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England Survive E.Kohli Scare

I didn’t get enough likes when I tweeted the above ‘joke’ yesterday so I thought I’d try again. How was it for you? I’ll get me coat.

As you can tell from my bad jokes, I’m in a rather good mood today. It’s because England have just won the first test against India. And England wins against decent opposition are few and far between these days. Obviously the batsmen did their very best to lose the game, but our bowlers bailed them out rather well. Good stuff lads!

There are two ways to look at this game. You could say it was a great win, in a fantastic match, against the world’s No.1 team; therefore Joe and the boys are back!

The other way to look at it is that England should win at home on pitches that help our bowlers. And the fact we very nearly blew it by batting like incompetent numpties says a lot about the state of the English game: too many show ponies who can’t knuckle down for toffee.

In normal circumstances I might be inclined to argue the latter. I am a jaundiced old sod after all. However, we’ve had so little to celebrate in recent times that I don’t feel like killing the mood. All we’ve done recently is moan about The Hundred and the marginalisation of the championship, so taking a negative spin on events at Edgbaston would seem excessively miserable.

What was so amazing for me (watching from afar) was the atmosphere generated inside Edgbaston. By all reports it was electric. Only test cricket can create this special atmosphere. It really is unique. Yes the crowd go nuts in ODIs and T20s too, but the results matter so little in these games. They’re basically exhibition matches that have become two-a-penny due to their frequency.

The results in test matches, on the other hand, matter a lot. Just ask Virat Kohli. Say what you like about the Indian skipper but what cannot be denied is his commitment to the longest form of the game. We need more cricketers like him, and we should be relieved that the biggest player from the biggest cricketing nation on earth is such a passionate advocate of test cricket’s worth. Imagine if India’s captain was someone like Chris Gayle who really couldn’t give a toss about the long form? We’d be in desperate trouble then.

So what were your overriding impressions of the game? The thing that occurred to me is that India’s attack is better than advertised and their batting is worse than billed. I’ve always quite rated India’s attack (even away from home) so I wasn’t shocked to see the like of Shami and Ashwin make life very difficult. I was, however, really disappointed by their batting. I know Pujara hasn’t set the world on fire in country cricket but surely there’s room for a player of his quality in this line-up? Other than Kohli the others didn’t impress at all.

As for England, a couple of things struck me. Firstly, I still think our batting order is a mess. I would much prefer to see Bairstow, who now stays too leg side of the ball due to his prolonged exposure to white ball games, batting at 6 in the all-rounders slot. Jonny now muscles the ball through the off-side at will, but he looks more vulnerable defensively as a result.

I would also prefer to see Stokes at 7. I like Ben Stokes as a batsman but I think he’s most suited to the ‘enforcer’ role in the side. As a batsman he’s dangerous, destructive, but also somewhat mercurial. He’s not top order material in my opinion. As for Buttler, who had a poor game, I’d recommend he moves into a proper batsman’s slot. And if he’s not up to batting in the top 5 then he should make way for Clarke, Pope, Hildreth, or someone who can.

The other pleasant surprise from this game was man of the match Sam Curran. Boy do I like his batting. I think No.8 is about right for him now but he clearly has the potential to go higher, much higher. His temperament looks ideal.

When it comes to Curran’s bowling I’m not going to rush to judgement. He looked poor against Pakistan and rather good here. Maybe we have to accept this inconsistency from a cricketer who’s still learning? I did feel a little sorry for the likes of his brother and Craig Overton though. These guys played with a kookaburra ball on flat pitches this winter and looked utterly toothless. I bet they wouldn’t have looked quite so ordinary on this Edgbaston surface. Sam has made his debut at an ideal time.

As Toby Roland Jones proved last year, England seamers who rely on swing and movement off the pitch can look pretty good in home test matches. This doesn’t mean they’re anything special though. We should remember this before we burden young Sam with unrealistic expectations. If it doesn’t swing he may have games where he looks like the second coming of Mike Smith. However, it’s important that we keep the faith, and keep him around the squad, because in 2 or 3 years time he could be a rather useful all-round player indeed.

