I joined Being Outside Cricket in 2017. This may well be the first time that I’ve been asked to write the match report for a day where England have batted through the whole day, with just one collapse in the evening session. I am genuinely stumped on what to write.
The day began in a similar vein to the day before, with conditions favouring the bowling team. The ball started swinging and seaming again, and India’s attack thoroughly testing England’s newest opening partnership. Burns and Hameed did well to survive as long as they did, Hameed taking a blow to the head after ducking into a not-quite bouncer, before both fell in the morning session. Malan impressed at three, scoring at a decent rate (unlike, arguably, his T20I performances) and putting India on the back foot.
Joe Root came in and did what he’s done all year: Make Test batting look ridiculously easy. This was his sixth century from eleven Tests in 2021. Where Hameed and Burns struggled and got tied down by Bumrah and Shami, Root seemed like he was facing a bunch of club cricketers. He scored singles at will and hit the bad balls for boundaries. It was only in the last hour, when he looked physically and mentally shattered, that India were able to dismiss him. It’s difficult to think of an English batter who has been in such dominant form over this period of time. At the same time, the constant attention he needs on his back during these long innings makes me only too aware of how fragile and fleeting this might be. Particularly considering the usual level of competence that England’s medical team usually displays.
Bairstow added a useful 29 runs, but his dismissal led to a flurry of wickets. Buttler, Ali and Root all fell within the space of a few overs. In their defence, they may have been disoriented by coming to the crease with a healthy first innings lead and facing tired, dispirited bowlers. It will have been a long time since they faced such a situation.
This innings from England’s top order has been historically good. It began with the first England opening partnership to last 50 overs since 2016, coincidentally when Haseeb Hameed was last in the team. Each of England’s top four went on to score at least fifty, which last occurred in 2013. This is by far the most complete batting performance England have managed in recent years. That said, it is important to avoid hyperbole and remain at least somewhat balanced. The pattern in recent years has been for promising batters to come into the side, impress at first before being ‘found out’ and unable to adapt to bowling attacks targeting their weaknesses. There have been too many false dawns for England’s batting, and the past few years have beaten all but the merest sliver of hope out of me.
With a first innings lead of 345, it’s hard to see any other result than an England win in this game. Given that the morning sessions have been the best times to bowl in this game so far, an early declaration might give Anderson the best chance to run through the Indian top order for a second time.
Off the field, I am surprised by how little attention the Yorkshire CCC report (or the lack of a report) has been getting. There seemed to be a groundswell of pressure building up to this game, but it has largely been ignored during the game itself. I am conflicted on this, since I definitely prefer watching cricket to hearing about bad stuff happening behind the scenes. I fear that the chances of there being a real positive change in English cricket decreases the longer Yorkshire are able to delay facing their own issues. The ECB and PCA’s silence on the matter has been deafening, but also unsurprising. I don’t think any progress is likely to be made until pressure from outside, whether fans, the press, or politicians force Yorkshire and the ECB into action, and that isn’t happening right now.
Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about the game, or anything else, leave them below.