There I was, last night, Friday in a pub after work. Every two minutes looking at the score on my phone. Every time saying to the disinterested mates around me “we’ve got to get Kohli out. He’s still there.” A wicket fell and it wasn’t Kohli. It didn’t seem to count as a full wicket while Kohli was there. “He’s still there, bloody hell” I’d mutter. I wonder why I’m running out of social partners these days.
In their 1980 hit, Blancmange summed up how I felt about the past four days. England have kept me running round and round, and that’s been alright with me. I’ve been up the wall, I’ve been up the bloody tree. They’ve raised us, and then they’ve let us fall. Living on the ceiling indeed. If you’re (un)lucky and ever catch the band I sing for, this is one of our numbers!
So after a crappy grandad pop reference, let’s get down to the nitty gritty (there’s your Public Enemy lyric) and the last four days. This was a really good test match. It ebbed, it flowed, it had star performances, it had new players and test match regulars playing well and playing not so well. The ball did move, the bowling was certainly better than the batting, and England dug themselves out of an almighty hole to claw up to a defensible total and then, well, defended it. We had a taut 90 minutes or so as England took the wickets they needed to take a 1-0 lead and everyone came together at the end to say “what a thoroughly enjoyable game of cricket”. And guess what, I agree with them. Because not to do so would be silly.
But, and you know with me there is always a but, there’s a few things nagging away at me and of course I’m going to mention them. First of all the last two series in England where India have visited these shores, the test series fell apart after the first loss by the visitors. I was there for the 5th day – remember that kiddies when we get the 4 day test muppets out again as they have been – in 2011 at Lord’s, another test that was a rollercoaster, as England looked in danger until Prior rescued Day 4 to set up a tense Day 5 and India fighting hard for a draw. It was a great day’s cricket, but once England had taken the match, they weathered early storms in the second test and routed India the rest of the way. 2014 saw India win at Lord’s and then put on the sandals and chill out for the rest of the summer too. I don’t think this will happen with this India team and this captain, because there is too much class in the opposition, but we thought that in 2014 and 2011, and they became depressingly one-sided matches. What we need is more of this. Test cricket needs more of this.
Secondly, there’s the brittle England batting. Yet again our top order failed miserably with one or two exceptions. The blueprint for long-term success is not to ask numbers 8,9,10 and 11 to add 100 on to your score in a tight match. When England were 87 for 7 and just about 100 in front, India had this. They let the match slip, as Curran grabbed it. Sam has a defining performance in just his second test, but the rest of the batting looked frail, and it’s a common theme, whether my critics like it or not. We’ve had one test hundred in the last six test matches. You would think these batsmen are too good to let that happen for much longer, but you just don’t know.
India will be pleased with their bowling efforts, and especially the effectiveness of Ravi Ashwin, but they need these seamers to last the whole course. They are without Kumar at the moment, but Shami, Sharma and Yadav are decent performers and they looked to keep England in check. Sharma is just a strange cricketer, with performances varying from insipid to inspired and no way of telling what will be coming.
Which brings us to the greatest Surrey player to have never played for us. Kohli has an aura like few others in my life-time. It’s like Lara with the West Indies, Viv maybe back in the day, Mohammed Yousuf when he saw an England shirt. He just looks a million dollars. He gave chances but with force of will and supreme ability made a magnificent first innings hundred and you knew we had to get him soon this morning not to lose this one. I am an unabashed fan of Virat Kohli and most of what he brings to the game. In many ways he is the most important cricketer for many a year. If Virat Kohli didn’t passionately care about test cricket, the existential crisis (I hate that phrase, by the way) test cricket finds itself in would be very much worse. It appears, unless he’s a magnificent liar, that Kohli values the long game, the ability to shape games over longer periods of time, and to not rest on his laurels. He’s eloquent, a little abrasive, but a superstar playing super cricket. Many will remember his contributions to the game – the run out, the hundred, the keeping his team in the game, and his comments afterwards. Cricket is incredibly lucky to have him. Warts and all.
