We’ve got two different views on yesterday’s action for you today. I’ll go first and then Alex, the eternal optimist, will have his say …
77 all out. Sigh. What a stinking pile of donkey crap. If I was James Anderson I’d tell the batsmen to do one and get on the next plane home. He and Ben Stokes deserved better than the rubbish England’s batsmen served up yesterday.
Yes the bowling was very good. Yes the pitch was doing a bit. But this pitiful performance wasn’t an aberration. England have now been bowled out in a session – and that’s what basically happened yesterday – three times in two years. Before that it hadn’t happened for decades. Coincidence? Don’t you believe it.
The truth is that cricket is changing (or has changed). And England are leading the way in this so called ‘renaissance’. Cricket’s authorities have inexplicably decided that cricket needs to emulate the razzmatazz of the Premier League to survive. They’re completely wrong of course – there will always be a place for subtlety and nuance as not everyone in life lacks the capacity to follow strategic pursuits – but that’s what the money-chasing sell-outs who run our game think.
Consequently English cricket has essentially turned its back on the first class game and focused all its energy on white ball formats. They could have nurtured cricket’s uniqueness, and positioned the game as something captivating and intelligent, but instead they’re focusing on fireworks and pop music. It’s a bit like Martin Scorsese deciding that there’s no money in fascinating characters and beautiful cinematography so he’s only going to make superhero action-adventures now.
The ECB say they’ve had compelling marketing advice but the consultants have obviously forgotten an all-important truth: marketing is largely about differentiation. Cricket was something unique and special. Instead it’s turning it into a me-too version of baseball. It’s a complete betrayal.
Yesterday’s appalling batting effort by England was just another manifestation of this essential problem. England just aren’t producing proper cricketers anymore. Yes the Windies bowled very well, but batsmen with better techniques might have survived.
Exhibit A was Jos Buttler’s wicket. It was a very good ball that would have dismissed many batsmen. But I doubt Cheteshwar Pujara or even Alastair Cook would’ve played at it. They would’ve seen the ball lift alarming and played it differently. After all, the ball was never in danger of hitting the stumps. Modern players lack that crucial bit of judgement and inexperience. Their instinct is to put bat on ball rather than looking to leave and keeping their wicket intact.
But unfortunately English cricket probably isn’t going to produce many more Cooks, Trotts, Strausses, and probably not many Ian Bells either. We live in a world where people think Jonny Bairstow is a 3 not a 6; where people think Jason Roy might make a good test opener; and where our national selector wants to pack the side with all-rounders like it’s a Sunday League match.
Joe Root gave the game away in another of his bizarre interviews the other day. He said there was no point hanging around the crease. He wants his team to be aggressive and put runs on the board because you don’t win test matches by wasting time. In doing so he effectively disrespected those Pujara masterclasses in Australia a few weeks back.
Well here’s a little lesson for you, Joe. And I hope your boss Tom Harrison (who gave a cringeworthy interview full of outrageous spin on Sky at lunch yesterday) is listening too.
England lost our recent tour of Australia 0-4. We were thrashed. Pujara’s India, on the other hand, won the series.
England’s approach might be to “put runs on the board” by packing the side with stroke-makers. But what does it matter if those runs add up to a paltry 77?
England lost this test match in a session yesterday. And to explain it away as an aberration is a dereliction of duty. Lightning does not strike thrice for no reason.
And now I pass you over to Alex who, in the interests of balance, takes a different perspective. And why not? Yesterday was a really exciting day for the neutrals. There’s something magical about Windies fast bowlers running through sides like a hot knife through butter …
If people think that Test cricket is boring, then please have a look at Day 2 of the first Test of the West Indies vs England series in Barbados, which had more twists and turns than a 90s raver in a warehouse party.
After Jimmy Anderson completed his five-for and Ben Stokes finished it all off with his fourth, England came into bat with the pitch still jumping around. Snakebitten from the evil looks the media had given it, this surface was always going to serve up drama – and drama it did.
Within a flash, Kemar Roach (five wickets for four run in just 27 balls) and the West Indian bowlers had demolished England for 77, with only four players even reaching double figures.
Swear as much as you want about batting collapses, but this was all about fantastic bowling on a bouncy pitch. True, there were a couple of wickets that the England players will be ashamed of, but Buttler, Root and Stokes all got good balls (Buttler in particular got a beauty), and Burns and Bairstow were unlucky to play on.
Comfortably in the lead, the Windies looked to crank up the score. It was all looking good, with the hosts at 52-0. Then one fell. Then another. And another. And other. Suddenly it was 61-5 and the crowd suddenly took in a breath again.
Thankfully for them a pulsating partnership between Hetmyer and Dowrich added 60 to ease the West Indies’ worries. It was fun while it lasted until Hetmyer was caught by Buttler (ironic considering Buttler’s drop of the man on 3 in the first innings!).
The West Indies are vastly in control. This game should be won by the end of Day 3. But you never know. Anything might happen in Crazyland, where the rum flows and the green smoke blows.
James Morgan & Alex Ferguson