When Dmitri posted on Day 2 that he was sorely tempted to just post “See you for the Ahmedabad Tests”, I found the idea pretty funny. Now, faced with prospect of having to write a report on the end of England’s rather dismal resistance, I’m warming to the idea of doing it myself. Chris didn’t help matters by doing a great job of summing up the game and England’s performance in yesterday’s post, leaving me with precious little to talk about today. England’s batting didn’t help in this regard either, with few rearguard performances to talk about. Bearing in mind all of this, I’ve decided to mainly look ahead to the next Test match in Ahmedabad.
The big news, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that it is a day/night game. For those of us in the UK, that means 9am starts. I am a huge fan of this. I have to tell you that the 4am starts for the India and Sri Lanka series have been messing with my sleep patterns in the worst way, and the prospect of just having ‘normal’ hours for a couple of weeks is a definite plus in my book.
For the England team, a day/night test means that they will be playing with a pink SG ball. This could be a huge opportunity for England, as pace bowlers accounted for 27 of the 28 wickets to fall in the only other day/night game India have hosted: An emphatic innings victory against Bangladesh last winter. It could potentially allow England to field a standard 4 fast bowlers plus a spinner, which certainly plays towards their squad’s strengths. It also brings into contention some players who might not have been seriously considered for the team up until now, like Chris Woakes. That said, and given England’s issues with both batting and bowling in this Test, there’s every chance that India will still provide a spin-friendly pitch in Ahmedabad.
The next Test sees some of England’s squad members returning from a mid-tour rest. Bairstow and Wood are back, and Archer is expected to have recovered from an arm injury. Together with the week’s break between Tests, that means that Ed Smith should be able to choose from a full contingent of players bar the rested Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali. Bairstow averaged over 40 against Sri Lanka, and so it seems likely that a batsman will make way. Burns, Lawrence and Pope’s positions might all be considered vulnerable based on their record this winter, and I honestly couldn’t guess which batting lineup Smith and Silverwood will end up picking in Ahmedabad. (Dom Sibley could also be included in this group, except that he is by a significant margin the better of the two openers. As the old joke goes: You don’t need to outrun a bear to be safe, you just have to outrun the people next to you)
If Ahmedabad is a spinning track (and given England’s performance in Chennai, it should be), then the debate on which spinners England should pick will reopen. On a pitch which really helped spin bowling, probably to the point that it was technically illegal, neither Jack Leach nor Moeen Ali seemed able to consistently trouble the Indian batsmen. Ali’s quickfire 43 in the second innings would probably be enough to ensure he will keep his place in the side ahead of Bess, but Moeen is due to fly home for a few weeks’ rest before the T20Is and (possibly) the IPL. Whichever spin bowlers England go for, they will need their bowling to improve in the event that the Ahmedabad pitch is another sandpit.
Besides deciding the series, the Tests in Ahmedabad are also the final two ‘live’ games in the inaugural World Test Championship and the maths regarding both teams’ chances is pretty simple now: England need to win both Tests to have any chance of qualifying, whilst India need to win the series by any margin (2-1 or 3-1). Any other result (including England winning the series 2-1) sees Australia sneaking into the final despite both England and India having more points overall. It’s hard not to look at Australia potentially winning the final despite only playing one away Test series (the 2019 Ashes) in the two whole years as an affront to decency and virtue. No change from them, then.
The series is 1-1 and, although the hosts might be the more confident of the two teams, England would certainly have been very happy to be in this position at the halfway point of this series. With everything to play for, and the added bonus of a day/night Test for both England’s bowlers and fans, the next couple of weeks should be interesting to watch. I guess that all I can add is: See you for the Ahmedabad Tests!
What are the chances Smith drops Foakes and replaces him with Bairstow?
0%, I would hope. Of course, with Ed Smith you can never be too sure.
I find it absurd that Moeen needs to fly home for a rest. He has played one test match that didn’t make it to day 5. And Bairstow is now thoroughly rested to fly back out to the action. All this swapping about away from home only increases my view that overseas tours are not taken seriously by England. It’s not as if they play lots of warm up matches before tests. These are shortish tours with little cricket.
No doubt Ed Smith will now give me a lecture on the invention of the aeroplane. Yes Ed, I know you can fly people in and out all the time but is it a good idea? I guess England have to uses all their air miles somehow??
I’m sorry to be a grinch but I have absolutely no interest in the world test championship. And the fact Australia could still win despite playing hardly any away matches only confirms my suspicions about the the whole format. Also, if you can find me anyone in England who will be tuning in to watch the next test because of their interest in the test championship, who wouldn’t have tuned in anyway to watch a standard test match…..good luck!