As the teams move on from here it will be interesting to see if they make any changes. If the weather stays dry I’ll be amazed if India don’t find room for a second spinner. Ed Smith also has a tough call to make re: Dawid Malan. Would you stick or twist? Although the selectors might decide to give him one more game, I think there’s a greater chance they make a change than not.

If England do indeed make a change, the main candidates are Joe Clarke, Ollie Pope, James Vince, and James Hildreth. Although Clarke is the obvious choice – he has come through the Lions system and has spent a lot of time with England’s staff recently – I have a sneaking feeling that Ed Smith won’t be able to resist Pope. After all, picking a prodigious 20 year old with just a few first class games under his belt would be so much funkier than picking the 22 year old Clarke.

There’s also the James Hildreth conundrum. Part of me things Smith would absolutely love to do something that other selectors have consistently eschewed. It would really say “hey look at me”. However, I cannot decided whether picking a 34 year old is outrageously funky or outrageously conservative; and I think Smith will feel the same. Consequently, I think he’ll go the Pope route as it will be recognised as brave by everyone rather than just some.

I’m obviously being a little facetious above. Personally I don’t think it really matters who England pick as anyone would be an improvement. At this point (sadly) I think Malan is probably shot, and I think those two dropped catches (or was it three?) demonstrate how low his confidence is. The fact he’s left handed doesn’t help either. Like all good right arm spinners, Ashwin eats lefties for breakfast. Just ask Alastair Cook.

James Morgan

2018-08-04T18:11:32+00:00 August 4th, 2018|Eng v Ind 2018, Test Cricket|32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. muffin August 4, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    What a great game!
    I’ve thought for some time that Sam was a better bat than his brother, and left-arm gives a welcome variation. He should play through the series. However, is there some rule that says the man-of-the-match must be on the winning side? It was so obviously Kohli….though if he hadn’t been dropped by Malan…

    • forester August 4, 2018 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      Sorry, don’t agree re man of the match. I think it should go to the person who has the biggest influence on the game, not necessarily the player who produces a great performance. And if Curran hadn’t got those runs yesterday, the game would have been over last night. And his bowling in the first innings helped to keep the Indian total below ours.

      • muffin August 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm - Reply

        Yes, a valid point of view, forester. I just thought thta Kohli’s performance was head and shoulders above anyone else in the match!

        • Forester August 4, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

          It was, I agree. But he failed to stay in today and win the match for India!

      • Nigel August 5, 2018 at 7:25 am - Reply

        And if Kohli hadn’t made his runs in the first innings, there wouldn’t have been a game at all.

        England played as a team, albeit a flawed one, and although Curran’s performance was outstanding, and I don’t begrudge his man of the match, Kohli pretty well was the team as far as the batting was concerned.

  2. Gareth August 4, 2018 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Enjoyable read, and lots of interesting points. Some of my own (scattered) thoughts:-

    Malan – the line consistently trotted out about the opposition when they come to England is that “their techniques will be tested by the moving ball” yet this flat-footed butter-handed incumbent is promoted to four? I dont think he is without (some, limited) merit as a cricketer (he’s not Gary Ballance for one thing) but he gets bogged down and I just dont see him cutting the mustard at this level. I know it’ll met with howls of derision, but I felt that, whilst not deserving his recall in the first place, James Vince was very harshly dropped. He’s also right-handed and a fine player of spin.

    It’s interesting that Jennings is apparently an unqualified success since his recall, despite averaging what, 25? I feel there are just too many obvious ways you can target the lad. That being said, the other opener bears scrutiny also. But apparently they’re “mentally strong”.

    Getting to good positions then throwing them away seems to be a solid mantra for England, as is dropping catches. Good thing that doing both of those things cannot be perceived as being “mentally weak”. Same as not having settled slippers. Or a batsman capable of averaging forty (albeit only 32 since 2017 started and never scored a hundred after keeping) but doesnt want to give up the gloves. Mentally. Strong. Or consistently getting to fifty and not converting.

    Returns of 0 and 1 for a luxury bat at number 7. Strong mentally to improve inifinitely on his first innings score.

    In closing – that was three of the mentally weakest wickets I ever saw being taken by someone so mentally weak I’m surprised his entire head doesnt cave in, so weak is the cranial structure. What a mental week!

