The Sore Tooth Test – A Dmitri Review

This has been a very different last few days. My thanks to Chris for stepping up to carry out the reports from the last three days of the test. I just couldn’t do the action justice, at times feeling extremely sorry for myself, as the great match passed by with me swilling salt water, popping painkillers, administering antibiotics, and caressing clove oil onto a very sore tooth that refused to give up telling me how much it hated my guts. I missed Saturday’s play (and a sincere apology to my hosts, yet again, for not being able to make it, and for missing the chance to meet a genuine legend of the past) and spent most of that day laying down trying desperately to get some sleep. It’s not really conducive to blogging. While the pain has eased, no doubt to the great sorrow of some of my biggest supporters, the fact I’ve been in the hands of others to keep the show rolling again is of some concern. Here’s hoping for a successful Friday, when I go under the local at the same time as the afternoon session draws to a close on Day 1 in Manchester.

But I saw enough to bring a smile to my cricketing heart. The temptation is to take this victory as something more than it is – a good win against a good side, which England are – and extrapolate to a whole series. After all, just two years ago India won at Lord’s and we were thinking the same, before they collapsed in a heap in the remaining three test matches, so that Alastair didn’t have to “nearly resign” at the end of that campaign. But we had the sense, did we not, that this win was somehow more substantial than that Indian one? First up, the bowling looks pretty decent, and there are others who might be able to come into the team without markedly weakening it. Also there are three left armers, and England have had their struggles in the past against that form of bowling. Then add on top the leg spin of Yasir Shah, and England are facing a somewhat more deadly foe, it seems, than India. Then, against India, we feared the visitors batting, and thought we would win, easily, a bowling contest (although the Rose Bowl was anything but that). Here, we sense a bowling contest may yield a 50/50 contest, while a batting shootout is not going to be in anyone’s favour it seems, as they are seen to be weaknesses.

Many are saying it was a good toss to win. Many also said after half an hour that this was a nailed on draw, on a boring Mick Hunt wicket, where at the end of play on Day 1, England were seen to be well ahead by many. Step back a bit and look at last Summer for a reference point. England won 4 tests and lost 3. In the three they lost, they batted second. In all three the winners stuck on over 300 in the first innings and England appeared to wilt under scoreboard pressure in English conditions. In the four victories we batted first in two of them – NZ at Lord’s, Australia in Cardiff – and made decent first innings totals. In the two we won, we skittled Australia out for shirt buttons in the first innings. In UAE this winter, Pakistan batted first in all three matches, won the series 2-0, and did that in the two games where they made 378 and 234 in their first innings, not the one where they made 500+. Indeed the only test in recent memory where England faced down a team that got 300+ in the first dig to win was the Joburg test, when England reaped a favourable overhead condition and one of those Stuart Broad spells to whistle out the hosts for next to nothing in the 3rd innings. It may be that batting first against England, on anything other than a green top, is a good recipe for success. Hence, let’s see how Pakistan go if England get a first go to see if this is something worth pursuing further. (Think back to 2013, when in that Ashes series, we won when we batted first, didn’t do well when Aussie did). But it’s a little bit of a pattern, which may indicate some endemic mental frailties?

Of course, after a test like that, questions are asked of the home team. In a sport where there are just 10 wickets per innings going around, and one of your players gets 11 of the total, eyes are going to be cast at the others. Jake Ball had his status as debutant to fall back on, and it will remain to be seen if that is his only test for a while despite not letting himself down by any means. With Anderson and Stokes returning, he seems surplus to requirements. Steven Finn will find himself under a lot of pressure, and rightly so, but every time I think that, I also think what might have been, and why he is still such an enticing presence when he’s not in the team. He has the capacity to be horrible. To be a bowler no-one wants to face, but it doesn’t happen often enough. Chris Woakes had a game for the ages, with his bowling threatening and his lower order batting also resilient and intelligent. It is easy to be seduced by a bowler taking wickets and scoring runs. Broad at the start of his career, and Goughie too, were seen as pseudo-all rounders, good to bat at number 8, but regressed as their number one suit had to take preference. Woakes is showing no signs of either, and his temperament is what impresses me more than perhaps the wicket taking. He seems to have a solid head on those shoulders. Broad had a run-of-the-mill bowling performance, while any time Moeen Ali is attacked, the media push the panic button and start hunting around for the spinner who is taking wickets that week. I note Rashid is back in the squad today.

