Jimmy Has Only Got One Ball – 1st Test, Day 2

Today had a few challengers for who ‘won’ the day’s play, but the eventual victor was definitely the weather. Just 33.4 overs were bowled in the day and, unlike yesterday, that can’t be put down solely to lethargic over rates. The morning session belonged to the tourists, with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul both batting through the entire session until Robinson dismissed Sharma with his last ball before Lunch. The game swung back towards England in the afternoon session, helped by an overcast sky and the older ball still hooping around, with Anderson taking three quick wickets. It only lasted nine overs before bad light, followed by rain showers, effectively ended play for the day.

I use the word “effectively”, because there were in fact two further sessions where play resumed; The first lasted one ball, and the second had two balls. This reignited the debate about how cricket deals with inclement weather. It is one of the few outdoor sports which stops with light rain, or even being a bit too cloudy. The official justification is player safety, and there is obviously some areas of concern in this regard. A player might be more likely to twist their ankle on a greasy surface, or momentarily lose track of the ball in poor light, but the same is probably true in other sports such as football, baseball or field hockey which all continue in light rain.

When commentators and pundits talk about cricket’s light and rain delays, they typically talk about ‘fairness’ to either the batting or bowling team. Bad light makes a batsmen more likely to be dismissed, whilst rain might leave spinners unable to grip the ball and get turn off the pitch. I have two issues with this viewpoint. The first is that this isn’t mentioned as a factor in any of the laws or playing conditions, and so shouldn’t really be considered by the umpires. The second is that there are any number of things in cricket which might grant teams an ‘unfair’ advantage yet doesn’t result in the players leaving the field. Sometimes conditions favour the bowling team, sometimes they favour the batting team. This is honestly part of the joy of Test cricket. When a player is battling not only the opposition but also the environment, that makes their victory even sweeter. Why is it only the rain that would make such things ‘unfair’?

What no one talks about in these situations, not the players, nor the commentators, the journalists and especially not the administrators, is fairness to the fans. Most of the British people reading this will spend, at a minimum, £34 per month for Sky Sports. The cheapest adult seats at Trent Bridge today cost £55 each. Because just over thirty overs were bowled today, they won’t recieve any refunds. We pay a lot of money, invest a lot of time, and we deserve to see cricket played whenever possible. Few businesses take their customers for granted quite like professional sports, and English cricket is currently in a league of its own in this regard. The past four years of taking our money to create a league which was explicitly not for us is beyond parody. The least they could do, in the few instances when they are contractually obliged to provide what we pay for, is make some effort to carry on when it’s a bit more difficult to play.

Would using a white or pink ball to play in low light go against the traditions of the game? Sure. Would it increase the advantage of the batting or bowling side? Definitely. Is it far superior to literally everyone watching to be able to see a game of cricket rather than an empty field? Absolutely.

But that’s clearly not an important factor for cricket boards around the world.

If you have any comments about this game, the weather, or anything else, please leave them below.

12 thoughts on “Jimmy Has Only Got One Ball – 1st Test, Day 2

  1. Marek Aug 5, 2021 / 9:27 pm

    Re what the laws say about suspending play: not only is fairness not mentioned, it’s implicitly–at least to my reading–excluded as a factor.

    “Conditions shall not be regarded as either dangerous or unreasonable merely because they are not ideal.

    The fact that the grass and the ball are wet does not warrant the ground conditions being regarded as unreasonable or dangerous”.

    Also “Immediately the umpires together agree that the conditions are no longer dangerous or unreasonable they shall call upon the players to resume play”. Dangerous or unreasonable–not that they have to be fair.

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    • Mark Aug 5, 2021 / 10:37 pm

      As far as bad light is concerned the rules used to be that they would go off if there was a danger to the batsman. Physical danger that is. And the batsman would be offered the light, and would usually take it. However, somewhere down the line umpires seemed to reinterpret the rules as a danger to the batsman getting out. Completely different issue.

      As for rain, it is more tricky, as it can juice up the pitch, and ruin the ball. But seeing as they failed to bowl the required overs yesterday and couldn’t care less about the paying fans they won’t lose any sleep over it. As this may turn out to be a low scoring match it probably won’t matter with still three days left.

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    • Marek Aug 6, 2021 / 11:39 am

      Yes, that’s the bottom line–to paraphrase Dobell’s article the other day about the Hundred and its destructiveness to the English game, they actually may care….but not as much as they care about some other things.

      And, since the broadcasting deal brings in much more money these days than gate receipts, the answer is the same as for the Hundred–don’t engage with it, even (or rather especially) by watching it on TV. At some point that will translate into lower viewing figures, which will translate into lower broadcasting deals, which will hit them in the only part of their bodies which hurts: their pockets.

      Otherwise, this is just how it is, and we’re passively accepting it.Test matches nominally 90 overs a day, actually 82 at best, less if we get some delays, justified or otherwise.

