England vs India: Fifth Test, Day Three – Just a Little Bit More

The mind is a funny thing.  It’s been said often enough that cricket is a game played in the head as much as on the pitch, and while this surface has been kinder to the batsmen that most in this series, it isn’t quite at the Melbourne 2017 levels of slow and flat.  Yet Alastair Cook has looked in both innings about as good as he has done for a couple of years.  That’s not to say that anyone should be begging him to re-consider his decision, but it is to say that the probable weight off his mind has led him to relax at the crease somewhat.  He batted well in the first innings, and he’s batted well here.  And those heading to the Oval tomorrow will get the chance to watch him tomorrow, which perhaps will help the attendance figures for a September Monday after the kids have gone back to school.  Nothing would quite highlight the way the ECB have managed the game recently as much as Cook departing for the last time in front of a couple of thousand people, and whatever the raging arguments about where he should be placed in the list of England batsmen, that would be an unedifying end.

In some ways, this has been the best Test of the series  (albeit a dead rubber which always removes the sense of jeopardy) perhaps because there’s at least half a chance it might reach the fifth day on its own terms, and perhaps because the bat seems marginally more on top than to date.  If anything, it appears to be getting easier to bat on, and a day on which only six wickets fell seems quite remarkable given all that’s gone before.  Yet the overall patterns continually repeat themselves, a very English set of pitches that produce generally similar cricket, and generally results inside four days.  It is less than surprising that teams struggle when they come here, or that England have so many problems overseas.  This time at the Oval, it’s the same, just slightly less so.

India had an excellent first half of the day, adding 118 runs to their overnight score with their remaining four wickets, largely thanks to an outstanding unbeaten 86 from Ravi Jadeja.  He farmed the strike expertly, the last three wickets adding 55, only 5 of which came from his partners.  Few would have begrudged him reaching a century, while in the match context, getting India within 40 made the match far more interesting than it looked like it was going to be.  England toiled manfully enough, with the biggest surprise being that Adil Rashid actually got a bowl.

India’s trials by DRS continued when they got hold of the ball, through managing to burn both of their reviews within 12 overs of England going out to bat. It was impressive too, given both reviews were palpably not out without so much as the benefit of a replay. One of the best decisions made by the ICC about DRS recently was to abolish the renewal of the two reviews after 80 overs, meaning that teams need to manage them far better than they currently are.  It matters less in England where surviving 80 overs in the first place appears to be a badge of honour, but the carelessness shown means both teams, but particularly India, will have to change their DRS ways on the flatter surfaces elsewhere.

If Cook was playing his final Test innings, many would have thought Keaton Jennings was doing the same, particularly after he left a ball that didn’t so much clip the bails as crash into middle and off stumps.  Leaving such a delivery is usually indicative of a scrambled mind, so he will be pleased to have heard Ed Smith indicate that he’s on the tour to Sri Lanka already.  Smith appears to have regarded this series win as huge vindication of his selections and his approach, which is fair enough as long as the team does win, though unusually strident to imply personal responsibility for that success. There is more than an element of hubris in his revelling in his unorthodox selections, and repeating a certainty that it is the right way to go.  Furthermore, he appeared quite relaxed about the top order difficulties, implying that he was quite content for the runs to come from the lower order.  For now, results are in his favour, but his supreme blithe confidence suggests he could probably do with someone on his shoulder whispering “Remember Caesar, you are just a man”.

Root at four showed all the signs of a man delighted to be batting where he wants to be, which in this England side does at least have a rarity value, as we know at least one of the top four for the winter tours.  Still, there has to be something said for the concept of batting your best player where he is most comfortable, in the hope of getting the best out of him.

154 ahead, two days to go.  England will want to be batting most of tomorrow, but there’s always that England thing of a collapse around the corner.  Even with that, another hundred oughtn’t to be beyond their capabilities, and a target of over 250 should be too much for India.




69 thoughts on “England vs India: Fifth Test, Day Three – Just a Little Bit More

  1. oreston Sep 9, 2018 / 7:09 pm

    Champagne moment: Jajeja smashing Anderson back over his head for six.


  2. nonoxcol Sep 9, 2018 / 7:56 pm

    Love that gratuitous reference to Ancient Rome there. Why, one could almost think it was a deliberate bit of cheek directed at FICJAM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 9:17 am

      The way Smith was talking, and taking credit I’m not sure why we are still employing a coach, and vice coach. Smith seems to have elevated himself to cricket Supremo. Sport by PlayStation, as Smith chooses all the options.


      • Rooto Sep 10, 2018 / 9:28 am

        I don’t mind FICJAM revelling in the glory. If he’s vain enough to seek out interviews to boast of getting it right, (‘if’!) then I won’t hold it against him. Equally, I won’t feel any sympathy when ‘good journalism’ leaves him twisting in the wind, the first time he fucks it up.


        • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 9:38 am

          Sky have an interview with him coming up. My prediction is the phrase “doubling down” may be appropriate.


          • Rooto Sep 10, 2018 / 12:09 pm

            Yes, well. When I said I wouldn’t hold it against him, I’m not actually going to read or listen to the interviews… 🙂


          • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 10:06 am

            Oh dear…….

            It may be like that character from the Fast show. The mancherian with the bobble hat who thinks everything is brilliant. This will be a posh version of it.

            “Aren’t selectors brilliant? You get to choose a whole cricket team , it’s brilliant, and there are all different types right? Some hold a bat, and some throw the ball…. it’s just brilliant! And I get to pick all of them. And get this? If I pick one and he plays well I get all the credit. How cool is that? And if I pick one, and he plays badly he gets all the blame for being crap! Brilliant, BRILLIANT!!!”

            Liked by 2 people

  3. ArushaTZ Sep 10, 2018 / 1:13 am

    For anyone who wasn’t able to watch this afternoon. Michael Holding was asked, I think by Nasser, who has been the best England batsman he’s seen? He said, from his playing days, Gooch and Gower and since he’s been a commentator, Pietersen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deep Purple Fred Sep 10, 2018 / 7:06 am

      TV producer must have been asleep. Not quick enough to mute his microphone when he realised Holding was giving the wrong answer.


    • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 7:33 am

      I agree with him on both counts, and would add that the best one from 1995-2005 was Graham Thorpe. All four would be immediate choices for my English XI post-1981; Cook I’d have to think about and would probably end up selecting with some reluctance just because my ideal alternatives didn’t open the batting for long enough by comparison and ended up with lower averages.

      I don’t even regard his choices as controversial, and applaud his honesty, objectivity and lack of sentimentality. This is what you get when you ask non-English people their opinion, I guess.


      • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 8:02 am

        To be fair, the other day David Lloyd too said Pietersen was the best England batsman he’d seen.


        • LordCanisLupus Sep 10, 2018 / 9:30 am

          When they had the chance to do it, just two put him in the top 5 ever. Newman and Selfey.

          And both put Pietersen above him.


          • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 9:40 am

            Swann ignoring him is what makes me chuckle there. Most people tend to think of those they played with to the exclusion of past players. It’s magnificently spiteful.


          • RufusSG Sep 10, 2018 / 9:47 am

            Yeah, at least the other ones who didn’t choose him tended to go for the players from previous generations anyway so it’s a bit more understandable (only one person who picked WG Grace also chose Pietersen, for instance).

            Allan Lamb was a good player but I think his Northamptonshire bias might be showing a bit there…


          • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 10:14 am

            Did you ever hear Freddie Flintoff pick his all time best England Ashes team before the last Ashes? There was I think hardly anyone from before the 1990s. Maybe Alan knott got in, I can’t remember all of them. My particular favourite was Ashley Giles as the spinner over Swann, or Underwood or Laker.

            Mind you , he only had to justify his selections to Robbie Savage and the Ping pong man. So there wasn’t much debate.


          • Deep Purple Fred Sep 10, 2018 / 9:46 am

            Seems to be quite a consensus around the top three of Hutton, Hobbs and Hammond.

            Selvey and Vaughan are unique in having selected none of those three at any rank. Selvey has an entirely modern bias, almost like he was ranking them by age, rather than batting skill.


          • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 11:07 am

            The one thing that always gets me in the best of lists is the constant, continual exclusion of Ken Barrington. In that list he’s right down at the bottom, but his record is absolutely outstanding. Now, I didn’t see him, and there’s all the stuff about being slow, playing for himself and so on. But it’s one hell of a record to overlook so consistently.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 9:10 am

        I would love to have seen Cook open the batting against Lillie & Thompson in 1973/4. Or The WI attack (including Holding) in 1976 or 1980. With the same era kit. No helmets, no shoulder pads, no arm guards. Just a blue cloth cap.

        In many ways we did see a version of that in 2014 with Mitchell Johnson. It didn’t go very well!


  4. dlpthomas Sep 10, 2018 / 3:14 am

    There was an interesting observation / comment on cricinfo – if cook gets a hundred he will be the only player to get a 50 and a 100 in his first and last test (and both against India). Statistics, simultaneously awesome and meaningless.


  5. Rooto Sep 10, 2018 / 6:22 am

    Re Jennings. Normally, you could imagine him being replaced by someone from Flower’s Lions team for the second half of the winter unless his form improves in Sri Lanka. However, he’s Flower’s man. Marked for greatness, and good at repairing boats. What a conundrum!


    • Growltiger Sep 10, 2018 / 7:46 am

      Find him a job repairing boats. Conundrum resolved.