The worry for India is that the other batsman did not shine. Leaving out Pujara raised eyebrows with Michael Holding, for instance, but he’s been woeful for Yorkshire this year. Dhawan had a horror in 2014, and this didn’t inspire confidence. Vijay has been a solid performer, made a hundred on that road at Trent Bridge four years ago, but again never looked solid. Rahul is a talent that needs to learn, in perhaps the same way Virat did. Rahane made that great hundred at Lord’s on a tricky wicket in 2014 so he has game. I don’t think they’ll fail every time, but England will certainly feel more hopeful that there are cracks to exploit.
England’s bowlers worked well as a team. Anderson might have been a little overbowled but without him we would have been floundering. Golden arm Stokes took the wickets today, and the key one of Kohli was the clincher, and as we know he will need to be replaced at Lord’s for reasons of seeing m’learned friends. Broad was under the weather, remains a frustrating cricketer, but again, his opening spell in the second innings when I thought Sam Curran should have been given the new ball, was important. The Dukes ball is given a lot of credit, and there was swift lobbying from many of the usual suspects that it should be used worldwide (do you know how that sounds to those outside of England?), but cloud conditions and an Edgbaston pitch that rewards good play also helped. Holding was spot on saying you need pitches that allow good bowlers to get wickets, and not reward mediocre bowling, while not having pitches too flat to allow ordinary players to make big scores. Fair enough, but he better not be having a go at my main man Karun Nair!
This test match started among a cacophony of nonsense over Adil Rashid, who had a more than fair game and bowled well when given his limited opportunities, and also batted sensibly. It finished as an England win always does. Greatest evers being thrown about, an enthusiasm ignoring the past, a euphoria that feels misplaced. I will be honest, this wasn’t in the same galaxy as Edgbaston 2005, and the tension there. It wasn’t in the same universe as the morning of Trent Bridge 2013, the test match this most closely resembled in my recent memory, when Brad Haddin threatened to take the game away from us. Nor Melbourne 1998, Jo’burg 2005, Cardiff 2009. That may be me, or it may be our need to make everything now something that is the greatest ever. It may be I am throwing a straw man in there, and maybe that’s not what they are saying. But given the sheer insecurities we feel at how the test game is being handled both here and abroad, we need to clutch to matches like this and tell the naysayers “see, this is really great stuff”. We know it is, the players do too. We hope.
I’ve been down on England for a while. Old wounds take a long time to heal. But there are players in this team I really like. I have so much time for Jos Buttler. I really like Joe Root, just wish he wasn’t captain. I’d love Adil Rashid to throw the nonsense back down the likes of Selvey’s throat (if his tweets this morning constituted getting behind Adil, as the phrase goes, I’d want him in front of me so I could see him). And then there is Sam Curran. I remember a couple of years ago sitting at the Oval in a game against Lancashire and he was chatting away to a spectator, happy to be playing, enjoying the game, interacting with the public in an uninhibited way. He still had to strengthen up, but the talent was there. We could all see it. He made runs, he looked good doing so, and I just hoped he wasn’t a Ben Hollioake, a player praised up too soon, disrespected when things didn’t go his way, and then the suspicion that he wasn’t quite good enough in either discipline to nail down an international place. Sam has already made an impact, in fact more than an impact. Without him there was no tense run chase. Without him there wasn’t a 194 target. Without him we might have seen the Indian top order settle in on Day 2. He’s a star. But he’s not the finished article, but what you saw there was temperament. Big game temperament. That’s precious and as a Surrey fan, yep, I’m bloody proud of the guy.
We move on to Lord’s on Thursday. Between then and now we have an excellent guest post on county cricket from a writer who we hope will contribute more for us on the issues in domestic cricket. We’ll do the honours for that tomorrow or Monday. Then we’ll have a preview for the second test and here is hoping for a game somewhere near as good as this. Because it was great test cricket, and in cricket, there is nothing better.
1) A real classic would have gone deep into the 5th day, instead of barely into the 4th.
2) I think India did pretty well given how much swing there was. It swung every day for 4 days. That’s advantage England – and the series is going to depend on whether or not Lords is set up that way too.
