Karun Nair. 303 not out.
OK, got that out of the way. Cricket is all about memories for me, and one of the most memorable test series I recall from my schooldays was the England tour to India in 1984-85. One of the most memorable matches was the 4th Test at Chennai, as England put on one of their most impressive and dominating display on the subcontinent – they bowled India out for 272, racked up 600+ with two double tons in the innings, then chipped away as Azharuddin made another ton but eked the wickets out, and then knocked off a very small target for what was a series clinching win. I remember it for the tour without Botham, when the prospect of that struck at your primal fear of what a post-Beefy era might look like. The rebel tourists would also miss this series, the last of their ban. I remember sneaking a listen to the radio during my Mock O Level exams, as we couldn’t shift Amarnath or Azharuddin on the 4th day. Our spinners were Edmonds and Pocock. Neil Foster was our seam bowling hero. Also, London was hit by a ton of snow, which this morning, despite the projections of a Beast From The East, we haven’t.
I recall these memories because it is always good to think about what has come before in test cricket, and also because, let’s face it, I’m padding the article out a bit because I didn’t get up until 9! The lyric in the title is from the song that was number 1 in that week in 1985, but I could have looked at those from Insomnia. England started the day on 555 for 8 and added another 23 to that formidable score. I was a bit surprised they carried on batting but not totally. While the commentators are going on about England having to win the series by quite a margin to make the World Test Championship Final, it looks like our strategy is to hang in there and then take a chance should it present itself. And hope that Joe Root makes mountains of runs. So the longer England bats, the less chance they have to lose.
Bess was dismissed for 34, pinned in front by the admirable Bumrah (and it is mad that this is his first test at home), and yet again this resourceful cricketer (Dom) has given a good account of himself with the bat. Anderson was LBW to Ashwin for 1, and England finished on 578. Four years ago, in the first test of that series, England made 537, with three centurions, and were on the brink of forcing a win (needed a little more time) so there is precedent for England starting well in India!
On that occasion Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara made hundreds and England toiled for a while as India made 488. Today they had Jofra Archer, and he got Rohit Sharma to nick off with his 9th ball to get England off to a great start. In came Pujara, who, if I may get all Ronay on you, I might want to call Antonine. Why? Because if Rahul Dravid was Hadrian’s Wall, Chet is a smaller, less impressive version, but a very good wall nonetheless. He had been resistant in Australia, and had blocked England to death before. Getting him early would be a real boost. But it’s easier said than done with Antonine.
India were clicking along at 4 an over when Shubman Gill checked a drive and was very well caught at mid-off by James Anderson. Archer again the wicket taker. Gill is being really pumped by the commentators and pundits, and it may well be that this series is his chance to break out, but I see, at the moment, a player that Gooch’s axiom applies to – he used to say, Gooch that is, that if he had two more shots he’s have averaged a lot less – and I see that in what I have seen of the talented left hander. Indeed, his fellow opener is probably the best example of that.
In came Virat. Now, among many England fans and people I am connected with on social media, I am again, not for the first time swimming against the tide. I really like him! Again, tempting a ton of fate, I think he’s lost a little bit of edge, and I pray to heavens he doesn’t find it for England’s sake, but it would be fun to watch him get it back. I’ve not seen his innings at all, so have no feel for how he batted, but 11 off 48 doesn’t suggest the imposing Virat of yore. He was also out to a defensive prod which was well held by Ollie Pope off the much maligned Dom Bess. With that dismissal, and India fell to 71 for 3. When Rahane hit a Bess ball he made into a full toss to a diving Joe Root at cover, and India were 73 for 4, England were in dreamland. Something I’m not bloody experiencing at the moment!
