Reasons To Be Cheerful, Not Tearful

Now I’ve got over my ‘Cook you negative nincompoop’ tantrum, it’s time to look at the Rajkot test objectively. The bottom line is that England competed really well, put India under pressure, and showed we’re a far better side than the one that capitulated at Dhaka. Yes we could, and perhaps should, have won if our captain had shown some imagination, but everyone knows what Alastair is like. Perhaps it was unfair to expect him to metamorphose into Michael Clarke … or at least someone with more imagination than an actuary.

Although I’m concerned that we might not get many (or any) more opportunities to win a test match this series, the improved performance suggests that we might do after all. Consequently, having finally decided to look up the meaning of the word ‘optimism’ in the dictionary, I’ve come up with the following reasons to be cheerful.

1. The captain is back in form. Although his critics might argue that Cook was being selfish on the fifth morning, and overly concerned with scoring just his second test century in 31 innings, the skipper’s form was a big concern coming into this series. He was a little out of sorts in Bangladesh, and also started both innings in Rajkot very uncertainly. These concerns have now been square-cut to the boundary.

We all said that England needed a Cook purple patch to be competitive in India, and now it looks like we might well get one after all. That’s got to be a good thing … even if it somewhat compromised our chances of victory at the weekend.

2. Moeen Ali. Much maligned Mo is finally delivering as a top order batsman. This has solved two problems at once: (a) we’re no longer desperately looking around for a decent number five batsman, and (b) it has taken the pressure off his bowling somewhat and allowed his off-spin to be a little more consistent.

Some people will always wonder whether Moeen is good enough at either batting or bowling to command a regular place in the England team, but there’s no doubt his presence gives us a nice balance. While he’s scoring runs in the top six, it enables England to play another spinner: one who’s a bowler who bats rather than a batsman who bowls.

Which brings us nicely to …

3. Adil Rashid. Poor Adil was doomed a week ago. “He’s not consistent enough”, “leg spinners don’t do well in India, and “he bowls too slowly” were just some of the erroneous claims supposedly learned cricket observers (and me!) were making. Luckily these assumptions turned out to be pure poppycock. Rashid was probably our best bowler at Rajkot.

Maybe it was the pitch, and maybe Adil will have to bowl a little quicker at Vizak, but for now let’s just celebrate his best performance in an England test shirt. The Indian batsmen generally struggled to read his googly and his confidence will be sky high. And as we all know, confidence is everything for a leg spinner. If he can win the confidence of captain cautious too, then perhaps Rashid will turn into the match-winner we all want him to be.

4. Ben Stokes. Is the red headed rascal finally showing some consistency? Like a lot of people I wasn’t sure if Stokes would be able to cope with India’s spinners on this tour. I had nightmares about him swishing across the line, getting bamboozled by Mishra, and generally showing all the patience of an agitated toddler. How wrong I was.

Although I suspect Stokes will always be somewhat impulsive, he’s batting with a lot more maturity these days. His shot selection has improved and he’s turning into something of a talisman. Good on ‘im.

5. Prince Haseeb. I refuse to go over the top yet – let’s not forget that Robson and Lyth both made centuries in their third test innings and generally started their test careers well – but young Hameed looked a little bit special at Rajkot. Yes, he got a little bogged down on the fifth morning, but it’s not really his job to raise the tempo. He’s there to see off the new ball.

What impressed me most was elegance his calm demeanour. Although we don’t yet know whether he’ll look so solid against fast bowlers on spicier surfaces (he did get turned around a couple of times outside off-stump) he’s definitely someone we should invest in. I bet Nick Gubbins is spitting feathers.

6. Other people chipped in. While they didn’t steal the headlines, the likes of Zafar Ansari, Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad all contributed to England’s moral victory. Chris Woakes wasn’t asked to do a lot but he didn’t let anyone down either.

Joe Root also lived up to his billing as one of the world’s elite batsmen. His hundred was somewhat overshadowed by the performances of others but it’s great to have our best player in top form as we move forward.

