We’re only two tests into England’s winter odyssey and I’m already in danger of repeating myself too much. Our batsmen can’t play spin well enough and our bowlers can’t bowl it well enough either. It’s a bit of a problem considering that all we’re going to see in the next two months are dustbowls.
Perhaps I’m being a little unkind. Our batting against spin does seem to have improved a little bit. There’s no way our numbers nine and ten would’ve survived (and then prospered) in arid conditions twenty years ago. However, the bottom line is that we’re still in a hole and making extremely hard work of beating Bangladesh. God help us when we get to India.
Our batsmen failed yet again today. Apart from Joe Root, who made a useful half century, the middle order folded much like the top order did yesterday. Once again it was left to Chris Woakes to show the so called specialists how to bat. His partnership of 99 with Adil Rashid, who I find great fun to watch, saved our blushes.
In the end, our ninth wicket pair even managed to secure a small lead, thanks partly to an extraordinary call by the 3rd umpire, who adjudged that a full toss Woakes creamed straight to midwicket was a no ball. It was never above waist high in a million years.
Although the ball might have been borderline waist high at the point of impact (which was two yards in front of the batsman), Woakes was clearly crouching as he played the shot. The ball was obviously dipping too.
The rule – which the 3rd umpire worryingly didn’t seem to know – is that full tosses should only be called no ball if they’re above waist height at the time the ball passes the batsman’s waist (not when it hits his bat). What’s more, ‘waist high’ refers to a batsman standing up straight.
There was some confusion on Twitter because the MCC laws actually say a full toss needs to be above shoulder high when a spinner’s bowling – something Maxie explained a couple of years ago (it’s still one of the most googled articles on our site). Strangely however – and I have to confess that I didn’t know this – match regulations in test cricket actually supersede the MCC rulebook; therefore it’s waist high for both fast and slow bowlers.
Either way, however, the third umpire was wrong on this occasion. His incompetence cheated the hosts of twenty odd runs which could yet prove to be decisive. This kind of thing really winds me up. If England win by a small margin, some might feel the victory lacks legitimacy. Umpiring mistakes are part and parcel of the game but they shouldn’t be tolerated when a decision goes to review and it’s so clear cut.
Fortunately for Bangladesh, our slender lead didn’t actually matter too much in the end. Tamin and Kayes played splendidly and overcame the 24 runs deficit with ease thanks to some bloody awful captaincy by Cook.
Alastair’s first mistake was giving the new ball to Steve Finn, who bowled like an absolute drain. He soon surrendered any momentum England had. His second mistake was setting an infuriatingly negative field for Moeen Ali. There can’t be too many times in the history of cricket that mid-off is back on the fence in the second over of an innings.
Every time I think Cook is improving as a test captain he does something completely mind-boggling. No captain with a natural feel for the game would’ve done the same – even if he they weren’t entirely confident in the bowler, who, let’s no forget, had taken five wickets in the first innings.
Cook’s negativity, and his spinners’ inaccuracy, handed the game back to Bangladesh. They were able to knock the ball into gaps and pick up pressure-relieving singles as well as hitting the inevitable bad balls for four. The third innings of a test match is often the most tense period of a test match. yet the home side were able to score between five and six an over against the new ball with ease. Basically England blew it.
With Bangladesh 152-3 overnight (a lead of 128), we’ll need to play extremely well tomorrow to pull off another win. I hate to say it but at this point Bangladesh are probably favourites if, and I guess it’s a significant ‘if’, they hold their nerve.
One welcome sign, however, was the horrible heave Mahmudullah played to the last ball of the day. He missed it completely and was clean bowled. One wonders what he was thinking? According to the commentators, who have access to the stump mic, England had been winding the batsman up immediately beforehand. This came as something of a relief to be honest. It’s this kind of inexplicable decision that gets people talking about illegal bookmakers.
Mad-mudullah’s unsightly heave was actually the second extraordinarily strange thing Bangladesh did today: when the crucial Woakes / Rashid partnership came together, Musghfiqur inexplicably decided to bowl his seamers (even though the spinners were all over England at the time). This was another incredibly strange passage of play that would’ve had conspiracy theorist salivating.
A more obvious theory, of course, is that Bangladesh don’t quite know how to win test matches yet. In fact, both teams have looked utterly lost at times. The good thing from a spectators perspective is that games between two somewhat inept teams usually makes seriously good watching. I suggest we all sit back and enjoy whatever unfolds.
PS I’m going to be out of the loop tomorrow so I won’t be able to write a report. Please feel free to leave comments about day 3’s play in the comments section below. I’ll be relying on you guys to tell me what’s going on! Cheers.