There was always likely to be a revival, as custodial sentences would probably be appropriate if India were bowled out for below 150. It came in the form of Rishabh Pant on the offensive, and Antonine doing his thing. Pant is going to split cricket fans down the middle. He’s fun to watch, has an abundance of talent, but he’s also going to play that really dumb shot at a really dumb time. In the same way that I grew to love Sehwag the more his career went on (and especially when he used to make hay against Australia) I suppose it will be the same with Pant. The bit of his innings I saw he rode his luck, top edging a sweep, hitting in the air where fielders weren’t, but he also hit some mighty blows, and took Leach to the cleaners. The part I also saw of Antonine (I’ll try to make it stick) was a more positive progressive approach so that at one point he overtook Pant’s score when he had got ahead of him. He may just have had more of a share of bad balls.
The partnership was broken in somewhat, well, not somewhat, very fortunate circumstances. Pujara hit a buffet ball straight into Pope’s body, the ball looped up and was caught at mid-wicket. England needed a breakthrough and the partnership, worth 119 was broken. Antonine made 73. We got to see Rory Burns straggly, sill hair cut again.
Pant continued his assault on Leach, but then Jack got some revenge. Bess, yet again having a golden arm knack, induced Pant to launch into a ball outside off that turned a little, Pant belted it up in the air and Leach took a very good catch at deep cover. 91 was a very good return, but as he walked off I wondered what an English press would make of that dismissal should that have been one of our players doing it. Imagine KP at Edgbaston in 2008 – a shot so good they made him captain – for a hint of the furore. The commentators on the feed we get are all about accentuating the positive (does that doctrine of Indian media not criticising the team still exist, if it ever did) and want him to be what he is. After all he’s just played a pivotal role in winning a series in Australia, and is, at least, not a total cymbals player behind the stumps now. Anyhow, India were 225 for 6.
It would be the last success in the day. Ashwin is a really resourceful player, and a fighter to boot (get those cliches in) and played solidly. Washington Sundar was a little more aggressive, and should have been caught when skying a catch to long on and Jordan Archer dropped the pretty tough chance. I am a fan of Jofra, make no mistake, but the England team had snaffled some other tricky catches, and are going to need to take pretty much every chance. Sundar saw out the day on 33 not out, while Ashwin had made 8 off 58. India closed at 257 for 6. Bess currently has 4 for 55.
So, all set up for Day 4. India will obviously aim for 379 to avoid the follow-on, which is a little bit of an irrelevance. I can only see England enforcing it if India take 4 hours to get to 360ish, and even then I doubt they would. I can see India getting quite close, especially if England don’t shift these two early, but that’s the joy of the game. The possibilities are endless. Maybe I’ll reprise 1985 and sneak a look while working.
Elsewhere, and very much under the radar, in the test at Chattogram, we’ve seen someone make history. Chasing 395 to win, and with a history of Bangladeshi pitches becoming quite spin friendly towards the end of games, Kyle Mayers came out with his team at 59 for 3, and proceeded to become the second player in history to make a double century in a successful run chase in men’s test cricket (Gordon Greenidge being the other). When the winning runs came, with three wickets remaining and limited time, Mayers had made 210. If someone beats that as innings of the year, they would have played very very well. Who is Kyle Mayers? He’s not young, making his debut in this test at 28 years old, averages 33 in first class cricket after this innings! There is always the day it is your time to shine. Today, it is shining for Kyle Mayers.
Could a successful run chase also be on the cards in Rawalpindi, where, at time of writing, South Africa are 100 for 1 chasing 370? Test cricket is showing the naysayers just how wrong they are. Try that 4 day cricket thing, eh, Michael? Another couple of games making your 4 day lovefest look as damn stupid as it always did look.
