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: