4th Test, The End…

The Oval Test – Another result

And there, ladies, gentleman and blog respondents is your test match summer done for another year. The wave of melancholy as the longest and best form of the game is put away for another summer in jolly old England. We can reflect on the whole summer later, and we will, but for now, let’s concentrate on what we’ve seen over the past four days and reflect on Pakistan’s excellent performance.

At this point I would like to wait for Ed Smith’s piece, so I could copy it and pass it off as my own work, but I fear TLG might suspend me, so that isn’t a great idea.

But after that somewhat snarky point, let’s talk about today’s play. England started the day at 88 for 4, and progressed quite serenly with Ballance and Bairstow ticking the score over and giving England some hope that they might post a lead. Wahab had received a second warning for running on the wicket, and was rendered less effective having to go wide of the crease or round the wicket. Then, from nowhere, Sohail Khan got one to bounce a little and Ballance nicked off to the keeper. This put more pressure on the Recovery Team, YJB and Moeen, but they seemed up to the task. Moeen looked in great nick, following on from the century and while a couple of YJB’s shots were a little uppish, he was past 50 and moving on. Just before Lunch, with a partnership of 65 in good time flowing, again, out of nowhere a Yasir Shah delivery caught the edge of Moeen’s bat, and Sarfraz held the chance at the second attempt. With Moeen, one sensed, went England’s hopes.

A two wicket in two ball calamity shortly after lunch saw Woakes run out attempting a single and getting turned back, with Jonny then hitting a cover drive that did not bounce, and was pouched by Azhar Ali. That was game over. England were still in arrears with 9, 10 and Jimmy to come. They rustled up 44 runs between them, but the damage had been done. As I write, Azhar has just plonked Moeen into the stands for a six to finish off the match. Series drawn/tied at 2-2. Let the spin begin.

I was struck by an interview with Andrew Strauss over the winter where he pretty much discounted the 2-0 defeat in the UAE last winter as being something totally unexpected because it was totally alien conditions. It’s a position that has been readily accepted by many of the cricketing firmament. Pakistan have come to very alien conditions here, and got a drawn series out of it. The main difference from 2010 was the batting. Pakistan were generally woeful with the bat in that series, and I don’t believe any player made a hundred. On this tour Misbah, Azhar, Shafiq and Younus all topped the hundred mark, and in topping 500 in the final test again showed England are a bit tepid when faced with big scores (Cook’s opus in the UAE notwithstanding). Pakistan drawing the series is a major achievement. Looking back  to Pakistan at the Oval, and ignoring the 2006 test when Pakistan were on top when the shenanigans went on, have done very well in South East London’s Field of Dreams. Maybe this isn’t a surprise.

Pakistan have been brilliant opposition, played enterprising and fun cricket (that Day 4 at Edgbaston aside, which still mystifies me) and rewarded all those who showed up to the venues and who watched on TV. Sadly, because we live in a world where money makes the world go round, the bottom line for this series is a reduction in revenue, possibly an ongoing loss, and plenty of financial reasons to delay the return. That would be immensely sad. People can make the very decent point that Pakistan haven’t got the memo that test cricket is dying, but this series is a sticking plaster on a serious wound. The underlying prognosis, no matter how optimistic you are, isn’t good. Tickets weren’t sold out in advance. Some days had some sparse crowds, probably down to scheduling. The series did not deserve it, being massively better than anything we’ve been served up in years. Two close tests, two hammerings. One of each for each team. My thanks to Pakistan for their contribution to the summer of cricket. India, take note.

We’ll do something on the aftermath of the series later, but for now, stick down your immediate thoughts. My first one? It’s August 14th, and the test season is over. It feels as winter gets nearer when the last test ends. Melancholy.

Ooooh. The presentation man has just said it’s 8-8 in the Super Series. We’d forgotten that. Or at least I had.

Talk away…