Cow Corner

Inquest: Ashes focus hurting England now

Cow Corner

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On the face of it there's something deeply familiar to
England fans about this defeat to Ireland.

A staggering upset in the one-day game, having hinted at so
much more in a fiercely fought tie with India just three days ago.

If that sounds harsh to Ireland, that isn't the Cow's intent - the
scale of the upset reflects the position from which Ireland launched
their fightback.

They needed to score 217 runs from the final 25 overs (8.6
an over) with just five wickets remaining - and they managed it.

Another tragicomedy to go with England's loss to the
Netherlands in the World Twenty20 at Lord's two years ago?

Doubtless that is how history will remember it - but there
is another tale untold here.

Ireland left for the World Cup at the end of January, with
the team spending more than a month preparing on the subcontinent before playing their
first game at the tournament.

England, by contrast, were trudging emptily across
Australia, playing a one-day series that seemed interminable, losing one man
after another to injury.

When the players did eventually come home, they had half a
week with their families before heading out to the subcontinent.

It takes a very hard-hearted person not to sympathise with the
emotional toll that kind of schedule takes, especially given that during the
past weeks James Anderson, Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann have all become
fathers.

But from a physical standpoint it is almost impossible.
Players whose level doesn't drop in spite of being on the road since October
are doing something exceptional.

You see the effects of this most clearly in the field.
England, praised to the hilt for their discipline and composure when bowling against
Australia, are becoming something of a laughing stock in India for their
performances at the World Cup.

It's the same professionally-minded team - almost exactly, in fact - with 10 of
the players who faced Ireland also playing a part in the Ashes.

The physical factor is no coincidence, and was in stark contrast to Ireland's own discipline.

It happens to England every World Cup, where on a
four-yearly cycle a gruelling tour in Australia is what precedes the tilt at
the biggest prize in one-day cricket.

And as good and organised as this England side are, they
don't have the resources to fight on two fronts.

The Ashes was a special victory, but it leaves the World Cup as an
afterthought.

That's the price England fans - and, you suspect, the cricketers themselves
- are prepared to pay for Test match cricket.

Rest assured, the players will still be giving their all to bring the trophy
home. Who knows? Stranger things have happened than this side managing to pull
it off.

After all, how can England be a successful Test team, World
Twenty20 Champions and yet inadequate at a form of the game which is slightly
shorter than one of those formats and slightly longer than the other?

But the public wanted an Ashes victory Down Under. And
everything was sunk into achieving it.

So perhaps mediocrity, wild fluctuations of form, and the occasional
embarrassment is the price that has to be paid.

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Ireland pulled off one of the most famous victories in World Cup history by beating England in Bangalore, while England's slipshod fielding was finally exposed.

Kevin O'Brien scored a 50-ball hundred - a World Cup record - and Ireland chased a record total in the history of the tournament. Kevin Pietersen made 50 and got out to a reverse sweep. Andrew Strauss dropped O'Brien on 91.

We hoped for an epic, and the match delivered.

Where did it rank on the scale of upsets? Who was to blame for England? How far can Ireland go from here? Is England's qualification in doubt?

Cow did his best to answer all those questions and more - and the results of the inquest can be found here:

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SHOT OF THE DAY: Any one of Kevin O'Brien's six sixes could have won it - but his epic strike which sailed 103m takes the glory.

STAT OF THE DAY: 16 - That's how many balls fewer O'Brien needed to score the fastest World Cup century than previous record holder Matthew Hayden.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "I'm flying to India, teach them how to bowl yorkers and use your nouse. Embarrassing!" Darren Gough doesn't hold back. And to think that when he spoke to us earlier in the morning he'd been so positive about England's bowling...

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "David Beckham,­ Colin Firth, Lord Archer, Paul McCartney, Sebastian­ Coe. We gave your boys a hell of a beating! David­ Cameron. Can you hear me? David Cameron. Can you hear­ me? We gave your boys a hell of a beating!" Someone was going to do it - hats off to damlf for getting there first.

COMING UP TOMORROW: A World Cup double-header for March 3. Starting at 4am we have South Africa v Netherlands in Mohali before Canada v Pakistan in Colombo at 9am. We'll be watching them both live.

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