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?