It is, as some people seem incapable of grasping in these divisive times, possible for many things to be true, without being contradictory, or even remotely a criticism.
Thus, it is entirely the case that this was not an exciting day’s cricket. Turgid, largely. Absolutely it is true that Sibley scored slowly and was some way short of being a delight to watch. But nonetheless there’s not the slightest thing wrong with any of that. England plodded along after losing early wickets, setting a platform, taking the sting out of the West Indies bowling attack, and generally batting pretty well on a surface that looks (at this stage) hard to score on.
It’s hard to know what is expected at times. An England batting order that all too often has carelessly thrown away wickets (and there was some of that today too, Joe Root notably in his first innings this summer) with reckless abandon also receives criticism when a player digs in. Not only has he done nothing wrong, he’s batted very well, on day one of a five day Test. It’s genuinely hard to understand what, apart from a lack of sixes, it can be imagined he’s failed to do today, or how he has hindered England’s chances. It’s so clearly the opposite. That Stokes hardly provided an array of dazzling strokeplay either ought to make it clear it wasn’t a day for that. It’s not exciting to watch. True. And? Sometimes that’s how it is.
Jofra Archer’s late removal from the starting line up due to breaching the bubble rules (which can be added to the list of phrases never heard before 2020) was a perfect storm of outrage and criticism, with Michael Vaughan leading the calls for him to be dropped for the third Test, while at the same time saying he needed to be looked after. This is an insane overreaction. Why is it that every error needs to be met with a brutal clampdown? Archer has made a mistake, he’s a young man, and for entirely sensible reasons has been removed from the team for this Test. That isn’t a punishment, it’s a rational response to the requirements of playing a Test match in isolation from those outside. It’s a minor infraction that could have had serious repercussions had it not become known until the Test had begun, for it’s entirely possible it would have required both teams to self-isolate rather than play. OK, so all can be in agreement it was a truly daft and thoughtless thing to do, that’s not in question. But it doesn’t help him or anyone else to continue smacking him over the head until he begs for mercy on this. He probably feels embarrassed enough as it is – if he doesn’t, then it can be conceded there is a problem, but there’s no reason to assume that at all.
Covid-19 has been a challenge for everyone, a determination in some quarters to hammer a young man purely to express outrage is utterly distasteful, counterproductive and rather childish. Put him in the stocks for all the good it will do.
There is one further area where England have got themselves in something of a pickle. Sam Morshead from the Cricketer raised the point that it could be suggested one reason for Jos Buttler’s continued inclusion is that he isn’t in the ODI squad, meaning if he was dropped from the Test team, he would be playing no cricket at all. Morshead wasn’t pushing this idea as a full explanation, he was idly musing on whether it might be a factor, but it is to be hoped not for it is more akin to ensuring a player at least gets a game in the Sunday 2nd XI rather than an instance of choosing the best Test line up. Equally, with the removal of Archer from the side, England refused to countenance the idea of Wood, rested for this match, being brought back in as a like for like replacement. This is simply odd – for it could be seen as a reluctance to try and pick the best team, but instead to focus entirely on the planned rotation for the sake of it. Perhaps not, perhaps the belief was that the best player to be picked wasn’t a fast bowler at all, but at first sight it seems a strange way of going about things, more wedded to principle than strategy.
All in all, a decent day’s play for England, and a frustrating one for the West Indies after an excellent start. Unless it goes monumentally badly for one team, it’s always a setting up day, and so far so good for the hosts. What happens tomorrow either way doesn’t alter that.
Re` Wood: I suspect the England management have come to the conclusion that he can rarely if ever play back-to-back Tests any more, so they’d rather keep resting him anyway just in case he breaks down and misses all four of the remaining games. Which, seeing what’s happened to Gabriel, may have something in it…
Re Archer: I agree in some instances about overhyping misdemeanours, but the more I think about it, the less I think this is one of them. This whole international summer–which is worth somewhere in the region of £200m to the ECB–has only been possible because the government allowed the ECB to put it on on the basis of the biosecure arrangements. Those have included absolutely meticulous planning over many many weeks, probably involving hundreds of people. The touring teams have given up much more than the England team–especially West Indies, who have come from a region which has hardly been touched by Covid to one of the worst affected countries and have been quarantined for several weeks without any hope at all of going back to visit family and friends. The tours depend on all the other teams and boards being happy with the arrangements and having trust that they work.
As with Dominic Cummings, the chances of anything serious actually happening were probably relatively low. But that’s not the point. The Test could already have been off–either because the government pulled their permission for it or because Cricket West Indies weren’t happy that the arrangements were working. The whole summer could have been called off. Archer could have infected any–or all–of the England team given that he spent two whole days training with them before anyone found out about the visit.
