Babar So Really: England v Pakistan, Day one

The weather forecast for this Test is quite reasonable, so today’s curtailed play should hopefully be the exception rather than the rule for the remainder of the game.

What play did take place was something of a throw-back, at least in the first session.  England bowled well, Pakistan repelled all that was thrown at them.  The importance of opening batsmen who can soak up the pressure has been ignored all too often over the last few years in favour of assuming that Test cricket is the same as one day cricket, full of blazing strokes and where batting time is of lesser importance.  Shan Masood demonstrated the value of occupation of the crease.  He may be a relatively limited player, but that’s been of little consequence for many an opener who has gone on to a successful career.  Although Pakistan did lose a couple of early wickets he, in consort with Babar Azam saw Pakistan through to lunch at 53-2.  Barely over 2 runs an over, but unquestionably a fairly successful first morning in challenging batting conditions.

After lunch, things became easier.  England bowled poorly, Babar began to cut loose.  It’s intriguing to see articles written about how he should be considered the fifth member of the Test batting exceptionals, not because he isn’t worthy of being bracketed with those, but because the list invariably includes Joe Root, who hasn’t been performing at that kind of level for a couple of years now, and to many observers, isn’t even currently the best batsman in the England side.  Still, it might be nit-picking to make that observation instead of accepting Babar’s right to be considered in the upper echelons of Test batsmen at present, and he certainly looked the part today.

England did have chances to take a third wicket, firstly when Jos Buttler dropped Shan Masood off Dom Bess’s bowling.  For all the debate around Buttler’s place, his wicketkeeping has been perfectly acceptable for most of his time in the England team, and it is his batting that has been most under scrutiny.  The dropped catch can be put down to just one of those things – any keeper is disappointed when a fine edge goes down, but always for different reasons to those the non-wicketkeeping commentators state:  It’s a question of technique, not reactions, for no keeper reacts to edges when standing up, the ball hits the gloves before the brain is aware an edge has been taken.   The missed stumping he will be more annoyed with, for being hit on the shoulder with the batsman that far down the pitch tends to suggest he was caught watching the batsman rather than the ball – something he will work long and hard on avoiding at all costs.

Standing up to the spinners might be something we see a fair bit of this Test if day one is anything to go by.  Bess got reasonable turn and significant bounce from the start, which may well be of concern to an England team likely to be batting last, against a team who have selected two leg-spinners.  Whether the pitch quickens or dies over the coming days will define their effectiveness, but, forced to bowl spin by bad light, both Bess and Root looked mildly threatening on occasion in the short evening session.

Whether the light was poor enough for the umpires to have forced England to bowl spin in the first place is an open question and goes to the heart of the competing demands of professional sport – the potentially litigious nature of the modern world and the importance of duty of care, versus the requirement that play happens.  Cricket always seems to struggle with this – and too often gives the impression that being on the field is considered a nice to have rather than an imperative of the game.  All too often resumptions are leisurely rather than urgent, meaning there is scepticism in those circumstances there ought to be trust.  It appears to be a congenital problem afflicting the game in too many areas.  Yet the commentators by the end did state that even with floodlights it was rather dark, but going off for bad light on safety grounds when the fast bowlers are operating is one thing; doing so when the spinners are on is another matter altogether.  The defence is usually on the grounds of fairness, but it’s hard to see how that is any different to being put into bat on a green seamer or having to bowl in baking heat.  Unless the fielders are in danger, there’s little excuse for it.

With an unbroken third wicket partnership of 96, Pakistan are in decent shape going in to day two, and any total in excess of 300 has put the England of the last few years under significant pressure.  Choosing to bat may or may not have been a marginal call, but there enough observers urging the captain who won the toss to bowl to make it clear it can’t have been entirely clear cut.  As ever, day two gives a greater indication of where this game is going.

26 thoughts on “Babar So Really: England v Pakistan, Day one

  1. Burly Aug 5, 2020 / 6:22 pm

    Buttler’s keeping hasn’t been good, honestly. Today just reminded people of that.

    Poor bloody English spinners – captains who don’t know how to use them, coaches that keep picking crap keepers for their alleged batting ability.

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  2. dArthez Aug 5, 2020 / 8:14 pm

    The 5 to 10 run estimate of what ‘worse’ keepers cost per innings is probably a gross underestimate. It is not just the drops, but also the byes and leg byes, so I suspect the figure is probably in the 10-20 runs per innings range for a keeper like Buttler (drops plus all the assorted byes that a better keeper would have prevented). Add in that his batting is not exactly stellar, so you do really wonder why he keeps being persevered with.

