India vs England: 1st Test, Day one

If England were to compete in this series, so the received wisdom had it, Joe Root would need to have an especially fine series. The early signs are promising, but not just in terms of confirming that widespread belief, but also because other than Root, England looked rather comfortable. Sure, the pitch looked flat, and with little turn (as it should be on day one), but given England’s status as serious underdogs, they looked far from out of their depth even early on. Rory Burns will be kicking himself for his dismissal, having done all the hard work, and the nature of that dismissal inevitably attracted criticism. It is a truism of the game that being out to an attacking shot is automatically deemed worse than being out to a defensive one (even if the players tend to have an opposite view when it happens to them), and something like a reverse sweep is going to result in considerable ire. Yet it has become a normal part of a batting repertoire in recent years, most recently highlighted by Joe Root in Sri Lanka, as he manipulated the field by judiciously playing the stroke throughout his twin hundreds.

There is often the temptation to judge the shot selection by outcome – if a ball just clears a man on the boundary for six, it’s a great piece of batting, but if caught on the line, the batsman should never have played the shot in the first place. It’s not to defend the execution of the stroke, for Burns himself made his views of what he’d done quite clear as he left the field, but it is to defend choosing to play the shot in the first place. Nevertheless, it was an unfortunate end to an innings of promise and placed England under early pressure, particularly when Lawrence quickly followed.

Thereafter, it was the Sibley and Root show. Root is in the form of his life, and just looks like he’s going to go big from the moment he reaches the crease. While it is far too much to hope that he can quite maintain this level of plundering, perhaps as he turns 30 he may be settling down into being a consistently high class performer after the dips of the last few years. Certainly it can be argued the biggest dent in his batting average (which for better or worse is how many tend to measure it) was his poor conversion rate between 50 and 100. If he overcomes that – and nothing helps quite so much as continually scoring hundreds – then a significant uplift is likely.

While Root will rightly get all the plaudits, a partnership is always in two parts, and Sibley deserves huge credit for his knock. He struggled in Sri Lanka, and rather disarmingly openly wondered if he would be playing in India during his half century in the Second Test. There is often a reluctance from some quarters to allow for the possibility that a player can learn; instead calls for their head are common. But Sibley has been a fine example of a player highly inexperienced in these conditions finding his method wanting, and needing to think about how to adapt. Consecutive half centuries don’t prove he’s nailed it, but do show a degree of application that reflects well on him. The days of people complaining about his scoring rate are hopefully over – he is providing a level of solidity at the top of the order that has been absent since the relative decline of Alastair Cook.

What would have been a day of eventual total dominance was only slightly marred by the loss of Sibley in the final over, but England are in a very good position, and most positively of all, look at this stage like a team capable of matching India. But that “at this stage” is the most important rider – it’s one day, it’s one innings, and a Test series can be an arm wrestle where it starts off even before one team begins to twist and strain the other, but at this stage, that’s still a positive, and perhaps more than many hoped for. If it were to continue, well perhaps England might be a better team than they’re often given credit for, for while they have had success recently, this is perhaps the ultimate challenge in world cricket.

Today was also the return of Test cricket to free to air television in the UK for the first time since 2005. There is nothing in this world that is universally welcomed, and sure enough some were soon complaining about the quality being lower than Sky. It is something of a matter of personal preference in that – having favoured commentators for example, but Channel 4 are taking the feed from the host broadcaster, which is very normal for away series even when Sky have the rights, although on some tours they have additional cameras. The difference is in the commentators themselves, for Channel 4 are using that host commentator feed as well. Of course, in terms of practicality, they have no option, even if they’d wished to have their own there was insufficient time to arrange it. But if this tour had been to New Zealand, for example, would people have been queuing up to praise them for the exceptionally strong voices they would hear from one of the best commentary teams in the world game? It’s unlikely, and there is a temptation to conclude at least some element of internal bias in assuming that it’s only Sky who can provide the highest of standards. Irrespective of having a preference for Sky, which is reasonable enough, the very presence of Test cricket on free to air television or streaming is such an unusual experience that it feels slightly surreal. There will be people unable to afford pay TV, watching live Test cricket (or live Test cricket legally in many cases) for the first time since the early years of this century. It’s astounding and wonderful.

