How To Kill Test Cricket – Day 3 at Abu Dhabi

Pretend you’re an evil genius for a second. If you wanted to kill off test cricket, and doom a sport that so many people love dearly, you ‘d probably do the following three things …

(a) Create a morally dubious board to run the sport and let them squabble over income distribution. Make sure they cut funding to smaller boards who really need it in the process.

(b) Take all live test cricket off free-to-air television, make it inaccessible to the majority of people, and then let other sports capture the public’s imagination instead.

(c) Play test matches on dead, lifeless surfaces with no pace or no bounce. This will prevent anything remotely exciting from happening and ruin any chance of a spectacle.

Over the last few years we’ve debated points (a) and (b) extensively. They’re not some hypothetic malevolent plot – they’re actually happening NOW and only a handful of people are trying to do anything about it. Unfortunately (c) happens all too frequently too.

The pitch in Abu Dhabi is an absolute disgrace. The runs being scored are devalued. Any test batsman worth his salt should be making hay on this – not that there’s any grass on this pitch to make hay with.

I don’t want to take anything away from Alastair Cook. His powers of concentration are immense. There is nobody better in the world at cashing in on tame pitches when conditions favour batsmen. However, after saying Shoaib Malik’s double century was probably worth a fifty at Trent Bridge – ‘taking candy from a baby’ was the expression I used – I can hardly move the goalposts now.

Although it was also good to see Ian Bell make a few runs – yes even the woefully out of form Bell looked untroubled – one has to wonder what those runs actually mean. Sure they’ll give him a little bit of confidence, but do they really reveal that he’s emerged from his prolonged slump?

I’ve been one of Bell’s biggest supporters for a long time but I’d wager James Taylor would’ve made a few runs on this featherbed too. The Notts batsman must be a very frustrated man.

Consequently, although it’s great to see England show some fight today, it’s hard to be too happy when what we’ve seen is so terrible for test cricket in general. Even Sir Ian Botham, the eternal optimist, had something to say about the pitch. You can hear his thoughts about the day’s play above.

There is only one silver lining as far as I’m concerned – at least Adil Rashid will be feeling a little better about life. A lot of people were prepared to write him off after the first innings, but now we can analyse his performance within a broader perspective. Zulfiqar Babar hasn’t got much out of the surface either.

This game now seems destined for a bore draw. I suppose there’s still an outside chance of a result given the inexperience of England’s middle-order – maybe pick up some free bets if you’re not prepared to risk hard cash – but I can’t see us messing up from here. And given England’s recent record in the first test of overseas tours, I think they’ll be delighted to escape Abu Dhabi with the series level.

Unfortunately this pitch looks like it’s going to be the winner. There still aren’t any footmarks to speak of either. The ICC really need to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. I appreciate that groundsmen are at the mercy of the weather to a certain extent, and they can’t control everything, but the authorities really need to have a word in their ear.

A result-wicket that lasts three days usually produces a much better spectacle. It’s not like there’s many people in the ground, so gate receipts are hardly a concern if the matches don’t last the full five days.

What do you think?

James Morgan


  • We’ve seen plenty of pitches of this nature of the years, including at out very own Trent Bridge just last year.
    You just have to hope they stay a rare occurrence.
    I’ve not watched much but by all accounts there’s no sign of wear so we’ve no need to far an Adelaide day 5 type of collapse.

    As for Cook, I don’t care how easy the pitch is, to captain in that heat for 2 days and then go straight into bat and still be there is a great effort. He’s actually scoring at a decent pace too.
    Think he’s averaging 60+ in the last 14 months, his captaincy has improved. He’s a national treasure.

  • The person I felt sorry for today as I listened to TMS was Adam Lyth. As an opening batsman, it’s the right to bat first on wickets such as these that is the trade off for all those grey English mornings where you have to face the 2 Mitchells with the new ball, or 8 overs of Steyn and Morkel after you’ve been fielding for 2 days. What a mess we’ve got into trying to find a partner for Cook. It seems that every time we face a tricky series we try someone new, then drop them for some ludicrous experiment when an easier series comes along. A sensible blooding of Lyth would have involved the 3 Tests in the WI last Spring, the NZ and Ashes series and then this one. My bet he would have averaged about 40 overall and been well established for the tough Tests in South Africa. He had by far the best County record, so invest properly in him. He’s also a damn good slip fielder – we might have bowler Pakistan out for 450 if he’d been playing and had a genuine chance of victory here. Instead, we’ve had the folly with Trott in the WI and the utter nonsense of Moeen opening here, and seem set to feed Hales to the lions in SA. It’s maddening.

