A match in the Ballance: day two at Lord’s



An interesting day, left intriguingly poised. England only need two meaningful late-order partnerships  to achieve a lead. Prior is due runs, and there is still Stokes to come. But India, who won’t bat last, require just two quick wickets to invert the equation.

Is Alastair Cook too easy a target for opprobrium after failing again this morning? For all the talk of “fringe idiots” with an “agenda”, let’s consider today’s thoughts from that famously unindependent-minded, bandwagon-jumping, “know nothing”, Geoffrey Boycott:

“Alastair Cook is a stubborn so-and-so, and that helps make him such a fine player.

“But it can also be your Achilles heel. He is saying everything is all right – but it’s not all right. The England selectors are embarrassed that he is leading the side so poorly. I would take him out of the team.

“They should have assessed his captaincy in Australia. It didn’t look too special to me. I think the team is leaderless, it’s affecting the other players. The bowlers just bowl and do whatever they want. We are rudderless.”

There is some validity in the claim that emotions and bitterness have distorted the debate about Cook. So let’s try to put them aside and start with a blank piece of paper.

Here’s an exercise we can do together. Take that blank piece of paper, and write down a list of all the reasons why Alastair Cook should be the captain of England.

Number one might be – there are no alternatives.

What’s number two?

Gary Ballance had a rather better day than his skipper. He continues to impress, and what I particularly like about him is the sense of calm authority he exudes at the crease. Ballance has the worldly air of a man who’s played forty tests, not five. When he comes into bat, we relax, because he seems to effortlessly take control of a situation.

Recent evidence suggests Ballance may behave less maturely off the field than on, although mercifully he managed to keep his shirt on throughout the entirety of his innings today.

I’m baffled as to why his antics at Nottingham nightclub Pandora’s Box – euphemistically described by Peter Moores, a fluent speaker of Downtonian, as “relaxing” – might ever be considered a problem. Significantly, they did not take place on a school night.


Drunken post-match roistering is not only as integral to cricket as bails, but older. Players got pissed decades before there was a third stump, or even round-arm bowling. Organised cricket began as a sideshow to aristocratic gambling and carousing.

Harold Larwood and Bill Voce drank several pints of bitter together during a day’s play. And as CLR James might have said, what do they know of cricket, who downing Jagerbombs and stripping half-naked do not know?

But what does concern me about Ballance is the company he keeps. His drinking companions on that fateful evening were Liam Plunkett, James Anderson, and…Joe Root.

Yes, the same Joe Root who only last summer drove poor David Warner to violence through the pitiless and incendiary utilisation of a comedy wig.

It seems that every night on the tiles with Root leads to disaster, and to paraphrase Graeme Swann on Pietersen, he causes trouble wherever he goes. As a drinking buddy, he is the extra proton which triggers nuclear fission. What exactly does he do which creates such havoc?

But to return to events at Lord’s. Tomorrow is a big day for Matt Prior, and also for Alastair Cook, who must finally figure out to corral his bowlers into bowling line and length. Why is he unable to oversee a properly executed bowling plan? Perhaps he should take heed of that old maxim that if you want a job done properly, do it yourself – and bring himself on to bowl. After all, he did quite well last time.


  • First thing I thought when I saw Balance drunk why did he take his shirt off? Not a pretty sight! One wonders why the senior players didn’t look after him properly. The young players all need to be mentored and cared for by senior players. Leaving them exposed like that doesn’t say much for them IMHO.

    As for Cook well even Brierley suggested today on TMS that maybe Cook was not captain material. Boycott was far more forthright. Seems strange that certain members of the media have been highly abusive of those of us who have said: this just isn’t going to work. Now many are beginning to say same things. Some will not of course as they do not want to look like morons.

    The ECB and the management has put Cook in the most terrible position. They have left him hanging out to dry. They should have listened when everything was going pear-shaped in the Ashes. ECB didn’t and now Cook will be the fall guy for their collective failure. Part of me says that Cook brought all this on himself and how he is getting his comeuppance. Sad to say though Cook has just been a pawn. So the other part of me feels very sorry for him. Can’t bat and can’t captain. Not good really.

    Maybe he needs a really good mentor like Vaughan or Brierley? Something needs to happen and quick. Despite all that Cook has got up to I still shouldn’t like to see his batting career going up in smoke.

    Had conversation with Aggers (and others) on TMS

    @Aggerscricket Brierley is right, sadly. Time for Cook to stop being captain. Its ruining his batting.

