Joe Root must surely be wishing he could turn back time after electing to bowl on a Chief Executive’s pitch in the hope that overhead conditions would provide ample swing for their fast-bowling attack. As we know in hindsight, quite simply they did not, through a mixture of bowling too short and a slow Lords pitch that allowed the batsmen ample time to adjust to any swing. It wasn’t quite ‘the Nasser at Brisbane in 2002 moment’, but it wasn’t that far off either. With India 276-3 at the end of Day 1, England are in all sorts of trouble again and this time it looks like the weather won’t be there to save them.
The day didn’t start well with Test cricket doing its daily dose of shooting itself in the foot by engaging in a rain dance with only a hint of rain in the air and then taking the players off the field in bright sunshine for lunch. I have no sympathies for the corporates, who are mainly there for a 3-course meal and plenty of champagne, but for those genuine fans who paid £135+ for the pleasure of attending Lords, it was another slap in the face. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the cricketing fans are always last in English cricket’s priority list, after all, see the wonderful view £135 can get you at the Home of Cricket.
As for the cricket itself, it was a somewhat turgid day, with the pitch hardly helping things, but one thing for sure, is that India will be by far the happier of the two sides. England’s bowlers, without being awful apart from one guilty party, were simply unable to exert any type of sustained pressure on the Indian batsmen. Even in the first hour, when the ball was expected to swing, rarely did either of the watchful Indian openers play a false shot. Wood was too short and too wayward, Robinson was economical but fairly unthreatening bar the wicket of Kohli late in the day, Moeen played the holding role and Sam Curran leaked runs like it was going out of fashion. Only Jimmy Anderson looked in any sort of nick taking the wickets of Rohit with one that went down the slope and inducing an edge from the woefully out of form Pujara. I don’t particularly like to single out individual players but to me there is absolutely no way that Sam Curran looks like a Test player. It reminds me of the 90’s when England tried to shoehorn in an allrounder like Mark Ealham or Mike Watkinson who could bat a bit and bowl a bit but were neither good enough in either department. The truth in my opinion is that Curran is a decent white ball all-rounder and should really focus on that side of the game. He might be able to play a cameo with the bat and get the odd wicket in helpful conditions with the red ball, but as of now, he is not good enough to play as a stand-alone performer in either discipline. His bowling today was at best buffet, which is less than ideal when you’ve got a flat and slow CEO’s pitch.
This is not to take anything away from India’s batting. Rohit Sharma looked in great touch and was unlucky not to make a century and Rahul rode out any difficulties with the new ball before upping his scoring rate and was handsomely rewarded with his first Test century at Lords and second in England, which is all the more impressive as he’s not a natural opening bat. The most interesting thing about them both is that not long ago, many had serious doubts about both their techniques to be successful abroad. However, unlike the English batsmen who seem to have subscribed to the ‘Groundhog Day’ theory of batting, both have gone away and worked on their techniques and have reaped the benefits. There were also some interesting comments on Rahul’s innings which started off at a snail’s pace and how England’s opening batsmen would have got huge amounts of criticism for that approach. I don’t buy this one bit. Both Rohit and Rahul went on to make sizeable scores after setting the platform for the innings. The problem with the likes of Sibley in particular is that he may hang around and take the shine off the ball, but simply doesn’t make enough runs to justify his inclusion. I have no problem with our top 3 being watchful at the start of the inning, but the ability to rotate the strike and then make big runs when the ball is a little softer wherein lies the difference between the two batting top orders.
The most interesting development of the day was the sighting of Tom Harrison (at Lords of course), which has been rarer than sightings of the Loch Ness monster in recent times. He even agreed to do an interview with Sky in the hope that Ian ‘Wardy’ Ward would throw him some gentle throw downs. Fortunately for us, it was Michael Atherton who conducted the interview and actually kept probing with the some fairly difficult questions for the ECB MD. Jeremy Paxman it was not, but it was enough for the veneer that Harrison tries to paint himself in to the media start looking a tad shaky. This was the first time I’ve seen Harrison look visibly uncomfortable when being interviewed, after all most questions previously posed have been, “Tom, can you tell me how great the ECB is and how the Hundred will be world beating?”. Harrison looked defensive and uncomfortable throughout in the face of a good line of questioning, something often missing in previous interviews on TV and was unable to elaborate on key measures of success or the ridiculous schedule that has meant none of our Test team have played any red ball cricket in the build-up to this series. Just so you know, it’s all Covid’s fault according to our Tom.
India are certainly in total control of this game though the pitch looks pretty docile, so all might not be lost for England; however, we all know to never judge a pitch until England have collapsed on it.