    • It’s a good point you make re: Lyth. He’s had to face quality bowling on seaming pitches tailor made for England seamers. Then he has to watch the guy who batted seven places below him in the order get the chance to open on an absolute road! Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

    • Giving him runs on this pitch would be nothing more than a consolation prize. Lyth got a much better chance than many of those who’ve gone before him. He was given seven Tests at home in a summer England largely dominated. A lot of Australia’s bowling was woeful and two of the pitches were featherbeds. He really should have made something of the opportunity.

      It wasn’t just that he kept getting out, it was the way he got out; wafting his bat at wide balls and getting caught in the gully. Opening batsmen shouldn’t get out like that. Australia saw his weakness very quickly (didn’t everyone?) and just kept floating down half-volleys which were in danger of being called wide..and he kept following them. Even in the last Test, when he knew his place was on the line and he was being judged for this fault, he just couldn’t help himself from chasing wide ones.

      Even when he’s scoring runs he hits an awful lot of balls in the air through gully. It’s the sort of thing you get away with in county cricket but get targeted mercilessly for in Tests.

      Sure, opening with Trott in WI and Moeen here is muddle-headed thinking and no way forward, but puffing Lyth up with some easy runs here and then sending him to face Steyn, Morkel, and Philander on fast bouncer pitches, with the very real evidence of what happened against much easier bowling this summer, isn’t going to help anyone either.

      • I also think we should have stuck with Lyth.his shit selection was poor but that could be addressed. He is the only opener other than Cook who has looked the part when going well.

        Agree that the Trott/Moeen experiment is/was nonsensical.

        • Compton was a very serviceable opener who was discarded in questionable circumstances – and Root certainly looked the part when ‘going well’; he scored 180 against a better Australian attack than came to England this year.

          Lyth can work on shot selection and technique, but Newlands is not the place to do it.

      • I personally wouldn’t have stuck with Lyth but I do have some sympathy. By the way, the only successful opening partnership we’ve had since Strauss went into politics was Cook/Compton, which averaged over 50. I didn’t rate Compton particularly but I think it’s an interesting stat.

  • I’ve barely seen a ball of this match due to work commitments and it sounds like I should be grateful!
    Even more depressing than the pitch (which, as you say James, is bad enough) is the sight of a totally empty stadium. It must be incredibly hard for elite sportsmen to perform to no one, which makes the efforts of Shoaib, Asad and Cook admirable as an exercise in total professionalism at least.
    I understand that Pakistan are in an impossible position but there must be a better solution than this. I like Michael Vaughan’s idea – surely playing this series in places like Darwin or Cairns would have been a better bet? Play the ODI’s in Hong Kong? Try something to spread the game and make the best of an awful situation.

    • Of course, they could just ask the Abu Dhabi curator to prepare a decent pitch. Even if it was a raging turner from day 1, it would be better than this.

      There are 4 types of pitch, English seamer, fast and bouncy, raging turner and dead. Three out of the four are entirely acceptable, and there is nowhere in the world that could not prepare at least one of them. Dead pitches are completely unacceptable.

  • I’ve been pretty disappointed in Misbah’s captaincy – England were still not past the follow on at the close, yet for a huge amount of the day he had sweepers out and seemed content to contain rather than chase wickets.

    I know the pitch is dead, but England had scoreboard pressure to contend with – Bell scratched around for almost 200 balls, and looked woefully out of touch, yet was never put under any real pressure.

    • I thought Bell was scratchy early on but settled down eventually. Take your point about Misbah though. Perhaps he just thought the pitch wasn’t offering anything and gave up … like most of the spectators!

      You’ve got to hand it to Cook. Dead pitch / easy runs or not, it’s an incredible feat of concentration and fitness. He’s been standing up in that heat for almost 4 full days. That’s pretty amazing.

  • I thought Bell was going to free up after he got to 50, but he then batted 60+ balls for 13 runs before he got out.

    Not to be too critical, occupation was the order of the day, and he did that. Misbah had at least two people out deep to the spinner when England were going at 2.5 per over. At least England tried different things with a catching cordon from mid wicket round to silly mid on.


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