It is perhaps perversely illustrative of the issues Test cricket faces that after two days play there is considerable intrigue at where this match is going, and rather more pleasure at the way that it is developing into a proper scrap. Despite all ECB attempts to portray the last Ashes as a classic, each Test was more or less over by the end of day two, the direction of travel beyond retrieval. Thus, the prospect of an even fight is in itself an attraction, and as far as Lords is concerned at least, reflected in strong ticket sales. Give the public something to watch, and they’ll turn out. This is of course helped by Pakistan not having come here for six years, precisely the importance of not killing the golden goose by playing the same teams constantly. Whether it’s a lesson the ECB will learn seems unlikely – the four year Ashes cycle that was promised to return is already being compromised as administrators look after their immediate financial interests rather than the game itself.
This isn’t anything new, nor is it remotely something of which critics are unaware, yet it bears repeating at every opportunity, for the matter of the game’s integrity is more important than anything else in cricket. Pakistan are a talented team, and one who are good to watch. There are wider reasons for their long absence from this country, but it doesn’t mean there is any excuse should it be a similar gap before their next visit.
For the second day running, the scheduled 90 overs were not bowled in the day. The bulk of the bowling was from Pakistan, after England bowled them out in fairly short order, meaning that both sides have been guilty of not providing ticket holders with what they had paid for. A ticket in the Compton stand was £90, making the mathematics rather straightforward. Yesterday we were three overs short, today it was four. This is after the additional half an hour was played in order to complete the allocation. The television coverage gently mentions it from time to time, but suffers from the fundamental problem that all the media does, written or broadcast, which is that they aren’t paying for their entrance – the very opposite. Ultimately, they don’t care any more than the players do about what is, without a shadow of a doubt, theft. That might be a strong word, but it’s a disgraceful, entirely unacceptable state of affairs. Players get fined occasionally (note that the money is not returned to the spectators, as it should be) but almost the entire series in South Africa suffered from shortened days in terms of overs, and nothing whatever was done. Fundamentally, as if we did not know already, the players and the ICC do not care about the spectators except as a revenue stream.
Doubtless if put to them they would protest that, but the fact is that nothing is done about it, and nothing is ever said to those unhappy about it. Both yesterday and today the crowds thinned out around 6pm, the scheduled close of play, as the crowd caught trains or buses home. This is meant to be when it finishes, so there is a contempt already present by not meeting the timings imposed; to then fail to get the overs in within the additional time allowed is nothing short of scandalous. The match referee then looks at it over the course of the Test, which is ridiculous in itself given that most people go for a single day’s play – it doesn’t help them if the over rate speeds up later on.
There are various ideas about how to prevent this happening, but the given the current sanctions aren’t used a great deal anyway, there’s little point even talking about them, as it seems unlikely they’d be used either. Both captains should be banned for the next match. But they won’t be. No one suffers – except the poor bloody spectator who pays for the game to be put on in the first place.
Chris Woakes is one of those figures whose first class record suggests an all rounder of rare ability, genuinely worthy of a place with both bat and ball, yet to date in his international career he has been more likely to be in receipt of comment that neither discipline is good enough, that he is, as the parlance goes, a bits and pieces cricketer. There has been defence of him on these pages, but his presence in the team has been anything but universally welcomed. In the same way that early struggles shouldn’t be a reason to his dismiss him, nor should his current success mean that he is a fixture for years to come, yet there are signs he is coming to terms with the standard, not just today, but in recent games where he has been one of the better performers. His 6-70 was outstanding, his halting of the Pakistani charge through the England line up in the last session highly meritorious. The one area where England have a notable advantage over the visitors is in the lower middle order. Woakes has hinted at batting ability often enough without going on to make a significant score – partly due to his lowly position at 8 or 9 – but in a tight game, a contribution from him could make all the difference.