Finally, unheralded yesterday, but I think worth celebrating, Being Outside Cricket was 6 yesterday. Founded on 6 February 2015 after I closed down How Did We Lose In Adelaide, I wanted to start afresh and more under the radar. There were other reasons! Chris came on board as I found the workload unmanageable and England (and the media) gave us so much to write about. From April 2015, the blog exploded, and had its most hit year! While it is a quieter place now, relatively, and I’ve seen other types of cricket writing go awry or get stale, along with Sean and Danny, this blog is still going pretty strong. The Twitter feed has a life of its own, and while the footfall from there to here is not as much as I would hope, it is still “our brand”. Our friendly, and not so friendly rivals, have fallen away, taken new roles, or changed tack, but I think we’ve stayed reasonably the same. I won’t pretend it has always been smooth sailing and good for my mental health (!), and yes, 2020 I took a break and the gang kept the ship moving forward, but I am deeply proud of what I started, I am proud of the friends I have made along the way, and while I might be taking too much of the credit for myself, the best writing now, and that which resonates, is by my colleagues, and I am proud of that too. The biggest risk to its future is boredom. The way test cricket is going at the moment, I am not sure there is much fear of that.
The snow is getting harder, and I’ve got to walk the dog in this. Happy days!
I think it is Chris tomorrow. It could be a very very interesting day.
(Song lyric – the awful “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner)
Happy sixth birthday to BOC!
5 day Test Cricket – the greatest format of any sport in the world.
Channel 4 – thank you! I’ve watched every ball so far, I enjoy the low-fi comms (although I now realise the ‘indifference ‘ to Nick Knight – his ability to say something, say it again, then say it again with the words in a different order is a quite remarkable piece of non-insight. However, it could have been worse. mark Butcher and Gavaskar good from the feed,
Chef’s hair is beautiful by the way…
I’ve always cheered talkSports radio coverage, but haven’t listened to a minute this test, but am thankful not to have been left with the chumminess of TMS. Their coverage from Sri Lanka was on the whole, abysmal. Whether it was who had what for breakfast or what they were wearing in their respective ‘home’ studios… and with Tuffers playing the drunken duffer, ShinyToy being the cleverer clown or, and yes I know i have previous here…EbonyBrainForRent with her hurgh-hurghs, repeating of what the commentator said 10 seconds ago (as did Duffers), or her corporate bollockspeak alongside such incidences as not knowing who (or which country he played for) – SF Barnes…
Alternatively, TMS coverage of the Aus BBL has, for a comp we shouldn’t care about (apart from English players involved) has, in the main been excellent.. Better main commentators and some really good and informative summarisers, especially Finny ( TMS need to use him before Cook(ok), Anderson (dull), but also,Alex Hartley and Michael Carberry, I also loved to listen to Izzy Westbury in either position (as some (if any still exist) twitter followers may have noticed….)
To end now ( a glass of wine, a nap, an appeal against dismissal on health grounds to prepare for, another nap and then day 4 on C4 ) – wishing everyone here writing the delighting or reading and believing, a year that get’s better, and more Test Cricket, that makes us sweat and purr…
Love and best wishes to all
Re Knight, there was a piece comparing the release points of Ashwin and Bess, and their body posture as they bowled. To this incredibly untrained eye, they looked extremely similar, and yet he kept trying to tell you why one was round arm, and side spin, and the other more perpendicular and thus over spin. Neither of his co-commentators helped out.
It amused me.
I really, really like Murali Kartik as a commentator. And a comedian. Very deadpan, very funny. The bit about the beach being the longest in the world with him and Butcher (and Dasgupta) …. actually made me laugh out loud. No mean feat.
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If Cheteshwar is Antonine, does that make James Vince Donald?
It looks as if Danny is safe. But can someone explain Dom Bess? I haven’t seen much of him but he looks like a friendly net bowler, and Somerset seem to be of that mind, but he turns out to be the best spinner in international cricket. Is this the Karun Nair/Chepauk effect?
Bess does gain drift and dip, despite often bowling a lot of dross and taking a fair few wickets with it, as the dismissals of Pujara and Rahane showed. He just has enough about him in all three facets of the game for England to keep picking him, especially at home when spin is more a stock bowling option. Leach doesn’t put many revs on the ball and doesn’t get the drift or dip you might hope.
