England vs. Pakistan -2nd Test, Day 1 – A Day Of Two Quarters

Today’s play has been more a Test of players’ and fans patience, rather than the cricketing skills of the two sides as we hoped. The rain and thunderstorms have meant that our focus has been on the skies, rather than the playing field adjacent to an out-of-town hotel complex near Southampton. In truth, the BBC weather forecast looks depressingly wet for the duration of the game, and so it might be a tough task for the two teams to contrive a result in the circumstances.

England sprang a slight surprise in their selection for this game, choosing Sam Curran over Mark Wood to replace the rested Jofra Archer. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, Curran is probably the bowler best suited to today’s damp and cloudy conditions as well as being a useful lower-order batsman at times. However, both Archer and Wood were selected for the first Test of the summer in a move which was supposed to help England prepare for the Ashes in 2021/22. I love watching Curran bowl in England, but I am very dubious of his effectiveness overseas.

The other change to England’s lineup was Zak Crawley replacing Ben Stokes, who has left for New Zealand due to a family emergency. Joe Root might be a little relieved, returning to his more comfortable sport as number four in the batting lineup, but Stokes’ departure is a huge blow for England. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Crawley based on what I’ve seen so far. The other recent batting debutants, Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley, just look like Test players to me. Their batting seems largely confident, assured and technically sound. Crawley, who has a first-class batting average of just 30.51 and a Test average of 26.10, doesn’t look ready for international cricket to me. I would personally have preferred to pick Ben Foakes today, as I think that he’s a better batsman than Crawley as wellas a better wicketkeeper than Buttler.

Pakistan only made one change from the previous Test, with Fawad Alam replacing Shadab Khan. Fawad Alam’s return to the team is notable for two reasons. First, there has been a 11-year gap since his last game for Pakistan in 2009. Second, his first-class batting average is 56.78. That is astoundingly high, and begs the question: Why has he not been playing for Pakistan before now? I certainly don’t regard Pakistan as a team of such batting strength that they can afford to leave talent like that on the sidelines for a decade.

Pakistan won the toss, and did what almost everyone does nowadays and chose to bat first. What play there has been today can be divided into two halves. In the first, before a two-hour rain delay, almost everything seemed to go Pakistan’s way. Jimmy Anderson made a breakthrough in his second over of the day, taking the important wicket of Shan Masood and at least starting the process of backing up his fiery pre-match press conference. What followed was a series of spurned chances as Jos Buttler’s case of the dropsies had evidently spread to the slip cordon. Rory Burns and Dom Sibley both dropped clear chances to take Abid Ali’s wicket from Broad and Woakes’ bowling, whilst a fine edge by Azhar Ali was missed by everyone (including the umpire). It was a truly uncanny period of play, where it seemed like there was nothing England could do to take a wicket. Pakistan’s luck couldn’t hold out forever though, and Azhar Ali edged one from Anderson to Burns in the slips who held on this time.

Soon after, the heavens opened and the players left the field for over an hour. When play resumed, Pakistan’s luck deserted them as England took three wickets in the space of twelve overs. Burns and Sibley both redeemed themselves for their earlier mistakes by holding on to catches at slip from Curran and Broad’s bowling respectively. Fawad Alam’s day 11-year wait for a Test run continues too, as Chris Woakes trapped him lbw for a 4-ball duck.

After a frustating start to the day for England, they’d be pretty happy about the situation at the end of the day. Pakistan are 126/5, and it would be an incredible feat for them to  turn that around and win the Test and the series.

During the  Lunch break, I happened to listen to a small part of Test Match Special. I was surprised to hear Mark Ramprakash’s voice, as I didn’t think he had any media aspirations. What didn’t surprise me, although I obviously made a note of it, was his opinions when it comes to selecting batsmen.

Q: “What is it that makes management back somebody, despite the statistics sometimes?”

Mark Ramprakash: “Well it’s all subjective. It really is. A change of coach can mean that there’s a change of emphasis on the lineup. It can happen in any sport, really. The question I’d ask is, if you’re a number five batsman, yes you bring your batting to the team but what else do you bring to the team? Now sometimes there are leadership qualities that we, looking from outside, don’t see. The importance of someone’s presence, the way they speak in team meetings, the way they are around the group. They may add some other qualities other than their batting. There’s always a balance between stability, trying to build some faith and consistency in your players and in your selection, but also there is a fine line before you can become a bit complacent. You do need to have competition for places, I guess that’s the balance Pakistan will be thinking about.”