    @xpressanny not sure it’s the captaincy that is responsible. Just out of nick with the bat. If gives up capt perhaps drop altogether?

    Surprised me! But I said I didn’t think he should be dropped and may need a mentor like Brierley or Vaughan.

    I don’t think we are going to win this test.

  • “There’s no-one else. He just needs a score, which is surely just round the corner. He’s a leader from the front. He’s got the team and the ECB behind him.”

    It’s getting boring. We have that “difficult” opposition second innings coming up. Be afraid.

  • Cook has averaged 24 without scoring a century since the start of the Ashes last summer. To put that into perspective, Michael Vaughan averaged 32 with two centuries between the start of the India series in 2007 and his last Test in 2008, a period during which the value of his place in the team was widely questioned. What is it about Cook that makes people assume the runs will start flowing again as soon as he relinquishes the captaincy?

  • Just watched Simon Jones on The Verdict. He said that Ian Bell was an excellent captain when he played under him for England A.

    He also said it’s the batsman’s decision whether a nightwatchman takes his place. So Prior, having sat in the pavilion with his feet up all day, required Plunkett to go and face the new ball for him. Pffft

    • Saw those comments from Jones. Surprised me. Vaughan said Bell was nowhere near captaincy material, and just too quiet in the dressing room. If there’s half a sniff Bell would be better than Cook, they should make the change. Problem is, Bell is out of form too!

      • Yes but in some respects isn’t that a safer option? At least captaincy can only have a positive effect on Bell as his form can’t get much worse. Plus maybe the responsibility will make him knuckle down and dig in more. Like in rugby when they give the captaincy to a loose cannon to calm him down. Better that than ruin another another one of our good performers!

  • Problem is he has backed himself into a corner by saying ” I’m not a quitter.” Either he has to back down and quit or ECB has to sack him,which means they got it wrong and egg all over their face.

    I actually think it would be better for him and his batting to give the captaincy away. You don’t want to see him suffer. However I will enjoy watching the idiotic Selvey, Pringle, and ECB Pravda eat humble pie.

    • Pringle is already at it with his boring and very predictable stuff. Commenters, as usual, making mincemeat of him. Selvey would never admit he was wrong. Not in his nature. I hope the ECB do end up with egg on their face. They deserve nothing less. It is, after all, their mess and they will have to clean it up. Of course you can bet your life they will find an excuse. Even Pringle was saying, more or less, that Cook’s poor form may be a left over from the Ashes? Pringle is unbelievable and that’s me being restrained. He’s still going on about Cook being one of us type of stuff. Nauseating.

      ‘Which is a shame because no player has dedicated more time and effort to becoming a model professional than Cook. But what has made him a fine batsman – the extensive, grooved practice, the one-track mind and the abolition of mistakes – has not enhanced his captaincy, which remains sluggishly reactive and fearful of risk.
      Perhaps he is a man out of time for he is the kind of Englishman who used to be widely admired 30 years ago, being modest, unassuming and polite. In an age where social media promotes the loudest shouters and the biggest egos, Cook is a throwback to a more decent age where dropping awkward players and losing at home was not met by a screaming mob.’

      So if it is not the ECB, Downton, Coach, or Cook himself then all of those who said that Cook should be relieved of the Captaincy months ago, will be blamed! You never know they may go back to KP being blamed for this fiasco.

      • “Perhaps he is a man out of time for he is the kind of Englishman who used to be widely admired 30 years ago, being modest, unassuming and polite. In an age where social media promotes the loudest shouters and the biggest egos, Cook is a throwback to a more decent age where dropping awkward players and losing at home was not met by a screaming mob.”

        And he gets paid to write this drivel? Unbelievable. I guess he has forgotten the stout yeoman English cricketer of 30 years ago ” a more decent age” turning their back on England to run off to South Africa and chase the krugerrand. Seem to remember dozy Derrick sharing a dressing room with one such character down at Essex. Or how about Mr Fat another English captain who went off krugerrand hunting after being found with a barmaid. And as for Mr clean image Cook remember his team urinating on the pitch at the Oval last year?

        Pringle has turned himself into a Colonel Blimp figure of cricket writing. Truth is Mr Pringle you got it wrong. Cook was never captain material. It has Been obvious for a while. But your judgement is so poor you could not see it. Or worse you were covering for the ECB.

        • Maybe he just meant the ‘more decent age’ when we used to lose all the time…
          … in which case the status quo is just fine.

