A fundamental difference between the world of the blogger and the world of the journalist is that real life intrudes on our witterings. There are other differences of course, not least that some of the latter have little but contempt for those who dare to write on the game (and it needs to be said that others still find the blogs of interest), but that is probably the principal one. What it means is that we have jobs and cricket is a side interest. That side interest both waxes and wanes depending on circumstance, but even when at its zenith it doesn’t mean that cricket – or any other interest – is in the position to take priority.
So it is that in my own case I have been unable to watch more than a few overs in the last month. It might have been a little bit more were it not for the truly impressive incompetence Southern Rail bring to proceedings, but even if they were capable of such unusual abilities as running a train service, it wouldn’t have been much. As some know, I was a month in Asia, travelling around Laos, Thailand and Indonesia (minor plug for the blogging results of that – go to http://www.thoughtsonatrip.com), which as work goes is hardly being condemned to working down a pit, but it was work nonetheless. Returning from there it was a week away working, and after that an actual real life holiday for a week in Turkey. This week is the first time I’ve had more than two days at home since early May, all of which is a roundabout way of saying two things; first an apology for silence and second to note that I don’t have a clue what’s being going on.
The Sri Lanka series was comfortably won, even the wider points based version that precisely no one gives a stuff about, but my own experience of it consisted of reading the odd newspaper report and Sean’s excellent precis of the action on here. That means that for this series the pretence to hold is that the approach is one of a fresh mind, open to all possibilities, and the editor’s decision is final on that one.
Having said that, I am also at Lords tomorrow, so anyone who wants to say hello get in touch. It makes for a curious feeling, one of trying to re-engage – not with the England team, that still seems some distance away which is a saddening truth, but with the game of cricket itself. For everyone here and beyond does hold that in common, a love for the game and its vagaries and sub-plots. The presence of Pakistan adds to that, for it has been six years since they were last here, on a tour that will go down in cricketing infamy. The relationship between England and Pakistan has been anything but smooth over the years but that particular tour was the one that caused considerable damage to the game itself rather than to assorted egos.
Such discord seems rather less likely this time around, barring the odd bout of booing for Mohammad Amir. As an aside, I will not be joining in any of that, my own view is that once punishment has been served, that is the end of it. Whether that punishment was appropriate is another matter, and I am as unlikely to cheer him as I would have been to cheer Dwayne Chambers, but that isn’t the same thing as actively expressing displeasure at his presence. Either way, and assuming nothing untoward happens, it will dissipate both across the day and the series. The history does not require constant reminders to always be there.
Pakistan cricket has recovered its reputation in the intervening years in large part, and much of the credit for that must go to the captain, Misbah ul Haq a man who receives very little of the credit due to him in his own country, and rather more outside it. Misbah’s career as a batsman has been impressive enough given his late blooming as a cricketer – one which gives entirely unmerited hope to all forty somethings everywhere – but his leadership of his nation has been a thing of wonder. Above all else, he has given Pakistan cricket its dignity back, no small achievement considering their continued exile from home internationals.
Misbah himself hasn’t played Tests in England before, something of an irony given a batting line up that is anything but youthful, and despite strong Test records there has to be a question over how it will perform in English conditions. It is perhaps to the advantage of Pakistan that the first Test is at Lords, where chairman’s pitches have been more frequent than not over recent years. In any event, while there may be question marks over the batting, the visitors do possess a potent pace attack, and one that will cause England far more difficulty than that of the of the Sri Lankans.
England’s batting is anything but settled, the departure of Nick Compton, the promotion of a Joe Root who hasn’t had the best of summers to date, return of Gary Ballance who hasn’t looked fully at home against pace in his Test career to date, Vince is just starting out and with that Pakistani attack, it is a Test that for the first time this year has a degree of uncertainty about the outcome. Pakistan are a dangerous side with the ball, and despite potential fallibility in English conditions do at least have a top and middle order of known competence.
This is an intriguing match up, neither side have all options covered, both have significant and obvious weaknesses, both have equally obvious strengths. As with many sports, the period before it begins is in some ways the best time, with all possibilities open. May the cricket be the focus, and may it be a proper tussle. And after tomorrow, I may even know what’s going on.
I thought this was interesting, in view of the many past cases of not-quite-fit players being played regardless. Selectors being sensible… https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jul/13/england-alastair-cook-trevor-bayliss-overruled-jimmy-anderson-first-test-Pakistan
Plus it’s another fine example of our captain’s ability to not criticise and undermine people at all, really.
