Gloom, Zoom and Rock and Roll it

After the suitably English opening day, where it was mostly a matter of watching the rain fall, at least there was a fair amount of play on day two, even if for England it didn’t go especially well.

There are a whole list of reasonable excuses for things that have happened or will happen in this match; the empty ground will be disconcerting for the players, the lack of match practice, the lack of a season – it all adds up to limiting any judgements that can reasonably be made of any of the players and teams.  The problem is that those judgements will be made anyway, that’s the nature of sport.

Thus, maybe it was always destined that a rusty England batting order would struggle somewhat in bowler friendly conditions.  Maybe it was always likely that a total of around 200 would be where it ended up.  Perhaps as much as anything luck played a part in England batsmen getting out, and West Indies batsmen managing to survive.  Certainly there was little the England bowlers did differently, and it can’t be said they bowled poorly at all.  But the West Indies did bowl well as a unit, and Jason Holder was particularly fine, leaving the impression that with sunny weather forecast for tomorrow, the visitors are well ahead in this game.  Holder said this evening that had he won the toss he would have bowled, which may be true, or may be him being mischievous to throw some extra responsibility onto Ben Stokes for his call, but either way, so far it’s working out for Holder’s team.

It can still change easily enough, this game is in its early stages despite being two days down and neither batting order engenders great confidence in their collective durability. There is an opportunity to put England under pressure, but there’s no reason England can’t bowl the West Indies out cheaply either, it’s all potential and possibility.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying God knows what will happen tomorrow.  At least with a decent forecast it’s unlikely that bad light will be as much a factor as it was today.  Objectively, the umpires applying the bad light rules are doing entirely the correct thing, but cricket’s ability to look idiotic to potential converts never ceases to frustrate, mostly because so few at the highest level of administration are bothered.  Or more specifically, they seem incapable of comprehending that it might be a negative in the first place.

Yet for the reasons outlined a few days back none of it matters overly, it’s just a pleasure to have any play, limited and flawed as it may be.  It does to the teams, of course, but the wider significance is that cricket is on at all.  It remains hard to be overly exercised this week with Joe Denly’s flaws against the ball coming back in, or Jos Buttler’s weaknesses outside off stump, but it is possible to derive huge pleasure from the way Holder has led his team both today and over a number of years – and arguably before he was captain.  Tomorrow it will be someone else’s turn.  It isn’t to say that those who point out the problems are in any way wrong, indeed they are quite right, but it feels like background noise right now.  Hell, even the umpiring decisions being overturned more often than a Reliant Robin taking a hairpin is a mild amusement rather than anything more.  It is an odd feeling, in the wake of a pandemic, to welcome the game into the living room, and care so little about the errors but enjoy the successes, from whomever, irrespective of team.

It probably won’t last long, but at present it is one of life’s pleasures, and there has been little enough of that for it to be more than enough.

9 thoughts on “Gloom, Zoom and Rock and Roll it

  1. jennyah46 Jul 9, 2020 / 7:50 pm

    A good well balanced piece Chris, capturing the mood of the day.

    I can’t see the need to have batted on the first day in appalling conditions. I heard all about the dry pitch but other than for rain and light delays, I couldn’t see the game lasting till the 5th day anyway.

    I will not mention Stuart Broad.

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  2. Benny Jul 9, 2020 / 8:31 pm

    Good observations. We frequently hear the excuse that players are rusty before we get to the excuse that they are overworked and tired. In the good old days they seemed to just get on with it and, as the stars also played county cricket, managed pretty well without excuse.

    It was indeed great to watch live cricket again – almost like one of those friends you haven’t seen for years but, when you do meet up, it feels like yesterday. England doing what they usually do at the start of a series reinforces the feeling

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  3. dArthez Jul 9, 2020 / 8:51 pm

    It is nice that some cricket has been on of course. Something to take your mind of things, and that is good for people who are having a hard time due to COVID-related matters.

    If lack of audience is such a major factor, spare a thought for the Pakistan team, who have basically been playing without an audience for 11 years now. And it is not like the Pakistani supporters are known to be indifferent to proceedings when they do attend a game …, or that Pakistanis have little interest in Test cricket. So I expect the Pakistanis to cope much better than England with such circumstances, if only because they are sadly much more experienced dealing with it.

    As for this Test, I suspect England will strike back hard. It is not like the West Indian batting order has been solid for a long time; and the West Indian tail does not inspire much confidence either. Holder is wasted at #8, with those three bowlers behind him. Anyway, we’ll see tomorrow how the Test develops.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Jul 9, 2020 / 9:13 pm

      You know, the point about Pakistan is a really powerful one, and I feel vaguely ashamed I didn’t make that connection before.

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    • Marek Jul 9, 2020 / 9:57 pm

      The Holder at no. 8 thing makes me want to have a little cry every time I see it (so, most Tests that WI play then…) He averages more with the bat than every other regular WI player bar literally no-one over the last five years–so essentially you’re hiding your best batsman at 8 and leaving out a specialist spinner in order to play one of a wide choice of mediocre batsmen.

      To be fair, England are the one country Blackwood has a good record against over more than a handful of innings–but then again, he has only got five hundreds in 100 f-c matches too.

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      • thelegglance Jul 9, 2020 / 11:07 pm

        I suppose you could argue that moving him would undermine that record and he may be less successful if he did. But yeah, it does seem odd.

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        • dArthez Jul 10, 2020 / 8:38 am

          It is possible he would do worse. Sure. But it is also possible that he would do even better, as he will have more of an opportunity to bat long.

          With that kind of talent, you’d try to get him to #6, or at least #7. Cornwall is no slouch with the bat, so I’d drop a batsman for Cornwall to get an extra bowling option in; Cornwall can bat behind Holder, and I really don’t see how West Indies are expected to score fewer runs than with the current lineup. That also allows the quicks to bowl in shorter spells, so that would probably increase the wicket taking threat as well from all of the quicks.

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  4. dArthez Jul 10, 2020 / 12:45 pm

    If that is a clean lbw against Brathwaitte, I can fully understand why the umpire’s refused to give all those that were not given to Holder until he reviewed those.

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