Creeping to Domination

About ten years ago, England had days like these on a regular basis – a powerful top end would build a platform, and the middle order would exploit a tiring attack to lift England fairly consistently to 400 and 500+ totals.  Over the last six or seven years such days have been rare, with 300 more frequently the top end of their ambitions.  One match doesn’t signal a return to those more productive times, but nor should it be ignored when it happens.  England are in complete command of this Test match thanks to a record fifth wicket partnership between Zak Crawley and Jos Buttler, taking the team to a total of 583-8.  Oh heady days.

There is ever a temptation to go overboard about young players when they first make their mark, and Zak Crawley’s 267 will doubtless lead to gushing praise and comparisons to others that don’t yet need to be made.  It is enough to regard this innings as truly exceptional, and the player highly promising.  He remains inexperienced to the point that this was only his fourth first class century in little more than 50 games, with an average of barely 30.  Nothing at all to write home about.  But there is a difference between identifying a young player with a modest record and believing he will develop into a fully fledged Test cricketer and simply persevering with someone for the sake of it.  The modern day descent into besteveritis will likely mean that some of the praise is over the top in terms of the future career context, but that doesn’t, and shouldn’t take away from just how impressive he has been in this match.

It was an innings both of maturity and control – fluent throughout, solid in defence and despite admitting to nerves when in the nineties, seemingly unflappable as every milestone approached.  It is one knock, but a hell of a knock, and if cricket is a game played in the mind, it can only help him believe he has all the ability needed to succeed.  Rob Key, his mentor for many years is, and should be, extremely proud of him.

His partner throughout was Jos Buttler, a player whose own lack of a fine first class record made his initial selection a similar kind of punt, but with the difference that after nearly fifty Tests, he still had only one century to show for it.  His wicketkeeping in the first Test too had shown significant errors, suggesting that the pressure was starting to show.  Buttler isn’t an exceptional wicketkeeper by any stretch, but he is a generally competent one, albeit much less secure when standing up, as his lack of stumpings indicates.  His selection in that role is a choice, a slightly compromised wicketkeeper picked for the runs he can score and the way he scores them.  His shortcomings in his strongest suit were the main reason for his place coming under threat rather than his nominally primary role.

Here he was in control, his shot selection vastly improved compared to recently, and the pace of his innings suggested a player feeling in command for the first time in quite a while.  The calls for him to be replaced were not in error, for stick with a player long enough and eventually they will score runs.  But equally, when those calls are made, it needs to be acknowledged when he has come good, and as this series has gone on, he has looked much improved.  Keeping faith with him cannot yet be said to be the correct decision, but the signs of him learning at last how to compile a Test innings suggests it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it will need to be acknowledged as a good one.  Only time will tell, though there will be some players feeling that they too would have liked the degree of support given to Buttler, and the chance to repay that faith.

Two days, one innings; two players, two Daddy hundreds.  The future can take of itself for both of them, today was very much their day, and they deserve all the plaudits going.

With a fine sense of crowd pleasing (even if on sofas and in cars up and down the country), Joe Root sent Stuart Broad in for a slog towards the end.  Broad has become something of a national treasure over the last year or so, which is intriguing given that for so long he was a player who divided opinion so much, even when performing well.  It is perhaps the fate of players who can change a match in a session that all too often it is asked why they don’t do it more often than celebrated for what a rare ability it is.  But while his bowling has been of high quality (and seemingly increasing quality) for a number of years, his batting mojo seems to have returned, to some extent at least.

Broad’s batting decline led to it being both sad in itself and worthy of mockery.  His resurrection – not to the near all rounder levels of ten years ago, but to a thrillingly attacking tailender – has changed perspectives from him being a figure of fun to one of adoration.  Stuart Broad batting would empty the bars if they were open.

A short session attacking the Pakistan batsmen was available, and to the surprise of no one, inroads were made.  Anderson picked up three, to take himself to 596 Test wickets, and a decent chance of reaching 600 by the end of the match. At 38, there is always the chance the end could come suddenly, and only the most churlish would lament him reaching such a landmark this week.

If Pakistan are to get out of this one, they will have to bat out of their skins, or hope that the weather gods are smiling on them more than they were in the Second Test.  Conditions are one of the fickle factors that affect cricket, a random occurrence that can be utterly capricious.  The visitors had every chance of winning the last match, and now they will probably need the weather to restrict their defeat to 1-0.  No one ever said life was fair.

One last word on the weather.  For this match the umpires have been given increased latitude in making up time at the start of the day as well as the end, and in moving the sessions around to maximise cricket.  Some of the criticism in the 2nd Test was fully warranted, particularly around the inclination to go off the field rather than stay on.  Yet here they have been proactive, and have learned a lesson.  There was rain this morning, and lunch was pushed back to 2pm.  As it turned out, that probably cost some playing time, with the weather sunny and dry during lunch, inviting more pointed comment.  This was unfair, the umpires were doing their best to maximise play – they are not soothsayers when it comes to when the rain comes and goes.  It was just a trifle unlucky.  On this one, they should be cut a little slack.


21 thoughts on “Creeping to Domination

  1. Mark Aug 22, 2020 / 8:11 pm

    Just goes to show how idiotic it is for pundits, former England captains, and ECB board members, (England will play an attractive and attacking brand of test cricket) to bang on about slow scoring rates of top order batsman in Test cricket.

