If you have come here looking for marks out of ten, then you have come to the wrong place. If you have come here to look for a tale of derring do, of great escapes, of wondrous times, then I suggest you log on to the Twelfth Man, or whatever the Tufty Club is that is approved by the ECB (or is that All Out Cricket?). If it is grumpiness, tetchiness and a completely egregious mention of Kevin Pietersen, then this might be for you.
England have completed a 22 run victory over Bangladesh in a tight, absorbing test match, with lots of good entertainment and a tense, taut ending. What this was not was a good England performance. Just like 18 months ago in Grenada, where the Jimmy Anderson show won England a test, Chittagong was Ben Stokes saving our hides. This may, or may not, be a portent of things to come, but remember, after Grenada came Bridgetown, and defeat to a team we would probably all believe would struggle against Bangladesh if played now, and who are living down to Costcutter Charlie’s description of “Mediocre”.
Let’s focus on the good stuff first. It was a top test match to watch. How many actually did in this country will be interesting to note – I wonder how ITV4 did for viewers, for instance – but those that missed this because it was “only Bangladesh” will have missed a contest that ebbed and flowed. BBC Sport were busy this morning lauding England for an “unlikely victory”, which is a bit of nonsense because for the vast majority of this test England had their noses slightly in front. After Day 1 we thought it was a competitive score on the board; after Day 2 with the late wicket we thought it was honours even, but Bangladesh had to bat last; at the end of Day 3, after another reliable top order subsidence, England had “enough runs” and were firm favourites; and on Day 4, England had two tail order wickets to take at the end of it, looking really shaky when Rahim and Sabbir were in partnership. It’s not exactly Botham’s Ashes or Adelaide 2006.
England won because of more experience, probably – and it’s hard to dispute that when the team you are up against haven’t played a test for 14 months – and they had the most influential performer on either side, Ben Stokes. For the Durham man this was a test match he can look on with great pride. He saved England’s bacon in the second innings with a mature, composed, and very clinical 85 which should take pride of place in his collection of batting performances. I ignore the Aussie with the constantly changing moniker, and his lame attempts to belittle the output of Stokes. He was magnificent. 6 wickets in the match to add to his runs made him a slam dunk man of the match.
Much has been said about how Cook only trusted his seamers (Stokes and Broad in particular) at the end of the game. Much was also said last night about the lion-hearted Broad “doing it again when it counted”. I must be watching a different game to these people. I saw tons of criticism of the spin-bowling allowing them to get that close (and not the top order batting for collapsing like wet cardboard, AGAIN). The top six in the Bangladesh batting order, the six you needed to get rid of, were all dismissed by spinners in the second innings. Yes. You wouldn’t know that from the reports, the tut-tutting online, the nonsense from Newman. The quicker bowlers knocked over the tail, the top order eked out by the spinners. I’m not saying the garden is rosy, I’m not saying we’ve found our spinning solution, and I’m not saying that this will work in India, but you’d have thought they’d all gone 1/120 the way people are going on. They weren’t Murali, or even Swann, but they were decent bowlers, maybe not quite test class, doing a job for England. In this mad rush to anoint a team as its greatest ever, you need to realise that not every generation is blessed with the tools to do so. I remember real dead losses like Richard Dawson and Ian Blackwell given a go.
Broad the Lionheart got rid of numbers 8 and 9. This wasn’t Trent Bridge, Jo’burg or even Oval 2009, but we do go overboard. That I’ve realised only too greatly since the 2013/14 epiphany. I hope we’ve learned from the past that we have a doughty, resilient side, with a long batting order, a decent, if limited bowling attack, and that there will be pains and losses along the way. We should realise that we have a flaky top order, a limited captain, and a propensity to alarming slumps when the intensity goes from their game. We are a little too reliant on super-performances to pull out matches, which isn’t the recipe for reliability. We are quite an enjoyable team to watch, but what we are not, and what this team should never be proposed as, is a great team, a team worthy of World #1. You might think that this is just the same old same old from me (and I’m reluctant to use too many personal pro-nouns), but I’ve not exactly been given a reason to hold those words back, have I? Thankfully, the response to this win has been more restrained than Grenada, for instance.
So let’s run through the team performance.