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Moeen Ali has been in the England Test bubble since January 2nd. 15 days of that was in total isolation, due to having actually contracted covid-19. After this series is over, he will then almost certainly be in England’s starting XI for the entire white ball series. That series is more important than normal because India host the T20 World Cup in just 8 months’time and it provides ideal preparation and experience. After that is the IPL which, again, the ECB would be loathe to spur the chance for their T20 players to play for two months in India. And three weeks after the IPL is due to finish, England will be playing T20s in England.
Simply put: If a primarily white ball player like Moeen isn’t allowed to visit home during this Test series, he might not have the chance again until June.
The bubble thing is fair enough, although why not fly him home earlier when he wasn’t being selected? If England cram in two tours in close proximity it will cause players being away from home for long periods. Perhaps they shouldn’t do it like that? I know, I know fixture congestion…..
You pick Butler, then fly him home, then you pick Moeen, and then you fly him home. Just seems odd to me. The days of picking your best team are gone. When you buy a ticket you have to hope your favourite players aren’t on the rota to not play that match.
Test cricket will be the format that will slowly die off. White ball is now more important.
You’ll be loving the suggestion on Cricinfo that England will be allowing players to miss a home test match in June so they can play in an overseas franchise competition then, Mark?!
(I have to say that in this instance it serves the ECB right–the NZ series is a totally unnecessary bit of calendar-cramming…)
I think you’re actually underestimating it, Danny. There may well be bubble restrictions in place, regardless of the state of national restrictions generally, both for the international matches this England summer and in Australia next southern summer, and for the World T20.
In addition, Moeen was in bubbles from the start of June until around Dec 10th last year, with only a short break in August (no break at all either before or after the IPL).
So even if he’s rested from the 50-over games and with this break, he could well be looking at only about ten weeks outside a professional cricket bubble in around 20 months.
I think a lot of people are being rather overreactive about the comings and goings from this tour. It’s clearly a reaction to the bubble situation and not necessarily indicative of much else at all–there was a reason England didn’t do it for the virtually back-to-back test series in NZ, SA and SL last winter…the last of which ended a matter of days before the IPL was due to start.
More broadly, one of the factors generally in Moeen’s inconsistency that has been constantly ignored–but I’m sure will come out in an (auto)biography!–is how little rest he’s been given compared to the other multi-format players, particularly Stokes.
That said, unless he’s so frazzled that he needs to get out right now, it’s been slightly botched in my perception. They could have waited literally three days until he knows whether he’ll get an IPL deal, and then dispatch him pronto if he does, and keep him on until the end of the T20s if he doesn’t and then give him a long rest (similar to the policy with Root and Woakes).
That’s why I wonder from Root’s interview whether he’s just got to the point where he needs a break from bubbles. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised.
However, what’s this with some players going home as part of rotation policy and others “choosing” to go? That’s both double standards and treating some players with more understanding than others. Given that that was one of the things Ali was complaining about when he took a break from tests last year, Root’s interview really was a piece of crass, inept player management.
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It is the language in the message that really pisses me off. Selectors clearly knew the travel plans of their players before hand and have chosen to rest players as they deem fit. Likewise, Mo’s availability for rest of series had to be known prior to this game. By calling it his decision, they just threw him under the bus and ruined the public image of the guy when this is obviously planned and agreed in consultation with the selectors. He wasn’t even the first choice spinner in the team and only got picked in this game because the first choice bowler got smacked around in the second inning of the first game.
Apart from the small matter of the bit where he threw Moeen under the bus, I thought Root got the tone right in his interview after – he was open enough about the difficulties, but that they were only 1-1 in the series.
In truth, the pitch really was largely unplayable today against that attack for any length of time, so they were always going to be bowled out quite quickly. But given that, many of the England batsmen showed reasonable application and were clearly trying to work out a method of batting on it. There may yet be benefits to that in the next two Tests.
On another day England might have been able to restrict India to 250 in the first innings, and if they had applied themselves better in their first innings may have been able to get a score close to 250 themselves. They didn’t….. and the match was completely gone.
I do find it worrying that English spinners look so ineffective on a very helpful pitch. They did bowl some good deliveries at times, but there was little consistency and control. And a lot of dross that relived any pressure.
Cricinfo have an article about Ashwin that reveals his total dedication to self-improvement. Although people like me don’t really rate him as a batsman, he does rate himself and works hard to improve so that, if it comes down to a toss-up between Jadeja and him, it won’t be Jadeja who gets the nod. After the first Test, he was concerned about the ways he got out to Leach and set about devising a better way of playing him. This included learning how to sweep, a shot he hasn’t really used since he became a professional cricketer. This both gives him a way of scoring runs while leaving him less vulnerable to the deliveries that you have to reach forward to in defence. In the past, while recognising the intense work ethic of English cricketers, I have questioned whether they do the right things when they practise – all that range hitting, for example. Here is a good example of focussed practice, which seems to have paid off
He’s always had the strokes even if he lacked the application or concentration required for playing long innings. He used to open in age group cricket and certainly has a decent technique though didn’t seem to fancy fast bowlers digging in to his body. Australia tour seems to have turned it around.
