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?