Cook – Returned with great fanfare from the attendant hordes, rejoicing in his return, and getting DDC some hits. Didn’t produce the runs we will eventually need from him, and his leadership was conservative. I think he should trust his spinners more, but that’s really easy for me to say. Now it is four test centuries in 42 test matches, if you are counting.
Duckett – A nondescript debut. Not having his technique demolished after two low scores could be an indicator that he’s in the chosen group of players who the media might give a chance to. See my comments on an earlier post about how not making 20 in your first test match is not a portent of great times unless you are Gooch or Hutton (and a couple of others).
Root – A quiet test match, which means he isn’t the heartbeat of the team for this test match. A massive contribution in the next, and a quiet test from Stokes will mean the clichés will be reversed. Perception here is he may have gone off the boil a little, which is understandable given he didn’t play the ODIs, and also he’s played a ton of cricket. That balance isn’t always easy. Which leads me to…
Ballance – Ballance is in that room where no-one wants to be. The “next one the media want out” room. I love how we are accused on here of not backing our players, but within ten minutes of a dismissal the journos are tweeting “he has to be gone”. I’d like to see them work on that basis, and perform their best. Ballance has made four test hundreds, and is derided for his technique. Cook can go months (and yes, him again) and all that the media care about is falling over themselves to say “he’s back to his best” after some flaky runs. Lord knows what they’d say about Tres, for example, now. Ballance had a poor game. Only he is on the hot seat.
Ali – Very useful runs in the first innings, part of the problem in the second. Five wickets in the match, but because he didn’t run through them, and bowled his usual assortment, he’s part of the problem. That five of them were top order batsmen (and left handers) is his fault. Seemed a pretty usual Mooen match to me, does things well in parts, does things not so well. Having made 7 or 8 his home, and effectively so, he’s back up the order.
Stokes – A terrific performance, with his second innings 85 a really top notch performance. With the ball he was our main weapon, snagging six wickets, and getting the vital blow of Rahim late on Day 2 to perhaps turn the match (given the tail subsided the following day). Interesting point raised by Nick Knight (yes, stick with me), that it seems as though Cook leans on Stokes for advice (said on Day 4) and that his views are quite widely respected in the team. He’s the heartbeat (or at least until Joe Root makes runs) of the team. Clearly man of the match.
Bairstow – Jonny is now a team fixture, and the debate as to whether he or Buttler should be the keeper is pretty much closed in my eyes (and I’m a Buttler fan). Again he came to our rescue, with 99 runs across two innings, both in key alliances to dig England out of a hole. It is a role he is becoming used to, but I feel we rely on too much. He dropped a big chance last night, that to this untrained keeper’s eye looked like a horrible one to take (Chris might opine), and copped a Hollywood strop for his troubles. Dunno, but I reached right for KP – the Autobiography at that point. Otherwise, on a difficult surface his improvement was there to see.
Woakes – A nothing game really with the ball, yet another 50+ runs with the bat at number 8. They are vital runs, coming in at 194/6 in the first and sticking around for another 60 or so and in at 189/6 in the 2nd and being there at the end for another 50 runs. 0/15 and 0/10 in two seven over efforts with the ball, keeping it tight, but not getting wickets.
Rashid – I can say that I didn’t see a lot of his bowling in this match, but I tend not to listen to what I’m being told by people who have made up their mind about him long before he reached the test team. He’s going to be a “when it clicks” it bowler. A sort of spin equivalent to Devon Malcolm. Is this a long-term recipe for a team that aspires to greatness? Probably not, because we are all about containment rather than attack. He didn’t have a great game. He knows that. Should we jack him in? Well, you’ve either made up your mind and wild horses wouldn’t make you do it, or you think, perhaps he is that weapon we might, one day, need.
Broad – He’s going to be called Hollywood from now on. (Interesting only to me, I call Neil Warnock “Hollywood” in football). Hollywood is the man to win you the game. He can bowl unplayable spells, He can also average 143 in India. Broad nicked out two late wickets last night to put England in control, but in context, it was “just” the numbers 8 or 9. No-one else was going to get the Hollywood glare if they’d done it (perhaps Stokes). Two double figure scores should not be overlooked, scratching out vital runs, and yet having us pine for the man capable of 169 v Pakistan.