        • A more decent age – when captains were sacked for tabloid allegations involving barmaids, or slow over rates in county games.

          What he really means is a more decent age when supporters knew their place, kept quiet, and showed deference to the press.

          • Absolutely right Maxie. That is just it. All these keyboard warriors daring to tell the establishment they are morons. Whatever next? I love the way DP constantly talks about Cook being a really lovely Englishman! A lot of the team come from overseas!!! Just ridiculous. Mr Selvey and the many other ECB supporters on air and in the press keep saying that it is all that Australian’s fault Interest to see Mark Nicholas looking totally perplexed at the comment about Cook needing to stand down. He was so flummoxed. He of course jumped on the same bandwagon with the rest: “He causes trouble in every dressing room..” Same phrase from all the anti brigade. Almost as tho they all received a memo with the wording that they all repeat, word for word, ad nauseum.

            Cook needs to either resign from the captaincy or have it taken away from him. He simply cannot do the job. Just not good enough. Let him be the batsman he can be and give him a break.

        • Couldn’t have said it better myself. Pringle has of course been “roasted” for this drivel by the usual suspects. Unbelievable rubbish. Maxie and/or James would be far better doing a column in the Telegraph. DP’s pieces are so abysmal and so far up the ECB’s backside with his fawning. Just awful.

      • Utter rubbish by Pringle. People on social media have big egos?! Says he. What’s more, the press / public have always demanded blood when teams lose. It’s the same in all sports, and predated twitter. Remember the abuse Graham Turnip Taylor got ?

      • Perhaps he is a man out of time for he is the kind of Englishman who used to be widely admired 30 years ago, being modest, unassuming and polite.

        Actually, I did admire those qualities of Cook’s when he seemed to possess them. That was before this modest man blamed everyone bar himself over the Ashes fiasco, this unassuming man assumed an air of entitlement to a job for which he is patently unqualified, and this polite man shook an opposition captain’s hand while swearing at him, called for something “to be done” against one of the few pundits giving him a hard time, publicly called an opposition bowler a chucker before officials had pronounced their verdict, and impugned another opposition captain’s integrity in public.

  • I don’t know if it’s a hangover from the previous ‘micro-managing’ regime, but there seems to be a distinct lack of individual responsibility amongst some of these players. And for all the talk of rebuilding the team culture and protecting its collective ethos, it’s easy to forget how important this is. Last time we plumbed similar depths (the first test in the West Indies under Strauss and Flower), this was the problem that the captain identified at the time and later in his autobiography. Admittedly, it’s probably harder to do when you have so many inexperienced players who are still sussing out their own games, at the highest level, and in a struggling side. But surely none of this bowling attack should need their captain to inform them that it may work better to pitch the bloody thing up? Or Moores, or Saker, or Boycott, or Agnew to hold their hand and tell them where it should be bowling the ball… How many tests have Anderson and Broad played as a new-ball pairing now? They clearly aren’t daft so where is their tactical nous?? And I’m sorry Annie, I really enjoyed your post (and the link too) but why would Gary Ballance need a senior player to advise him on the publicity perils of stripping to the waist? Take some responsibility!!

  • Removing the captaincy won’t change the fact that bowlers have worked Cook out. Pitch it up, drop nothing short, and watch him sink. His technique is abysmal, it has always been poor, and it’s a miracle it has taken bowlers so long to realise that he can’t drive.

    When Cook was out yesterday he ended up with the bat between his legs. Just think about that for a second. If you’ve been a frontline batsman at any level (school, club etc ) think about the last time you ended up with your bat between your legs? It’s incredible how many things must be wrong with your technique to end up in such a position. Horrible.

    • Very good point. There is no doubt that he has been worked out by opposition teams. No more short stuff to cut and pull. Just ball after ball pitched up on off stump. Cook may well never score the runs he has before. Truth is he is not just fighting to save the captaincy,but also more seriously, his place in the team.

    • A very good point which even Gooch has publicly recognised:
      “It would be wrong to say this is just bad form. Opposition teams have worked out how to bowl to him to stop him scoring, to stop him playing shots. Australia did it, Sri Lanka and now India have copied it. He has to go back and look at his game and remake it, to work out ways to score runs.”

  • Am I alone in thinking that Mr Pringle longs to return to the good old days when the game was divided into gentleman and players?

    (Anyone who doubts that English cricket has always been run by wankers who are more concerned with a good family background than the ability to actually play should read “A Social History of English Cricket” By Derek Birley)


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