Killing the golden goose: day three at Lord’s


Thanks for all your comments and thoughts over the last couple of days. We welcome all your views on day three.

In terms of talking points, Sourav Ganguly, in the Sky Sports commentary box, made some interesting observations about England’s selection strategy.

As we discussed here when Stokes was set to replace Jordan after Headingley, England have fielded only three outright bowlers in this series so far. Ganguly believes the team has too many batsmen, and too few bowlers. I suspect he’s right. And might this be at least partly an explanation for the failure to press home an advantage in each Indian first innings?

The logic surrounding Ben Stokes’s selection – and his role in the team – is confused.

In Australia, he batted at six, and was seen as a batting all-rounder. Now, he’s batting at eight, below Prior. Is he now seen as a bowling all-rounder? Is his bowling good enough to function as the fourth member of the attack? Is it worth having an extra – seventh – batsman, instead of a spinner?

In fairness, the selectors have been dealt an awkward hand. But the side feels imbalanced, and one consequence is that Anderson is being heavily over-bowled.

So far he’s bowled eighteen of the sixty three overs in India’s second innings. That’s more than a quarter – nearly twenty nine per cent – even though Cook has five bowlers to turn to.

He’s being over-used – diluting his potency – for two reasons. One is that England have only picked three specialist bowlers. The second is that Cook’s default strategy is to throw the ball to Anderson. By way of comparison, he’s only given Moeen six.

It was a similar story in the first innings. Anderson bowled twenty three out of ninety one – eight more than Plunkett.

You can see why Cook is doing this. Anderson is the bowler most likely to get a wicket, and Moeen the least. But wouldn’t it be more effective to use the former more sparingly, as a strike bowler rather than a stock bowler?

At one point today Anderson spent several overs trying to ‘bowl dry’, wide of off-stump. Why deploy the best bowler for this banal purpose – instead of Stokes – especially during an intensive back-to-back five test series?

For Anderson to get through the series in a remotely effective state, he surely needs his workload to be managed more thoughtfully. And that comes down both to team selection, and better husbandry of resources on-field.

Elsewhere, Matt Prior walked out to bat this morning hoping to make a major statement. He failed. The nature of his dismissal suggested both misjudgment and desperation.

We rarely discuss umpiring on this blog, but Bruce Oxenford’s decision against Rahane is worth a mention. It’s one of the biggest shockers I can remember.

The ball struck Rahane’s armguard at least five inches from his gloves. And if it had hit the glove, the ball could not possibly have ricocheted as far as it eventually did. Only contact with the bat could have propelled the ball such a distance – which means Oxenford misjudged the point of impact by an entire foot.

Whither the match? From where I’m sitting, England are ahead on points. If they go on to win, and especially if Cook helps chase down the target, expect a tsunami of self-righteous comment, along the lines of ‘we told you everything would be fine and he would come good’.

A first England victory in nine tests, and a first seventy five-plus score for Cook in fourteen months, are a minimum requirement, not a turning point.

Many people say it’s unfair to make a definitive judgement on Cook, Moores and Downton’s Brave New World in general, until the end of this series. Maybe so, but it cuts both ways. If it’s wrong to slate Cook for one bad result, it’s also wrong to praise him for one good one.

In other news – have you ever wondered if those ‘inside cricket’ are slightly out of touch with the realities of being an England supporter? Graeme Swann thinks test match tickets cost £20. For a fuller discussion on this revealing remark, see Dmitri Old’s blog, required reading for anyone who cares about English cricket.

So day four awaits. Thoughts?


  • I heard Swanns comments about the price of a test match ticket.. He was really shocked. Which only made me me even more shocked at his ignorance. Talk about out of touch.

    As for Anderson,he is being bowled into the ground. Swann may not be an expert in ticket prices but he is the player England miss most of the players they have lost in the last 2 years. His ability to block one end up, at the same time as being a threat was vital. And his retirement is causing the whole thing to unravell. In many ways both Strauss and Cook relied on the same plan and tactics. Swann was vital to that plan. Trouble is it made England complacent in their tactics. Now he is gone they have no plan B.

    When the Pro ECB media is telling us what a nice man Cook is, and what a good chap he is, they forget to mention that he is destroying Anderson by inflicting this work load on him. One of the reasons England have to play so many batsman is a certain opener (from a very decent family) is not contributing any runs for the team. If England win this match it will be despite Cook not because of him. And if they don’t they will be in trouble because the bowling attack will soon be on its knees. Big first session. If India can get lead up over 200 with wickets in hand going into lunch England will be struggling. If however they can bowl them out for a score less than 200 they must be firm favourites.

    As for the avalanche of pro Cook hysteria that will follow should England win this match. It’s worth remembering that this series is 4th VS 5th in the world.

    • Spot on about Swann. Whatever your views on Pietersen, it was always Swann’s departure which would have the greatest effect on the team, because he was not just three bowlers in one, he also made life much simpler for the captain. In any difficult situation, the correct solution was almost always to introduce Swann.

