Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, England would often travel to Leeds trailing in test series. We’d draft in someone like Neil Mallender, who would swing the ball around corners, and we’d win inside three days – thus keeping Ted Dexter or Mickey Stewart in charge for another few months. Headingley’s cloud cover was like a huge comfort blanket in the sky. Our opponents simply couldn’t cope with the prodigious swing.
And so it came to pass, thirty years or so later, that Headlingley has come to the rescue again. But it could have been oh so different. Had Sarfraz not been duped into thinking it was a batting day then it could, and I suspect would, have been England who were bowled out cheaply in two sessions. There’s no way our batsmen would have coped with the ball moving around as much as it did. With Malan at 4 and Buttler as high as 6 in this game, our batting line-up looks even thinner than it did back in the dark old days. It’s absolutely shocking to be honest.
Fortunately, however, Pakistan got everything wrong on day 1. They batted poorly, although they did receive a few jaffas, and their bowlers were unable to dig themselves out of a hole. England had all the luck, and crucially we took our chances. There was only one dropped chance that I can recall.
The hero of the day was probably Stuart Broad, who bowled much fuller than he has in the recent past, and therefore suddenly rediscovered his ability to take wickets. He bowled very well in the conditions and I enjoyed his interview with Ian Ward at close of play. When asked whether he’d been fired up by suggestions that he should be dropped < cough > Michael Vaughan < cough > he cuttingly said that some pundits seem more interested in promoting their own columns that being fair. Ouch! Some would say he has a point.
Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes also had decent days with the ball too. The former’s record at Headingley isn’t as good as it might be, but he bowled better in his second spell and picked up a few wickets. Woakes also looked good on his return. He’s a completely different bowler in English conditions and a Duke cherry in his hand.
And then there was young Sam Curran, included in the side as an injury replacement for Ben Stokes. What did you make of his performance? Although Sam is obviously a very talented lad, an exciting prospect, and he’ll doubtless take lots of international wickets one day, I was left with the impression that at this stage of his career he probably doesn’t really look international class.
Had someone like Harry Gurney or Mike Smith run in to bowl at 80 mph and struggled to take wickets, then I’m sure words like “trundler”, “pies”, and “not international standard” would’ve been somewhat harshly thrown around. However, because he’s just 19 and has an interesting back story, he’s considered to be a sexy pick.
I really hope he isn’t playing simply because Ed Smith want to build a reputation as Mr Funky. I’m sure there are lots of stalwarts in county cricket who must be looking on enviously wondering whether young Sam has actually deserved this call up.
Having said that, I have seen quite a lot of Curran and been pretty impressed. I saw him for England U19, and of course I’ve seen him play for Surrey too. On those occasions he did bowl a little bit quicker, so perhaps he was a little nervous today and just trying to land it on the strip rather than letting rip? Either way he’s definitely one for the future. My doubt is whether he’s one for the present . I guess time will tell.
After dismissing Pakistan so cheaply, it was crucial for Cook and Jennings to get England off to a good start. If they could do so, then the game would effectively be won. Thankfully they survived a few early alarms and played pretty well.
I was quite impressed with Jennings actually. I admit my expectations were quite low, but he seems to have tweaked his backlift, and he didn’t seem so statuesque at the crease. He also played a couple of gorgeous shots that had a real stamp of authority: a fluent drive through the covers and a lovely cut through point. He certainly looked better than Stoneman.
It’s just a shame that his innings ended in familiar fashion: he was stuck on the crease a bit, hung his bat out, and nicked it to the keeper. I hope that doesn’t convince people that he hasn’t worked on his game because by all reports he has … unlike Gary Balance who apparently either refused or was unable to adapt his technique.
I also thought that Alastair Cook played pretty well again. However, unlike the old days, when he seemed to have an air of permanence, these days he seems to lose his wicket out of the blue. Today he was strangled down the leg side as he attempted a pull. It was undoubtedly a bit unlucky, although Pakistan could argue that their ‘go short, go pull, go short’ strategy to Cook seemed to pay off.
With Root still at the crease tomorrow morning, we should be able to put the game out of Pakistan’s reach tomorrow (weather permitting). We’ve had a dream day today, spirits in the dressing room should be high, and hopefully the likes of Malan, Bairstow and Buttler will be able to cash in if they come to the crease with England in a strong position. It wouldn’t that make a nice bloody change.
If Jos manages to make some runs I look forward to his interview with Ian Ward at the end of the day. No doubt he’ll say: “some bullshit bloggers talk crap just to promote their own sites”. And I’ll feel as daft and sheepish as our 2005 Ashes winning captain must have felt today.