“Sack The ECB – Save Test Cricket” Banner on Aircraft Flying Over Headingley
After two days of out of character cricket, normal-ish service was resumed today. England struggled to make the same breakthroughs India did from the second day tea interval, and as they had done on the first day. In truth it made for a compelling (which is probably the cricketing equivalent of football’s “intriguing” – aka dull) day’s play. The weather matched the mood, the grey skies not seeming as threatening. India batted sensibly and, as I start this report with about an hour’s play to go, have set a decent base to eliminate the deficit. With their long tail (and I am really tempting fate) and a long time to go, India will probably need to bat until lunch (or just before) on Sunday to make a game of it.
England started the day in fine shape, and would probably have been very disappointed to add so few this morning. We did have the bizarre sight though of a number 10 on 0 turning down a single to protect a number 11 with a test best of 81! Still, a lead of 354 is a rare pleasure, and like all pessimists, I’ve found a way England can lose from here (indeed, while I was listening on TMS, they raised the very game I was thinking of – Durban in 2004).
The ball swung early but this time edges weren’t induced. A bungled review deprived England of a morning wicket until the last ball before lunch when Overton induced an edge and Bairstow took a fine catch to dismiss Rahul. Rohit Sharma played a watchful role, and I think his slowest 50 in tests, before falling to an LBW appeal upheld by Richard Kettleborough. Ollie Robinson breathed a sigh of relief when on review the ball was ruled to be grazing the leg stump. It was actually nice to hear Deep Dasgupta on the radio saying he had little problem with the decision and it definitely wasn’t a howler. He won’t go far if he doesn’t dive in with a controversial take when the situation presents itself.
Those were the two wickets to fall. Cheteshwar Pujara played an innings the world knows he is capable of, but hasn’t shown so far, with a little more fluidity and solidity. He will be looking to move towards a real big one. He is also playing himself a little bit more into form, and so has his compatriot at the other end. To me Virat’s bat still doesn’t come down as straight as it does in his pomp, and he’s maybe not playing quite as late to my untrained eye (and it is), but it won’t take much to put that together, and the length of time he spent out there today could be of huge benefit.
England were forced to bowl spin for the last 10 or so overs of the day, and so allowed India to take another 20 or 30 off the lead while looking largely unthreatening – although Root got one to go through the gate and bounce over Virat’s stumps. India finished the day on 215 for 2 – Pujara unbeaten on 91, Kohli on 44. England will have something to think about and India will feel a bit better, knowing there is a ton of work to do. England have the new ball to take first thing tomorrow.
And that’s about it, really. Sometimes there is no sense in trying to tell you something more than what happened. It is, in its way the essence of test cricket, ebb and flow. Hard work wins games, and getting into great positions allows you to have days like these and still be in it. 139 behind is not as great as it could have been (I wouldn’t have bowled spin for 10 overs and let India milk it, but that’s a minor criticism).
Of course, there was the aeroplane, and some joker in a cricket costume. Vic Marks and Jonathan Agnew were joking on the radio that Harrison would be looking to see who had put that aeroplane banner up, but that would give credence to the assumption that he cares a jot what people think. I’ve not seen evidence of that. As the Lightning Seeds sang in the song of the lyric above “A change in style, for a little while, is only make believe”. That could apply to England, it could apply to Tom Harrison allowing himself to be interviewed.
A few other quick thoughts to finish off the day. RIP Ted Dexter. While people of my generation will always remember him from the chairman of selector days, when heaven only knows what I would have written about him if the blog was a thing, his career and reputation as a dashing batsman also stood tall. No-one will ever doubt his commitment to the game, and his love of it. The rankings were his brainchild, I do believe, and so I could blame him from Cricviz! But that would be unfair. A life lived well, we can only aim to try to do the same.
I have listened to a lot of TMS in the last couple of days. There are some good parts, some not so. Some good analysis, some absolute nonsense. I suppose that’s life. I then get to watch the last hour and a half on TV, and I am sorry, but Bumble’s days must be numbered. Mustn’t they. As I am wont to say at the moment, “not for me, Clive”.
India will continue their graft tomorrow….
“Cause I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use, I drink a little beer that evening, Sing a little bit of these working man blues” Merle Haggard
Comments on today and tomorrow’s action below.