Stumps: Pakistan 256-7
A fascinating day’s test cricket, which began with confirmation of something everyone has long suspected: Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower are avid readers of The Full Toss. In fact, they pay very close attention to the views we express.
How do we know? Just look at the teamsheet. All last week we argued that Panesar should be playing instead of Tremlett, and called on England to field two seamers and two spinners. Which is exactly what they’ve now done. Coincidence?
We’ll never know if the Goober would have been dropped if fit to play, but his propensity for injury is becoming a worry, and could seriously jeopardise his test career. As the Independent’s Stephen Brenckley remarked on TMS this morning, England may be moving towards a bowler rotation system, but Tremlett already has a rotation system of his own.
Here at TFT we like Tremlett, but sceptics will wonder why he’s so often hors de combat, and whether his mental attitude is part of the problem. With Bresnan so valuable nowadays, and both Finn and Onions champing at the bit, we might well not see Tremlett again in a test match for some time.
We’ve expressed similar sentiments in the past about Monty, so wasn’t it a joy to see him back? And he bowled pretty well, too, especially when you imagine the nerves and pressure of the occasion. Not that I’ve played much test cricket myself, but I’d guess it can’t be easy making a recall after three such problematic years.
Monty’s iconic status remains undimmed. I love him, and I bet you love him too. Often we tire of cricketers who earn a ‘cult hero’ mantle – the clamour around them decays into cliches and contrivance. Flintoff is a good example of this – serious England followers grew weary of a hype which rarely matched reality. Not with Monty, though. He may not have turned out to be quite as good a bowler as we first hoped, but he still holds a huge place in our affections.
I think it’s because – unlike Phil Tufnell or Darren Gough – Monty’s never tried to play up to his image, or even acknowledge it. He just carries on being Monty – bowling his stock ball, trying his best, and being modest. Monty is actually much less interesting than we think he is – which in a funny way, is the most interesting thing about him.
Moving on to the bit which actually matters, today’s action – let’s have your thoughts please on our bowling performance and prospects for tomorrow, which may well be the definitive day of the series. We did well to get seven wickets, but a lot of people are going to focus on the four dropped catches, which the Telegraph’s Scyld Berry described as “perhaps fatal”. Hope not, but I have a nasty feeling about them.
The pitch is another talking point. If it’s turning so much already, what havoc will Ajmal wreak when we bat? Admittedly, I’m watching this from several thousand miles away, but I’d suggest this misses the point. My instinct is that what really troubles our batsmen is spinners’ uncertainty and changes of length, not lateral turn. We’ll see.
I’ll leave you with a question. Why is it that if Misbah-ul-Haq hits two sixes in the final over of the day, the cricket press herald him as a genius, but if Kevin Pietersen were to try it, he’d be excoriated as an ego-obsessed lunatic?