Today is the sort of day that keeps the venerable profession of sports psychologists in business. They could have a field day with this England team and the entourage around it. For example, the importance of a good first impression means that instead of being totally unable to cope with a difficult delivery, you have, in fact been “got out” and it really wasn’t your fault. You have a dismissal like Stokes’ and it’s all out with positive intent rather than a reckless cavalry charge. You have a dismissal like Cook’s, and instead of it being a reprehensible shot in the circumstances, it is just a “soft dismissal”. You want to try to imagine all three of those dismissals if the victim was end of career Jonathan Trott, or Nick Compton, and certainly in the case of the last two, he who can’t be mentioned. Being in credit with our media is certainly of benefit on days like these. Because, on first look, while not dead in this match by any manner of means, it does appear we have tossed the advantage away.
The consensus, despite the fact we haven’t won batting first at Mohali, but never lost batting second (small sample size), was this was another good toss to win, and Cook did. England named a side with three changes – Broad replaced by Woakes, Ansari by Batty and Duckett by Buttler. Now, with the note that I’ve not seen much of the game, and writing this while watching the highlights, the impressions I have is that this could have been the wicket to pick four seamers, which we might have done had Broad been fit, but I have zero problem with three spinners (and I’ll wager Zafar has played his last test for England). India’s fielding is so poor, especially in catching, that they are having to take 14 wickets per innings, and yet England still adopted a frenetic approach to batting. I think it might just be one of those days where the attacking shots went to hand, where the good intention went awry, but saying that we weren’t over positive. After all we managed 268 runs in the day. Us amateur psychologists are trying to work out if this team is mentally shot, not capable of playing in India, but two weeks ago we were piling on 500+ at Rajkot.
The fact is, we aren’t sure what 268 for 8 really is. The ball is reverse swinging which brings our bowlers well and truly into the game. But you also think that the Indian batsmen, when they get in, will not be so profligate. That one of them will make the big innings that is going to decide this game. So while we hope for the best, I fear for the worst. I think we are certain of a result here, and if England’s bowlers do their thing, it could set the match up nicely (a bit like the match in 2006, except for the second innings England subsidence, eh?). This is another test match set up well, just as the Adelaide one is if De Kock and Cook stick together, and although a bit more one-sided, the Hamilton test is in play if the weather behaves.
But still I see people talking down test cricket, as if it is undergoing some sort of crisis. This meddling generation of ours needs to pipe down. TVs won’t show test cricket if there is no interest, and the companies still have it on. Sure, we’d like to see more fans through the gates, but let’s accept that this isn’t going to happen and we’ll all be a lot happier. If we use T20 to kill test cricket, and if we use the God of money to undermine 140 years of history, then we deserve all we get. T20s are fluff. I don’t know who won the last IPL, and I give even less of a shit who did. It’s rebootable cricket – one season, a fleeting moment of glory, and then erase for next season. Gideon Haigh in Death of a Gentleman gets it right – T20 needs to be shorter than something – and by constantly sniping at the top form of the game is to undermine it to the cost of us all. ODI and T20 didn’t bring me to cricket. It was Viv Richards making 291 at the Oval that did a lot (double centuries were a lot less common). Yes, this part was prompted by a Piers Morgan tweet, who was at his attention seeking, clickbaiting best. When the world works out that T20 is here today, gone tomorrow, one night stand cricket, and the world gets bored with itinerant players with no affiliation to anything other than their paycheck, then what will we have.
We will have lost test matches poised like this one. Day two comments below.