The fact that two bowlers are likely to be dropped, and a third possibly, is the general hilarity that comes with a match where the batsmen undoubtedly lost it. I think Talking Heads sung it best. Same as it ever was. Alex Hales had, by all accounts as I didn’t see a lot of it, a good series against Sri Lanka, but this was a match he’ll want to forget. Fact is, he’s always going to be hit and miss with the way he goes about things. I think he’ll be the sort that if persevered with is going to give you a series for the ages, followed by one for the aged not long after. It is up to England if that is what they want. Root at three is neither proved a success or failure judged on a performance where he looked ok defensively but got out to two expansive shots which always attract the ire of the cognoscenti. If he’d been got out to a defensive shot against the new ball, the clarion calls would have been deafening. Instead of knowing how Compton felt, he probably knows a little bit more about how KP did. Vince is not convincing (sorry) anyone at this moment. The suspicion that the promotion to test status was based more on some attractive stroke play than longevity and sustainability is growing. Dobell uttered those thoughts on podcasts a good while ago, but other more persuasive voices have held sway. He may have the series, he may just have the next game, but the sands of time are running out. There aren’t exactly many new faces being put forward – the fact the two I’ve seen are Robson and Bell sort of sum it up – is one slight factor in Vince’s favour. Dropping catches while struggling is not a good look.

Gary Ballance was brought back on the say so, we are given to believe, of James Whitaker. His return wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. He’s not changed the technique that had the scribes panicking but then again it was a style that nabbed him four test hundreds in less than 12 months. His second innings dismissal was alarming for someone who might be needed to play the spin in India this winter, but then again, Strauss once got exposed like that and he did OK. The fact is that Ballance isn’t an exciting pick, but he has the temperament which is one big tick in the box. He’s got a while to go but I suspect we know how this is going to end. Jonny Bairstow was a huge plus for me. He looked very dodgy against Yasir in the UAE and again in the first innings, but his second innings performance showed he learned quickly, not without fault, and his confidence has really helped his temperament for the game. His keeping will always have the pundits and fans nervous. People, we aren’t picking the best keeper if he isn’t capable of test hundreds while this top order is the brittle mess it is at the moment. It just isn’t going to happen, so don’t wish  your life away hoping for it. Moeen’s thrash in the second innings isn’t going to go down in his scrapbook of favourite memories, but one thing with Ali is that he will forget about it, and move on to his next match. Again, he has a couple of test hundreds, plays selflessly for the team, and there isn’t a spinner in county cricket begging to be selected. You have to be practical.

And Cook. 81 in the first innings, a poke and a low score in the second. It’s Cook. It is who he is. While the first innings was aggressive, full of intent and the highest score made by an England player in the match, when he was needed in the second innings, it never happened. SimonH has noted he hasn’t a great record in 4th innings when chasing down a gettable total. I saw his ton in Perth when we were chasing 500+ in the 4th and that was the sort of knock needed here. The ball that got him could have got anyone out, but it was also the sort of ball you expect to receive as a test opener. Let’s put it this way, if Hales had got out to the same ball, no-one would be giving the bowler all the praise, and instead be pointing out that Hales showed a weakness outside off stump. That’s what 10000 runs, a free pass from the media and a Twitter feed in hock to your genius gets you. As for his captaincy, I never really got to see Pakistan bat (work on Thursday, pain on Saturday) so couldn’t comment. His comments after the game? I’d like to see / hear the context before going totally at him for them, but let’s say this. He’s got form for being a little churlish.

The test was won by a team who put together a decent display despite showing weaknesses. The openers aren’t going to scare anyone, although you feel Hafeez might put it together in one knock in the series. I am a big fan of Azhar Ali, but it wasn’t his best game. Younus looked a little dodgy to say the least, but woe betide we let him get into form. Ramiz Raja was going on about him being over the hill, and with his eyes going, while then offering all sorts of praise to a 42 year old! Asad Shafiq is a gritty customer, and played two really vital knocks in a performance that went right under the radar, but vital to stem the bleeding in the first innings and set a target in the second. Misbah’s hundred got all the praise it deserved on Thursday, and his captaincy looks calm and assured, a leader of men indeed. Sarfraz had a funny old game behind the stumps, but appears to be that noisy nuisance that’s a joy for your team in the field and batting, but a pain in the rear end for the opposition. And we’ve said what needed to be said about the bowling before. Amir’s return was overshadowed by Yasir Shah – who went from barely mentioned prior to this test in the Amir brouhaha to Shane Warne status in the space of 48 hours – while Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali were threats throughout in a league above what we saw from Sri Lanka. It was ironic / fitting that Amir applied the final coup de grace with Ball’s wicket, and the wish we had on here, that Pakistan would provide decent opposition was confirmed. 1-0 up in a four match series, in a really fun, hard fought test match.