To remind everyone, Ramprakash was England’s Test batting coach from 2014 to 2019. It is one of the truly baffling thing to me about cricket, and particularly English cricket, where there is so much emphasis on off-the-field attributes when it comes to selection. Players who struggle keep their place because they are ‘hard-working’, ‘well-liked’ or “the way they are around the group” whilst stronger cricketers are cast aside because they are ‘lazy’, ‘distrusted’ and ‘like to look out of windows instead of paying attention to a middle manager waffling on’. You can’t imagine football fans accepting their team fielding a weaker sidedue to one of the players being a bit of a knob, because their fans value victories over everyone in the team having a jolly time and being friends off the pitch. Nor with any other professional sport, that I can think of. It genuinely puzzles me, why this attitude remains in  English cricket and the media.

Hopefully there will be a lot more play tomorrow. If you have any comments, on the game or anything else, post them below.

20 thoughts on “England vs. Pakistan -2nd Test, Day 1 – A Day Of Two Quarters

  1. Sean Aug 13, 2020 / 7:11 pm

    The right sort of family argument will always prevail whilst this current administration is in charge

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    • dannycricket Aug 13, 2020 / 7:16 pm

      “This current administration” never seems to end though. They ensure that only the right kind of players prosper, so then they become coaches and directors and continue the cycle of mediocrity.

      Like

      • Sean Aug 13, 2020 / 7:27 pm

        Exactly that. Can’t see it ever changing. Jobs for the boys and all that…

        Like

  2. Mark Aug 13, 2020 / 8:56 pm

    You wouldn’t want to take your car to the ECB garage would you? The mechanic is ok, but what he really brings to the party is he can do a sing and dance routine. Oh, and he speaks very well in the coffee breaks.

    England’s critique for selection seems to be obsessed by your failure to fit in, as much as your talent. And when you have great talent, that can’t be ignored, they wait until you look out of the window and then sack you.

    Team England is a way of life, rather than a sports team. And if you think independently, your card will be marked. And the relative information leaked to tame journos.

    But then when you play teams who have to play people who haven’t played since 2009 you can get away with a lot.

    Like

    • Marek Aug 13, 2020 / 9:05 pm

      Fawad Alam must have been singing or possibly dancing while the middle manager was talking rather than just whistling.

      By the way, didn’t England recall a player a couple of years ago after eleven years who had an average of 56, or was that just the way he bowled on his recall…?

      Like

      • dArthez Aug 13, 2020 / 9:59 pm

        Gareth Batty you mean? At least one can argue that that was a horses for courses pick. And he did improve his bowling average a bit in those 2 Tests he played in 2016 – albeit to improve from 66.6 to 60.9 is probably not the kind of stellar improvement that was hoped for.

        With Fawad Alam that is far more difficult to argue. Quite a few so-so batsmen have been tried, while Fawad Alam is averaging 10 or even close to 20 runs more / innings in FC cricket than those who got the nod before him. And while he might have proven to be Pakistan’s JP Duminy (who also had an excellent FC record) he did not get a chance to prove himself for most of his cricket career. And it is not like Pakistan are having a wealth of batting riches.

        For example: Azhar Ali barely averages 10 these days when asked to bat outside of Asia (in his most recent 19 innings or so outside of Asia he has 1 50, and an average of 12.21; current match included). Hafeez was also notoriously useless outside of Asia.

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        • dannycricket Aug 14, 2020 / 8:30 am

          You can see how Alam, with his unorthodox stance, would be a concern for the Pakistani selectors in spite of his record. And, in truth, swinging conditions in England might exacerbate any issues that could cause. Even so, it’s hard to imagine England overlooking a batsman averaging over 50 due to a perceived flaw in his batting style.

          (I checked Gary Ballance’s first-class average, which is just 47.40, so my point stands)

          Like

          • Marek Aug 14, 2020 / 12:56 pm

            Glad that you got your Ballance defence in quickly, Danny….:-)

            Obviously he would never have been picked as a specialist batsman in a million years, but I would be interested to know what Chris Read’s f-c average was for the eight or nine years after England dropped him for the last time (can’t find a way to do it). My memory is of him averaging getting on for 50 most seasons, and he averaged over 70 in at least one, with his home ground being one of the country’s trickier batting pitches. He did, though, get much better as he got older: his career average is only 37.