  3. SaxophoneAlex August 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Glad and relieved we got the win, as I had genuinely believed the excellent Kohli would steer India to victory with 8 wickets down. So well done England for getting the win. However, the batting looked very frail at times and young Curran was showing some of the more senior players how it should be done. The catching must improve too.

  4. AndyB August 4, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I fear too many people are getting carried away with a narrow win in conditions which were ideal for medium pace swing bowling. Perhaps the clincher for me, in taking this view, was the performance of Sam Curran. I give him huge credit for his batting, but I have seen him look utterly innocuous at The Oval when conditions are not helpful and he is bowling at 80mph. He took advantage of a swinging ball, but imagine what a quicker swing bowler would have done (or a slower one if named Vernon Philander).
    As for changes. The obvious question is who to bring in for Stokes during his trial. The equally obvious answer is Woakes now he has another week of sharpening (and is going to Lords, which he likes). I would also replace Rashid with Ali. It is clear the England batting needs reinforcement and, while harsh on Rashid, Ali is much the better bat to have on a ground which does not take much spin (although Ali can be given the slope to use). I see no point in pushing Buttler into the top 5; he is a white ball bat. If we are to drop a bat, replace Buttler with Foakes and give him the gloves as well. But it will not happen now the idiot Smith has chosen a VC who does not merit his place in the side. And finally Broad. Given the absence of Stokes he will play the second test – but drop him after that to keep Woakes, a better bowler (especially at home) and a much better bat.

    • Nigel August 5, 2018 at 7:17 am - Reply

      To be fair to Curran, he appears to have lifted his pace a little above 80. And his left arm provides some useful variation to the attack, along with footmarks for Rashid to bowl into. As for Rashid himself, picking him for one test and dropping him after all that’s gone on would be beyond funky…

      As for improving the batting, any one of the three suggested in place of Malan might be a decent start. Which is the best slipper ?

      And if we really do want two spinners, then Ali for Stokes and Woakes for Broad – which given the back to back nature of this series might be more sensible than waiting to give him a rest after he’d broken down…

      • AndyB August 5, 2018 at 9:46 am - Reply

        Not sure I would ever want two spinners at Lords. I agree that it would be harsh to drop Rashid, but the thinking is not driven by failure by Rashid (although I have my doubts about any leggie who bowls one gimmee an over). The problem is England are carrying at least two passengers in the batting with Malan and Buttler (and Jennings is not much better – I excuse Cook on the grounds quality will always recover). Buttler is undroppable as VC so we have to reinforce the batting – and the best way is Ali for Rashid. I would be much happier keeping Rashid if Foakes played in place of Buttler.

        • Nigel August 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

          Well Pope is now replacing Malan, so I think the Rashid experiment worth pursuing, particularly as there is not readily available alternative legspinner to take up his role of hoovering up the tail.

          The Pope decision is interesting – one thing perhaps in favour of the new extreme youth policy is that there is some chance of the kids learning the long form game; someone in their mid/late twenties is more likely to be set in their white ball ways….

  5. Dennis. Yes, that Dennis August 4, 2018 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    You just sledged Gayle for not caring about Test cricket despite him playing 100 Test matches. Bow your head in shame son.

    • James Morgan August 5, 2018 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Gayle was always very reluctant even as captain – he was picked so he wasn’t exactly going to refuse to play after that – and he’s often said playing T20 for a few hours and earning big bucks is preferable to slogging your guts out for 5 days. He even suggested as much when captaining the WI in the middle of a tour of England!

      Here’s a link from the Aussie press that makes the point quite nicely https://www.theroar.com.au/2009/05/16/gayle-doesnt-like-cricket-but-he-loves-twenty20/

  6. Doug M August 5, 2018 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Actually Lords is taking more spin these days. I can see two spinners playing in both sides here. Two out of Ali, Rashid and Leach I would think with India playing the leggie and Ashwin. If the batting is poor again I’d favour India.

    • AndyB August 5, 2018 at 11:05 am - Reply

      The problem with taking two spinners to Lords is that we only have one who (may) be test quality – Leach – and he is a true tail end bat (which is a problem in a side with several batsmen out of form). So two spinners either means we lengthen our tail in a vulnerable batting side, or we take two very modest spinners, but who can strengthen the tail. Neither option looks attractive.