A couple more observations from the game. We’ve seen Pakistan’s 2-0 win in the UAE almost ignored in the light of the 2-1 win in South Africa and the 3-2 win v the Aussies that preceded it. That defeat was dismissed as “alien conditions” and “we never win there” when teams like New Zealand and South Africa had won tests in the Emirates. Pakistan came to their alien conditions, with only really Younus Khan a dab hand at them in the past (Azhar Ali played a very good knock at the Oval in 2010, but not much else) in terms of batting, and won a closely fought contest. Maybe that 2-0 win will garner some more respect as a result? The other point is that while it was wonderful to see a great test, this doesn’t mean test cricket is “back”. People point to a four day test future, and imagine what that would have done to this game (do you seriously believe we’ll be seeing 100 over test days? really?). England would have shut up shop rather than chasing the game. The five day test needs to be preserved when the pace of over rates is so slow. The test match also conflicted with the Open Golf, the Tour de France, the Davis Cup (and wasn’t that a great win) and football will soon be upon us. Great games don’t hurt, but there’s a long way to go. But it looks an exciting one.

Old Trafford is usually a good cricket wicket, the weather is always dodgy in Manchester (joke) and the last time we played Pakistan there, didn’t we hammer them in 2006 behind top performances by Harmy and Monty (19 wickets and a run out), and a ton each for Cook and Bell? Here’s hoping for another terrific contest, and who knows, maybe some more press-ups for us all to enjoy.

Or was there something else I needed to talk about?

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31 thoughts on “The Sore Tooth Test – A Dmitri Review

  1. SimonH July 18, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    This is the moment when the opposition traditionally (if two years can be a tradition) lose one of their best bowlers to injury. I think Giles Clarke may be moving a motion at the ICC that Pakistan have to play Pankaj Singh in the next game.

    More seriously, Pakistan’s stamina is going to be an issue in this series with three batsmen over 35 and not much recent experience playing large amounts of Test cricket. When they played five Tests close together in 2014 against Australia and NZ, they definitely tired in the last two Tests against NZ.

    I think they could lose Rahat or Amir without much of a drop-off in quality to IK2 as the obvious replacement. Wahab would be a loss as he’s the only one who can shake things up with regular 85+ mph pace and without him their seamers would be rather samey. Losing Yasir Shah would be a massive problem for Pakistan – replacement Zulfiqar Babar has struggled to be effective even in Asian conditions (especially in the first innings).

    On the England side of things, I think Finn is going to be crucial to any chance of winning the next Ashes and I’m saddened he seems destined for the chop. OT is probably the English pitch that would suit his style best as well. I’d question whether Stokes should automatically return to the side (he floundered against Yasir in UAE) but I guess there’s so much invested in him he will be back in the XI.

    Like

  2. cricketjon July 18, 2016 / 7:12 pm

    There is merit in replacing the photo of Stanford with a piccy of Misbah. It raises the bar, depicts an outstanding leader, it dismisses all that is negative with the world and is an inspiration to people both inside and outside the game.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus July 18, 2016 / 7:14 pm

      I thought I had replaced it. But wordpress doesn’t bloody well think so!

      Like

      • thelegglance July 19, 2016 / 2:19 pm

        This is all my fault from trying to see how to do it, failing and asking you to see if you could.

        My work is done…

        Like

    • Zephirine July 18, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      Here’s a nice one:

      Sorry about the tooth, Dmitri. The thing with toothache is there’s no escape.

      Like

  3. thelegglance July 18, 2016 / 7:21 pm

    I was at Old Trafford for Bell’s hundred in 2006. Not sure he’s ever batted more fluently than that day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark July 18, 2016 / 8:23 pm

    England have to now win 2 out of 3 if they are to win this series. If Pakistan had a very good batting line up England would be looking complete toast now. As it is, if they can come up with another good first innings performance that may be it anyway.

    Is Misbah going to score a hundred every time? If he doesn’t I can still see England rolling them out for 180 odd. But then England have to bat a lot better than this performance.

    By the way, sorry to hear about your tooth ache. Haven’t they got emergency dentists in South London these days?