7. The result from Hobart. Hahahahahaha! Yes we lost to Bangladesh, but at least we didn’t get beaten by an innings at home. And Dale Steyn and De Villiers weren’t even playing!

Sorry, I just had to get that last one in.

James Morgan


  • We’ll see (probably sooner rather than later) how England cope with a proper bunsen, but the signs from Rajkot were pretty good. England are currently lucky to have so many all rounders (and most are all rounders, rather than bits and pieces players), so the batting line up is long, and we can play 6 bowlers. Rashid is beginning to get a run in the side, which he probably needs (for his confidence). The batting looks better ballanced (sic) with Duckett at 4 (a more natural position for him), Mo at 5, then Stokes, Bairstow, Woakes, Ansari and Rashid (who has a FC average in the 30’s). We all know that (in the first test of a 5 test series) Cook was never going to offer India a real sniff if he could avoid it, and we did rattle them in the afternoon.

    On your no 7, I was as upset as you’d expect to see the Aussies losing their last 8 wickets for 32. Not as upset as Ricky Ponting on BT Sport, though! Comedy gold (the only saving grace is that Michael Vaughan didn’t try to discuss run outs by substitute fielders).

  • Nice work!

    1. With you on Cook pretty much. Wasn’t quite as harsh with him as you but annoyed we didn’t have a few more overs at them

    2. Mo has a class record as a batsman alone this year and deserves his chance in the upper order as a fine player of spin. Bowled better than his figures suggested too in Rajkot.

    3. No need to add any more to your take on Rashid.

    4. Again agreed, but we will need a fair bit with the ball from him too. Looks far better against spin than 2 years ago.

    5. Yep, some of the over the top stuff in the media stinks tbh.

    6. Pretty much everyone bar Duckett, Broad and Woakes didn’t have at least a noticeable contribution so it was a good team performance although I don’t ascribe it as being the best, giving performances such as Cardiff (on neutral territory in 2015!), Durban and the 1st test in the UAE being at least equal or better than Rajkot (IMO).

    7. Does anyone think that the Aussies batting wouldn’t have received a roasting v spin on the bunsens of Bangla? Nope, me neither.

    • The Aussies travel to India for a four match series themselves in Feb/March. A good chance to see how their game vs spin has progressed since they lost to Sri Lanka…

  • Glad to see Rashid prove me wrong, I wouldn’t have picked him. Hopefully they can keep his confidence up.
    If Jimmy’s fit, should he play and who should he replace? Ansari is the obvious choice but do they really want 4 seamers and 2 spinners in Visakhapatnam? I doubt it. Only other option is Woakes, who has been superb in recent tests, or Duckett and go a batsman light. I’d probably go with the latter but what do others think? Maybe make him sit out and get annoyed for the 3rd Test…?
    One other thought on DRS. It seems to me that it’s now a million miles from its original stated purpose, namely to “remove the howler”. 2 examples from the last Test – Cook got sawn off by a shocker when he didn’t review, whereas one of the Indian batsman (Pujara?) got reprieved by reviewing what looked like a plumb LBW that the DRS (dubiously) suggested was going marginally over the top. I’ve picked 2 calls that favoured England because I can remember them, but I think India suffered a couple of dodgy ones, too. With LBW, is the review system now such a lottery that every decision that’s given Out by the umpire should be reviewed automatically before the batsman leaves the field, and “challenges” are only available for “Not Outs”? I’d also revert back to the previous margins of error to avoid undermining and embarrassing the umpire in the way that happened in Bangladesh. For “Outs”, I’d go further and say if the umpire gives you out and it’s missing by less than a centimetre, then the decision stands, because it’s not a howler. Thoughts…?

  • “While they didn’t steal the headlines, the likes of Zafar Ansari, Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad all contributed to England’s win.”