As ever thoughts on the game are very much welcome below:
England’s whole plan for this Test was to get India 20-3 this morning and chip away from there. Once Anderson and Robinson failed to do that, first change was dibbly dobbly Sam.
I actually think he’s better than he’s shown in his most recent Tests, and if he was a batsman you’d maybe give him the benefit of the “he’s played too much white ball cricket and it’s affected his technique” line (Bairstow, Ali). Whatever the reasons, currently he’s in a situation where he clearly needs to improve but is being asked to do so on the highest stage, and it’s an unforgiving place.
We didn’t see Wood for ages, and I can understand why. How can someone bowling 95mph look so consistently innocuous!? Anyone expecting Mo to do anything other than be milked at 3.5-4 runs per over here would also have been disappointed.
As an aside, Mark Earlham gets pointed out as a example of something mediocre from a dark time, but he has a Test bowling average of 28. That’s lower than a lot of “great” English bowlers.
This Test looks like a morning session from being a formality for India already.
Harrison gave a load of politicians chat. Wonder how much he’ll be leaching from the sport this year.
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Only used Ealham as an example because no one else came to mind immediately. Mark Wood also averages close to 45 in English conditions.
Ealham’s only Test vs India saw him get a 50 in England’s only innings, plus take 6 for 110 across the match inc wickets of Sachin, Dravid and Azhurruddin.
If he’s still playing now, I’d pick him ahead of Wood in the “enforcer” role.
(Actually there are some parallels there: picked as a bowling all-rounder for a test series based on his performance in a white-ball competition as a top-order batter…)
Can’t help thinking England’s decision to bowl first was more based on their lack of confidence in their own batting rather than their confident belief in shooting India out for less than 250. Sure, there was overhead cloud, but it seemed more like one of those occasions when you win the toss, think seriously about fielding, and then decide to bat. Looking down the barrel of 500 now.
As to the £135 a ticket with a chunk of stand protruding out in front of your view I have mixed opinions. It’s of course ridiculous, but on the other hand if people are stupid enough to pay these prices then the ECB will laugh all the way to the bank.
Frankly, they are taking the piss in charging £135 a ticket (even if you had a full view) with no red ball preparation. The product is sub standard, and will get worse. Harrison can blame it on Covid all he likes, but this is the model now.
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Had the same thoughts at the toss. Get through to lunch and then make hay. I think England’s batting in the first innings at TB forced Root’s hand, but it was a bat first pitch to me.
Yes, it might have looked like a Chief Exec’s pitch when India were batting on it, but that wouldn’t necessarily have stopped England being 30-4 on it…followed in the fullness of time by 146 all out.
We all know that the difference between Rahul and Sibley is that Sibley will never really accelerate. I thought Rahul played a classic test innings, and incidentally it was his second test hundred in England, having got 149 in his last but one match (in 2018). India are comfortably in the driving seat.
I try not to feel brassed off at England’s shortcomings, but can only agree that Sam Curran is out of place. Is he really going to score all that many more runs than, say, Craig Overton would get? And Overton would be a whole lot more threatening with the ball. As would Jack Leach if I may suggest such a thing.
And if England are serious about “balancing the side”, they would do well to relieve “iron gloves” Buttler of the wicketkeeping duties asap (and of his place in the team… go and get ready for the T20 World Cup), and give them to Bairstow. At least until Foakes is fit again.
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Yep Buttler was poor today. Lords isn’t an easy place to keep but he looked all over the place.
So much of England’s thinking is muddled by the lack of runs from the top order batsman. Curran is in the team because he may score some runs, rather than as a front line bowler. So to is Ali, and so is Butler. He is in for his batting not his keeping. Everyone has to bat because the batsman can’t be relied on to score the runs.
If they looked at it from the angle of restricting runs as much as possible, they would pick four bowlers, regardless of batting ability, and try and restrict the opposition as much as possible. Every catch not dropped is fewer runs to chase. Every chance created is fewer runs to chase. So you pick substandard fielders who bat marginally better, and bowl significantly worse (in the case of Ali vs. Leach, or Sam Curran vs. pretty much anyone else) and then you wonder why you have to chase so many runs. It all reeks of incompetence and / or a lack of trust (similar to Bangladesh playing 8 batsmen in Zimbabwe, and barely getting away with it).