      It’s not Cook’s fault Swann has gone, but it is his fault that he is flogging Anderson into the ground. And is it really sensible to pick Broad when he’s unfit?

      • Broad is unfit, Prior is unfit. No wonder the senior players are supporting Cook. He keeps picking them despite their injuries.

        Although it was quite funny seeing Newman on Sky this morning calling for Priors head despite his constant defence of his chum Cook. Apparently everybody can be discarded except Cook.

  • Another excellent article, Maxie. I have become a regular reader of TFT. An excellent point by Ganguly, who impresses me as much as a commentator as he irritated me as a player, and well developed by you.

    As for what happens if England win, yes, all the mistakes of day one, when England squandered a pitch that had been tailor-made for them, will be forgotten. I strongly suspect that Mike Selvey has already written a piece that begins something like “Paul Downton, the ECB’s shrewd managing director, and much-maligned coach Peter Moores can be forgiven for permitting themselves a quiet smile of satisfaction”, but think he will possibly keep it on his hard disk for when/ if England win the series. Paul Newman and Lawrence Booth won’t be able to wait before crowing away. The Voice of Waitrose will write his usual pompous drivel. And alone on the farm for a few days’ respite, Alastair Cook will wonder if he can really pick things up and do it all again in a few days’ time.

    • Many thanks, Clive, and great to have you with us.

      Selvey has had that written for months. It was interesting to see him on Twitter the other day (before his flounce) cheering on the Bedford School cricket team.

      My theory on the press loyalty to Cook is that it’s a reaction against social media. The majority of people BTL have lost faith in Cook, and many have been very angry with the press’s coverage of events since February. And they’re not afraid to say so.

      The old guard of the press box don’t like it up ’em. They have come to hate their own readers for daring to disagree with them. So in reaction, and partly revenge, they’re deliberately over-egging a contrary view.

      In any other field of journalism, hacks would try to reflect and engage with their readers’ views, rather than wage war against their own customers.

      • Interesting question Maxie, who are their customers? You would think the people who buy their newspapers or read their articles. But it seems to me their “customer” is the ECB. The ECB is always right not their readers. Are they terrified of going against the ECB? they seem to just repeat ECB talking points on mass. I have no problem that some of them support Cook and want Petersen out. What I find suspicious is how it is universal across the press box and is now defended with a growing hysteria.

        What are they frightened of? That they might not get treated so well by the governing body? Not so many perks? Not so much access to players? Nice cushy freebies at the ECB expense? When journalists put access over reporting, whatever the topic, sport, political, business they cease to be journalists and become stenographers.

      • I guess you probably know, but Selvey’s sons went to Bedford and his daughter to Bedford Girls. I am not making a political point out of it – his and his wife’s prerogative. But I contend that it’s a factor in his OTT assessment of Cook’s career. He lost some credibility with me when he put Cook in an English ‘Ashes since 1971’ side last summer, at a time when Cook had averaged under 30 in two of three Ashes series (now four out of five of course). And I also believe that number of Test hundreds is one of the poorest statistical measures of greatness available. Cook has one more than Viv and five more than Gooch; Bell has four more than Thorpe; there are many more anomalies like that.

    • I’m not putting Lawrence Booth in the same camp as Newman and Selvey. He’s been quite critical of England results, including today’s tweet remarking how easily South Africa have won a test in Sri Lanka to put our loss into perspective. Booth is “anti-KP” rather than “pro-Cook” if we want to use those sorts of terms.

      Newman, on the other hand, I couldn’t hold in more contempt. Not that he gives a stuff, but anyone reading my aimless drivel should know what I think of him.

      Lastly, thanks to The Full Toss for the plug. More effective for business than links in the Guardian comments!

  • Whilst spending yesterday at Lord’s cowering from the forecast weather set to bring the test match, if not the world, to an end several things struck me.

    Oxendale’s decision didn’t look out in real time from the cover point boundary. Another poor decision from the umpires in this series.

    The new era of Indian players probably do want DRS. Rahane walked of gesticulating at Oxendale (which should perhaps get him a chat with the Match referee, if not a fine) should perhaps take up the matter with Dohni and the BCCI for their bizarre stance.

    Cook should also be liable for a trip to see Mr Boon for the appalling over rates and their delaying tactics. Let’s say my ticket cost me £90 – the five overs lost have deprived me of £5 worth of entertainment. Will I get my money back? Nope. What would happen if a football game was stopped after 85 mins? I wonder, though, if a ban would work in England’s favour by removing a tricky decision?

    Finally, but no means least, I am now convinced that Cook should no longer be England Captain. Setting aside his batting travails (he’s been there before and will come back) the ability to see the whole field revealed enough to convince me. The voices of Waugh and Vaughan are with listening to, and the evidence, and more, was there. If I’d have been on the coaching staff, the 12th men going on and off ever few overs would have been relaying messages for the captain.

        • If Paul Farbrace’s interview this evening is representative, then I think we are…
          “With all of our senior players their contribution around practice has been fantastic. We can’t praise them highly enough…”


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