    Mind you Nathan Lyon went through the same thing when Wade was keeping. At some point Australia appeared to be pondering to drop Lyon for the incompetence of Wade behind the stumps. They dropped the incompetent keeper, and Lyon duly prospered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 3:36 pm

      Just a reminder that Masood was dropped on 45 by Buttler. As Buttler drops a relatively easy chance off the bowling of Bess (again). So Yasir gets a life. Probably a short one.

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  3. Miami Dad's Six Aug 5, 2020 / 9:35 pm

    It would have been very questionable to have watched what happened when Holder bottled two tosses by bowling first at Old Trafford within the last 3 weeks, to then repeat those two mistakes.

    If Azam scores a ton tomorrow morning the commentators might become unbearable. More so than usual for Shayyyne. He looks good though, one of those players who will latch onto anything that is poorly bowled, of which there was plenty in the hour after lunch I saw.

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  4. rpoultz Aug 6, 2020 / 7:45 am

    This is no great insight but if Pakistan can get close to 300-350 then that puts real pressure on England. There was a lot of media hype about England’s fab four bowlers after the WIndies series but in reality they were cleaning up players with averages barely over 32. I think after yesterday it is a reality check and facing an at least competent top 6 it is going to be a tougher test. They’ll probably have them out for under 200 now I have said that.

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  5. Marek Aug 6, 2020 / 11:30 am

    Re the potentially litigious nature of the modern world: it might be nice if a collection of supporters, always assuming we see spectators at a cricket match in the foreseeable future, used that potential litigiousness to assert their rights to see 90 overs in a day’s play which is supposed to be 90 overs long–which is a much bigger rip-off of paying customers than umpires going off for bad light light occasionally when they could have stayed on.

    If the hosting board had to repay every single spectator one-ninetieth of their ticket price for every unbowled over–proportionately recoupable from the board of the visiting team as appropriate–it might concentrate a few minds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 12:45 pm

      Not all delays are caused by the bowling side. Or even the batting side. Umpires getting lots of calls wrong / umpire’s calls contribute too. Then there can be injuries, cats / dogs running on the field, bee swarms (yes), and whatnot.

      For example Cardiff 2009. Make every second change of gloves for a batsman force the batting side board to fully deposit 10% of their annual turnover into an ICC fund to develop cricket worldwide and you might be talking. And rest assured, the ECB / BCCI and CA will find ways to exclude themselves of such an unfair demand, while raising the fees to 30% for the other teams.

      Meritocracy.

      Likewise, we have had Tests where the winning sides where fined 10% of their match fees, because they did not bowl spin. Because it was not needed as the 4 quicks skittled out the opposition twice to win by an innings inside three days. Really don’t think the spectators were too unhappy about missing out on a few overs of spin, and rather had the winning side go for the kill, rather than having to trudge back on the morning of Day 4 to witness maybe all of one ball being bowled in the entire day.

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      • thelegglance Aug 6, 2020 / 12:48 pm

        Can I play devil’s advocate and suggest that the ever more creative ways of wasting time when the match circumstance demands it adds to the drama? Outrage on one side of supporters and glee on the other is part of the appeal.

        Having lobbed that rock in, I shall retreat… 😉

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        • dannycricket Aug 6, 2020 / 12:55 pm

          To put this advocacy in context, Chris is a huge fan of Stuart Broad’s batting. Make of that what you will.

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        • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 1:04 pm

          That is definitely true. But obviously, there are many cases where the side deliberately wasting time gets away with it, and cases where sides that go for the kill actually get punished for pretty much not wasting time. Yeah, that is sensible.

          There is no rule that is perfect. When Sri Lanka were about to lose a series against South Africa in 2014 or 2015, they managed to bowl 48 overs in two hours – okay, mostly spin, but you get the idea. When there is an incentive to bowl, they will bowl. When there is an incentive not to bowl, they will not bowl. When there is incentive to bat, they will bat. When there is no incentive to bat, they will not bat.

          And sadly deliberate time-wasting is an issue in all sports – I am surprised that there are even ballet dancers that practice the Swan Song, since at least 15% of professional footballers know the part.

          I think that in the past I already pointed out that home side spectators could get into the fray when the visiting side is bowling, so that the bowling side effectively gets penalised for crowd behaviour (deliberately blocking the sight screen for one).

          Never mind that the ICC has basically defaulted to home board broadcaster cheating detection system, which is a much bigger issue for the integrity of the game than time wasting in my opinion.

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          • thelegglance Aug 6, 2020 / 1:19 pm

            Can’t take issue with any of that. I guess it’s inevitable that in all competitive sport, teams will push the boundaries of the rules and regulations, the problem is those rules and regulations in the first place, and the unwillingness of the authorities to take any action.

            The bit about outsourcing the policing of cheating to host broadcasters is really troubling though. It’s one of those abstruse subjects that never gets any wider attention. People don’t really care.

