One would be forgiven for packing it all in when both teams went off for rain after 9 balls of the start of play today, though thankfully the rains did halt for some period, mercifully allowing us an extended passage of play. However, just when things were starting to get interesting with a bit of needle between England’s two openers and the Indian bowlers, the weather gods decided to intervene again. Unfortunately, this time it was terminal for today’s play.
England came into the day needing early wickets and to keep the scoring rate in check to have any hope of rescuing their situation and after an early onslaught from Pant including a six and a four of successive delivering from Robinson, he then rather tamely scooped the ball to cover. I’ve seen some weird criticism of his batting style on social media, which I think is pretty unfair considering he averages more than any other player on the England team except Joe Root. Yes, his batting isn’t one for the purists, but it has shown to be mighty effective, so I’m all for him playing his natural game. England would have hoped that this might have opened up the door to roll India out for only a small lead; however, some enterprising batting and some woeful fielding allowed India to stretch the lead to 95, a not insignificant lead in the context of England’s batting woes.
The positives for India were that both Jadeja and Rahul played some entertaining and enterprising cricket, even if the latter was dropped twice on his way to a well made 84. Jadeja also confirmed why he is a bona fide number 7 with another half century showing how markedly he has improved with the bat in the longest form. That coupled with a last wicket stand of 33 from India’s two bunnies, which was bigger than all but two partnerships in England’s first innings, has set India on the road to a likely victory. The negatives for England were there for all to see though. England were incredibly sloppy in the field, dropping another 2 catches, missing 2 run outs, the first of which was a pretty easy chance for Burns and then a succession of mis-fields allowed India to get away with more than they should have. There is simply no excuse for poor fielding at this level especially when your batting order looks like it could fall in a heap at any time. I’d also say that today has to end the experiment of Sam Curran as a front-line bowler. There is no doubt that Sam has some fantastic qualities but at this time, he should be a 4th seamer and no more. The lack of nip is there for all to see and I’m just not sure he is going to challenge Test batsmen without very helpful conditions. With Curran looking less than menacing and leaking runs especially with the new ball and Broad having a rare off day, then England were basically left with Anderson and Robinson as their only wicket taking options. There were certainly times during the day when I wish I had a penny for Joe Root’s thoughts.
The major positive for England was the performance of Ollie Robinson, who stepped up to the plate much like Jimmy Anderson did the previous day. I’m not going to go into the where’s and why fors of his Twitter history as I believe that has already been dealt with, but focusing purely on his bowling, he looks a perfect fit for Test Cricket. Whilst Robinson might not be express, he bowls the sort of nagging line that Glen McGrath made famous and Josh Hazelwood is renowned for, then add that to the fact that he rarely bowls boundary balls to release the pressure is a really positive sign. Sure, there are times when I think he can pitch the ball up slightly fuller, especially at the likes of Trent Bridge, but his nagging accuracy is perhaps something England have lacked for a little while. His first Five-Fer in only his 3rd Test was great reward for helping to prop up England’s beleaguered attack alongside Anderson. Presuming he stays fit, then I think he can cause the Australian batting line up all sorts of issues in the Ashes down under.
So, with inclement weather forecast for the next couple of days and with a deficit of 70, England’s best hope to salvage something out of this game might be to bat long and bat stodgily. Whether our batsmen have the skill and ability to that is a different matter and a few early wickets tomorrow morning could quite easily see the England dressing room engaging in a rain dance or two.
As ever thoughts on the game are welcome below: