Thanks a bunch England. I was going to take a breather from TFT this week as I’ve belatedly moved into a new house. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in boxes (that’s boxes of the cardboard variety not men’s abdominal guards), and I was planning to simply write a summary at the end of the test rather than compose daily updates. And then shit happened. Unpleasant shit. And England lost all ten wickets in a session for just 38 runs.
It all seemed to be going ok at lunch. Batting wasn’t completely straightforward but Cook and Jennings looked in reasonable fettle. Consequently I made the ill-fated decision to take the kids out for lunch. “Nah I’m not going to miss much here” I thought.
When I returned an hour or so later we were 110-6. What a complete joke! And we were very fortunate that the tail wagged a bit at the end. Kohli momentary lost the plot and allowed Buttler to manipulate the strike and hack a few boundaries in the meantime – some of which were beautiful shots and some of which were, erm, rather agricultural to say the least. I would’ve expected India to simply set an orthodox field and try to get him out. After all, that’s the strategy that did for the top six.
This aberration apart, however, India were excellent. In fact, their seamers have looked better than England’s in this game. Bumrah looks an excellent addition, and has bowled faster than anyone in our ranks, and Shami continues to impress me. The big surprise was Pandya, who gave England five black eyes. What a good effort from him. Ashwin was barely required.
I’m not really sure where to begin when it comes to England’s batting. We’ve said it all before so many times. I heard Aggers on TMS say it’s the third time in just two years that we’ve lost all ten wickets in a session. It’s a deplorable and embarrassing record and it’s got to change. We only ever play one way – ultra positive – and it backfires time and again.
Michael Vaughan tweeted a very revealing statistic that England’s ODI side have averaged just over 300 per innings in the last twelve months whereas the test team have average approximately 280. That’s an absolutely insane statistic, and everyone involved in English cricket – from Colin Graves, Andrew Strauss, Tom Harrison, and Ed Smith to Trevor Bayliss and the players – should be thoroughly ashamed. It really sums up where England’s priorities lie: in winning next year’s 50 over world cup; a plan that could backfire with one bad game in the knockout stages.
In terms of the individual wickets it was same old, same old, too. Cook poked at a ball that he really should’ve left; Jennings hung his bat outside off stump for no apparent reason; Jonny Bairstow drove aggressively at a ball without ever getting his feet in the right position to play such a shot; and Ben Stokes’s dismissal was as aggressive in defence as some claim his actions in Bristol were. Top class batsman defend with soft hands not hard ones. I was also a bit disappointed with Chris Woakes’ wicket, although the damage was probably done by then.
The only batsmen who have any excuse whatsoever are Joe Root, who may or may not have been caught fairly by Rahul, and young Ollie Pope.
I’m a little torn on the Root dismissal. I know all the experts claimed that the ball 100% carried but I was watching in ultra HD for the very first time (a perk of moving house is that I now have Sky Q) and I could’ve sworn I saw a few loose grass cuttings fly up at the precise moment the ball bounced into Rahul’s hands. Maybe this was a result of the ball skimming the ground before it reached his fingers? I really don’t know. Either way it was one of those calls that either goes for you or it doesn’t. There’s no point grumbling about it.
As for Pope, I didn’t see his innings but I’ve heard mixed reports. Some say he still looked born to play test cricket, and others claimed that he came out playing too many shots. I guess I’ll reserve judgement.
I have mixed feelings about his dismissal too. It’s always unlucky to get caught strangled down the legside, but on the other hand he was playing with his hands slightly outside the line of his body. I got out that way once playing for Worcs U17. I expected sympathy from the coach when I returned to the pavilion but instead he gave me a lesson in technique.
Overall today was a pretty chastening experience all round for England’s test team. Despite winning three games in a row it looks like we’ll have a record of played five, won three, lost two this summer by the time this game ends. I simply can’t see us climbing out of this rather substantial hole. To be a massive 292 runs behind after just two days of a test match is incredibly bad.
The one silver lining, however, is that at least an India win would keep this series alive. I’m getting pretty sick of home teams dominating all the time. Had England won the series at Trent Bridge it would’ve made the remaining games pretty boring and meaningless. What’s good for England isn’t necessarily what’s good for test cricket in general.