Stumps: India 323-4
Well, no one said it was going to be easy. But picking the right team might have helped.
Our selection for this test borders on the suicidal. Who thought we needed three seamers, but only one front-line spinner? By what rationale was it concluded that in these conditions Broad or Bresnan would be more effective than Monty Panesar?
Let’s be clear – Monty would not have run through India today, but he would have offered more control, and a greater chance of picking up wickets.
Ah, but we didn’t need Monty, the argument goes, because we picked Samit Patel. Remind me how many wickets Patel took today. He bowled perfectly respectably, but hardly looked a threat.
Today’s play made me feel all nostalgic. Watching our travails on a deathly slow Asian pitch, lacking the firepower to penetrate, reminded me of the 2000s, under Nasser Hussain, when we always seemed to find ourselves in this kind of position.
But our selection strategy – namely, the inclusion of Samit Patel – reminded me of England in the 1990s. So often in those days we picked an all-rounder out of mere wishful thinking, and he turned out to be not good enough at either batting or bowling.
Patel needs to make decent runs in this match to justify selection above a specialist bowler (Monty), or a batsman of purer pedigree (Morgan or Bairstow. My instinct remains that we’ve picked someone to do two jobs who will prove inadequate at both of them.
Patel’s inclusion gave Cook and Flower a false sense of security at a moment when they needed the clarity of judgement required to drop one of the seamers. But tough decisions about the quicks are more difficult now that Stuart Broad is vice-captain – and by making that appointment, the England management have hamstrung themselves.
It still looks like an odd thing to do. Elevation to the vice-captaincy was a strange reward for Broad’s role in KP-gate. Neither did he cover himself in captaincy glory at the World T20. But the biggest problem – as we smart-alecly pointed out on this blog a fortnight ago – is that England now have to pick Broad for every test, whatever his form.
Broad has not bowled particularly well for some time – which makes his promotion even more peculiar – and he came into this match both semi-fit and lacking in middle practice, due to his injury earlier in the tour. It’s rumoured that Cook and Flower opted to pick three seamers for the very reason that Broad’s fitness couldn’t be fully trusted, and so Bresnan was required as cover. If that’s true, it’s insane. Broad is hardly so good he deserves to play even when injured, or that the whole make-up of the team should revolve around him.
Changing tack – you had to feel a little sorry today for Alastair Cook, who could hardly have faced a more challenging first day as official captain. “Why couldn’t I”, you could almost hear him thinking, “have had New Zealand at Durham in May?”
At least we rallied somewhat towards the end of the day, with the tone changing after the dismissal of Sehwag, the kind of player who, if he was a footballer, you would describe as a bit of a tart. He’s happy to flash it around on a featherbed like this, with the ball only bouncing knee-high, but when there’s anything in it for the bowlers, it’s a different story. Sehwag don’t like it up him.
Another talking point surrounds our dropped catches, as four were shelled today. My hunch has always been – and I’m only an armchair punter – that too much is read in to good, or poor, days in the field. Surely, whichever catches stick, or don’t, during the course of a day’s play, are down to luck, not a generic problem across the whole side. You catch a ball as an individual, not a team.
That said, it might be an idea if James Anderson now goes back into the slips. Word has it he’s been dispatched to the outfield to save his energy for bowling in these tough conditions. You can see the logic, but Jonathan Trott isn’t quite good enough at slip, and his drops might be too high a price to pay for Anderson’s downtime.
Meanwhile, the prize for bon mot of the day goes to BBC Online’s Mark Mitchener, while discussing Geoffrey Boycott’s revelation that he’d declined an approach to take part in Strictly Come Dancing. “Anyone know whether, in Geoffrey’s day, they had to cope with uncovered dancefloors?”