Well let’s not make any bones about it, that was a complete and utter horror show from England and for all true purposes we are now out of this game and out of the series.
First of all, lets give credit where credit is due. Vijay played a brilliant knock to get to a hundred in a typically understated way and that innings from Kohli was a class apart from anything I’ve seen in a long time. It may be that Kohli hasn’t ever really performed in England, but his last series here was 2 years ago and he looks like he has matured immensely as a batsman since then. This innings reminded me of the KP knock in Mumbai 4 years ago, a difficult pitch, a supreme knock and a batsman that looks a class apart from anyone else on the pitch. Without doubt Kohli has raised his game to reach the echelons of becoming a world class batsman and one can only applaud him for this, his batting has been one of the major differences between the teams in this series.
As for the ugly, well where do you start? It is rare for me these days to actually rage in front of the TV, older age has mellowed me somewhat; however what I saw from England after tea has more than got the blood going. I have rarely seen a team that is supposed to be aiming for the top echelons in cricket, try and play cricket with no clue and no game plan whatsoever. I mean it was just embarrassing and surely heads (or more precisely the captain) need to roll after this game. How do you even try to analyse Cook’s captaincy? Bowling a leg spinner for 28 consecutive overs so that he is completely cooked, not taking the new ball until 42 overs after it was due, refusing to rotate the quick bowlers at one end to see if they could get a breakthrough, employing negative fields whilst letting the game drift and wasting a review on a desperation hunch knowing that it could (and did) come back to haunt you later on in the game. I mean it’s all there, the idiots guide around how not to captain a cricket team. I used to think that Dhoni was the worst captain that I had seen in my lifetime, but his performances don’t have a patch on Cook’s performance in the field today. No doubt the sympathisers and the MSM will absolve Cook of blame and apportion it to others such as the spinners, the Bairstow missed stumping, the Rashid missed catch or whatever else they can find to take the heat off Cook, but that simply doesn’t wash. The blame has to lie at the Captain’s door for the most listless captaincy performance I can remember in a long time.
Ok rant nearly over, the fact that I am so annoyed about today is that we actually dragged ourselves back into the match at one point. The match looked like it was drifting until Root, who had bought himself onto bowl in Cook’s absence (says it all really) took 2 wickets in 2 overs to reduce the Indian team to 307-6. This was our chance, if we could dislodge Jadeja early and who knows, even lull Kohli into a false shot, then we could end up with a small lead and this game could end up as a one innings Test. A challenge on a difficult pitch against a top spin bowling attack; however one that we could give ourselves a chance on, if we managed to set a target of around 250 for India to chase on the last day. The problem though was we had a tiring spin bowling attack, one that had bowled nearly 80 overs between them due to the fantastic selection committee who decided that 4 quick bowlers was the way to go on this pitch. I said on Day 1 that this might come back to bite us on the arse and boy has it done so big time. You may have well as given Chris Woakes a lounger for all the bowling he has done in this Test, but I’m still sure it’s definitely the spinners fault! Anyway I digress, when Jadeja came out to bat, that was the time to take the new ball, give Moeen and Rashid 15 overs out of the attack to rest up and give our fast bowlers (yes we have 4 of them) the opportunity to each have a short spell of hostile bowling at the Indian batsman to see if we could get a wicket; however we didn’t, Cook left a tiring spin bowling attack against 2 good players of spin, and wondered why we didn’t blow them away. It wasn’t until Jadeja eventually whacked one up in the air against a tiring Rashid that we finally got a breakthrough, inspiring captaincy, I think not.
Yet the day somehow managed to get worse, when captain clueless finally took the new ball, we managed to drop Yadav early in his innings and then waste a review off Jimmy’s bowling that any child could’ve seen was nowhere near out. It would have been extremely unwise to use a review on this if you still had two left, but to waste your final review on that was simply criminal. Perhaps Jimmy now tells Cook what he can and can’t review these days in Stuart Broad’s absence. Now we all knew what was going to happen next and lo and behold, Yadav edges Moeen down the leg side, which is subsequently given not out and guess what, we have no reviews left. It was comical. The picture that will stay with me for a long time was the media’s favourite son, asking for a review until the umpires politely told him that he had already burnt them on two spurious appeals. You simply couldn’t make it up.
So where are we now, well the game has gone in my opinion. India are 51 ahead going into Day 4 on a pitch that is starting to resemble a minefield. It would not surprise me if they end up extending their lead to a 100+ before rolling out England for very little. They may have to bat again, but I can’t see them having to chase more than 50 runs if I’m honest. We had a chance, we blew it and I’m sure we can all look forward to a 4-0 defeat now.
As England fans we’ve all experienced pretty horrendous days (as Dmitri’s Adelaide piece particularly highlights, which was obviously the nadir) but today is up there with all of them. Quite simply, if Cook doesn’t resign after this Test, then I may as well cancel my Sky subscription and tickets to the Oval next year. Cook has never had it as a captain, good family or not, and it’s more than time to hand the reigns over to someone else. There is an alternative, even if it means giving the captaincy to the Investec Zebra, as right now, few others would have been able to give a worse example in the art of captaincy as we witnessed today.
Right, I may need a lie down now, comments and thoughts on Day 4 below: