This has been one of the worst test matches I’ve seen. Runs have been ridiculously easy to come by. Of the specialist batsmen on display, only Misbah, Masoon and Bairstow have missed out. Only sixteen wickets have fallen in four whole days. And some of those came when the slog was on at the end of Pakistan’s first innings.
I cannot bear it when there’s no contest between bat and ball. I feel exactly the same way when the bowlers are on top. Those one-day finals in September, in which Jon Lewis used to look more like Curtley Ambrose than Alan Davies, used to wind me up a treat. The batsmen had no chance in the first hour. Survival was often a matter of pure luck. The toss decided the game.
Consequently, batting achievements in this match should be taken with a liberal pinch of salt. Does taking a five-for on a green pitch at the Riverside in May, in which the match is finished inside two days, mean as much as a five-for at Adelaide on a hot day? Absolutely not.
All records should be seen in context. Has Shoaib Malik suddenly emerged as a world class player? No. But he has proved his ability to concentrate for long periods in oppressive heat. Good on him. Let’s see how his career goes from here. We wish him well.
Then we come to poor Adil Rashid. A couple of days ago our unfortunate leggie recorded the worst ever bowling analysis by a debutant. That’s some achievement. Some pretty rubbish bowlers have played test cricket over the years, but none of them had a shocker as bad as poor Adil.
So should we write poor Adil off now? Absolutely not. It’s now been proven that he was bowling in nigh on impossible conditions. He had no help whatsoever. He can’t read anything into his performance. Zulfiqar Babar, who has taken 381 first class wickets at an average of 22, has prised just one scalp in 70 overs in this match thus far.
If there are any people out there praising Malik to the rafters while laying into Rashid, they need to be slapped round the face with a wet haddock. Let’s have some perspective please.
However, although this test has been as boring as an episode of Eldorado, at least something interesting happened today. Alastair Cook completed the longest innings by an Englishman (in terms of minutes) in test history. Even though the bowling was about as threatening as a mango, it’s still some achievement.
Did we learn anything new about Cook today? No we didn’t. Everyone knows he’s absolutely brilliant at concentrating for long periods. He’s made a career out of scoring daddy hundreds when conditions are in the bastmens’ favour. It’s what makes him so valuable.
However, this shouldn’t detract from what I see as an incredible physical feat. Just think about this for a second: Cook has been out in the middle (fielding and batting) in thirty-seven degrees for four days straight. I can’t lie down in thirty degree heat for twenty minutes without needing to dip into a swimming pool every so often. It’s an absolutely incredible achievement.
Consequently, the next time you see Mo Farah running ten thousand metres, or one of those Kenyans winning the London Marathon, just go ‘pffffffff’. Tell everyone around you that England’s cricket captain survived for four full days in the middle of the desert. And he didn’t even break sweat. Literally.