    Like

    • thelegglance July 19, 2016 / 2:21 pm

      I can see England winning all three or losing all three – these are two well matched teams, and the cricket is good to watch – which presumably explains the surge in ticket sales.

      On the toothache thing, I’ve had daily whines from him. I’ve done a fine job keeping a straight face 😀

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus July 19, 2016 / 8:28 am

      If you have a repeat of “the duel in the sun” and no one watched, should you hype it?

      Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol July 19, 2016 / 9:08 am

      “The satellite broadcaster is believed to be citing a reach of 8m over four days of the Open.”

      Ah yes, the “reach” argument, as recently deployed by someone we know and love and won’t miss.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mark July 19, 2016 / 10:12 am

      He is advocating for a complete dictatorship of English cricket. No selectors , and all power to coach and captain. It is a model that has been championed by others before. Should the captain have exactly the team he wants to lead onto the field? Some will say yes. But there are issues with this model.

      Can you be honest as a player with the captain if you have a problem when he will decide your fate in the team? Will you be honest about injury, and will the captain put your long term health above his short term considerations? Will the captain listen to medical advice?

      Newman is basically calling for the North Korean model. We can now see that they never wanted Compton, which explains the media whispering campaign against him. (We know exactly where that was coming from. Spoon fed as usual.) It would appear Ballance is also not wanted by the high command. What is worrying is Cook is already completely unaccountable in the current climate. Thanks mainly to people like Newman.

      I’m not neccesarlly against this model, but you must have some accountability. Cook has none at the moment.

      Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      Like

    • d'Arthez July 19, 2016 / 11:08 am

      I am surprised he has not argued for an emergency recall for S. Ravi …

      Like

  5. Burly July 19, 2016 / 10:17 am

    Selvey’s being let go by the Guardian. He’s reacted with his usual grace.

    Like

    • nonoxcol July 19, 2016 / 11:04 am

      See yesterday’s thread 🙂

      Like

    • d'Arthez July 19, 2016 / 10:49 am

      Why even bother with 4 day Tests in New Zealand? One day of rain, and barring complete incompetence, a draw is ensured. So, why not scrap Tests all together NZC?

      That way you can have a full tour in 3 weeks, rather than 6 weeks, if time is everything.

      Muppets.

      Like

  6. Clivejw July 19, 2016 / 12:36 pm

    For toothache, smoking is a good temporary remedy. One of the few benefits of nicotine. As long as you don’t get addicted. Try small cigars.

    Like

  7. nonoxcol July 19, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    This tweet is, well, yeah, o-kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy…

    Perspective – what’s that then?

    Like

    • Clivejw July 19, 2016 / 1:39 pm

      I begin to see how religious cults are formed.

      Like

    • Mark July 19, 2016 / 2:00 pm

      Interesting he is having to clarify that he is not going till the end of September. Which backs up Mikes point below that he has been given a decent redundancy package, and not told to put his belongings in a black bin liner, and be off the premises in half an hour.

      It’s a bit of a shock when an organisation or individual suddenly, without warning, shafts you. Particularly when you have been on the front lines defending that same organisation so strongly. On a human nature level you can sympatise. However, he has not exactly been very tolerant of others views. Would love to know if it’s purely money saving or if they decided his output and demeanour had become a pain in the backside?

      I hope this will mean a more broader expression of views will be allowed BTL now. Time for the cultists to be exposed to other views.

      Like

      • thelegglance July 19, 2016 / 2:18 pm

        I’m led to believe that Selvey is a contractor and will not be receiving a big pay off. I’ve been in two minds about saying so because the next question is always going to be how do you know and who told you, to which I can’t answer that. Feel free to disbelieve me I guess.

        Like

      • Zephirine July 19, 2016 / 5:19 pm

        If, as Mike says, 200+ other people are going then it’s money, surely.

        I did think it was quite funny how many BTLers instantly leapt with their tear-stained handkerchiefs to wave him goodbye. By the time he actually goes in September, they’ll be all upset about something else and will hardly notice.