    Bat time, occupy the crease, and wear down the bowlers, and you can score runs against a tiring attack on the second day. Bat for two days and put 600 on the board and it’s almost impossible to lose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Aug 22, 2020 / 9:20 pm

      It’s almost like it’s fundamentally a simple game isn’t it?


      • Mark Aug 22, 2020 / 10:18 pm

        As we all know it isn’t a simple game, but it is extraordinary how so many people who played at the top level seem oblivious to simple concepts.

        One of the things that pissed me off about the last Ashes tour down under was England’s inability to bat 140/150 odd overs regularly in the first innings and take time out of the game, and put mileage on the Aussie bowlers. Instead England were three down after three test matches and the Ashes gone.

        Scoring rates were irrelevant.


        • thelegglance Aug 22, 2020 / 10:44 pm

          Danny gets irate about the way that Sibley gets stick for his scoring rate against spinners. He’s right.


  2. metatone Aug 23, 2020 / 11:41 am

    It’s a simple game – Part 2

    Never ask Broad if he wants to review off his own bowling.


    • dannycricket Aug 23, 2020 / 12:41 pm

      It may be the main reason why he would never be considered as a potential England Test captain.


  3. dArthez Aug 23, 2020 / 11:42 am

    Sure there is Covid that is an explanation for the lack of crowds. But honestly, who would pay big bucks for the sh*tshow that is served up? And this is pretty much the norm for Test cricket these days, rather than the exception (England have been lucky that most of the exceptions have been in England in the past few years).

    Pakistan will probably need 5 innings to match the one innings England have batted. Exciting. Utterly exciting.


    • dannycricket Aug 23, 2020 / 12:40 pm

      Of course, Test tickets are typically sold months in advance. If fans didn’t like the one-sided games, it wouldn’t show in ticket sales until the following year.


  4. Metatone Aug 23, 2020 / 3:40 pm

    On the one hand, England are doing fine, 440 runs ahead and Pakistan 5 down. On the other, it’s almost painful how little threat they have right now apart from Jofra – and he can’t quite get it all in line to get a wicket. Not sure what the solution is, but the new ball is a long way away.


    • Rohan Aug 23, 2020 / 3:50 pm

      I still remain utterly unconvinced that this England attack, regardless of who is selected, can take the necessary wickets in Australia or India to win a series.

      I think Archer could do really well in Australia, but one man an attack does not make.

      Liked by 1 person

      • metatone Aug 23, 2020 / 3:53 pm

        The fall off from last night/this morning to now as the ball got softer and the air conditions got less swing friendly is just really noticeable.


    • thelegglance Aug 23, 2020 / 5:08 pm

      Though it could be noted that a pitch that England got 580 on can’t exactly be a minefield…


      • metatone Aug 23, 2020 / 6:40 pm

        Indeed, but my nuance is I’m not complaining about the lack of wickets, but the lack of threat. Because Brisbane can be as flat as a pancake – and let us not speak of certain Sri Lankan wickets.


  5. metatone Aug 23, 2020 / 5:04 pm

    I’ll note in passing that England need quite a few wickets pretty quickly at some point because the weather forecast for Mon/Tues is not at all promising.


    • dlpthomas Aug 23, 2020 / 5:15 pm

      Given that Archer finished his spell bowling without any slips, I’m not sure what the plan was to take wickets.


  6. dArthez Aug 23, 2020 / 5:42 pm

    I have seen Danny’s post with regards to the ball Alam got out to. If that is true, can someone please explain to me how come the umpires that are supposedly elite, seemingly can’t be bothered to know the rules of the game. Happened in the World Cup final, and now again.

    Admittedly, some of these rules are not ‘dead obvious’, but that should not be considered an excuse for Elite umpires. Then again, the ICC can hardly be bothered to even pretend it is about the game anymore, rather than the cash it generates …


    • Mark Aug 23, 2020 / 5:53 pm

      Apparently the rules are only optional as long as the match is “entertaining.”


      • thelegglance Aug 23, 2020 / 6:05 pm

        It’s not that easy to spot live, so it depends if it’s in the third umpire’s protocol to check for. There are suggestions it isn’t, which would be a bit surprising.

        I note however that Sky haven’t remotely mentioned it, which comes back to the point about governance by host broadcaster.


      • dArthez Aug 23, 2020 / 6:32 pm

        Sure it can be missed if it is a regular delivery. But it should be part of the protocol, since all wickets are supposed to be checked for illegalities (whether it is a front foot no-ball, fielders being in illegal positions, whether or not the ball had become dead (for example, by touching a fielder’s helmet before it was caught) etc. If it is not, then what is the third umpire for?

        Might as well lock them up in some dingy office in Dakar, and have them make their rather random rulings from there.


        • dannycricket Aug 23, 2020 / 7:29 pm

          That is the protocol. All forms of no ball are supposed to be checked on wickets. Either it was missed, or decided that it wasn’t a no ball. It seems unlikely, but it’s possible that this picture was from before Bess started his run up. As Sky have shown no replays since then to clarify things in this regard, it’s impossible to be absolutely certain.


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