told the players they saved 64 runs in the game against South Africa last week, their best-ever performance at home in a one-day international.
Monday will rank as their worst, if not in terms of runs, then certainly in regard to outcome, for it cost them a crucial World Cup group match. They made 11 misfields – not including the dropped catch – that cost 17 runs, three more than the eventual difference between the sides.
The nadir was Jason Roy dropping the simplest of outfield catches to let Mohammad Hafeez off the hook after he spooned one in the air on 14. Hafeez went on to make 84, anchoring the Pakistan innings and setting them on their way to a winning total.
The tone was set in the first over. Eoin Morgan, such a reliable fielder, let a drive from Fakhar Zaman slip through his fingers and go for four. England never recovered their composure.
“We were outfielded and that was the difference. Our performance will go up and down, but our fielding was below par. That should remain constant,” Morgan said.
Fielding is a gauge of a team’s inner thoughts. This was a performance of a bunch of players rattled by chanting from Pakistan supporters and the in-your-face street-fighting attitude of their opponents. As early as the 21st over Chris Woakes was shushing the crowd after taking a diving catch on the boundary. Woakes is normally the most level-headed player in the team, but here he was looking vexed early in the game, a sign of the different pressure levels in a World Cup, compared to a bilateral series.
Ben Stokes and Roy also sarcastically clapped at the man in the crowd they thought had been giving Woakes stick. The fan would have the last laugh.
Moments after Roy dropped his sitter, he fielded the ball in the covers and hurled it back to the bowler, deliberately throwing it into the hard ground on one of the used pitches. Umpires turn a blind eye to fielders throwing it in on the bounce from the boundary, even when they suspect it is deliberate, but from extra cover they were not going to let it lie, for it is a tactic used to scuff up a ball and make it reverse swing.
It was probably more of a symptom of Roy’s state of mind than anything else, but it led to a ticking off for Morgan from the officials, and England became too easily embroiled in little rows with the umpires from then on.
Other misfields were just sloppy. Four overthrows from Joe Root go against his name, but he was making a justified attempt at a run-out from backward point, only for an absence of backing-up to allow the ball to fly to the rope and take Sarfaraz Ahmed to his fifty.
Roy was involved in four misfields, including the catch, and was banished to the long-on boundary by Morgan in the final overs of Pakistan’s innings, when they were looking to launch an attack and England needed their steadiest hands in the most important positions. Normally Roy would be one of those men, but Morgan recognised he was having a bad day and needed protecting from any more fielding mistakes that could damage his focus just before going out to bat.
Woakes’s brilliant outfield catching and a stumping for Jos Buttler, who has struggled keeping this summer, were saving graces and why analysts CricViz, who use modelling similar to Leamon, judged England’s fielding as plus 24 in terms of runs saved. In terms of a school report, though, it was D minus.