First of all, I hope you enjoyed the live blog. A special thanks to Danny who stayed up the whole night to bring you his wry observations on the second half of the day’s play. A magnificent effort. I lasted until lunch….
Having watched the highlights and listened to the varying feedback from punters and journos, yes, journos is that the view is we are very evenly placed. 196 for 4, in 80 overs does not, on the face of it, set the pulses racing, but it was a pretty intense, but somewhat odd opening day. England were thankful that Stoneman, and perhaps more surprisingly Vince, stood up to be counted. In the opening session the Surrey/Durham man showed the same aptitudes he had for his county – he has great temperament and has an impression of technical solidity. He can be much more fluent – I saw him make a magnificent 180+ against the county champions this year – but he did a great job. That ton may still be elusive but we were glad to have him today.
James Vince was the surprise, and if the England management genuinely thought this would happen, they can give me the lottery numbers. Vince played his lovely shots, we know he has those, but seemed a little more selective, waiting for the fuller length at times. I saw him up to lunch, although he struggled a little against Lyon, he was just what England needed. Well done, James. The shame, of course, was the suicide run that stopped him getting to a century. Let’s hope he doesn’t live to regret that.
Malan and Moeen will need to get through the new ball before we can start feeling as though we are in with a decent shout. Bairstow and Woakes will follow with the tail being a little more of concern. If England post a 350+ score they are well in the game, but we’ll only be able to judge when we bowl on it. If England do this despite the failures of Cook and Root, it will be a massive boost. 196 for 4 is neither here nor there. Remembering back to Adelaide in 2002, we finished that day at around 280 for 4, and collapsed in a heap. Brisbane in 2010 saw the Aussies five down for not a lot and then Hussey and Haddin put on 300! Many games, many ways. It’s why we watch.
Over the years we have been accused, well I have, of running an anti-Cook blog. It has to be said that our record run scorer does divide opinion, and neither side has the monopoly on accuracy. But there are some stats that stand out for me. As much as his fans revel in his 2010/11, that magnificent one series does not erase what has happened since. In 30 innings since his 180-odd in Sydney he has not posted a hundred. Now, in innings against the two premier pace attacks in the past six years (Australia and South Africa), Cook has an average of less than 30 in 27 test matches, with the one hundred (back in 2012). There has been a lot of responsibility, and not a little praise, heaped upon Cook in advance of this test, but the anticipation of a successful series is based more on the hope than on the expectation. I, once again, must stress, that of course he should be in the team. His dismissal today was something that could happen to any batsman early in a test innings. But when does this become a worrying trend?
And then there is the skipper. He looked a little out of sorts. Until Root makes test runs in Australia there has to be a little bit of doubt – 207 in 9 innings at an average at just over 25, with one score over 26, is a little blemish on his record, albeit with a small sample size. It’s early days, of course it is, but his dismissal plonking his leg in front of off stump and being beaten by Cummins was not something we are that used to. One game, one innings, but again, a little trend that he could do well arresting. His 87 in Adelaide last time out will need to be repeated, and then some.
I wasn’t overly impressed by the Aussies much vaunted pace attack. I have to say I didn’t get to see a lot of Cummins, but many have said how well he bowled. The dismissals seem to vindicate that. Lyon got the ball to turn on Day 1, which might interest Moeen who likes a little bounce in a wicket (and some of Lyon’s balls got some of that) and the pitch is due to speed up according to our pundits. Hazlewood wasn’t anything to write home about, and Starc flattered to deceive. The wicket wasn’t quite what was expected, but this was hardly trial by fire that we were promised.
I think I’ll reserve judgement on BT Sport’s coverage. Except Lovejoy. BT Sport will have to live with giving this man a commentary gig. The two sessions I endured were teeth-itching. He need strong direction from a producer to stop the laddish bantz, the smart arse one liners, and the desire to be the wittiest in the room and do what he’s being paid to do – commentate on the game. Swann always came off as the sort who fell in love the moment he looked in the mirror, and who thought the funniest person was himself. Shiny Toy has a lot of issues with commentary (conflict of interest, the fact it isn’t radio) and BT have got to stop it becoming the Michael Vaughan Show, but Lovejoy just inspires anger around these parts, and beyond. That’s a dangerous combination. I saw many say how much they miss Athers, Nasser, Michael Holding et al, but do you really miss Bumble, Botham and Gower? Really. A pale comedy act, this generation’s Trueman but without the research, and a former rebel turned Establishment stooge who has mailed it in for a few years now? As a debut, BT did OK. They’ve just set a low ceiling, and they are lumbered with Lovejoy – it’s not as if they weren’t warned.
Not sure what we’ll do tonight, but I imagine we’ll do a live blog on the 1st session tomorrow night (Friday), weather permitting.
Comments on tonight either below, or in a live blog if we set one up.