I just saw this article – finally someone in the England dressing room decided to not risk someone’s injury. /s
Speaking of which – how is MArk Wood doing, anyone know?
Just been selected for the Lions team, I think.
Good piece by Jonathan Liew on Amir:
I think the differnece may be England’s lower order. They have bailed out the England top order quite a bit over the last 2 years. 180/5 quite often becomes 400.
It will be interesting to see if the pressure gets to Amir. It could either fire him up or make him shrink. Also if Pakistan do get on top how will the media react? Those who think he should not be playing will get very high and mighty if their beloved is being turned over by a “cheat.”
I think this series will kick off if England start to lose.
Never misses a moment to praise his “mate”. Independent reporting, not a chance of it here…
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I wondered if that would get a comment or two here. I wonder how Saker will handle some of the somewhat injury prone Aussie quicks?
A phalanx of broken bowlers to greet us at the next Ashes I would guess?
They’ll all be bowling half way down the pitch, if history decides to repeat itself.
Both Selvey and FICJAM have declared McCullum the most important cricketer in the world in recent years.
Let’s have a look at his record as captain:
P31 W11 L11 D9 W/L 1.0
P42 W20 L11 D11 W/L 1.8
Misbah hasn’t got to play one Test as captain at home. He lost three class bowlers (Amir, Asif, Ajmal) for various reasons. He’s beaten Australia and SA in Tests and England in a series – all of which McCullum couldn’t manage.
So, why the BMac love-in and the ignoring of Misbah? It doesn’t all come down to stats, they’ll say. Indeed, it doesn’t. NZ under BMac played the role allocated to non-B3 teams to perfection. Turn up occasionally when we’ll let them, don’t complain, behave like splendid chaps, give our splendid chaps a decent game, let Cooky score a pile of runs, lose. This is what is wanted of non-B3 visiting teams.
NZ at Lord’s in 2015 is the template. This is what they want. Notice how when Selvey and Smith mention NZ that is the match they always turn to (was there a Second Test at Headingley? Did Tim Southee smack Broady’s half-track filth to all parts? Let’s gloss over that…..).
Respectful, plucky, losers. That’s what we want. That’s the part that is scripted. I hope Pakistan are anything but.
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Don’t forget that he also led “the most important tour of England by a cricket team, like, evah.”
Ramiz Raja has just mentioned on commentary that in 1992 Pakistan played 13 f/c matches outside the Tests and, having dug out my old Wisden, he’s correct (plus they played half a dozen more two and one day warm-up games).
Wasim Akram bowled nearly 500 overs and took 80+ wickets on tour. Four batsmen made over a 1000 runs (and Javed and Inzy weren’t one of them!).
If memory serves sponsors stumped up some money for these games to try to add a stronger element of competition compared to what and gone on before. Remember Pakistan tearing round the shires, picking up said financials while winning loads of games and getting lots and lots of local practice.
Umpire Wilson graduates from the Ravi School of Umpiring:
As long as he gives all the ones that are just scraping leg-stump for both sides, then there’s no problem…..
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About as out as Botham v Viv during his 8-for on this ground in 1984.
Was he attached to one of those MCC polygraphs?
Was anyone listening? I gather he was on TMS at lunchtime – the only specific I can find from what he said was an “if” about the ten-team 2019 WC. So what’s the new revenue-sharing model going to be?
Here it is:
Only 52 overs bowled in the first two sessions.
Rampaging toothache has one plus. I’ll be able to watch the last half hours play. And if i get an appointment in the morning, some of that too.
Nothing new about that. The only thing new about it would be if the umpires report England if they are still behind the rate and Cook gets a heavy fine
Tough yards, this is a wicket for genius level quicks and spinners. I find it very depressing watching Steven Finn and thinking of what he could have been, even worse seeing our seamers charge in forever because we haven’t got a spinner who can even bowl a short tight spell. This winter is looking like humiliation.
Yep, I thought Finn’s speciality was bowling 90+ mph. Why has he stopped?
Mike Selvey’s mate didn’t help!
Finn is a pure confidence player, who’s had his run up, action and everything else tinkered with so much that he doesn’t know how to just come in and bowl. Richard Johnson remied it somewhat a couple of summers ago, but self-doubts have crept in again.
Unfortunately, just can’t see Finn getting back to his most destructive best.
England have played Australia 15 times and India 9 times since Pakistan were last here.
Who would rather be watching Watto or Snicker Dhawan again?