Batty – Again, didn’t see a lot, but the one spell I did saw him bowl well, look dangerous, and having the batsmen taking risks to score. But then it’s really fashionable in cricket circles to slag off Batty. True, he’s 39. Newman uses him as a reason to bemoan England spin bowling (I’ll bet if Cook is still playing with England in his late 30s we won’t be seeing the same). But Batty took a few wickets, including the key breakthrough of Rahim to end the menacing 6th wicket partnership, and still the people moan. Again, what it is it about us not backing our players? I’ve read the slamming verdicts on him, and note that, yet again, we are the ones with the agenda.
To the other question / debate that has been posed. How should Bangladesh treat this performance and how should England fans approach it? First of all this wasn’t Bangladesh’s first chance to push a top team to the limit. Last year in Chittagong they took a decent first innings lead on South Africa before the rains came to ruin the match. This should, if Bangladesh are approaching this the right way, a pleasure in being a plucky loser to a world power, but a real case of “we probably should have won this”. To have chased down 280-odd would have been magnificent. I’m not having the “moral winner” stuff, because England made it hard work (and because Bangladesh made them work hard), but I probably would like to judge this off the back of the second test back in Dhaka later this week. England, after all, looked like world-beaters in the 1997 first Ashes test, but subsided. Bangladesh need to maintain the intensity.
As for whether England fans should cheer on Bangladesh, well you know our site’s views on that. You should be free to choose who you want to win without admonishment. I don’t necessarily cheer on the oppo, but I also don’t get as mad about England as I used to which I think allows me to take a more dispassionate view on proceedings. It certainly helps in not losing my temper at the latest move I disagree with. It also allows me to laugh when the pants on fire enthusiasts stretch their latest (il)logical leaps of faith. I might have a dispassionate view on England, but I’m not about to reduce the passion for the game. This test match was a cracker. It deserves 2000+ words on it as an Ashes test might. It had great storylines, it had great drama and importantly it had a great test match wicket. So many of us were thinking it wasn’t going to be up to five days play, but the surface played its part in this absorbing contest. Let’s hope Dhaka brings us a repeat.
Happy to hear your thoughts. I’ll have some other takes tomorrow, if I have the time.
Two digs at me and only one at AOC. You have changed Dmitri.
But happy to acknowledge Stokes’ performance. Doing it against the 9th ranked team is one thing. Can he do it in an Ashes, or even just consistently?
The Biggest story from the match was Shakib’s brainfart in charging Mo when the game was there to be won. Bangladesh’s best ever sportsman blew it at exactly the wrong time. Shame, as he deserves a moment where the world acknowledges his awesomeness. Best all rounder since Kallis.
Just qualifying for the world fishing championships, D. You know I love you!
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How could you not? PS Cook is a #ShitHusband.
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I wanted to ask something. Is a sports journo in Australia allowed to ask someone whether a statement made is “total bollocks”.
If so, I want Ed Smith to do this next test.
(Grandstand – Katich on Clarke. Brilliant).
You can ask whatever you want. Most don’t for fear of ruining relationships or as one in the game once told me… “You don’t want the rest of the press gallery thinking you are grandstanding.”
Gotta stay close to the players and all that. It’s probably why no one seriously asked Dhoni about CoI or why no one has asked Misbah why he didn’t walk when Amir came back or Marlon if he really has underworld connections or Dilshan why he was really dropped as skipper. Cricket journalism is too safe.
I get that. I mean the use of the word “bollocks”!
Bollocks doesn’t mean much down here. We would use “bullshit”
Tell me Dennis? How do you reckon Mitch Marsh might have done against the Bangla spin combo? Or the rest of the other Aussie upper order batsman who seem to need the shade of a Coolibah tree to wield a willow?
For me this was a huge opportunity missed for Bangladesh to beat one of the so called big 3. And I bet they know it. Don’t be surprised therefore if England win the next test match quite easily. We will see.
The truth is England are a very difficult team to beat. Obdurate rather than great. The key is the lower middle order always seem to bail England out. 100-150/5 always seems to end nearer 300 than 200. It must be very dispiriting to get through half the team and then find the lower order grind out a score. Once again the top order failed. Remember the halcyon days when our flakey media claimed there were no vacancies in the upper middle order? (Even 300 couldn’t get you in)
Englands two best batsman , Cook and Root both failed in this test match, and yet they still won. You have to take your chances, and Bangladesh didn’t take theirs. Stokes was the man with bat and ball who stood up at key moments. On day 3 with Bangladesh had 5 wickets left and only 70 behind Stokes rolled the over and gave England a vital lead. Then he scored runs in the second innings to get his side a total they could defend. Even then the hosts came very close. 59 needed with 5 in the shed really should have been game over.
