Don Topley: Pakistan peaked at right time in Champions Trophy

Dejected England players trudge off after losing to Pakistan. Picture: PA SPORT

Dejected England players trudge off after losing to Pakistan. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA

In his latest weekly column, DON TOPLEY looks at England’s upset defeat to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, and Essex’s fine form so far this season.

The inconsistent Pakistan turned up at the semi-final with their ‘A’ game and knocked the favourites, England, out of the Champions Trophy.

It was heart-breaking to watch as the most consistent team lost the semi-final in Cardiff on Wednesday.

I bumped into the head coach of Australia, Darren Lehmann, on Tuesday in Southampton where he’s now staying with family.

Whilst he admitted he was disappointed with Australia’s efforts, he was more disappointed with the adverse British weather – his team’s tournament never got going.


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The South Africans and Australians do often refer to us here in England as ‘Mud Island’ and I suppose bearing in mind their weather abroad, they may be right.

England turned up to Cardiff’s first semi-final in good order and confident, but did make the Jason Roy/Jonny Bairstow change at the top of the order. Well at least Roy wasn’t wasting balls blocking - he either went after the bowling or simply got out.

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The Roy/Bairstow issue wasn’t really a problem. However, losing Chris Woakes, who in my opinion has become the most improved international cricketer over the last year, was.

Ben Stokes is simply irreplaceable but Woakes has become dependable with both bat and the new ball – something we have missed. Jake Ball, the beneficiary of Woakes’ injury, is incomparable.

What went wrong for England? Nothing too much, except England had an off-day and Pakistan played and peaked at the right time. During my own playing and coaching career when I came across good, in-form players or good sides that won frequently, I used to think “He’s due a low score, or they are due an off game!” or “They can’t keep performing like that, they are only human!” You could call those positive mental thoughts.

Pakistan have been average at best up to now – having to beat South Africa by the small margin of 19 runs to qualify to play England.

They endured a stinker against Sri Lanka, where their fielding was almost comical – the worst I have seen at international level.

Their captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, has played brilliantly and so responsibly on two occasions. Their ‘fast and nasty’ Wahab Riaz (played for Essex and Kent) is vastly over-rated and has been replaced by a better bowler in my opinion.

Perhaps that has helped their cause as have the type of pitches of late. Dry, used and good for spinners and cutter, Pakistan must have thought that they had turned up in Lahore or Karachi rather than Cardiff.

As I said last week, the ICC (not our ECB) oversee the grounds and the groundmen, much to England’s chagrin.

- Earlier in the week I commentated on a brilliant game of four day Division 1 county cricket with third place Surrey hosting Essex – lying in second place – at Guildford CC. Festival cricket, now there’s a rarity!

I often say “You only have to bowl a side out cheaply once to win” and Essex did that on day three as Surrey only mustered 288 in their second Innings.

Essex made 435 in reply to Surrey’s 399, which was way below par, bearing in mind they were 353/5 overnight. Alec Stewart, Surrey’s coach, was fuming.

Surrey legend, Kumar Sangakkara, playing in his final season, has been in sensational form, making six First Class consecutive centuries. I advertised on BBC commentary that perhaps Sangakkara was due a failure (have you heard that before?)

Next ball, the Sri Lankan veteran edged Porter to Cook at first slip for just four. The Surrey commentators were decidedly unhappy with me! Commentators’ curse.

Essex have their biggest game for many-a-year today - they entertain Nottinghamshire CCC in the semi-final of the 50 Over Royal London Cup.

Having previously lost their last six consecutive quarter-finals, they qualified for the semis by winning their group outright. Stuart Broad will be in Notts ranks but he went for 83 off 10 overs just two days ago in their play-off fixture at Taunton. Even the best bowlers go the distance these days.

Should Essex win perhaps we shall see a re-run of the 1979 B&H Cup Final when Essex won their first ever trophy, beating Surrey at Lord’s. Surrey are at Worcestershire in the other semi-final.

Essex, don’t do an England please!

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