Alastair Cook was the prime contributor to the England score, and in so doing became the highest Test run scorer of any opening batsman, overtaking Sunil Gavaskar. Longevity may not be the most important attribute in analysing a player’s worth, but nor is it to be ignored either. Opening the batting remains a uniquely challenging occupation in cricket, and the landmark is worthy of praise. Yet today he seemed somewhat out of sorts, playing and missing outside off stump frequently (and being turned square far too often) as well as having two escapes when straightforward edges were dropped. Most batsmen will worry little about that, factoring in the occasions where brilliant catches are taken or dubious decisions are given as evening up the ledger. But the slightly out of sync technique brought his downfall, dragging the ball on to the stumps as he failed to get across to it outside off stump. He’s not quite in top form.
Joe Root was clearly upset with himself for his dismissal; a poor shot undoubtedly, not for the first time recently. Perhaps he will receive genuine criticism for the first time in a while, but it seems few will be as hard on him as he will himself. Jonny Bairstow too was guilty of a poor shot, one borne perhaps of overconfidence as much as anything. Many a batsman will say that you don’t make hundreds when you are in the very best of form, because you take chances you wouldn’t do if the fear of dismissal was in the back of the mind.
But if those were somewhat self-inflicted – most dismissals are batsman error – it doesn’t detract from the performance of Yasir Shah. To take five wickets on day two of a Test at Lords, where pitches are usually flat and slow, is some achievement. England consistently have problems with legspin, despite their protests that they have learned lessons, and so it proved here. Given that the seam attack was a little off colour (not helped by the drops) it was ominous that England struggled so.
Late in the day the tale of two lbw decisions pointed the way to the future. Firstly Moeen Ali was given out despite two elements on umpire’s call in the decision. It was of course out by the rules pertaining to Hawkeye, but the question is whether it should be. If there are two points of doubt, surely there is doubt all round? The second example was the appeal against Stuart Broad, it was not out according to the current playing regulations, but when the new ones come in later this year, it would be. There have to be concerns that the number of lbw decisions will increase quite substantially, and matches shortened accordingly.
England are 86 runs behind with three wickets left. They could get close, they could be rolled over in short order. Not having a good idea where the match is going is when Test cricket is at its best. Day three may be pivotal, it may not. But the point is that there will be interest in finding out.
Day three comments below
Thought Woakes played the spin very well. Actually surprised by his application to Yasir, who probably produced the best spell of spin without the assistance of conditions in many a year. Yasir’s flight and drift was gorgeous. It had a subtle kink in it. What a fine practitioner.
Don’t know where to start with the middle order. It’s a mess. At least Root is now at 3, so we can start to observe four and five as a pairing / engine room now.
Match is 2:1 in Pakistan’s favour at this point, IMO and that’s being generous as I don’t think England have the bowling depth in this Test to chase down a target of 200 or so.
Cook’s longevity is clearly a key factor in his bottom-line stats. Then again, longevity does not just magically unfold unless you are a pretty decent batsman, which Cook is.
Some passing thoughts on other factor that have contributed to his longevity include:
• As an opener he has the longest opportunity for big scores;
• He has just a few scoring strokes in his locker and never moves beyond his limited strengths;
• He is metronomic, with an unexciting strike rate that rarely shifts, regardless of game situation;
• He takes few risks as a batsman, again, regardless of game situation;
• His mental equilibrium is never tested by prospect of being dropped, regardless of performance;
• As tweeted by John Etheridge today, he’s been a lucky batsman throughout his career.
No doubt these points might equally define a great batsman or a fortunate one. Everyone will have a view. I’ve never warmed to the guy, so my filter is a little pre-set.
His levels of concentration are what impress me above all else. If you think about his longer innings, where he maintains that metronomic style for hour after hour is really quite something.
Sadly I am unable to attend today. I’m actually really distraught about it. Hard to watch it. So no pics, no being there report.
Scored at a quick strike rate today, mind you ( by his standards, at least)
Other contributing factors include:
– Being paid a fortune to play Tests for England. No need to bother with ODIs or T20s. When Cook bothered with ODIs, we know what happened to his technique. Unlike players from say New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan … Thus less chance of injury. Ever wondered why Amla is playing T20s now?