    • "IronBalls" McGinty Sep 10, 2018 / 8:50 am

      There must be truckloads of talented openers, finely honed by Flower’s tutelage, at Loughborough or in the Lions?…Surely?

      Liked by 1 person

    • rpoultz Sep 10, 2018 / 10:22 am

      This day and the media frenzy about Cook is already too much! I for one hope he doesn’t get his century just due to the mania that it will unfold from certain quarters.


    • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 10:30 am

      Oh wait – “highest scoring left hander” is the new one. Better than Sangakkara coming up*

      *He wasn’t an opener of course. His runs don’t count as much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 10:49 am

        I have not watched a single ball of this Test match. Live or highlights in protest at Agnews demand for an apology from the likes of us, and the eneviatble likelihood it would turn into a giant shit show.

        Sky cricket and TMS have remained off throughout the entire four days. (Not that TMS is ever listened to now.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 11:11 am


        • Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 11:28 am

          For Cook to rank above Sangakkara seems against natural justice, but after all it’s only numbers. It will probably matter tremendously to Cook and not so much to Sanga.

          Liked by 1 person

      • oreston Sep 10, 2018 / 11:24 am

        Number of Tests played? Career average? How many times has Cook kept wicket? No, none of that context matters – only his career run total as a raw stat. I despair…


        • Deep Purple Fred Sep 10, 2018 / 12:50 pm

          Couldn’t think of a better example of where context matters. Sangakkara was a genuine leader, a wicketkeeper, an ODI as well as test champion, a gentleman, responsible for what’s regarded as the best Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket speech in history, and did this from the basis of a small poorly resourced country with a corrupt administration which sometimes didn’t even pay the player’s wages.

          Cook was a very good opener, Sangakkara was one of the best cricketers who played in my lifetime.

          Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 11:27 am

        I note with interest and a deep, resigned sigh the response to BOC’s post re Cook/Sangakkara on Twitter……


        • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 11:37 am

          I note thus far the silence when I asked if Cook would have a better record had he batted at number 4 instead.


          • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 12:23 pm

            It’s received and accepted wisdom now: openers, especially English ones, have it harder than anyone. All English wickets are tougher than overseas ones as well (someone referred to easy SA wickets earlier, which will be why Cook averages 31.4 in SA I suppose…)

            There’s nothing you can do to stem the tide. This matters, but somehow quality of bowlers in different eras doesn’t.


          • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 12:29 pm

            Graeme Smith also played for 12 years, but fewer Tests as South Africa don’t play as many. 9,200 runs at a better average and a better century ratio. Oh and an average of 68 in England.

            If Cook is a great, why isn’t Smith?

            Liked by 1 person

          • RufusSG Sep 10, 2018 / 1:04 pm

            Isn’t Graeme Smith pretty widely regarded as a great player? I certainly think he is and you’d think given his exploits in England he’d be well appreciated amongst English supporters.


          • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 1:09 pm

            You think so? That’s interesting. I’d be surprised if most said he was. Obviously a fine player, but genuinely I would doubt many would say “great”.


          • RufusSG Sep 10, 2018 / 1:19 pm

            Personally, I always really admired how he made his stupendously awkward technique work for him. There were certainly better players than him in his world-beating South African teams (Kallis, de Villiers, etc.), and there have been better openers in general, but I always felt you could rely on him when the chips were down – his average of 41 at home but 55 away (although he had a slightly poor record in India, mostly down to Zaheer Khan) showed he could get all the parts working properly when it mattered. His fine captaincy didn’t hurt either. Maybe I’m just biased because he was always so outstanding against England (Edgbaston 2008 was pretty painful), but then again so was Yuvraj Singh.

            He does remind me a lot of Cook, for sure.


          • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 1:21 pm

            I agree with you entirely. But I have my doubts if that many out there would.


          • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 1:58 pm

            I made the comparison with Cook and Smith last week. Both left handed openers who captained their country and got the most out of their talent. Not the most elegant to look at, not easy on the eye, but effective.

            If you described Smith in the same way the English media describes Cook…….the same English cricket media would laugh at you for over the top exaggerating. And yet……….

            Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 10:56 am

      I went soft yesterday and wanted him to do it.

      Not so sure now: it really is quite nauseating how much *some* people have invested in him and the all-time great stuff.


      • Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 11:34 am

        Cook gets a century, a tsunami of syrup floods across the ground, and then Kohli cuts loose and wins the match for India… unlikely, I know.


  6. Stevet Sep 10, 2018 / 11:45 am

    Well you’ve got the syrup bit right! Blody overthrows! Did they pay them to do that? Sound now on mute.


    • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 11:51 am

      Industrial quantities of insulin required in South East London to push back surgery high from an endless intake of syrupy platitudes.

      Patient on life support.