England have struggled to play against quality spinners on turning tracks. Win in SL not withstanding. As good as they might be, Lankan spinners are not in the same league as Ashwin, even on their home grounds. Likewise, Indian batsmen are just better players of spin than their SL counterparts. So runs / wickets against SL may not have been good enough preparation for England.
England don’t have a spinner in the same league. And barring Root, they didn’t have batsmen equipped for high quality spin on a helpful track such as this one. Of course the player rotation took toll as players capable of grabbing initiative on these pitches were missing. I think Bairstow is better player of spin than Pope or Lawrence. Same for Jos. Why weren’t they played?
In the next game, I would expect to see Shami and Bumrah back for India so Axar and/or Kuldeep would likely miss the game. That game should be more competitive if the pink ball doesn’t spin. If it does, it probably won’t matter as much who England play. Small sample size so hard to predict.
Every choice made by England seems to go against the data. Moeen has an average of 39 batting in Tests in India. Stokes has an average of 35 and is Ashwin’s bunny. Ashwin has got him 10 times now and it is clear that, when he is bowling, Stokes doesn’t know where the next run is coming from. It is a case of survival pure and simple. And if he is not going to bowl, they are effectively playing him as a specialist catcher
Perhaps a bit harsh on Stokes to be in the fielding specialist category, but you still have a point. As a leftie with hard hands going towards the ball, Ashwin will always give Stokes problems, but as you say, Mo seems to do much better (Just softer hands?? Don’t know). I wouldn’t advocate Stokes not playing, but Moeen not playing is just a bad move, regardless of the myriad of plans in which England have wrapped themselves.
Is it just me or does Dobell’s article about the Ali situation have the ring of knowing something but not being allowed to say it officially?–namely that Ali’s going to retire from Tests.
One other thing that comes out of that article–if the England management and selectors only realised on Monday afternoon either that they would prefer Ali not to take a break that seems to have been agreed several weeks ahead of time or that the decision could have been delayed by all of 72 hours (would have been 48 if the test had gone to five days) to allow everyone to know the result of the IPL auction….then that’s totally incompetent planning all round.
Thank you, Dannycricket! 9 am starts for the UK mean 11 pm starts for me, so don’t think I’ll be making so many comments other than “what happened?” or “what the hell went on?”, but good to see those in the UK will have an easier time watching England play. I see a NZ vs Aussie T20 series will start soon as well which is on at a much more sensible time as far as I’m concerned, so will get to see a bit more international cricket.
Thanks to all the blog contributors, both article authors and those that comment on some wonderful stuff in the last few weeks; long may this blog continue.
Re Ali, it is a real shame that it was never properly pointed out until the damage was done that he was originally going home after this game in the first place. I wish him well.
As far as the rest of his international career is concerned he is in a quandary. I doubt very much he would have been in the running for an Ashes slot next winter given his horror series against them four years ago and his deterioration. He would still be a reasonable selection in home conditions against India given that in 2014 & 2018 he bowled them to victory in a couple of games (Southampton twice).
It was a tough ask for him to come into the game just gone and bowl with the consistency that you might wish for. He was asked to come in for Bess who obviously was struggling with his game come the latter part of the first test. The reality is though that the spinners England have available to them would struggle on a consistent basis to properly contain the Indian batsmen. I think this is going to be played out over the next couple of games.
Ali probably has decided that his best shot over the next couple of years is to go down the short ball route, and I for one am not going to remotely blame him especially if he is going to be at best a squad option in test cricket.
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I just read this comment by Agnew on the BBC site:
“We saw him sledging Dan Lawrence, questioning umpires’ decisions – which he should not do – urging the crowd to be more vocal and generally being noisy himself.”
I’m in agreement with Agnew about questioning the umpires’ decisions, I think he was a little out of order there, but the other complaints are ridiculous. Did he say anything inappropriate to Lawrence? Maybe I missed it but I’ve seen no report about that. Urging the crowd to be more vocal? Well, he should get a 10-match ban for that and fined two million dollars. “Being noisy”? Did the neighbours complain? If so, I guess he might be in trouble.
I’ve seen nothing but rivalry, respect and sportsmanship between the two teams. Maybe I’ve missed something.
PS. I should add I’m talking about Kohli!
Like Agnew has any leg to stand on at all in criticising other people’s behaiviour–especially verbal abuse!