  • Another positive is the return of Anderson.. At one time he was thought very doubtful for the whole series yet he ended up on the field.
    Visakhapatnam is supposed to have high Humidity. Will England be tempted to play him hoping he can swing it?

  • Cooks discarded opening partners from the past few years now feature at positions 3, 4, and 5 (who may well end up in a partnership Cook anyway).

    By including point 6 (“Other people chipped in”), James’s analysis praises 10 of the 11 players in the team, with just Ben Duckett missing out. Anybody want to say something positive about him, to complete the set?

    • He didn’t drop any catches! Did he? I can’t remember now. I didn’t mean to leave him out. Ooops.

  • The only consistent thing about England is the inconsistency. They very seldom have more than two good or two bad performances in a row. Any concept of “momentum” or “reverse momentum” doesn’t seem to apply.

    On the Hobart result, SA became only the third side ever to win three consecutive series in Australia (England in the 1880s and West Indies in the 1980s are the other two). The three SA seamers all have Test averages under 25 which is one in the eye for those who argued that’s no longer possible in the modern world (Rabada and Abbott haven’t played many matches it’s true – but does anyone doubt that Rabada at least will stay there? As for Abbott, he must’ve sent his lookalike over to Worcester last summer when he took one wicket for about 250! ).

    • I’ve never really rated Abbott and (I’m a Worcs fan) he certainly lived down to expectations last summer! However he proves me wrong time and again in the test arena.

    • No worries Bob. I’ve always wondered if you’re Bob Willis in disguise? Wishful thinking I know :-)

    • That’s a good point. I think they might wait until the 3rd test or until conditions are a bit more seam / swing friendly. Would be harsh to drop Woakes. The other option is Ansari but I guess they like having 3 spinners. Duckett should be safe imho.

  • Nice to get a shout out to my profession! No comment re the stereotype though….

    Very little to add really. Quickly on Duckett though – think he could really do something once he gets in and stays in. Fortunately with England’s performance there hasn’t been too much flack but I think he’s shown easily enough promise to deserve an extended run.

    On Anderson – I’d stick for the next test and see where we are. Could be a useful option for the third…

    • There’s an actuary in my social cricket team. He’s a diamond. I’m just taking the mick :-)

      Ps My Mrs is an accountant so I can hardly talk.

      • We normally fly under the radar while the accountants pick up the lion’s share of the banter as most people don’t know what we do. A bit of exposure can only be healthy…

  • Most unfair James. As a former insurance company director I have known some very imaginative actuaries (or at least their projections on rate profitability turned out to be imaginative). I see Cook’s future career more as the natural successor to Lance Corporal Duncan Smith, acting as batman (the other sort) to Strauss when he assumes his obvious position as heir in waiting to Cruella de May.

  • I understand that Woakes has suddenly picked up a knee niggle, according to Cook, and conveniently paves the way to get his trusted friend into the side for the next test. So there we have it, job done, back to the tried and trusted.
    The cynic in me doesn’t trust Cook, at all. It was on his say so that Ballance was in the side for Bangladesh. If Anderson’s shoulder breaks down again, toiling for naught, then he will have been sacrificed on the alter of Cook’s conservatism.
    Anyway, we’ll see eh?

    • I presume Woakes ‘niggle’ followed a very hard shove from behind (probably accompanied by a cry of ‘out of our way Oik’. :)

  • It was good to see what Rashid was like when given a half-way sensible field. I’m happy to continue to argue that the Indian pitches in general don’t help slower, loopier spinners who rely on topspin and bounce to the same extent they help quicker spinners who pin batsmen to the crease; that’s a fact that is backed up by both physics and statistics.

    I still don’t see it with Ansari, sorry. Batting ok but bowling looks like cannon fodder with that biomechanically appalling action that the ECB insist on coaching to every youngster through sheer stupidity. Appreciate that he offers variation, but I’d rather bowl Root.

  • Not a good day today. The spinners didn’t carry anywhere near enough threat on a pitch that did provide a little more as the day went on. I can only see an uphill struggle for this game.


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