Getting painful to watch: day three at the Oval

Stumps: India 103-5. England 591-6 dec.

Someone please make it stop. I don’t think I can bear it any more. The misery of the Indian team has become too much to bear.

I know, I know – it’s a completely illogical reaction which goes against the entire grain of test match cricket. If the positions had been reversed, India would very happily have inflicted on us the same drubbing they’re now receiving. And they had no qualms about besting us on many recent occasions. India won in 2008/9, 2007, 2001/2, and whitewashed us 3-0 in 1992/3. We drew in 2005/6, and 2002, and haven’t actually beaten them since 1996 – a full fifteen years ago. Why should we feel sorry for them? After all, they even won the World Cup a few months ago.

No one feels for England when we suffer this kind of fate. During the 5-0 agony of Australia 2006/7, we never deserved, expected, or received an ounce of sympathy.

All the same, I can’t help wincing at the scale of India’s humiliation. Day after day, match after match, it’s exactly the same. We run them ragged in the field for two days, racking up gigantic scores while hardly breaking into a sweat, before – on the same pitch – rolling them over twice for spit. Unless the weather intervenes, we will surely win by an innings again here at the Oval. Everything which could have gone wrong for India has done – injuries, Bell-gate, Tendulkar’s run out, and umpiring calls – while their batting technique, spin bowling, and fielding, has decended into tragi-comedy.

If we were doing this to Australia or South Africa, it would be different. We could gloat and taunt. But that somehow feels wrong against India, despite their huge power and status in the cricketing hierarchy. Perhaps it’s a hangover of colonial guilt. Or maybe, as England supporters, we’re just not used to winning like this.

It doesn’t help that India have been pretty magnanimous throughout. In his press conferences, Dhoni has attributed the carnage solely to England’s superiority and his own side’s failings. He reprieved Ian Bell, and his fielders warmly shook the hands of both Cook and Bell after their huge double centuries. I’m not saying India are always perfect, by any means – but you wonder if the Saffers would have been so gracious this summer.

Turning to yesterday’s play, the performances of Morgan and Bell will provide the talking point over selection for the winter tours. The Irishman has had a fitful season – sometimes superb, especially against the spinners and the older ball, but also clearly suspect against the new ball and accurate seam bowling. Bopara’s innings yesterday was something and nothing. From his point of view, the rain came at the worst time; how he would have loved to register a fifty. With the ball, it was terrific to see Graeme Swann enjoying himself again after a frustrating summer. He’ll get a hatful if he bowls as well today.

Meanwhile, the selectors awarded a swathe of promising young players their first international cap for Thursday’s ODI in Ireland: Scott Borthwick, James Taylor, Ben Stokes, and my favourite, Jonathan Bairstow. A stong performance by any could put them in the frame for the senior winter tour. But you can’t help wondering if Ireland are slightly insulted that we’re effectively fielding a B team in what is actually a full-status one day international. As the hosts will remember from the World Cup, an English victory over Ireland is no formality.

1 comment

  • The Morgan hundred at Edgbaston was a strangely soulless innings. I’m pretty sure for much of it he was scoring at a lesser rate than Cook. I’m still a massive fan of Morgan – his hundred at Trent Bridge last summer was a thing of genius – but he’s got a big winter coming up.

    Very interesting squad for the Ireland ODI, although I’m not too sure about Borthwick – surely Panesar, Tredwell, and even Keedy are ahead of him in the pecking order? And yes, young Bairstow is my fave amongst the Lions as well, an awesome talent in the making :-)


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