– Tours being short. Can anyone say with certainty how many FC matches the Invincibles played when they toured England in 1948? That helps to get more Tests in, and also reduce the risk of injury. Not to mention the massively reduced travel times.
– There being much more Tests per year than in the past. It took Bradman almost 20 years to play 52 Tests. It would have taken Tendulkar 17 years to have played 128 Tests (if he had played in all Tests since his debut). That Cook has not even completed 11 years to get to 128 Tests is then not a record of longevity, but simply being around at the right time. If he had been around in the era of Sutcliffe and Hobbs, he’d be lucky to have made 50 Tests (especially since Sutcliffe and Hobbs were around, arguably the greatest opening partnership of all time).
Well, Hales got a good one (I watched it back a few times – shaped in, held it’s line, but also got some purchase off the pitch and hit quite high on the bat), and Yasir bowled well, but… Not that great from England, really. I don’t think we bowled that badly, and it’s not right to give up on Ballance after one innings back, and we still have some runs in us in this sinning and and and… ok. Look, I’m trying.
Ali looks very short of confidence when bowling.
Root at 3 is not as strong at Root at 4. Yet. (Hopefully)
Vince flatters with that lovely cover drive, but there is nothing to suggest he’s a test number 4.
Ballance missed one. He shouldn’t have.
Bairstow is better at 7. A lovely luxury, but for goodness sake take advantage of that.
Sometimes Finn gets absolutely nothing from his run up.
Cook fell over to off a few times when playing to leg and played away from his body too much too.
Lordy, how we miss Jimmy.
Woakes, finally at the age of 27, looks like a test player. Good on him for keeping on keeping on.
Ball looks decent. A little bounce in the pitch would do wonders for him.
We really didn’t bowl badly at all.
Oh, and you’ve got to love the Pakistani charming disregard for cliche with their comedy fielding.
This Pakistani team is hard not to like, though, in all aspects.
And for those who get the reference, while I was watching Amir today I couldn’t help thinking of Pepp. She always loved floppy haired quicks from anywhere near the subcontinent. Made me smile.
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I said before the match the difference between the two sides could be the lower order batting. So far Englands last two wickets have added 39 for the seventh wicket, and 21 unbeaten for the 8th. England are still 80 odd behind but if they manage to add another 50 runs this morning the pressure will go back on Pakistan.
England will have to bat last, but Lords pitches don’t tend to become minefields. Can they play the leg spinner better than yesterday? Looks like you will get a good days entertainment Dmitri. Could be the deciding days play.
It’s funny how the authorities are thrashing around for gimmicks like 4 day test matchs or day/ night test matches with a pink ball. It’s really quite simple. Give the public a real contest.
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You’re absolutely right, although I do still think day/night tests are a good idea and enjoyable to watch (provided they work on making the ball last longer so the wickets don’t need to be grassy seamers every single time – 4 day tests can do one on the other hand). Quality contests are still the most important thing for keeping test cricket healthy, though. Always have been. With the end of the Big Three arrangement coming along (hopefully) soon, other countries will get the funding they need to improve more.
100 overs a day in 4 day tests would become day/night….. 🙂
Some “journalist” living high off the hog and largesse being disgracefully smug and sanctimonious! Boils my piss!!
Oh dear it’s Heffer. What’s funny about his piece is it is supposedly how all the good “English” people are not paying Amir much attention, and keeping silent. Yet Heffer has written a whole column about him. Rather defeating his so called point.
Heffer has, if I might say so an obsession with the death penalty, and crime and punishment. He lives in a world of simplistic black and white. If you are on the wrong side of the tracks you get one chance and that’s it. Funny how we read nothing from him about white collar crime, and banking crooks. No life bans for them in Heffers world. I wonder if he paid for his ticket?
Oh dear! Wish I hadn’t clicked on that. Never thought I’d see him agreeing with KP. He really is a pompous arse.
