Horticulture

Well good day all.

Feeling a little better, with a bit more energy today. Absolutely zonked for the last 36 hours, but I’m made of resilient stock. I think.

I’m more certain of my resilience when I have to listen to numerous hours of the Moores-Cook In House TV Channel and embedded media as I did yesterday. It’s quite rare for me to watch a whole day’s play of a tour test match, and yesterday offerered me the opportunity (although I did doze throughout the day). Good grief, what’s happened to them?

The early part of the day was dominated by the Joe Root love-in. Now, fair enough, Joe made an excellent hundred befitting his talent and ability, and more importantly, his temperament. He’s a great player in the making, and is doing what a good batsman should do against bowling attacks like the one is he up against. He should be giving the impression when he walks out that “I’m in form, and the only way you get me out is I make a mistake. You ain’t good enough to get me out.” He is giving off that impression. At this point, of course there were two things really missing from the love-fest from all the team (alongside the love-fest for Bell for his 143 and Ballance for his 122 in the last test):

  • The wicket was a slow one, and you needed to be a decent player to make a ton at a decent rate on it; and
  • If this wicket was such a belter, how come our great line-up had just one ton to its name on it. Most notably, the captain (there, I said it).

The tone had switched by the evening session when players who have made runs in test cricket, like Kraigg Brathwaite (a hundred in South Africa last winter – I’ll bet Botham, for one, never had a clue prior to being told this fact by his scorer/analyst), Darren Bravo (big hundred in India to his name, for one) and Marlon Samuels (100 in difficult conditions early on in this test) made batting look easy, and getting them out hard. Now this wasn’t anyone else’s fault other than the groundsman / cricket authorities for laying on this wicket.

Now don’t confuse this pitch with a great test wicket. But I’d guess the commentators know about as much about pitch preparation as many of them do about the home team’s international playing records. This isn’t St. John’s Rec we are playing on, with 700 playing 700. The home team’s batsmen are allowed to play well. It isn’t against the laws of cricket. As Vian keeps saying, we blew this test in the 1st innings, not this one. This isn’t the allowed narrative, as we found out….

So what we had was Alastair Cook doing what all competent captains should do, and he did it competently. No more. This wasn’t “excellent” captaincy. It was decent. He tried things, but the excellent ones have them come off, whereas the competent ones are those that have tried. I’m not having a pop at Cook here, because it’s not his fault his bowling attack is limited, and especially that he’s been thrown a spinner who has had a side injury and is expected to be better than he’s been. You can only use what is at your disposal. Broad was guff, Anderson has been a disappointment, and Jordan is the bowler us Surrey fans saw a few years ago. Stokes is always going to be inconsistent.

So we had an issue. Clearly we can’t have the TV saying a major reason a tired performance from our bowlers was due to the insanity of back-to-back tests on hard graft wickets. That’s absolutely not on, because it’s like this due to TV schedulers in the main, and this series is being ludicrously shoe-horned as part of our “11 out of 17 wins year of cricket”. So we have the TV and press tripping over themselves to absolve the team of blame, pouring scorn on the “mediocre” jibe by Graves, and telling us time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time….again that this pitch is “flat”.

A regular tweeter in opposite view to many of those expressed in this parish said that Nasser had said Cook had captained excellently, so that will do for him. But even Nas has been at the Kool-Aid on this one. While he pointed out, very astutely in my view, that Moeen Ali’s over-hyping last summer may have been a little premature, he then said Cook had done nothing wrong, and had been excellent. The fact that they need to keep telling us this is a sign indeed, as another poster here or on Twitter has been saying here. Cook’s need, whether explicit or implicit, for positive reinforcement betrays the problem. No-one thinks his captaincy is going to create something out of nothing if has little to work with.

The other clear implication is that this has to be a dead wicket because Kraigg Brathwaite (who has copped some good ones, and got sorted out by a short ball) has made a hundred. Anyone following West Indian test cricket in the recent past knows this guy is made of the right stuff. His technique is quite individual (yet to be convinced of the Dravid comparison, fellow author) but he has temperament and ability, and he showed it. So once we had the rather perfunctory mentions of Brathwaite batting well (Gower’s line of questioning of how proud was he of scoring a century against England in particular struck me as borderline arrogant – he’s got one against a far better attack) it was back to the wicket.

Test cricket is hard. It’s meant to be tough to get wickets. We got 291 runs in the day, which isn’t bad, especially when one side its trying to save the match. Our attack has never been as good as the media portrayed (it is the reason that our two top pace men average 30-ish) and it’s main spinner is having a major off day. This pitch only became a terrible one, responsible for the match situation once Brathwaite had made the ton that, frankly, Alastair Cook failed to complete when he had the chance. Because, to say this pitch is a road, in which you can’t get anyone out on, let’s the real cat out of the bag. The Alastair Cook who made the likes of 294 or 235 on pitches like this, didn’t this time. I have the whole of that Brisbane test in my archives, for one, and you don’t hear about how bad that wicket was anywhere near as much as you did yesterday. There’s the rub. A test wicket only appears terrible when we can’t take wickets on it.

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West Indies v England, 2nd Test, day 5

Chances are, at the end of today the match will be drawn. And that would mean after two Tests of a must win series, it’s 0-0. There’ll be some uncomfortable shifting going on.

Yesterday evening Sky kept on and on with constant references to how Cook had done “alright” in the field as captain. And that’s true, he was indeed alright. But that’s a pretty damning verdict on his abilities when doing alright invites so much comment. In trying to praise him it merely highlights that they think he’s terrible the rest of the┬átime.

The West Indies have been fantastic this match. They scored nigh on 300 in the toughest batting conditions of the game – for all the moaning about the pitch, England bowled poorly and missed their chance – and have shown considerable skill yesterday. Brathwaite to me looks to have a tiny bit of Dravid in his style.

Assuming it’s a draw, I’ll be playing Excuses Bingo later.

Since you seem to miss it when it’s not there….comments below!