  7. SteveO August 5, 2018 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Another Test over in three and a bit days, another nail in the coffin of five day matches. Why not just play two ODI innings each and call it a test match. Good result (maybe lucky) for England but who would buy a five day ticket for a test match ?

  8. Cricketcricketcricket August 5, 2018 at 8:10 am - Reply

    As far as a test match goes, it was good fun.. very enjoyable.

    However..

    Both sides are as poor as each other and rely on home conditions so much. Indian batters exposed outside of puddings and England’s we already know (although some seem to still think root is a 3, Bairstow/stokes are top six etc)

    Test cricket is still able to produce games like this when limited overs fails.. however, the quality of these teams is very poor.

  9. Ian August 5, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    What a lot of negative comment! It was an exciting game and a great win.

    I agree if Stokes can’t play we should play two spinners by bringing Ali in. Resting Broad and playing Woakes is a mute point but a possibility. I think all the batters need another chance.

  10. Elaine Simpson-Long August 5, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

    I have just left this comment on Outside Cricket and I hope James you will dorgive me for copying it here as it is easier than rewriting. Here goes and before I get any comments agreeing or profoundly disagreeing with my view point, mat I see that I love cricket, particularly Test cricket, and thought this was a fantastic match and I am not taking anything away from any individual performances. It is a crying shame that half the UK could not see it. A yway, this is Wot I Said:

    I am afraid that try as I might I cannot warm to this team or take joy in their successes which are few. Every time they manage a win the overweening reaction by the press depresses me. And Stokes comment which I have already mentioned, how this win will “shut a few mouths” confirms how I feel. They now think they are invincible and the arrogance and cockiness will return. I freely admit, with no shame, that I was hoping for an Indian victory and I apologise if that upsets anybody but regular contributors and readers of the blog will know why.

    I try to love England, I really do but as long as Cook is there, Anderson with his surly nature who was the only member of the team not to applaud Kohli’s century and Stokes, for reasons already explained. Well Cook and Anderson may be gone sooner rather than later, but Stokes will be around for years. He may be in court next week but I am sure we all know he will just get a slap on the wrist and nothing else and Nasser will, once more, say his behaviour is because of his “passion” for the game.

    • Gav August 5, 2018 at 10:15 am - Reply

      I haven’t read any of the post match interviews, I became so tired of the “it’s just a blip” “that should shut the critics up” from the England players. They’re an incredibly arrogant and pampered bunch living in a bubble incapable of taking any criticism.

    • James Morgan August 5, 2018 at 10:15 am - Reply

      I don’t mind this group of players but I can see the argument that beating India suggests that everything in the garden is rosy. The ECB are killing first class cricket by marginalising the championship, and this kind of win can let them claim no damage is being done. The truth is, however, that if India only scraped by England at home on an absolute dust bowl, it wouldn’t really be much to celebrate. That’s basically what’s happened here. England only just won on a pitch tailor made for our seamers.

      But given we’ve had so little to celebrate recently, I don’t have a problem with celebrating this result. What’s more it was a great match for test cricket in general. And I think we can all agree that’s a very good thing 🙂

      • AndyB August 5, 2018 at 11:09 am - Reply

        Be fair James. The pitch was not made for our seamers – it was the conditions. The wicket had nothing to do with it hooping around. But I agree with the perspective that we only just won in the best possible conditions for the team we played.

    • Marc Evans August 5, 2018 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      You’ll find very few strike bowlers with anything generous to say about batsmen at any level of the game. Arrogance is not a bad trait in a top sportsman. It shows they have desire not just to win but to be dominant. Go back to the likes of Grace and Spofforth and there was precious little generosity there. You have to be more competitive than your peers to get into their heads, which is where most top sport is played.