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One tiny point (well, probably not tiny for India fans): as far as I can see, a 2-1 victory wouldn’t get India into the WTC final–although, unlike England, a 2-0 series victory would have.
The maths is even simpler: both sides need to win 3-1 otherwise Australia get into there.
Oops, no they don’t. My mistake–you’re right! D’oh!
Jarrod Kimber’s piece on Ashwin is interesting and the 2nd youtube embedded in it is interesting about England’s spin options.
Bess could be one for the future and Leach needs serious coaching to develop a strategy for the times the situation doesn’t suit him – but the big problem is just that not enough pitches spin in county cricket and so bowlers and batsmen are both underdeveloped.
As for Mo, as much as I love him, he’s not a Test class spinner – you can argue that his Test development has been skewed by the requirements of T20 which he is generally better at.
See, this always interests me. Ignore other countries, England can’t select their players. If you look at who England’s spinners have been this century, there’s only Swann who has palpably better figures than Moeen, and Moeen still has a better strike rate:
We’d all love another (perhaps less gobby) Swann to come along, but it always strikes me that the idea Moeen isn’t good enough is based on an idea that we’d like someone better rather than facing the reality that we rarely do.
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Moeens problems of selection seemed to coincide because his batting went off the boil. If he’s England’s best spinner, and as you say is backed up by stats then he should play if the conditions warrant a spinner. Swann was an out an out spin bowler who could bat a bit. I can’t remember people saying he should be dropped because he doesn’t score enough runs.
I honestly believe that if Shane Warne had been born English, and couldn’t bat he would have been dropped by England for not enough runs.
England seem to want all rounders. Batsman who can keep wicket, Batsman who bowl spin. Soon we may even will pick batsman who can bat!! (Snark)
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Oh I don’t have the slightest issues with people saying someone else should have been/should be selected, it’s just that I tend to the think the same magic beans expectation applies to everyone who is. Occasionally a Swann comes through, but it is occasionally.
Moeen’s batting is the big disappointment really. Poor returns for the talent he has.
Although that’s a factor in selection much more often than it should be, I don’t actually think it’s the selection issue in Moeen’s case, Mark.
Forget the 21st century–there’s only one England spinner since the First World War who has played 20 tests with a strike rate of under 60…and it’s Moeen.That suggests to me that the selectors have more failed to understand what his strengths are and (given how good his strike rate is and the relative poverty of England’s spin-bowling stocks) to try and play around that.
That is, they’ve fallen into the fixed thinking of all England spinners including Ali (economy rate 3.62, strike rate 59.9) needing to be Fred Titmus (SR 98.8, ER 1.95) rather than, say, Lasith Malinga (SR 51.5, ER 3.85). And are England saying that they would have slung Malinga out of their side because he went for too many runs?
Actually the answer to that question may well be yes, because they had a similar player available recently who had England’s second best strike rate of players who’ve played 20 tests since WW1, and they did sling him out for exactly that reason. He’s now generally playing red-ball cricket for Middlesex 2nds.
And in both cases, I think they missed a trick which would have prolonged the player’s England careers. In Ali’s case, they’re lucky that Leach has turned up–although given how they treated him during the last india tour, they really don’t deserve him! In Finn’s case, it took them them six years–and even then the modern versions (Archer and Wood) have worse records (in the case purely of strike rate, much worse).
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I’m wondering how much the decided upon place of Buttler affects others. Outside of the worry that we are so wrapped up in pre-plans, in that it feels like one of those big blankets you put on a ADHD kid having a meltdown, I think there is collateral damage to others and the team because of the central idea that it is Buttler they want behind the stumps. Surely the combination of Stokes and 6, then Moeen at 7 and Foakes at 8 is the absolute strongest and most effective combination in terms of all around production (runs scored, runs saved, ability to defend, ability to attack, and wickets taken) when playing in India and Sri Lanka. But because of that which is set in stone, we won’t in any way commit to this. However, Olly Stone? Love him.
Chris Morris just bagged 16.25 crore at the IPL auction (that is over $2 million). That is more than he would have made representing South Africa for a decade, across formats. Some people in England are complaining that the IPL means that a few England players ruin their techniques (bowling and or batting) in the pursuit of filthy lucre, when the salaries offered to them are the equivalent of 3-6 months central contract salaries …
IPL is a game changer, for better and worse. England mostly seem to profit from it though.
Which in my view is why test cricket is doomed. Even if people still want to watch it there will be a shortage of players good enough to give it the depth of quality for the required many disciplines.
When 20/20 started there were still plenty of players who had learned the longer form of the game. Those players are now dwindling in numbers.
I don’t begrudge any of the players who can earn fortunes from IPL. They would be mad to turn down the cash.
Funnily enough, I’m doing a piece on all of that at the moment…
Oh good! Look forward to reading it!