130 for 3. It is set up with the odds in Pakistan’s favour, with two of the England batsmen capable of causing trouble for the hosts back in the hutch. Seven wickets to take and with memories of how rapidly they can go fresh from Saturday morning, the game looks to be up. But England have been resilient in the past decade and one can but hope that someone other than Root stands up to be counted. I wouldn’t rely on it, but let’s be hopeful.
You know, I could be forgiving of someone who didn’t give the impression as being so above the plebs, but in a piece dripping with his usual superiority, the inability to remember Pakistan’s first innings (and how memorable was the last over of Day 1) in a piece is, well, quite outstanding.
Misbah missed twin hundreds, but Younus completed his, and this, of course brought out the “he is inexplicably excluded from the conversation over great players”. Well, you may have excluded him, and so do many other British cricket correspondents who last saw him play three and a half years ago, but those on here who watch cricket around the globe know of his brilliance. The winning innings in Sri Lanka being a fitting stamp of class that the experts almost revel in not paying attention to. Saying Younus Khan is unrecognised would be to label the same status on Hashim Amla, who we don’t see for every three years or so on the international circuit. I’m not quite sure what the blind spot is? All the while Asad Shafiq is having a jolly decent series too. He looks a nice little player in the bits I’d seen of him before, and I’ll be fascinated how he does in England this summer. The batting woes of 2010 may be a thing of the past.
I’ll be interested to see what the media make of Cook’s shot. Yes, he was injured – you only had to watch him run for that – but Cook can block and leave better than anyone in test cricket. He top edged a sweep to deep backward square, and there was barely a word of complaint against him. Bell, meanwhile, in Selfey’s piece is called careless for not getting his glove out of the way, while Moeen, rightly, is giving a telling-off for a waft outside off stump. I know people will say “oh no, it’s you having a go at Cook again” but it really isn’t. It’s other people being called out for brain farts, and our captain not. He’ll be excused due to an injury, but really? I was a bit miffed and wonder if any of you really were?
Also, I wish we didn’t do this. It makes us look like whingers.
That said, Cook needs to be fit for the next game. The selection policy, well sign-posted, was that Moeen was the man incumbent in the UAE and that if things went well, they’d consider him for South Africa, and if not, Alex Hales would get a go. There is a feeling out there that this was a mistake, and the worst thing that could possibly have happened would be Cook getting injured. If the captain can walk, he plays. But what if he can’t? Cook looked awful between the wickets, and while he couldn’t channel his inner Gordon Greenidge, he is still an important, no vital, part of this team when playing well. Again, no problems at all in saying that.
I do say that any thoughts of calling Joe Root the best all round player in the world were rather put to bed by another AB deVilliers masterclass in Mumbai, as the visitors destroyed the Indians and put Dhoni’s comments that it would be difficult to score rapidly in the last 10 overs under the new rules into context. Three centuries in the innings, the others by De Kock and Du Plessis, sent South Africa into the stratosphere. India never came close. De Villiers hit 11 sixes in his knock, while Du Plessis went into beast mode as his leg cramped up. England fans should circlet 12 February. We play them at the Wanderers. Hide behind the sofa.
Rain prevented play in Colombo. So all my comments yesterday roll forward to tomorrow.
All comments for Day 5, a morning when I’ll be in wall-to-wall meetings so keeping up to date is going to be tough, should be posted below.
I leave you with Newman….
The official line is that England have ‘no concerns’ about Cook and with five days before the final match in this three-Test series there is a little more time than usual in the packed international calendar for the captain to recover.
But it was painful enough to watch Cook bat let alone for the captain to actually do it as he hobbled his way through 22 balls before falling when his body restricted his attempt to execute his first sweep shot.