I refuse to say anything about the spinners because I really don’t know how good they are with Cooks mind set so focused on run saving. Gawd knows what Rashid has done, but the constant drip, drip against him is unhealthy. Those who critiscised this site for not being fan boys can seriously F off when they keep these weird whispering campaigns going in the media. I’m amazed it hasn’t sapped team morale by now. But enough seem to be on board with the set up.
On question to finish. We know they want to punish Hales and Morgan for their refusal to tour. But how long will Hales be dropped if the top order keep failing?
Can’t remember where I saw it – but apparently Stokes is the first English player to score 75+ in an innings and take 5wm in a match in an Asian Test since Sir Ian in 1980.
Mind you, the latter did score a century and take 13 wickets against a side containing two all-time greats (Gavaskar and Kapil).
Looking at that pic of Stokes, I can’t help thinking, “Mankad the Aussie bastard.”
A serious question. The nature of the pitch and an improved Bangladeshi spin attack makes me wonder how the Aussies might have got on, knowing that they wouldn’t have fared well v the turning ball?
SL to tour Zimbabwe without Mathews, Chandimal, Prasad, Pradeep and Chameera who are all injured:
Another triumph for the SLCB and the international schedule! On the plus side, Herath gets to be captain.
Well at least SLCB does its best to win the award for most likeable captain, and player we can most easily identify with as fans …
On the bright side, ZC has not found a way to cancel the Tests and replace them with ODIs (yet).
Team for the next Test announced:
A Newman Tweet is the same thing as a formal announcement, isn’t it?
Eminently deserved for services rendered:
Interested to see who finished 2nd.
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Did I say, last week, that when he’s good he’s very, very good?
Well when he’s bad he’s horrid:
I know it’s a different sport, but I offer this as a prime example of how it isn’t just cricket journalists who will dance on pinheads and state that black is white in order to puff up the Men Who Can Do No Wrong, aka media darlings. And the media’s attitude to this particular darling has been a bete noire of mine since long before I fell out of love with English cricket.
I wrote about it here over the weekend. Got told off (rightly by the the boss) for talking about football. Manu are the biggest media darlings of the lot. Forget ECB cricket, or any other sport. And now Jose is their manager everything the football media hated about him at Chelsea is now suddenly just tickety boo.
The pro ECB cricket media are mere novices compared to the love in with Man U by the English football media. Viewing figures for BT champions league fixtures are down because they are not in the competion. The consequences of Leiceter winning the league is not welcomed by the corporates elites. Why do you think the big clubs want to break away and form their own European super league with no relegation or promotion. Same teams regardless of how crap they are. Bums on seats are the only importance to sport sponsors these days. Hence Indias power in cricket.
The purpose of modern sport is to sell product. On pitch performance is irrelevant. At least it would be if they can get rid of top 4 qualification for champions league football. Invitation only?
England want to give every bowler a game before India:
Well, that’s what you do in up-country warm-up games I suppose. I can see some logic in resting Woakes – but Broad and Batty? I’m all in favour of looking after bowlers but that seems hard to understand (unless someone’s carrying an injury).
Cook’s “thinking like a bumble bee”. Maybe he’s stinging like a butterfly?
A nation mourns…. petitions are started…..
Came across this on the old blog earlier. From 2010 I think…
Channel 9’s coverage – what on earth is there to say. I really expect the home team to be foremost in their thoughts but some of these cretins transcended bias, and walked into the realms of banality. Tony Grieg has always been a muppet – a man who voluntarily puts his head on the block when mere reason would do. After a slowish start by South Africa he exclaimed with great certainty that Gibbs “would go over the top next ball, that’s for sure” and he promptly hit the ball along the carpet straight to cover. On its own, a simple example, harmless, but he does it all the time. It is a joke. But that’s just crass mouthing off, and after all, this Tony Grieg. The game hasn’t so much passed him by, its another world entirely. Still, Grieg can mouth it off in perpetuity. Packer’s man.