Again, not saying it is okay to pick complete mugs, but I really fail to see Moeen’s superior potential compared to Jack Leach here. Or whatever Curran brings to the game, compared to a proper frontline seamer. Or Buttler behind the stumps – Buttler has a worse tons / innings ratio than Mark Boucher, and well, Boucher at least could keep wicket (and sure Boucher scored one against Zimbabwe (in 1999, so not complete mugs then), but Buttler’s first ton was just delaying the inevitable loss against India back in 2018; England still lost by more than 200 runs).
Batting also becomes easier when the first innings score of the opposition is say 300 rather than 450. That too can instil confidence in the batsmen. Right now, England’s Test batting is a bit like the ODI team: “If I fail, someone else will bail us out” – which works like a charm when the innings is restricted to 50 overs in length, but not so much so, when such restrictions do not apply.
Having complained about all rounders……This will be the Test match Ali, Butler and Curran make 150/200 combined. England are certainly going to need them to score some big runs.
I have a question for people who actually know how to bat. Why is it that in white ball cricket you can play a bit away from body and go hard at the ball, but in red ball cricket you have to play very late, under the eyes and not try to thrash the ball so hard? I appreciate that you can bowl wider in test cricket, but mostly the bowlers target top of off and just outside. They do that in short form too. Is it simply that the red ball does more off the pitch and in the air? but then why does going at the ball not work? naïvely, you go looking for the ball, you are giving it less time to swing and seam.
also, why can’t you just wait for the ball in white ball cricket? sure, you’ve got to make more strokes and take more risks, bur why don’t they make those strokes a fraction later if it reduces the chances of taking an edge/getting bowled between bat and pad?
Because white and red ball cricket are almost entirely different sports. In T20 and 50-over cricket, the fielding team act defensively in terms of their bowling and field placement to restrict the rate of scoring whilst the batters typically place a very low value on their wicket. In Tests, those roles are reversed, as batters do everything possible to preserve their wicket whilst the fielders are primarily in catching positions and the bowlers aiming near the stumps to bring all dismissals into play.
This means that edges in white ball cricket are rarely caught, because fielders are at third man rather than the slips, or mid on rather than short leg. Slips and very close fielders don’t restrict scoring as well as players positioned at the edge of the 30m circle or boundary. The ball also rarely goes between bat and pad because such a delivery would be considered ‘in the slot’ where batters might find it easier to hit a six over long on. Therefore, playing with bat and pad close together is largely unnecessary in these formats. Bowlers in white ball cricket tend to generate wickets by restricting scoring rates until the batter becomes desperate and mishits a ball by mistake.
Thank for you that comment, as a woman who has never played cricket (except on the beach) but loves to watch, i was thinking the answer lies in the fielding and the fact that in Test cricket there’s a whole slip cordon waiting for the mistake.
Also interested in what you say about long and short format cricket being completely different. Cricket must be the only game that that is true of. Much more knowledgeable among you may tell me this is incorrect but i would think that ‘short format’ rugby and football, or take rugby league vs union, the skills required are pretty similar so players do move across the rugby codes without too much trouble. Watching rugby 7s, you need to be fast and fit but otherwise, i would think the skills are similar.
Cricket as you say is different and thus i have a permanent objection to white ball cricketers always being brought in to the Test team because they make runs in T20ODI. Root’s latest comment about wanting Ali to bring his Hundred form into the Test team seems to be a triumph of hope over experience. My own view is that it takes a very great player to be able to play all formats successfully and we have very few, Stokes being the one that stands out.
Yes, in Test cricket you have two or three slips, and maybe a gully fielder, and a short leg for the ball that pops up from bat and pad. You might even sometimes have a leg slip. Edges and miss hits are much more likely to get you caught.
Also, in ODI cricket, fielding captains will go on the defensive very quickly if the batsman keeps hitting the ball to the boundary. You only have twenty overs or 100 balls to bat, so a batsman who plays aggressively for say 5 overs, and makes a quick 30 or 40 has used up 25% of the innings. You only need a couple of those to make a decent total score. Batsman who play across the line a lot are very likely to be out LBW in Test cricket against accurate repetitive bowling. Where’s in ODI the bowler only has a few overs before he is taken off,
I once saw Shane Warne captain in fifty over ODI cricket, and he was very aggressive in his field settings. They were more like a Test field with slips and 2 gullys. He went for wickets, and knocked over the top order of the batting team in the first ten overs. High risk but it paid off.
Most ODI pitches are roads, and the white ball does nothing after 5 overs. If you can get past the first 25-30 overs against the red new ball which has a more pronounced seam and basically “does more” throughout, you might get away with hitting out on Day One or Two – but the idea of doing it on a worn pitch on Day 4 or 5 is usually very low percentage.
Thanks all. So if they made more testing pitches and bigger seams for white ball cricket, it might become worth being more aggressive with your fields. The net result would be a need to tighten up your technique.