        Like

  8. SimonH July 19, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    I’ve been reading Brian Radford’s ‘Caught Out’ about corruption in cricket and although it has plenty of flaws as a book it does pull together some of the accusations that have been made around the game in the last two decades. Some points, in no particular order, that I’d not been aware of (despite following the game pretty closely):
    1) Pakistan were cleared of ball-tampering by the official investigation into 2006 (“I am not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there is sufficiently cogent evidence that the fielding team had taken action likely to interfere with the condition of the ball” was the conclusion of Ranjan Madugalle). Darrell Hair’s offer to resign for a payment of $500,000, non-negotiable and payable into his personal bank account, doesn’t reflect well on him or the ICC that leaked it.
    2) Former Indian seamer Manoj Prabhakar was banned for five years for his dealings with bookmaker MK Gupta. Prabhakar was recently Afghanistan’s bowling coach (although he has just not been retained).
    3) Qasim Omar, one of the earliest whistleblowers on corruption, was rewarded with a seven year ban by the PCB and his allegations were never properly investigated.
    4) I think there is a general underestimation in England about how murky some of the goings-on in Sri Lankan cricket are. Hashan Tillekaratne alleged SL players had been fixing matches since 1992. MK Gupta alleged Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva took money to underperform on a tour of India (which really pains me as the latter was a favourite player). Both denied the allegations and the SLCB report, while highly critical of both players, didn’t agree with that most serious allegation. Ground upgrades for the 2011 WC cost nearly four times the original $11m estimate.
    5) Zulqarnain Haider (he of the broken hand courtesy of Stuart Broad) alleged that he and his family had received death threats if he didn’t throw two ODIs in 2010. Haider said Butt, Asif and Amir were “just the tip of the iceberg” and added “please don’t think that only Pakistan players are involved because it’s widespread”. In case death threats sound improbable, Wasim Akram revealed that his 65 year old father had been kidnapped and beaten up by gangsters involved in illegal betting.
    6) England’s forgotten match-fixing scandal involved the allegations made by Don Topley. Topley alleged Essex agreed to throw their 1991 SL match in return for a favourable declaration in the on-going CC game. Lancashire set an Essex batting line-up including Knight, Salim Malik, Stephenson and Hussain 270 in 67 overs. Essex won and went on to win the CC and £44,000 prize money. Lancs won the SL match and although they didn’t go on to win the title came second and won £13,000. Essex left Peter Such out of that SL match and played a novice spinner Guy Lovell – who corroborated Topley’s story. Essex’s captain in that SL game was one D.R. Pringle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RufusSG July 19, 2016 / 8:56 pm

      I’d vaguely been aware of most of these before, having done a bit of background reading of such cases. 5) interests me in particular, as Zulqarnain actually fled the tour of the UAE against South Africa behind the team’s back after his threats and tried to seek asylum in the UK, although he later chose to revoke his application and return home for punishment from the PCB. In interviews since he’s claimed that he was suffering from severe stress and mental health issues at the time which the threats exacerbated, so it’s possibly worth taking some of the more extreme claims he made with a pinch of salt. (Additionally, the team management highlighted several bizarre aspects to his story, namely why he had not gone to them first if the threats were as serious as he had claimed – some more are detailed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2010/11/mystery_continues_in_haider_af.html)

      The one that still bothers me above all others is the 2011 World Cup semi-final. Anyone who’s read Bookie Fixer Gambler Spy already may remember this story, but the author Ed Hawkins, after getting himself intermingled in the cricket bookmaker underworld, received a series of text messages describing exactly how the match would pan out (details included India getting off to a fast start, slowing down after two quick wickets, etc.) – and sure enough, the match went exactly as described to Hawkins as he watched the match on TV. The BCCI and the ICC completely rubbished his claims after investigation, perhaps inevitably, and we only have his word to go on at how accurate the texts were, but it does bother me that the match was supposedly mapped out to him in such detail and the level of cooperative fixing that world have to have gone on is pretty scary.

      I never like to accuse specific players of wrongdoing based on unproven allegations, but it’s pretty depressing that there’s probably plenty of fixing that’s gone on down the years, and may well continue to do so, that we’ll likely never know about at all. It’s only three years ago that Sreesanth got caught in the IPL, after all.

      Like

  9. SimonH July 19, 2016 / 5:08 pm

    On a briefer and lighter note, heck of an innings today by Ben Duckett today for the Lions. Ton-and-a-half from Ed Joyce too.

    Like

    • Benny July 19, 2016 / 6:00 pm

      And then there’s Tresco’s 200. Looks like we can produce good cricketers. Good selectors is a different matter

      Like

    • hatmallet July 19, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      Was there today and it was a good knock, as you’d expect a 160+ to be. Lots of boundaries – made great use of short square boundaries and was quick to pounce on anything slightly short.

      Like

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