  11. Comte August 5, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

    There were some standout performances in the game – Kohli, Ashwin and Curran but it required Stokes’ efforts at the end to tilt
    the game. Such a shame that he couldn’t keep HIS mouth shut afterwards. I don’t like him but England will miss him in the 2nd Test and maybe beyond if the court case fails to see him as an upstanding citizen.
    There were of course plenty of poor efforts which contributed to the tension. Left to me, Cook would now be axed before he stains his reputation irrevocably. Malan is not good enough either. And I’m not calling for Clarke to come in at this time.
    Last night Mo Ali had a very good T20 game showing that his confidence is back, so he comes in for Stokes.
    I would insist on everyone being 100% fit, which Broad patently was not. And I want people in the slips who can actually catch.
    But sometimes clashes between imperfect teams can be as exciting as those between strong ones.

    • Marce Evans August 5, 2018 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      You stick a microphone in front of a player that’s just come off the field in whatever sport and you’re likely to get a comment from the heart, not the head. There’s nothing wrong in that and it’s what the TV companies want, not just the routine cliches spouted as carefully coached answers. The England selectors know there’s plenty of room for improvement, they’re not stupid and they must be allowed to take some credit for this win.

  12. James Morgan August 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I was right. Ollie Pope it is! Ed Smith is so predictable.

    Feel really sorry for Joe Clarke. The Worcs man was the obvious choice, and the right choice based on not only his record but the fact he’s served his time and come through the system, but he’s been ignored simply because Ed’s ego couldn’t resist the more attention seeking ‘hey look at me’ choice.

    Nothing against Pope by the way, as he’s an exciting talent, but he bats 6 for Surrey and England need a top order player. Smith just wants to make attention seeking / eyebrow raising / ‘brave’ choices imho.

  13. Down at Third Man August 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Surely what England need is a number 3. Sound technique. Ability to dig in. Play the new ball and yet play spin (without lunging forward) preferably from the back foot. Sure Root fits that bill, except …except his addiction to untimely acceleration.

    There is a strong argument for Root at 4. A better place from which to accelerate. Think of his recent innings at 3 and add a 100 to the score (and to the state of the ball) before he starts to attempt that acceleration.

    And the ‘young’ batsman with the technique to play that demanding 3 slot, plus the ability to read and play spin and from the back foot (as a long-time stumper and short fella) is Al Davies.

    Admittedly not the dashing pick of a Tonbridge schoolmaster’s son, but sound as a pound in a line up short on technical strength in Test match batting.

  14. ian August 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    If Malan and Stokes are both out, surely Buttler has to bat higher than seven?

  15. Marc Evans August 5, 2018 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Shame it took poor batting to produce this nail-biter. I guess Ed won’t mind as we won, thus vindicating all his selections. Good to see Root showing captaincy skills and faith in his players during bad trots. Many would have taken Malan out of the slips Saturday morning, thus pretty much indicating before the end of the game he was to be consigned to the scrap heap. I like Malan but we need a player in form. You don’t suddenly find it in the test arena.
    A mention for my fellow Brummies, all seasoned footie mad to the core. Hence the enthusiastic commitment to the cause. In Villa, Blues and West Brom there is precious little to celebrate, so they vent for the cricketers. If the England footie team played a Villa Park it would be the same. Always a good atmosphere when India or Pakistan are playing as the crowd is pretty evenly divided, especially in the Hollies stand. Odd that despite a strong West Indian population they get few showing this sort of commitment when they play at Edgbaston. They used to turn up in droves in the 1970’s to see their greats annihilate England repeatedly.

    • James August 7, 2018 at 10:03 am - Reply

      Marc I think your comments on West Indian crowds hits the nail on the head. Like all supporters they want to see the team win. All West Indies tests in England in the 1970’s and 1980’s had a big West Indies support, because they knew the team was good. The current side gets beaten so often it can’t be much fun supporting them.
      Going back to the last test it seems clear that Ashwin has the measure of Cook. It took him 9 balls to get him out twice. Both good balls but Cook needs to work on his technique.

  16. James August 7, 2018 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Marc I think your comments on West Indian crowds hits the nail on the head. Like all supporters they want to see the team win. All West Indies tests in England in the 1970’s and 1980’s had a big West Indies support, because they knew the team was good. The current side gets beaten so often it can’t be much fun supporting them.
    Going back to the last test it seems clear that Ashwin has the measure of Cook. It took him 9 balls to get him out twice. Both good balls but Cook needs to work on his technique.

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