India 259-4 stumps
Is this test match in the midlands or Mumbai? India probably couldn’t believe their luck: here they are, in England, with an inexperienced seam attack and batsmen who struggle to cope with bounce and movement, and the Trent Bridge groundsman serves up a lifeless dust bowl.
So much for home advantage. We might as well have given all the Indian players comfy sofas and cigars too. They were completely in their comfort zone.
In a way, the conditions at Nottingham reflected the farcical state of English cricket. England have a four-pronged pace attack and no specialist spinner, and the prospect of five tests in seven weeks, yet we’re playing on featherbeds with as much life in them as an ancient Egyptian mummy.
The talk in the media is all about the new drainage systems at English test venues. I’ve heard people say that the groundsmen should be exempt from criticism because all the moisture is sucked away from the strip. I’m not buying that. Not all pitches are like this in county cricket. What’s more, even the Trent Bridge groundsman himself – in a swiftly composed message on the Notts website – admitted he should have left more grass on the surface.
These draining systems make things more difficult for ground staff, but there are still things they can do to ensure positive, watchable cricket.
This surface at Trent Bridge is a disaster for England, and a setback for cricket in general. Who wants to watch games when the new ball bounces twice before it reaches the keeper (as happened yesterday on several occasions)?
Anyway, this is supposed to be a match report (of sorts), so I’d better discuss what little did actually happen.
All you need to know is this: Broad bowled accurately, Stokes was bowling half a yard slower than he did in Australia, Plunkett’s effectiveness was negated by the lifeless pitch, Anderson swung a few but has had better days, and Moeen was lucky if Cook gave him two consecutive overs.
England stuck to their task very well in the circumstances, but Vijay looks a very organised player. On surfaces like this one, any batsman prepared to get his head down should make runs. Even Alastair Cook. So that bodes well.
We should also indulge in a spot of Cook-captaincy-watch. Overall he had a mixed day. He set some relatively creative fields at times – the strange dismissals of Pujara and Rahane were definitely feathers in his cap – but we shouldn’t forget that approximately 80 of India’s 259 runs were leaked in the third man area. That’s almost a third. Think about that for a second.
Meanwhile, Cook’s handling of Mooen Ali continues to baffle just about everyone. Spinners need time to find a rhythm and adapt to the pace of the pitch (so they can work out the right speeds to bowl) but every time Cook threw Ali the ball it was a token gesture and he couldn’t wait to get him off.
Ali’s second over of the day showed promise: he was getting decent drift and found the thick edge of Vijay’s bat. The next over he was off, so Broad could bowl a one over spell (yes, just one over) before lunch. I screamed at the telly.
Admittedly Ali didn’t bowl particularly well yesterday – it’s a little hard when there’s no turn, the bounce is extraordinary consistent, and Dhoni is at the crease – but Cook’s man-management was terrible in my opinion. On this pitch, England needed Ali to bowl a decent spell to rest the seamers. Cook’s lack of confidence in Moeen was all too apparent. He seems to think Joe Root is just as good an option.
Somebody needs to tell Cook that Moeen has taken the third most wickets of any English spinner in the last two years (91 wickets at 32 in fact). The only two who have taken more are Monty and Kerrigan.
Moeen will never be Graeme Swann, but he could be Nathan Lyon. He shows promise as an all-rounder, but his confidence must be extremely low.
It was noticeable that Simon Kerrigan was at the ground yesterday to get a feel of the England team environment again. If he does eventually play in this series, he’ll have a hard time if his captain treats him in a similar fashion – which is how he treated him, incidentally, last year at The Oval.
Kerrigan still bears the scars of that horror show.