  7. nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 11:48 am

    “It’s the loveliest scene, enough to make the most incorrigible misanthrope feel good. Alastair Cook has made a century in his final Test innings!”




  8. Stevet Sep 10, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Like TLG said the other day, I should be enjoying this but can’t because of the media shit-storm! Can’t take any more, I’m off out for a walk


  9. Benny Sep 10, 2018 / 11:52 am

    I’m sure I read somewhere that Cook was retiring because he had nothing left in the tank.


    • oreston Sep 10, 2018 / 12:09 pm

      It’s amazing what you can do in your final game, under no meaningful pressure whatsoever, with the series already won and an adoring media treating the entire Test match as your own personal lap of honour.

      Ebony Brain-For-Rent on TMS: “I don’t think anyone really cares about anything right now other than Alastair Cook. I know I don’t.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 12:12 pm

        Ebony and Alistair…..Live together in perfect harmony…….


      • oreston Sep 10, 2018 / 12:50 pm

        To be brutally accurate I should have written, “…with the series already won due to other peoples’ efforts and not yours because you totally stiffed and contributed feck all in the first four games, i.e. when it mattered for the team as a whole and not just you…”

        Liked by 1 person

  10. nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    Just put “Cook tears” into Twitter.

    Felt roughly the same level of alienation from these people as I do from those who constantly use twee substitute words in daily life, or have “Keep Calm and Carry On/or Whatever” posters.

    The most emotional I’ve been about cricket was Edgbaston 2005, followed by several other moments in 2005, the end of the Bridgetown Test in the 89/90 series in West Indies, Thorpe’s hundred at The Oval in 2003 and (post-2005) Mumbai 2012/13.

    Never anywhere near crying on any of those occasions, and I *am* more of a crier than most men.


  11. nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 1:14 pm

    “England’s two greatest batsmen of the last fifty years (sorry Boycott, sorry KP!), former captain and current, both making centuries in the former’s last ever test match, the series won and England finally making a decent fist at winning a so-called dead rubber against the world’s top team.”

    That is the latest comment on the Guardian OBO, by the way.

    We’d better raise the white flag!


  12. Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 2:01 pm

    Well, I’m really pleased for Joe Root. He’s looked in severe danger of coming apart lately and now his future definitely looks brighter, perhaps in several ways.

    In other news, world sugar prices have rocketed owing to all existing supplies being diverted to London SE11.


    • Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 2:15 pm

      And they’re all behaving as if Cook’s retired altogether (“walks off for the last time”…) when he’ll be back in five minutes, scoring centuries for Essex with monotonous regularity.


      • thelegglance Sep 10, 2018 / 2:19 pm

        Can I be the first to suggest, nay demand, insist even, on a recall for him when he smacks medium pacers around Chelmsford?


        • Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 2:22 pm

          Talking of recalls, I want SL to recall Sangakkara for one Test, in which he makes 100+.


  13. Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    Memo to the Cricket media.

    By all accounts your coverage today reminds me of those Japanese soldiers who used to pop out of the jungle in 1980s only to be told the war ended in 1945.


  14. nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    I really hope they get round to feting Cook properly at some point.

    (in some cases there might be an lla missing there)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 2:33 pm

      Leading run scorer of left handed opening basman in dead rubber test matches?


      • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 3:11 pm

        “Unquestionably, he deserved a better exit than the back door, although I do know that the intention was to have feted him properly when the dust settled.”

        Reference to the above quote from 2014. Not too hard to work out who is writing about whom!


  15. Mark Sep 10, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    Playing players with bad fingers has been tremendously successful for England lately.

    Perhaps Ed Smith should consider players who are fit.


  16. rpoultz Sep 10, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Seriously they are playing a montage of cook batting to the theme tune from gladiator. I’m literally done!


  17. Quebecer Sep 10, 2018 / 5:18 pm

    To begrudge or not to begrudge…. i dunno. Not sure.


    • Zephirine Sep 10, 2018 / 7:59 pm

      A lot of people had a good time. It was a bit like the Last Night of the Proms, it might not be your thing but, y’know.


  18. nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 5:39 pm

    Shiny Toy on TMS: “Justin Langer will be relieved, because Alastair Cook always has impact in Ashes series.”

    This is nonsense on stilts now. They can just pluck stuff from the air and no-one will call them out or distinguish it from the genuine and deserved praise.

    Someone should do his average in “live” Tests since resigning the captaincy. The double v WI and the eighty odd v SA – think that’s about it.


    • nonoxcol Sep 10, 2018 / 8:26 pm

      27.39 in live Tests since resigning the captaincy. Includes 243 v West Indies. Excludes the dead rubber 244* and this dead rubber 71 and 147, which constitute three of his four scores above 50 since that double v West Indies 16 Tests ago. Yes that’s one fifty in a live Test in just over a year.


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