To be fair he bowled better in the evening though.
…and yet he took fewer wickets in the evening. Who’d be a bowler?
Apologies, I meant Leach as regards to bowling better in the evening session. Bess bowled excellently to Kohli and for a good while afterwards although he looked pretty shattered towards the end.
I worry that Leach simply doesn’t spin the ball enough to get the drift and dip, let alone the turn against this lot.
Happy birthday too!
–If Pant turns into Sehwag (and he probably won’t, but I suspect he’ll average quite enough for a no. 6 who has another string to his bow, even if he gets out sometimes to overly impetuous shots), he’ll be more than OK. Sehwag for me is possibly the most under-rated test batsmen…ever, maybe, mainly for his ability to turn a match completely on its head within a session allied to an ability to score triple-hundreds at a run a ball.
Record almost identical to Viv Richards, and a similar disdain for the opposition and state of the match. And he had a bowling strike rate almost identical to Phil Tufnell and better than either Edmonds or Emburey…:-)
–in context (and yes, Bangladesh missing Shakib was a BIG blow, both as batsman and bowler), WI win was astonishing, every bit the equal of India’s in Brisbane. Playing a team only one place below them in the rankings, away, seven players missing, entire engine room of the batting debutants (plus a keeper who made his debut in the last test, three other players with 23 tests between them, and one of whose only two experienced batrsmen is averaging 16 in more than the last two years)…and they chase 400 under pressure of time (they won with only 15 balls to spare). Kyle Mayers of the average of 28–respect!
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I for one always rated Sehwag far more in Test cricket than in limited overs cricket – probably one of the best players of offspin ever. Bess is lucky that the current India lot are far worse than any of the top six India had around 2005.
Can’t really think of many openers since 2000 that were better than Sehwag. Sure he had a poor record in England, but a decent enough record in Australia. Besides, many people are willing to bestow greatness on Ponting or Cook, and they certainly had their fair share of failures in India or New Zealand and South Africa.
As for Pant – hard to tell. Still learning on the job, so there is a reasonable chance that he’ll learn from his mistakes and improve. But I’d rather take a wicketkeeper batsman that does what he is doing than Quinton de Kock, who can hardly play an innings of 30 balls these days.
To continue your 1984 musical theme, Virat has always reminded me a bit of a cricket version of Freddie Mercury. Hated by the critics, and fans of other bands, and yet to their anger hugely successful and beloved by his fans. (I was amused to hear the head of Spotify say recently the most played band on the platform is Queen… thirty years after his death.) Danny Baker and the NME must be spitting feathers. (One for the teenagers)
As to the game, scoreboard pressure is often a bigger help than your own bowling attack. Some of India’s top order rather gifted away a few wickets. When you are looking at a a score of 250 it isn’t such a problem. When nearly 600… it is.
It is possible England might take all 14 wickets tomorrow therefore keeping the madness for 4 day test matches alive in in the minds of the maniacs. However, every game that goes into day 5 makes fools of them. Of course, they will claim with absolutely no evidence, that over 100 overs a day will be bowled in each of the four days. Believe that and you will believe anything.
I suspect you are right, and that if England finish off the 4 wickets quickly they will bat again. Oh good, declaration decisions to be made……..
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1984 – the worst Roth era Van Halen album – might as well ‘Jump’ my shinnytoy arse 🙂
India is usually a “House of Pain” for England and we will need “Top Jimmy” to win from here. (I quite like 1984)
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Why should England bowlers beware of Pujara at home? https://www.merwyncricwiz.com/pujaras-liking-to-english-bowling/
Let me jinx South Africa by saying they are in a pretty decent position now. 150 more needed 7 wickets left, 2 sessions left in the game. Though once Markram falls (he just made a ton before lunch), I expect the wickets going down quickly after that.
Hey, Quinton did even worse than I expected. But honestly, South Africa so utterly predictable now, that you can’t even be surprised by it anymore.