Azhar gone now as well. On a marginal call. Again, just like the first innings. Luckily Pakistan have been getting a few marginal calls as well.
Effectively 126/3 now. Still anyone’s game. But Pakistan do need a healthy partnership now. They will want to set a good target.
It’s mentioned in here that the TV audience for the first day’s play was 300,000:
The attempts by the R&A and Sky to present an 80% drop in audience for The Open as some kind of great triumph seem oddly familiar.
For years they said The R&A didn’t need the money to take The Open off the BBC, But I guess eventually they can’t resist. What iritates me is they haven’t got the integrity to admit it. So instead we get this type of clap trap…
“On Wednesday the R&A’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, was bullish about media agreements, arguing that today’s audiences watch sport in a less traditional way. “I think the package of opportunities to view the Open this year are broader than they’ve ever been,” he said. “The way people consume sports is changing. It’s no longer people sitting and watching for six, seven hours.”
Funny that, because it sounds exactly the same as The cricket authorities have said. Remember about how young people consume tv these days? It’s almost as if it was written by the same PR company. Oh, I wonder if was written by Sky? I notice Sky pull some figure of 5.5 million viewers across all channels. I’m not sure what that figure even means.
What is laughable is that Rory Mcllory gets accused of not helping to grow the game by saying he won’t go to the Olympics. The truth is that most sports don’t give a shit about anything other than money now. They can cry all the crocodile tears they like. It’s all bullshit. Viewing figures and growing the game are irrelevant to them. Cold hard hard cash is all that matters. I would have more respect for them if they just told the truth.
England will be chasing at least 282 tomorrow. Only 12 times have 282 runs or more been scored in a fourth innings at Lord’s (with 3 of those being 282). 6 losses for chasing teams, 4 draws, and just two wins. 344/1 by the West Indies 1984, 282/3 against New Zealand in 2004 are the only successful chases of 282 or more.
Provided Pakistan score at least one run tomorrow, the target would be higher than any England have successfully chased at Lord’s. So, whatever happens, it will be quite interesting tomorrow.
Oh, and we’re another couple of overs short today.
Number of times a team has made 281 to win a Test this decade: 3.
Pakistan have done it twice (both times against SL) and Australia once (against SA).
The cricket media always seem to overstate the difficulty of getting a smallish 4th innings’ total and understate the difficulty of getting a more substantial total (say, 240+).
It was also slightly amusing to hear the TV commentators going on endlessly about England’s superior fielding and lower-order batting while Sarfraz and Yasir have made crucial contributions and both were dropped (by Cook and Bairstow, both off Finn).
Stop posting the same bloody stuff I’m writing in the review of the day! 🙂
It’s somewhat odd that Vic Marks’ match report mentions the Bairstow drop and even mentions a drop that wasn’t (Yasir to mid-off that didn’t quite carry) but doesn’t mention that Cook drop. Very odd.
Also, Asad Shafiq would have been caught at short-leg on nought if there had been one. It was one of a series of poor captaincy decisions (like not giving Woakes the new ball or not having a third slip for Azhar Ali who promptly nicked one through there) that really matter in a tight low-scoring game. The real Nasser Hussain almost reasserted itself for a moment in frustration and his comment “Alastair sees it differently” was probably the strongest criticism I’ve heard of Cook in two years.
Needless to say, that thought was rapidly dropped and he spent the rest of the day assuming Cook would be the fourth innings’ batting hero and not once mentioning how mediocre Cook’s record in fourth innings actually is (average of 36 and just the one match-winning century against Bangladesh plus one other in defeat).
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“If there are two points of doubt, surely there is doubt all round?”
Umpire’s call does not signify doubt, it is designed to penalise inappropriate speculative referrals. Only obviously bad incorrect decisions should be referred.
There is very little doubt in hawkeye, less than 1mm, and there is no room for “the benefit of doubt” in lbw decisions anyway and there never has been according to the laws.