            Like

        • dArthez Aug 14, 2020 / 12:31 pm

          And obviously his technique was not shaped by playing in England, but by playing domestic cricket in Pakistan. That he then gets the gig in England, which probably has conditions he is worst suited to, is just setting him up for failure.

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    • Marek Aug 13, 2020 / 9:52 pm

      That’ll teach me to post facetious comments–I’ve just checked his record to see how inaccurate my comment was, and discovered that his test bowling average was in fact 66 at the time, not 56. Strike rate a princely 126 balls per wicket.

      But of course he was a much better prospect in India than Jack Leach. He clearly offered a lot in the dressing room.

      Like

      • Mark Aug 14, 2020 / 11:59 am

        I’m sure you are right that there are some examples of players being picked again after 10-11 years. But I just think it sounds a bit desperate. England don’t tend to pick many new players under 20 which means they would be 31/32 at least on a recall. I suppose player longevity has increased. Look at Cook and Anderson. But they were playing at the top level through their twenties.

        The last KP tour, the infamous Ashes tour of 2014 was only six years ago, and that seems like a cricket lifetime to me.

        Here is the England Ashes squad from 2009, eleven years ago. Only Broad and Anderson are still playing for England. (And they are most unusual. To have fast bowlers playing so long without major career threatening injury’s and general wear and tear.) Most have long since packed up playing.

        Andrew Strauss (c)
        Alastair Cook (vc)
        James Anderson
        Ian Bell
        Ravi Bopara
        Stuart Broad
        Paul Collingwood
        Andrew Flintoff
        Steve Harmison
        Graham Onions
        Monty Panesar
        Kevin Pietersenc
        Matt Prior (wk)
        Ryan Sidebottom
        Graeme Swann
        Jonathan Trott

        Like

  3. thelegglance Aug 14, 2020 / 1:40 pm

    Pretty ordinary session from England that. Lots of bowling in the channel and the batsmen leaving it alone.

    Like

    • dannycricket Aug 14, 2020 / 2:47 pm

      It turns out that pitching the ball up after Lunch made their bowling more effective. A stunning insight which in no way comes up in almost every innings.

      Like

      • Mark Aug 14, 2020 / 3:07 pm

        It’s amzing how this happens over and over again with England, and the captain is completely powerless to do anything about it. It used to annoy me, now I just find it funny, and I just laugh at the lucirous amounts spentonso called coaches, and all the waffle about professionalism.

        Like

        • thelegglance Aug 14, 2020 / 3:13 pm

          The more I think about it, the less it surprises me – not because there’s anything inherent to these people so much as that groups of people hate being told what they’re doing is wrong.

          Like

          • dannycricket Aug 14, 2020 / 3:16 pm

            And of course, if we do ever bring it up, we are asked how many Test wickets we have taken…

            Like

          • thelegglance Aug 14, 2020 / 3:24 pm

            Not a totally unreasonable point!

            Like

          • Mark Aug 14, 2020 / 5:08 pm

            Danny….. “if we do ever bring it up, we are asked how many Test wickets we have taken…”

            To which I reply……

            A lot of coaches have never done it at the highest level. And a lot of great ex players make lousy managers. (Just look at football) Coaching and doing are two very different things.

            I have never directed a film but I know when I see a film I think is crap. I could never write a piece of music, but I know music I dislike. You don’t need to be able to do something to know when someone else is doing it badly.

            Isn’t that why we have a captain? And shouldn’t we judge him on his ability to man manage different characters?

            Like

          • dannycricket Aug 14, 2020 / 5:12 pm

            Nah. No one outside cricket has the right to say anything about the professional game. The ECB and PCA have been very clear on this.

            Like

  4. dArthez Aug 14, 2020 / 4:59 pm

    By the way, if this is stumps (at 223/9 due to a combination of rain and bad light), will we have some sections of the media swooning over Mohammad Rizwan for batting on three consecutive days (like they did with a certain former England captain, as England were busy being annihilated in the process)?

    Mind you, he played a very useful knock in the circumstances.

    Like

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