On to tomorrow – it is of course possible that England will fall in a heap and waste their good position, but the point of having such a good first day is to ensure that even if they do, they are in the game. And if they do take advantage, they might be in with a real chance of winning the Test. Day one is always the set up day, and day two the one that tends to dictate the rest of the game. A chance is there to be seized.


27 thoughts on “India vs England: 1st Test, Day one

  1. Helen Devries Feb 5, 2021 / 1:10 pm

    Whoever was playing I would have been watching it…the first time since 2005 that I have been able to watch Test cricket.

    Much though I appreciate TMS commentary, nothing beats seeing with your own eyes and I think Channel 4 have done a good job given the last minute nature of the deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mark Feb 5, 2021 / 1:43 pm

    There is a certain type of Sky subscriber, (quite often in the cricket establishment) who seems to have contempt for those who don’t subscribe to Sky. When BT won the rights to the last Ashes down under there was ludicrous fury that they, who had a Sky contract didn’t have a BT contract. And we saw during the 20/20 final some seemed genuinely apoplectic that the great unwashed were getting to view for free.

    And then there are those who are happy to sit for free in press boxes, and be brought free lunches seem very at home to act like Marie Antoinette towards others.

    Liked by 3 people

    • thelegglance Feb 5, 2021 / 1:46 pm

      You mean like….?

      Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Feb 5, 2021 / 2:05 pm

        I was brought up by a single mother. I dare say she was on considerably less than a Times sports reporter. In fact I’m pretty sure you can find tweets confirming roughly what said reporter earns.
        Also *gestures at economic impact of recent events*.

        Fuck’s sake, do journalists ever stop whining? Sad irony that no subset of people is so out of touch or lacking empathy as those paid to interpret the world around them.

        That’s the politest response I can muster.

        Liked by 2 people

        • thelegglance Feb 5, 2021 / 2:36 pm

          I would have thought for a sports journalist it’s tax deductible as a business expense.


          • dannycricket Feb 5, 2021 / 3:07 pm

            I would have thought that, as a sports journalist, the whole subscription would be covered by expenses. Hard to be one without Sky, BT, and even Premier Sports.


          • thelegglance Feb 5, 2021 / 5:19 pm

            Very much depends on the contract. Think she’s self-employed, so it ought to be tax deductible though. Or at least, if she isn’t claiming for it, she should be – can’t do her job properly without it.


      • Mark Feb 5, 2021 / 2:32 pm


        Who knew Marie Antoinette was alive and well, and a single mother? Perhaps the little people can eat cake that was provided by the corporate hospitality industry?

        Queen Ammon should take it up with Sky. Because as an ECB “partner” organisation they happily take her money, and then wouldn’t spend it to secure the rights to a test series against one of the best teams in world cricket.

        Luckily for her it was brought by a free to air broadcaster… she can watch for free, rather than have BT installed.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. dlpthomas Feb 5, 2021 / 2:02 pm

    Fantastic start by England but they are going to need to get a lot more runs because I’m not sure they have the attack to bowl out India on this wicket.


  4. Marek Feb 5, 2021 / 10:34 pm

    My issue with Burns is not the one shot–it’s that he needs to start fairly quickly converting those gritty 30s into something more substantial. 22 tests with an average of 32 isn’t going to keep him in the side for much longer than this series I wouldn’t have thought. The griity starts are much better than always being 20-3 but it’s starting to look a bit Joe Denly: that he’s hit his ceiling and that it’s not an especially high one.

    In other news: Cup Final on a Thursday. Blue sky thinking ECBers!!


    • thelegglance Feb 5, 2021 / 10:44 pm

      As an overall it wouldn’t – but it has been improving. His series averages before this were 39, 61.33, 46.50, 46.80 and then ahhh, 5. So you’re right that his overall average has plateaud in the low thirties, and he needs to kick on, but he has shown signs of more in the last dozen Tests, his problem is that he doesn’t have an overall record that’s quite good enough. Which I guess is a roundabout way of saying he has a bit more time yet, but does need to kick on. I’d kind of hope you are wrong, but you may well be right!


  5. simpsonlong1 Feb 5, 2021 / 11:31 pm

    I am not sleeping well these days so no hardship to be up early and s lobbing out in woolly dressing gown in front of the tv with the first cup of the day. I mean, just great.


