Yesterday, we described how the 1996 World Cup was ODI cricket’s punk rock moment with Sanath Jayasuriya playing the Johnny Rotten role of sweeping away all that had gone before in a sea of blistering strokes.
Some of the other teams tried to immediately replicate this new ferocious template.
England on the other hand, chose unheralded Warwickshire spinner Neil Smith as the opening partner for the obdurate captain Michael Atherton.
It would be unfair to pin all the blame on Smith for England’s disastrous campaign, where they stumbled through the group with unimpressive victories over the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands, before running into a Sri Lankan ambush led by Jayasuriya in the quarter-finals.
However, it was Smith’s ill-advised promotion to the top of the order which best epitomised England’s prehistoric approach.
In the end, the experiment was abandoned after three matches in which Smith had scored 27 off 31 balls against UAE, 31 off 33 against the Netherlands and 11 off 24 versus South Africa.
It was in the game with UAE that Smith summed up England’s sickly campaign by vomiting on the pitch and retiring ill. No further words are necessary.
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