No, it is the sheer doltish commentary of Messrs Healy and Warne that grated beyond words. Mark Nicholas, or as he is known on this and other vehicles for my rants, Lord Haw Haw, is something else. Healy came out with total idiocy in a moment that should have had him fired on the spot. Botha may have been the bowler to Hussey (M) who went down the track and missed the ball. The ball bounced and Boucher missed the stumping opportunity. Healy then said, plain as day “I wonder if Boucher deliberately missed him, to keep him in. After all he’s only scored 1 run in 5 balls.”
The next ball Hussey clumped it through the covers for four and made the match winning innings. The other two commentators went silent, as if to look at him and say “you idiot”. Healy then tried to explain it away as some sort of theory that could work. Sure, you drop one of the world’s best batsman. Would you drop Gordon Greenidge because he was in a bad trot to keep him in, knowing as soon as he fired, he fired. Would you deliberately miss a stumping off Kallis because he’s had a bad year? Leave it out.
He then went on to claim someone had got to a catch when we could all see the ball squirm out on our screen. Why do these commentators act like ADD children when a 20/20 game is in place? It might be the rock and roll of cricket, as they keep tediously exclaiming, but Jesus, do you have to shout and holler cobblers. Shane Warne, or as he is known on my blogs Drug Cheat (memo, glossary needs to be set up), explained a lot when an LBW decision early on could have been given not out, but was out. Warne, I presume only 10% joking giving his appealing said “the batsman has a bat in his hand, if he misses the ball, it should be out” – given the way Rudi Koertzen often played scant regard to the necessity of the ball pitching in a certain permitted area, and going on to hit the stumps, maybe he’s right. It was just the same old loud mouthed twaddle.
But Lord Haw Haw said the word “ripper”, called a ball over the boundary a “sixer”, did all but shout “C’mon Aussie” and produced such a toe-curling display of arse-licking of Matthew Hayden that you just want to say to the bloke, “Go. Be with your people. You aren’t wanted here in England. Go.” Cricket isn’t war, but the bloke’s smarmy ambition is on display; he wants to be the new Ritchie Benaud, and apart from being 63 test short of his test career, and 2 billion words in excess of the master commentator, he just isn’t any good. He tops my ratings of awful commentators by such a distance that truly dreadful muppets like Paul Allott and Sir Ian Knowitall don’t get a look in.
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It really is quite an achievement to be dropped by a broadcaster who thinks Nicholas, Slater and Healy are good enough to be retained.
‘produced such a toe-curling display of arse-licking of Matthew Hayden’
I remember that very well. It was obvious that Hayden was in terminal decline, but for some reason Nicholas was desperate for him to get a score (did he play for Hampshire?), When he was out for about 30 Nicholas exclaimed ‘OH NO’. Utterly utterly toe-curling.
That “oh no”. Remember it well.
Hayden played for Hampshire in 1997. He scored a lorry-load of runs (I had the dubious pleasure of sitting through most of his double century against Warwickshire) while the county were nearly bottom in both the CC and one-day league. Hampshire tried to re-sign him for 2006 but he turned them down.
Makes sense as KP is the 21st century Greig. His destiny now is Down Under, and my kids won’t believe that he ever played for England.
One could laugh. One could make obvious points. Can’t wait for the blog.
“All those… I’ve spoken to”.
All David Saker of them?
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You had the same thought. ..
Again, Selvey hints but doesn’t tell the whole truth. So what are the problems in Australiian cricket then Mr Selvey? What have your sources or source told you is the really problem?
Whispers, and hints, and condescending ……” I know stuff you don’t.” No wonder the Guardian got rid of him.
Here’s a blast from the past I stumbled across looking for something else:
“countless journalists encouraged me, as another Test hopeful, to say that Pietersen wouldn’t cut it at the top level…. Many pundits preferred to hope that he would fail as the “bowling got better””.
As an account of the Pietersen-Moores’ fallout, it seems pretty good to me (usual long-windedness excepted). The way this sort of writing (not least by this writer) disappeared during the Flower years must be one of the greatest conjuring tricks in recent sports’ journalism history.
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“Darren Gough, speaking during the Pietersen-Moores affair, asked a simple question: if the captain isn’t the leading man, how come it is always the captain who gets sacked when things go wrong?”
This got reinvented as “KP gets sacked when things go wrong”
You wouldn’t believe it’s the same writer apart from the long-windedness.
Comedy gold on the link:
“innovative captaincy and impeccable leadership” ?
Well, that’s me told.