      Sure the standard may be lower, but there are alternatives. There’s the Royal London, which has had close matches and lovely outgrounds. There’ll be the Championship soon. There’s a Pakistan v WI test series nest week–and that’s only the free stuff.

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    • dArthez Aug 6, 2021 / 12:45 pm

      Fairness should not be an issue. Fair enough.

      Problem with a lot of these regulations is that they are highly subjective (which is another point of contention with DRS – the tension between an umpire’s decision having an influence on wickets falling on umpire’s call – how is it fair if one side always gets the benefit of the doubt from an umpire, but the other does not?).

      So if you want to improve that, have to formalize them. So that subjectivity plays less of a role in the laws and regulations at the elite level (obviously for casual matches that would not work). Also take out good insurance, if you want to make players play on in the rain. One fielding accident, could easily amount to lost earnings north of several million pounds – one freak short ball that does not get picked up by the batsman, might well spell the end of a career of someone as good as Steve Smith (never mind the bowlers who might be forced to bat in poor light). Are those risks that ought to be taken? Maybe they should (if only bankrupting the ECB might be well worth it!).

      But a side moaning that they can’t bowl under ideal bowling circumstances because of rain and poor light, while they had the best batting conditions (and did nothing with them), also has a quality of desperately reaching for straws to stay in the game courtesy of mother Nature, when they have not been good enough thus far.

      That is the thing. If roles were reversed, the England batsmen would be off the field the moment a raindrop gets spotted in Birmingham, let alone at Trent Bridge. Also, it is a bit bemusing, when the playing teams themselves have no qualms about wasting time, as evidenced by structurally poor overrates.

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  2. Marek Aug 5, 2021 / 10:13 pm

    Also, talking about things that didn’t happen (asking for a friend in the Mendips): whose dog in the ECB has Jack Leach killed to be so universally out of favour? From the murky episode that was the illegal action referral in 2016 to the 2017 Ashes (which, let’s not forget, did no favours to the test career of Moeen Ali by forcing him to play an entire series when he had an injury to his spinning finger because the management were too scared to play the second spinner) to last summer to this summer, from Flower to Whittaker to Smith to Silverwood to Root…..

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    • dArthez Aug 6, 2021 / 1:22 pm

      It is puzzling. We’re 64 overs in (admittedly with a fair number of breaks). Robinson has bowled 21, Sam Curran just 10 (and Curran has now bowled 3 on the trot). Not exactly the kind of distribution you expect when you pick 4 frontline pacers.

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    • Marek Aug 6, 2021 / 2:07 pm

      Which, to me, raises a question about how exactly they see Curran (and it’s not just this match–he doesn’t bowl a huge amount generally in tests for a front-line bowler).

      It doesn’t seem as if they think he’s an all-rounder (ie the player who’s replacing Stokes and maybe Woakes) given that they were prepared to leave out their specialist spinner in order to avoid batting him at no. 7. But they don’t seem entirely convinced he’s one of their four specialist bowlers either–and, if they do, is he REALLY a better test bowler than any of Wood, Overton and Mahmood?

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      • dArthez Aug 6, 2021 / 2:24 pm

        I suspect you are right. But that begs the question: how come half the squad picked is not even rated by the powers that be? Is that not a colossal admission of failure / incompetence / whatnot? It is not like there are only 80 players to pick from in England (unlike say the West Indies or New Zealand), so if among 450 players you can pick from, 435 are not even rated by the selectors, that is a damning indictment.

        It seems as if the weather conditions have retroactively justified the inclusion of Sam Curran. But obviously, there could not have been a guarantee that England would win the toss.

        And again, what are the extra (statistically speaking) 20 runs that Bairstow contributes over a match worth (on the basis of his post-2018 stats), if that leaves you with a 3.5 man attack, rather than a 4.5 man attack? Not that much. Having an economical spinner would allow the quicks to bowl in shorter spells, which is always more dangerous to the batsmen.

        Though, not sure if Overton should be picked. That just seems like asking the ECB to embarrass itself again ;).

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        • Marek Aug 6, 2021 / 4:47 pm

          I actually think it’s the CDC who look like fools on that one, not the ECB–for coming up with a judgment full of logical holes. The ECB would be quite entitled to pick him on the basis that a panel led by a lawyer didn’t find him guilty of any offence with a racial component.

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      • dArthez Aug 6, 2021 / 3:11 pm

        Related to that, why make your strike bowler bowl 22 overs before the 80-over mark? I can understand it if there was a serious injury, or if the rain delays had happened roughly every 10 overs, but the rain delays have mostly been in a single over yesterday (and that over was only finished this morning).

        Lead just past 50 now, England not out of this by a long shot (but also, can’t really complain about the weather this Test).

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  3. dArthez Aug 6, 2021 / 3:37 pm

    It starts to look like the most amazing thing about Rahane’s run out is that England actually managed to hit the sticks once.

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