Today marks the 1st August and England are only playing their 3rd Test match of the summer, which not only feels wrong but also feels insanely weird. One could almost say that the ECB are not prioritising Test Cricket anymore, but of course only a money grabbing, incompetent and quite frankly insane administrator would do that surely? Answers on a postcard please..
As Dmitri pointed out yesterday in his piece, this Test series has hardly caught the eye of the fans despite India’s large following in the UK. It could be indifference, it could be that the ECB has tried to milk the magic cow too often or it could well be the people are bored of shelling out top dollar to see an ordinary team that has had the same issues for the past few years playing the same brand of cricket that has hardly led to sustained success. This of course augurs badly for the rest of the series and potentially for series to come, with only Lords potentially guaranteed to sell out, and we all know that most of the individuals who do choose to go Lords are not that fussed about what happens on the cricket pitch as long as the Chablis is chilled and the lamb is pink! The ECB are already committed to holding 50% of all Test Matches in London over the coming years and certainly with the lack of advance ticket sales for Edgbaston for a series against one of the big 3 in an area that has a large Indian population, then we might be seeing that percentage increase in the coming years. After all, I would suggest many of the members of the ECB haven’t yet made it past the Watford Star.
There of course could be another reason why Joe Public has stayed away and the blame can be squarely aimed at Mr Graves and Mr Harrison, who have handled this T100 catastrophe with all the PR elegance of a drunken rhino. Those with a vested interest know that this is going to be a catastrophic balls up and have done from Day 1, but interestingly I feel that this has filtered through to the more occasional fan who might switch the cricket on at the weekend or might turn up to a game if they are invited. The absolute classless arrogance combined with the total incompetence that the ECB has displayed in trying to push through the 100 has not only alienated the loyal cricket fan but also those who might not have realized what a shit pit of self-serving incompetence that the ECB is. The alienation of those fans who love cricket but don’t quite fit the fancy ‘mothers and children demographic’ which some overpaid and under talented PR company has sold to the ECB, have been insulted with ’10 ball overs’, ’15 mans squads’ and ‘it’s not for you’ since day 1 and quite frankly they are f*cking sick of it. Naturally not everybody is in the same position, as Sky having paid massive overly the odds for the TV rights, keep sending out their resident clown to drum up support:
Anyone believe this village idiot? Nope thought not. Even the most one-eyed ECB supporter will be able to tell you that this has nothing about safeguarding red ball cricket, but a ruse to try to exploit their last big TV deal whilst cricket has some kind of an audience and for those at the ECB to rake in the cash whilst informing the players that they will not be eligible for a price rise. Sorry Bumble, you’ve shown your true colours to the world as an overpaid ECB stooge. Would the village that has lost their idiot kindly reclaim him please?
So after all this idiocy and counter-idiocy, we then get to the first Test against India and guess what, it’s the ex-pro and journo’s that decide to buy a big gun and promptly shot themselves in both feet. Both Chris and Dmitri have spoken about the treatment of Adil Rashid in more depth than I will, but I not only find the comments against him distasteful but quite frankly I find it pretty disgusting. I know Rashid ‘has had his card marked’ by some members of the written press, but some of the vile diatribe that has been spouted at him for the ‘heinous crime’ of accepting a call up to the England team, should have the perpetrators writhing in embarrassment. Of course these ‘broadcasters’ and I use that term extremely loosely will no doubt state that they should be allowed to publish their opinions; however I am certainly of the opinion that this should not be allowed to be printed in any of the national press. Leave them to the snake pit that is Twitter. In fact as normal, it was left to Michael Atherton to act as the only adult in town when speaking about the Rashid situation:
I certainly know from experience that there is nothing like unfair criticism and alienation to make a player ready and confident for their next game. Personally I hope Rashid stuffs their opinions down their throats but in reality, he can never win. The moment he bowls poorly, drops a catch or does anything else that the written press don’t approve of, then there will be howls of derision and the words ‘mentally weak’ bounded around for anyone that will care. Once the press have decided that you are not an ‘Alastair Cook type’, then your fair game for flack. Just ask Nick Compton.
Anyway, apologies about the slight rant and now onto the actual play today. England won what looked like it could be an important toss and chose to bat first on a pitch that doesn’t look like it will have any demons in it for the first 3 days. Indeed looking at England’s slightly makeshift bowling attack, I absolutely felt that England needed to make hay whilst the sun shines and put some serious runs on the board, which with hindsight looks again like hope over reality. Naturally England’s openers had a bit of trouble with the new ball swinging around and Jennings was lucky to dropped by Rahane from a decent ball from Ishant; however after England looked to have seen off the new ball, then Cook got a good nut from Ashwin, who perhaps unfairly has been cast as a home track bully, that beat him all ends up. I know it has been mentioned around a million times before, but it now more than ever seems to be feast or famine with Cook, with his last few scores of 13, 46, 1, 70, 14, 2, 2, 5, 10, 39, 244*, 14, 7, 16, 37, 2, 17, 10, 23, 11, 243 highlighting this fact that his game has been wildly inconsistent over the past few years (though one could argue that he has been very consistent and that the big scores are getting fewer and fewer). Dmitri also pointed out that Cook is now 11 days older than Ian Bell was when he was jettisoned from the England team after months of whispers that his eyes and hunger had gone and after a period of diminishing returns, despite there being no obvious candidate to replace him. Now I’m not suggesting England jettison Cook at this point in time, but it always amuses me how certain individuals are totally immune from criticism even when presented with hard facts.
England batted well for the rest of the session and went to lunch with relatively few scares and with Root and Jennings settled it did look like for a brief moment that England might be able to put a score on the board. Unfortunately that hope soon disappeared after lunch with the dismissals of Jennings, who can count himself mightily unlucky and then Malan who is looking less and less as the batsman that scored that century in Perth. I have been happy that the England team have given Malan a longer leash than some of his predecessors but we are now getting to the time where Malan now has to get a score in the next couple of innings or it’s likely he will playing county cricket before the end of the season. With England now 3 down with not much more than a 100 on the board, it was once again left to Messer’s Root and Bairstow to do their wine from water trick and again for a while, it looked like these 2 might have saved England’s bacon again. All was going well until both got out to completely needless dismissals with Root unnecessarily run out going for a 2nd run that was never there and then Bairstow chopping onto his stumps from a delivery that was never there to cut. I could easily mention the failure to once again convert a 50 into a match winning 100, but quite frankly it’s beginning to get a little boring now and something that the management needs to effect a change of mindset and quickly! Once Buttler and then Stokes were quickly dismissed by the Indian bowlers and despite a battling red inker for Curran, at 285-9, England are in the mire and well short of the 400 they needed to be competitive on what will remain a decent batting pitch for the next couple of days.
A word too for the Indian bowlers, who were all effective in different parts of the innings but also more importantly didn’t let England get away at any part of the innings. I felt before the series began that on paper the Indian bowling attack looked more potent than the English attack, especially with the dry weather neutering England’s normal tactic against India of producing green seamers. Ravi Ashwin in my opinion was the most threatening of all of the Indian bowlers today, using his guile and changes of pace and angle to befuddle many of the English batting attack. As I mentioned above, many have potentially seen Ashwin as a home-track bully, but based on his performances today, he is going to be a massive handful for the English batsmen for the rest of the series.
Day 1 has not been a good day for England and they desperately need a better Day 2 from the bowling attack; otherwise India could be out of sight by the time England bat again. Oh and just as a side point the paying public lost another 2 overs of action today. I wonder how many we’ll manage to lose over the whole series!
As ever thoughts are welcome on the game below: