You got Dmitri today. Poor you.
It was an odd day, a day of contrasts, a day where the ebbs were certainly deep, and for a long time the only flow was the bowling of deliveries as far from the batsmen as possible without being called wide. The plan at the start of the day for England was to build on last night’s superb work by Cook and Hales and then push on. Cook seemed to be invoking the memories of last year’s innings at Lord’s against New Zealand, and Hales needed a score to confirm his place more emphatically. That both fell early clearly put that plan back, but then came the rather dull passage of play that made me scratch my head and wonder really what is happening to test cricket. Fear of losing took over from taking control. Pakistan, in my view, retreated into their shells when they had a modicum of control. England were effectively 23 for 2. We were in a pickle.
Now I’m one who does appreciate the nuances of the game, but this passage was infuriating, and it wasn’t really England’s fault. There are lots out there who marvel at Misbah, and for bloody good reasons, but the attitude to the new occupiers of the crease (Root and Vince) turned Misbah negative after such a positive start. The pre-lunch session was pretty tedious stuff. Nasser Hussain broke his Twitter silence to say how much he admired the performance of Misbah in that session, and I was surprised, to be honest. It declared, at least in my eyes, that Pakistan were going to rely on England giving it away than them seizing the moment. We mock Warne a lot, I know, but I thought it was a slightly defeatist approach. It was sitting in to the nth degree. England might have felt some pressure, and yes, Root was dropped during his knock, but both Vince and Root (struggling with his back) felt little pressure to survive. Both laid excellent groundwork, but it was dull stuff.
Root’s dismissal, to a sweep, may have been seen as some justification for the negativity, and Vince nibbling at the new ball might have put England into a tricky-ish situation again (at 257 for 4, with a lead of just 154). However, Bairstow got himself in and with Moeen Ali as a fluent, focused ally, took the game away from the visitors with a wonderful post-tea stand. Ballance’s innings of 28 also stabilised matters, but people are so worked up about looking for repeat dismissals that the work, although incomplete, he did to prevent a collapse is underestimated. I much prefer 28s and 42s to single figures!
England finished the day at 414 for 5. I had to go out for the last half hour so not sure how many overs we were short today (if any), but England are 311 in front, which is probably enough now (but no way we declare overnight) and will dictate matters tomorrow. Again, we aren’t about to set the Cook Fan Club up in these parts, but in many ways he must dread these situations. England dug themselves into a hole, and got out of it, and it would be crazy to throw that away with a declaration that gives the visitors a sniff. Their bowling today, in my view, doesn’t earn them a shot we gift them. But he knows that for every minute he delays the declaration, the siren voices will be ringing in his ears. My view, is 45 minutes of 40 runs, whichever is the quicker. I’m sure you all feel differently. But however this game goes, Cook is going to be in the spotlight. Win it and it’s one of our better ones, draw it with 7 or 8 down, and the questions will be there if he delays the declaration.
Other observations – for every decent insight Warne provides, and he does provide some, you have to navigate a mass of noise to get there. Post-lunch him and Botham just pounded at my head with incessant, dull nonsense. When they handed over to Holding and Athers, I could relax. The art of letting the action breathe, dull or exciting, is lost on Warne. In his case, less would really be more.
Seeing an Edgbaston crowd like that on a Saturday was also a little concerning. At £31, and I’m not sure how many seats were available at that price, this is excellent value for a day out. Maybe its the fact that tests have been on the short side recently has made people unwilling to commit to a fourth day’s action that prevented the full house, but if you can’t sell out a Saturday in advance at Birmingham, there’s issues. I really believe that each test in England has to have two of the first three days play at weekends, and starting on a Wednesday is asking for it. All tests should start on Thursdays and Fridays, but in the crowded schedules, I might as well ask for the recall of he who can’t be mentioned.
Game on tomorrow. It could be great. It could be dull. Imagine how much more dull it would have been if this was a four day test. You know those – the ones where we’ll compel teams to bowl 100-105 overs a day when we can’t make them bowl 90 now. Those where any rainfall is going to condemn a test. Those where we have to create more daylight (Durban, UAE for example….) than we have now or make every test a pink ball pandemonium. Michael Vaughan’s text, which I linked on Day 3’s post, sums it up. Thought went out the window a long time ago. It’s all about the Benjamins Baby.
Final Day comments below. I attach a little picture from yesterday at Lord’s, just for the hell of it…..