This morning, fans of Test cricket around the world were effusively praising this game, with all three (or four) results being possible. As an England fan, I had to wonder if these people had been in a cave for the last eight years. England scoring 291 runs on the fifth day, even with all ten wickets in hand and a remarkably benign pitch? Virtually impossible.
To let you in on the workings behind Being Outside Cricket, all four of us have jobs and so there are times when none of us have the chance to see the day’s play. Today is one of those times. But the thing is, I’ve seen this so many times before that I can practically write the match report blind. There were a couple of brief periods where England looked comfortable, but wickets falling in clusters meant that the few good performances were for nothing. A couple of batters were dismissed through what can only be described as a Vaughan-esque display of stupidity. Some absolute tit ran onto the pitch when he had no business being there (Could be Jarvo, could be any of the England batters bar Joe Root).
The idea that England were in any way capable of scoring almost three hundred runs today was laughable, but you have to think that this was their plan this morning since there is almost no other reason why Dawid Malan could have been run out (I say almost no reason, because there is also matchfixing). This kind of delusion seems utterly bizarre. England haven’t had a batting unit capable of managing that even fifty percent of the time since 2013. The decline has been almost constant. No one has managed to replace Strauss, or Trott, or Prior, or Bell, or Cook when they retired. All of them averaged over forty with the bat, but Joe Root is the only one in the current team to have reached that relatively basic benchmark.
And yet, in spite of their obviously limited ability and the overwhelming odds, I do understand why they might have chosen to attempt the win. For a start, if they played defensively throughout and comfortably made the draw then they would have been attacked by their fans and the media for not playing entertaining cricket or lacking a killer instinct. There is also a lot of positive thinking which is seemingly enforced throughout professional sports. Every time England have been crushed by better opposition, we’ve been told that they are taking the positives and learning the lessons. If you think you can’t achieve something, you almost definitely won’t. Or so the theory goes. That might be fine in a game like tennis, where the results are binary and you must either win or lose. In sports with draws, depriving your opponent of a win can (depending on the situation) be almost as good as winning yourself.
In fairness, it wasn’t the batting that lost this game for England. The bowling and catching in portions of this game have been diabolically bad. Anderson, Robinson, Woakes and Overton are all very good when the ball swings, but when it didn’t swing during India’s second innings they seemingly had no answers. This isn’t necessarily a reflection on the bowlers, but on the selections of Chris Silverwood and the utter ineptitude of England’s medical staff. There are sometimes points in a Test match where you need a bowler who can bowl unplayable deliveries, even if they are less consistent and more expensive. A spinner who can turn the ball both ways, or a pace bowler who can go above 90mph. England had neither, and India punished them for this oversight.
As for who to blame for England’s catching, the obvious culprit would be fielding coach Carl Hopkinson. His own first-class record certainly doesn’t mark him out as a skilled catcher, with only 39 catches in his career. To put that into context, Moeen Ali has 40 Test catches in just a few more innings. Imagine making Moeen Ali your fielding coach. Hopkinson has also had the job since 2018, in which period England have been quite possibly the worst Test team in terms of not taking their chances in the field. It is the stated policy of England’s Test selection that they prefer to give players one game too many than too few. Does this also apply to the specialist coaches?
There are undoubtedly other factors. The revolving door of batting selections has meant that players don’t get used to fielding in one position for a run of games. The slip cordon has changed seemingly every week. I also suspect that England’s white ball cricketers don’t spend a lot of time on close catching practice or other red ball-centric exercises during large parts of the year. Whatever the causes, the ECB seemingly has no answer for what has been a very consistent shortcoming in the test team.
Speaking of history repeating itself, and no one with any sense being surprised: Yesterday marked the anniversary of Yorkshire CCC launching their independent investigation into racism at the club, and absolutely nothing happened. Yorkshire aren’t doing anything, and the ECB and the PCA (the player’s union) aren’t forcing them to do anything. I’ve written about the PCA’s limitations in this regard, so you can read about that HERE if you want. The ECB have a long record of sticking their head in the sand and ignoring any issue until it goes away. It quite often works. That was why I was incredulous when, three months ago, the ECB came down like a ton of bricks on Ollie Robinson for a series of tweets in very poor taste from 2012. There were furious statements from chief executive Tom Harrison, an immediate suspension, and a quick investigation by the Cricket Disciplinary Committee.