Two good openers, a decentish #3, and then nothing till #7. And you can’t expect a veteran of 3 Tests to make up for such a massive hole in the batting order.
Because Faf is past it, Temba is a waste of a slot, and Quinton does not want to bat like it is a Test. In fact it has been more than a YEAR since he batted 30 balls in an innings – he is trending to be even WORSE than Buttler. Okay he batted 31 balls once in an ODI and 47 balls once in a T20I, back in February 2020 (both against Australia). He is that atrocious as a bat nowadays.
Let’s see if Wiaan can actually bat decently again this innings. The one advantage of having no expectations whatsoever is that it will take something special to be disappointed. 5 wickets in an over perhaps?
Some of that to me leaves questions about the coaching as well as the batsmen–it seems like Elgar is also going down the “play every test as if it’s a crunch ODI” route far too often. OK, they’re both experienced enough players to know better but two senior players doing it looks more like a systemic issue.
Although he doesn’t look good enough overall, I suspect that’s one of the things they like about Bavuma. But in a side of that strength, almost-good-enough players aren’t good enough; much of what I posted the other day about Burns could equally apply to van der Dussen. And Bavuma has provided another classic example of dropping-someone-too-late syndrome: then they make just enough runs to make dropping them look harsh but not enough to really make a difference to a match.
Especially given that they seem to have ditched the transformation targets for the test team, it’s also not as if there aren’t younger alternatives: Petersen, von Tonder and Verreyne must all be worth a go sometime before too long.
England might as well declare now, 370 runs ahead to ensure they have enough time to bowl India out. But they won’t
406 runs ahead and England still hasn’t declared. I got a bit annoyed with Leach yesterday, now I’m annoyed with the whole England team. Surely it’s gone beyond the time to declare?
Buttler is out. Surely it’s time to declare now?
Creeping to 406 ahead 45 minutes later from your post, one does wonder what the point is here.
Buttler out slogging. Could have done so half hour ago with no discernable difference in the status of the game.
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Leach is padded up ready to slog a quick 50. This is becoming ridiculous.
All you need now is for one of your bowlers to get a freak injury while padding away the spinners. It’s not as if the runs are coming easily
Anderson is padded up. Why?
Perhaps they think it’s a timeless test!!!
It all comes down to whether they take ten wickets tomorrow. If they do, no one cares about the declaration. If they don’t, questions will be asked.
The lead is now 419. Is the pitch that good they think India will get the runs in a little over 3 sessions???
I think you hit the nail on the head, but there is a point when delaying a declaration just tells the opposition you are scared of them and your team isn’t capable of winning. Obviously, that doesn’t happen all the time, but in this case I think it does. England spending the last hour of their innings doing very little other than losing wickets did not help their attempt to win the match, it just may have possibly made it harder.
Yes, and as you say they have telegraphed to India they fear them. May not be a big deal in this test, but it may be important for the rest of the series.
Archer out, Anderson in. WTF is going on?
Anderson out after two balls wasting another five minutes for no runs.
The formula is to get one hour bowling, so ball is still fairly new tomorrow and maybe they’ll get another new ball. They’d probably have to increase their over rate to achieve that. It’s essentially captaincy by numbers, the way Chef used to do it
Well, that’s it.
India require 419. A day and an hour.
I think it’s fairly unsurprising we’re having this discussion – we always do. More than anything it shows a lack of faith in England’s bowlers to get the job done. Was there a reason Stokes only bowled 6 overs in the first innings? Injured?
I think Stokes in the team for his batting and is available for occasional third-seamer duties. I have no problem with that.
I think there is a lot of 20/20 thinking these days. The idea you can get 200+ in 20 overs makes some captains become very cautious. Having said that, Strauss used to bat on and on and on……and on.
They will say it’s so they can set attacking fields all day.
If Pant is on 20, expect 7 men on the boundary though.