  6. Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 5:58 am

    I write this as the 1st session of the 2nd session is coming to an end. Stokes and Root still there and doing well, but how Stokes’ survived a brilliant Bumrah yorker very early in the innings is beyond me. I thought he’d been bowled and I think Stokes did as well, but he just got a tiny bit of bat on it to deflect it past leg stump. Bumrah’s yorkers have to be amongst the best ever.

    On the other hand, the pitch is now starting to play some tricks. One or two balls have kept low and a couple have really spat at the batsmen – all from spinners so far. The pitch was a road yesterday and still *looks* good, but there’s definitely some variable bounce. This could become quite interesting.

    Oddly enough, from the feed I’m watching (Hotstar), the commentators mentioned that this pitch is the first time the groundsman has produced a first-class pitch, let alone a test one. I don’t know if that’s true or not though.


  7. dArthez Feb 6, 2021 / 6:43 am

    Meanwhile the best bat in the South Africa middle order, Wiaan Mulder, veteran of all of 3 Tests gets himself run-out for 33. Admittedly his average is not yet promising, but temperament-wise he is far better than his average suggest, just like Quinton “must get out in 30 balls” de Kock is much worse than his average suggests – at least until he starts batting like he is playing in a Test again.
    Unnecessarily Mulder got himself run out, but at least you get the idea that he is willing to fight for his runs. Considering his age and playing role, I do hope he can stay fit. South Africa will desperately need him in the upcoming decade. Yeah, the South African middle order is that dire. Also he offers something with the ball.

    How Bavuma is there (simple missed catch, Pakistan forgetting to review a plumb decision, etc., and that was just one single over yesterday), let alone in Asia, is beyond anyone to be honest. Obviously he will now top score in the innings, so that we get subjected to another 50 innings of aspiring to less than mediocrity.


  8. simpsonlong1 Feb 6, 2021 / 8:22 am

    Article in Telegraph on the coverage calling it dated and old fashioned. From the comments underneath, including mine, I would say that 99% are loving it and appreciating the lack of yakking and gimmicks of Sky. Much though I admire the Sky coverage I am loving this lack of fuss and gimmicks. All very laid back.


    • Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 8:54 am

      What coverage are you referring to?


      • Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 8:56 am

        Apologies, no need to respond. I see you were referring to the post by thelegglance and not the comments.


        • simpsonlong1 Feb 6, 2021 / 12:21 pm

          Moaning about the dated armchairs in the studio as well!


    • Marek Feb 6, 2021 / 1:00 pm

      First thought: thank God for that!

      Second thought: the Telegraph criticising something for being dated and oldfashioned–top postmodern humour!


  9. dArthez Feb 6, 2021 / 10:50 am

    Curious question, but can anyone actually come up with one reason why Archer should bat ahead of Leach?


    • Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 11:13 am

      Not really, but the computer says Archer’s 1st class batting average is twice as good as Leach’s. Unless I’m reading things incorrectly, they’ve both played about the same number of 1st-class matches. I can’t think of another reason.


      • Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 11:15 am

        PS. I take one bit of that back – Leach has played more than double the number of 1st-class matches cf. Archer.


    • thelegglance Feb 6, 2021 / 11:24 am

      It’s almost the Darren Gough thing – a determined belief that he can bat despite all factual evidence to the contrary.


      • Tom Kerr Feb 6, 2021 / 12:12 pm

        Maybe it should be called the “Stuart Broad Effect”?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Marek Feb 6, 2021 / 1:14 pm

      No, in a word. Probably of equally significance to his f-c average is that Leach’s test average is twice that of Archer’s.

      I think that’s one trick England have missed in the last couple of years: that Leach is quite a gritty batsman who puts absolutely everything into his batting and can at least hold an end up for quite a while to let someone else get runs (ask Nathan Lyon…:-) I’d be happy to see him at no. 9 on a card, whereas Archer is also Gough or Broad in that he might get a quickfire 30 once every ten tests but always looks likely to get out.


      • dannycricket Feb 6, 2021 / 1:26 pm

        Yeah, that’s how I see it too. Leach extends the partnership with the established batsman more than any other tailender, so I’d have him above Anderson and Archer. He might not score many, but he might increase the runs the team gets regardless.


      • thelegglance Feb 6, 2021 / 1:48 pm

        I once had a captain who was firmly of the view that you never put your worst batsman at number 11, because when it comes down to that situation in a tight game, you want them to be at least vaguely able to stay in, and numbers 9 and 10 always have the security of knowing there’s someone coming in after them.


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