That’s a potential set of direct risks to England cricket that absolutely dwarfs (mainly because they’re direct rather than indirect risks) any other trouble that England players have got into recently, even snorting cocaine in their spare time, getting into fights in the street or sending obnoxiously misogynistic text messages. It’s also a big “fuck you” to all the people who’ve been involved in creating and making possible the whole system and those who’ve abided by the rules.
Yes, he’s a young(ish) player–although what part of the word “pandemic” is so hard to understand?! Yes, he seems to be of generally fine character, it’s his first offence and he’s generally an asset to the team. But if I was Ashley Giles–whose statement I thought was a masterpiece of restraint in the circumstances–Tom Harrison or Steve Elworthy I’d be absolutely incandescently angry.
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I don’t think anyone doubts how serious the consequences could have been, but it’s entirely reasonable to suppose he didn’t realise. Thats why it was a small error with potentially huge fallout. No reason not to think he’s horrified now he realises. He’s a young man, and young men do daft things, that aren’t malicious.
Vaughan called him a “young kid”. Others a “young man”
He is 24-25 so not exactly a child. But he is a total plonker and I am not usually one to condemn Particularly when the fell hand of the ECB is involved. However, on this occasion I think his behaviour is indescribably stupid and irresponsible.
I suppose we should be grateful he didn’t look out of a wi dow or whistle in the shower…..
Speaking of looking out of windows, from reading some comments elsewhere I can’t help wonder if Jofra is going to be the new KP – a brilliant player who is never going to be accepted by some English fans.
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First, a pleasant novelty that our batting order didn’t collapse like a house of cards.
When Root had his brain fart I fully expected us to be 6 down or more by the end of the day.
So, credit to Sibley and Stokes for sticking it out on a pitch which isn’t demon filled, but isn’t easy either. Scoring seems slow, so if the team can get to 350 or so I would think they’ve turned the game into “win or draw” – although it depends on how much rain we get on Saturday.
Sidenote: Root’s Vince impression annoyed me a lot, but I should remember it’s his first competitive innings in a longtime.
1) Lot of people who are angry are angry about the wrong thing. It’s not that he got himself excluded from the match, it’s that breaking biosecure includes a tiny risk of serious illness or even death for himself or someone else in the bubble.
2) That said, we’ve all made mistakes. I’ve worked with firms (including biohazard etc) on safety setups and one important principle re: errors is “system first” – why were these young men being sent around on their own in their own vehicles? Jofra had a brain fart, but he (or any other player) could equally have had a mechanical – at which point you get an almost certain bubble breach. It’s still a stupid mistake and you’d want him to show he’s learned from it, but it’s also an obvious system error and that’s a set of mistakes by the people who planned it out.
Whilst I agree with Metatone about the public health issues, let me give you an angry old man’s response to Jofra’s indiscretion. I don’t think you can call it a “a minor infraction” when it could have results in the test, if not the whole series, being abandoned. He has also weakened the team at a time when they need to win to stay in the series and if has to go 5 days without training, he may miss the third test as well. And the icing on the cake is there is no way he did not know he was breaking the rules.
I think Jofra is amazing and I love it when he does quirky stuff like wrapping his jumper round his waist but breaching the biosecurity rules was really, really dumb.
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Dropping Anderson for this test match might be a bigger mistake than dropping Broad for the first. The ball is hooping. Obviously this is hindsight but I suspect Anderson would be unplayable in these conditions.
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In retrospect, playing Broad in the first Test and saving Jimmy for his home county ground has a certain logic to it…
Century for Sibley – took a while, but credit to his limpet like qualities.
There is something for the bowlers in the pitch, but not a lot.
Could be a long day for WI.
The West Indies create few chances, and when they do, they get denied by umpire’s calls.
First time in 3 years that England has 2 first innings centurions at home. The last time? 2017, against the same West Indies.
Would already be a massive surprise if West Indies are in with a fighting chance on Day 5.
Cue the West Indies losing a few wickets when they get to bat on umpire’s calls as well.
Surprised the Pope lbw did not have to be reviewed.
Good thing they did not have to, since it was umpire’s call.
40 for Buttler should be enough to keep him in the side for the rest of the summer.
England declare … now we find out how much there is in this pitch.
I fear there isn’t that much.
Could have been two…..
Should have been two. But seems like the appeal died down, rather than that England dared not to review.
You don’t risk “wasting” a review on the nightwatchman