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      • dannycricket Aug 6, 2020 / 12:54 pm

        There is a bit more to the over rates argument than that, though. Test matches have an extra half hour every day to allow for unexpected delays or collapses which ruin the bowling team’s over rates. Bowling teams currently use that time essentially as 30 minutes of fielding time outs, which means that there is no margin left when problems occur. In order to fix this, umpires and the ICC have to make it so that teams typically finish their 90 overs on time when they have no excuse not to.

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        • thelegglance Aug 6, 2020 / 1:21 pm

          Run penalties. They always work. Administrators always argue that they don’t like them because it can materially affect the outcome of a game, but that’s exactly the point: When the punishments are that severe, teams move heaven and earth to avoid them. Any league cricketer knows that when the competition puts in rules with point penalties if you don’t get your overs in, you make damn sure you get round at the end of each over. The price of not doing so is too high.

          Liked by 1 person

          • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 2:28 pm

            And how would that work if the batting side is wasting time?

            Let alone audience intervention (okay, that is a bit unlikely in the current game).

            Like

          • thelegglance Aug 6, 2020 / 2:34 pm

            In that instance, the umpires would award run penalties to the bowling team’s previous score. It’s not perfect, and any team playing out for a draw may not care. But to use an example mentioned earlier, Cardiff ’09, it would have made a difference by making the target for Australia to bat again move further away, gaining 2 overs for Australia to bowl.

            Not perfect, but the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good…discuss!

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          • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 3:06 pm

            In that instance it would have made a slight difference – but I’d go more radical, and even hand out wicket penalties.

            Maybe do something clock based. Award both sides an allowance of say 10 minutes of time wasting per 30 overs (completely unfounded figure, but just to illustrate the idea). I really have not done the research on how long it should take the bowler to deliver a ball, and be ready to deliver the next. Batsmen usually need less time to get ready, so the figure for the batting side could even be reduced to say 5 minutes per 30 overs.

            Then every breach by the fielding side is worth 36 runs, every breach by the batting side and say bye bye wicket. So if you want to dawdle as a fielding side in the first hour, that is fine. You just have to make up for it in the next 1.5 hours, or you are basically gifting a wicket’s worth of runs. For the batting side it is the same. If you want to change gloves every other over.

            Now, as for the audience caused delays (what is a sightscreen?), they still need to be addressed. Since you can’t reward batting or fielding sides for those.

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  6. dlpthomas Aug 6, 2020 / 1:30 pm

    Lovely tribute to Bob Willis during the lunchbreak. I try to never meet my heroes but I would like to have met Bob (though given his reputation for not suffering fools, it may not have gone well)

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  7. dlpthomas Aug 6, 2020 / 3:01 pm

    Not unlike yesterday. England were good in the first session and then have been a bit shit after lunch.

    Broad and Anderson took the new ball followed by Woakes and then Bess. I wonder if Root is sending Jofra a message.

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    • dlpthomas Aug 6, 2020 / 3:16 pm

      Bess gets a wicket so maybe Root knows what he is doing. Surely he has to bring on Archer to try and clean up the tail?

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    • dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 3:16 pm

      Yeah. The ploy to gift Pakistan 5 overs of spin before the new ball backfired spectacularly. It allowed Shadab Khan to get used to the conditions – and since Shadab had 3 fifties from 9 innings, it is clear the guy can bat. So why make it easy? So when he finally goes (ironically a gift to Bess, but he was looking to score quick runs by then) Pakistan have reached a healthy 281/6 rather than something closer to 176/5 when he came in.

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      • dlpthomas Aug 6, 2020 / 3:43 pm

        I was about to say Jofra bowling at 85 mph doesn’t look that impressive when he gets 2 in 2 balls.

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  8. Rohan Aug 6, 2020 / 3:31 pm

    Another dropped catch by Buttler. I’m no wicket keeper, but these dropped catches look like ones a half competent keeper should take. Am I being unfair?

    Like

    • thelegglance Aug 6, 2020 / 3:34 pm

      No, you’re not. They’re fine edges – it’s a technical flaw behind dropping those. Any and all keepers drop some, because the hands need to be soft and forgiving. No keeper reacts to an edge standing up, it’s impossible. But fine edges are caught because the hand position makes allowances for slight deviations. It’s an example of where one can happen to anyone. More than one is indicative of a problem.

      The missed stumping is the more glaring error – watching the batsman not the ball.

      Like

  9. Metatone Aug 6, 2020 / 3:45 pm

    So Pakistan’s tail is fairly soft when you get there, but I fear we’re about to find out how well our lineup handles spin and the historical precedents are not good.

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  10. dArthez Aug 6, 2020 / 5:10 pm

    England may find out what happens when the openers do not see off the new ball.

    Like

    • metatone Aug 6, 2020 / 6:31 pm

      What happens is the question becomes: Can Pakistan win inside 3 days?

      Like

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