Yeah. That is one of the reasons that 350 = par ODI cricket is really not that great for batsmen’s longer form techniques. Once say the pitches and conditions become such that 220 is par, you actually do have to have a defensive technique, and you do need the nous of a captain to know when to attack, and how to attack. Something similar holds for T20Is – if you get pitches with par scores of 130 – 140, you do need more than biffing skill as a batsman.
What the pitch does also determines what fielding placements are sensible. If you’re defending 220 (with 220 as a par score) in an ODI having someone at third man is really not going to cut it. When you are defending 350, you don’t mind conceding a run on just about every ball.
The general view seems to be that England bowled too short yesterday. (Not for the first time) Why is there no one who is able to step in and correct this? Isn’t that the point of an on field captain? But Test match bowlers should be able to work this out for themselves after a few overs to asses the slow pitch,
Everyone has an off day, but this seems to be a recurring problem which is never addressed. Let’s see if they can bowl better today, I expect India to do so.
2 wickets in the first 7 balls. KL Rahul was lazy on the drive and didn’t get to the pitch of a 77mph ball from Robinson (yesterday he’d have just leant through it), then Rahane prodded at a non descript ball first up from Anderson.
Jadeja and Pant now in before what looks like a very long tail. Whilst this offers an opportunity for England to wrestle themselves back into the Test, I’d suggest if they’re still in at midday then it could quickly become grim again.
Conditions probably help a bit at the moment. Expect the weather to clear up, so that England are yet again, surviving in the Test (and the series).
As an aside, are the ECB desperate to not get Anderson to Australia? Bowling both as a strike bowler, as well as considerably more than Wood (understandable, in the sense that Wood is supposed to be bowling 90+mph in all spells) as well as Curran, is surely a recipe to aggravate any injury that Anderson may have.
Pant in particular seems key now. If Pant can bat a whole session, that may well be the difference between 350 and 500.
…and you think that 350 wouldn’t be an extremely challenging total to the current England batting line-up…:-)
With the luck England have had against India with the weather in 2018 and the first Test, you think 350 is achievable – simply because the conditions will be perfect for batting.
In passing, India’s superiority so far in the series seems to give the lie to the theory that it’s all down to lack of red-ball cricket and overly focussing on white-ball skills…or rather not so much give the lie as to suggest that there’s more to it than that.
Six of India’s players are first-choice white-ball players, generally in both white-ball formats. None of them had played more than two red-ball games since the start of the IPL, and only four of their team have played more than one. They played one warm-up game in July (which was missing several of their starting XI for the test series)–that is, the same number of games in July asseveral of the England team and fewer than some of them.
And yet they have, for example, got off to very solid starts against two English-style seamers bowling fairly well, in a country where they’re not used to playing, and with two openers one of whom is a converted middle-order player and the other a failed test opener and both of whom are ultra-aggressive white-ball players who have done a lot more trying to bash the cover off the ball in the IPL in recent months than patiently build an innings on a seaming pitch at Headingley.
So I wonder if the white-ball argument, although it certainly has aspects which could do with being looked at (it might well be better for a number of reasons to play the Royal London in April next year and a block of Championship games alongside the Hundred), is missing something quite large–which I suspect could well be to do with how adaptable English players are in general (that is, their general game sense) and about the level of tactical nous in the English game.
I do think that the English side suffer from not really understanding the game. Butler, who is meant to be the cricket genius, seems to think that the way to deal with fith sump bowling at the start of his innings is to leave 20 balls and then have a white ball style thrash and nick off
Having said that India seem curiously unable to identify the crucial moments and make sure they win them. Cf this morning and the world test championship final. But they do seem to understand what the bowlers are trying to do and then they work out a way to counter it. Not surprising, I guess. The England XI grew up in some boring, soul destroying private school. The Indians in universal cricket culture
Some loose shots by the Indian batsman, but it shows what happens when you try and pitch the ball up a bit fuller. You would have thought someone in the enormous back room staff might have noticed by know.
I suspect India already have a very competitive total with still more runs to come. This next session has the potential for the wheels to come off completely. First with the ball trying to mop up the tail, and then the English batting……..
I feel a bit like I did last night watching the test in Kingston when Pakistan’s lower-order batting collapsed in a heap and they were out for 217….thinking “well, let’s see what WI’s batters make of Mohammad Abbas, Afridi and Hasan Ali on a pitch offering something, then”.
Ten minutes later they were 2-2.
Anderson is a freak. Surely his knighthood is in the mail?
Other papers are available
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