3) I like a number of the England players, but the way conditions are papering over the cracks just depresses me. I don’t say “what’s Curran look like when it doesn’t swing” as a knock on him, it’s a knock on the selectors, because we already know that other England bowlers look far less dangerous in that case… likewise, we batted better than India, but in swinging conditions that looked like early season CC that shouldn’t surprise… and as you note, it’s not good enough overall…
I am excited about Sam Curran. I have been for some time. I may have been premature about stating that Curran may be a little raw and young to be playing but at the end of the day you learn more when you actually play compared to only picking the brains of players which Sam Curran apparently does. I just hope England takes care of him and nurtures him.
I am ecstatic at the win but I do wish Rashid would have got the opportunity to bowl a few more overs under his belt. He did well but did not bowl enough to silence his critics once and for all. Root was nearly formulaic in the way he assigned his bowlers. Managing spinner(s) is not easy. Kohli did it brilliantly. Eoin Morgan handles Rashid, Ali and Root really well.
Stokes is the talismanic figure just like Flintoff was. England could have serious problems without him.
P – I just removed the bit about the court case. Just to be extra careful.
Who are your critics then? Very stupid people I would wager.
This game was one that England threw away twice, and India also twice. At 200 odd for 3 on the first day England looked like making 400+ and batting India out of the match. But they collapsed , as they always seem to to these days and finished with a less than a par score. Then they had India at 100/5 and proceeded to drop numerous catches including Kohli on 21.
India recovered, and only conceded a smal lead. England collapsed again, only to be bailed out as they often are by the tail. India had England by the trout and let it slip away. Even so, a target under 200 was very gettable to this much vaunted and hyped batting unit. They couldn’t make it, and to be honest if it wasn’t for Kohli this match would have been a massacre.
England now lose Stokes who’s one over this morning swung the game Englands way. I think they need some right handers in the top order to counter Ashwin, but gawd knows where they will find them from.
Stokes comment at the end of the match “that win will have shut a few mouths”
Class act that bloke…..
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I like Stokes, but that really wound me up. One win with lots of flaws and the critics have to shut up, move on, nothing to see hear. Please, really…..
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Back in the 60s, Cook, Jennings, Malan, Buttler would be wondering if they would get another game. What a great team we have. But who would take their places? Boycott had to contend with Barber, Milton, Russell, Edrich, Milburn in the 60s. All of those 5 would walk into this team. The odd thing is that his first ever opening partner for England was Fred Titmus, who would also walk into this team.
Proud day indeed for a Surrey fan. Very few have the big match temperament at such a young age or any age. The attitude he showed reminded me of a Botham or Gough.
Because you have seen him up close this is what the county championship is all about for me. The counties nurture talent and you get to see them up close. I can’t count the number of great innings that I saw Mo play at Worcester before he was selected for England. I would knock off work or rock up at the weekend just to see him bat. Anyhow it was a joy to follow this test for Sam’s performance and great to see you producing young players down at the Oval and not pinching old lags from us :0)
Look forward to reading the upcoming piece on the county championship.
I really am getting old. Sky earlier have a two hour show devoted to covering the computer game FIFA eWorld Cup.
That is what it’s come too. Nerds and unfit fat people playing PlayStation football pretending they are Pele.
Thing is, I would be worried if I was a real sports player, it might become more popular than football played by human beings. And you can extend it to all sports. We can look forward to Test match Ashes series on a computer screen operated by a twenty stone Sheila vs Dipshit Dave, an ice cream salesman from Luton. The ECBs accountants must be salivating at all the money they could save in central contracts.
As I say I’m getting very old.
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You are old if you think computer games are just for “nerds and unfit fat people” https://www.pcmag.com/feature/332886/the-greatest-gaming-tournaments-in-the-world.
I agree Dmitri, Kohli is great I enjoy watching him in all forms, he reminds me a little of captain Nasser (captaining style that is)!
I was at Trent Bridge on the last day 2013, much more similar to 2005 in my opinion than this. Actually you could pick any 2005 Ashes test as right up there in my opinion!
I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the pleasure Alec Stewart takes in his charges success. Compare that to the behaviour of Yorkshire this season…
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I am afraid that try as I might I cannot warm to this team or take joy in their successes which are few. Every time they manage a win the overweening reaction by the press depresses me. And Stokes comment which I have already mentioned, how this win will “shut a few mouths” confirms how I feel. They now think they are invincible and the arrogance and cockiness will return. I freely admit, with no shame, that I was hoping for an Indian victory and I apologise if that upsets anybody but regular contributors and readers of the blog will know why.
I try to love England, I really do but as long as Cook is there, Anderson with his surly nature who was the only member of the team not to applaud Kohli’s century and Stokes, for reasons already explained. Well Cook and Anderson may be gone sooner rather than later, but Stokes will be around for years. He may be in court next week but I am sure we all know he will just get a slap on the wrist and nothing else and Nasser will, once more, say his behaviour is because of his “passion” for the game.
I am sounding like a grumpy old bag I know so off to put the kettle on.
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Elaine, I get what you are saying, but allow me to play devils advocate.
I know Stokes is marmite for many on here, but I think you have to put a little perspective on what he said, and the context in which it occurred. Is it really any worse than Bob Willis reaction after his 8/43 in 1981 when he launched into a tirade again the media?
If you stick a microphone in the face of a sportsman when he is hyped up on adrenaline, and has just walked off the field of play after he just turned around, and won the match for his country you will get some over reaction.
In addition, he has been subjected to some very bad media headlines, and yes, he has probably brought that on him self, but there are plenty of sportsman who delight in ramming their critics words back down the throats of their tormentors. Nasser parading around at Lords pointing to the number on his back is another example. Botham revelled in shutting up his critics of whom there were many.
And then we have to remember he is in court next week on a serious charge. These people are human beings with different emotions. It’s what makes life interesting. Some people are natural born diplomats, and some are not.
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I have very few problems with the individual players in the England team. Not even Cook. They’re different people, different characters, and I don’t know them personally – media is very different to a real person, as I can definitely attest to in one well known individual.
The media response is what drives me nuts at times. That’s rarely the fault of the individual cricketer. The same applies to people loathing Pietersen. They don’t know him either, and weirdly enough, some people get on with other people and don’t get on with yet more. It’s almost like they’re human beings…
Now people might think I have a thing about this journalist and they are probably right. But this is what drives me nuts.
If we had got truly mad about every time a comment or a stat we put on Twitter being used without credit we’d have been put away years ago.
Why do you think “outside cricket” lasted as long as it did? 🤣
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Every time I wonder if his sense of self-importance can’t get any bigger, he surprises me.
If the ICC ever get around to docking runs for slow over rates, we’ll take all the credit, right?
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Shorter Mike Selvey……..
“I may have invented the wheel.”
I could be naughty and say his son was meant to get his blog up and running! Maybe said son told him there was no money in it!
It was a nice stat, a nice piece of work, but to go on about it being nicked, come on.
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This article was actually a direct result of *my* BTL suggestion, recognising that the 20th anniversary of Gooch’s innings was approaching. Mr. Selvey even came BTL to say “good shout” and used the idea.
Did I get an acknowledgment (the “hat-tip” or H/T, which was quite a common thing back in the day)?
Did I fuck.
Didn’t sulk either though.
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Thanks Mark. All you say makes total sense and yes I agree with you. But I just dind Stokes attitude on and off the field distasteful. I remember himgoading the Windies a few years back reulring in that picture in the press of Samuels saluting him off the field. And this was years before the court case. He just seems to have an angry streak in him that I really dislike.
Ta foe your answer thoug. I appreciate it
Typos! Sorry. On ipad with grandchildren distracting me!
There is no law that says you have to like someone. If you don’t like Stokes attitude you are perfectly entitled to feel that way. Many will agree with you.
Sometimes those types of characters however, are the ones that find a way to win. It is what it is I am afraid.
It’s a shame Selvey didn’t write a similar piece Osman wrote in 2015 on the Big Three carve up. I’d be amazed it hadn’t crossed his path. Even for future reference.
Oh it did. The same source material and documentation was distributed to Mike as it did Osman. One thought it wasn’t important, though.
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