Robinson was very unlucky in some respects, because the ECB has never done anything remotely close to this before, or since. On the other hand, the harshness of the punishment and his apparent sense of remorse has seemingly helped rehabilitate him in the eyes of the public. You might compare him to Craig Overton, who is still facing questions on his own racist incident from 2015 and perhaps a greater level of suspicion about his current attitude than Robinson. In that regard, the ECB and Yorkshire might want to consider the merits of publicly admitting their mistakes and showing genuine regret rather than letting the issue rumble on for another year.
If you have any comments on England’s continuing ineptitude, or anything else, feel free to comment below.
I expect the Old Trafford Test to go the same way. England may be forced to rest Anderson and Robinson. At at least that would mean Mahmood and Wood getting a game, but it would be expecting too much of them to bowl India out twice, and we know that Jack Leach won’t be brought in. I can’t bring myself even to comment on Moeen Ali. I’m almost pleased that I will not be able to see any of the first two days (as I will be on a short break in France).
It’s going to be a long winter down under I fear. 250s to 300s are just not going to cut it. Even if the batting conditions are good England seem to be unable to thrive.
The ECB would like you to think this summers big cricket story is the coming of 16.4. I beg to differ. Whatever happens in the last Test of the series , even if England manage to pull off a surprise win, it will mean that England have failed to win either of the test series this summer against the two team who contested the Test championship final. And then we head for Australia.
After the 2013/14 Ashes and the fiasco of the whole KP business, the ECB have managed to create an illusion at home by winning test matches and series often on green seamers. Losing and sometimes being thrashed overseas has been written off. The trouble now is that they can’t even hide behind the home results.
English test cricket is rapidly becoming and embarrassment. And the ECB intend to make it even more difficult with the structure or lack of it of red ball cricket. Don’t ask me for any solutions, I don’t have them, and the ECB would not listen anyway.
Perhaps England should make substantial cuts to the back room staff. Force players to manage themselves and be responsible for their own form. Sink or swim, some will not make it , perhaps others will thrive?
I’m reminded of Gary Players quote when a fan said he was lucky. His reply was…”funny, the more I practice the luckier I get.” He at least could practice his skills. The ECB have cut the legs off from English cricketers playing red ball cricket. Why would anyone think that good or great future test cricketers will come out of the the current structure? Maybe the ECB secretly don’t want them too. Then we can all play the hundred endlessly for eternity.
It wasn’t a great game, because the standard felt so low. India batted horrendously on Day One, England were mediocre themselves on Day Two. England’s bowling on Days 3 and 4 was insipid, then the “run chase” was built on sand.
Absolutely. They are simply not a good team.
Of course, India have hardly been dominant either. They don’t do very well away from home, it seems.
Go to the guru, who is throwing out this bull, presumably to disguise his inability to call a game
Possible answers include: India have learned that seam bowlers prosper on slow English seaming wickets with a Dukes ball. So they played 4 good seamers with a spinner as holding bowler. Jadeja fits that role better than Ashwin as he is a better bat and catcher. Also, his pace through the air makes it hard to knock him out of the attack. Ashwin is obviously a better bowler and a more attacking option but they decided to attack through pace. I find it hard to see which of the pace attack you would omit to include Ashwin. Comments?
Why does he think it’s an important issue when India just won the test match and have gone 2-1 up with one to play? Because then he doesn’t have to deal with the mess the ECB have made of English test cricket in the last fee years.
Perhaps he should worry about why we have so few batsman who can average 35 and how will we create s spin bowler. But that would mean thinking.
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Maybe he thinks that England would stand more chance of being level if they had selected Ashwin?
Presumably Ashwin would have been lost to the game if he happened to be plying his trade at Yokel County Cricket Club. Or am I supposed to wait forever on a legal opinion to refrain myself from writing that?
The stark contrast between the ECB indignantly spluttering straight into a ban for tweeting some moderately innocuous/offensive stuff 9 years ago (“we are doing everything to stamp out racism”), and their pathetic silence on the ongoing events unfolding (or in the case of the investigation into racism, not unfolding) at YCCC is damning.
Big powerful gesture politics when it suits them.
Limp, feeble powerless shits when it looks embarrassing or like anything resembling effort.
I actually wonder if people are writing to their MPs to find ways to withhold funding for the ECB, on the ground that they refuse to address the issue of racism.
Because clearly that is what is going on now. The fact that Yorkshire refuse to publish the report – and if you take more than a year to even finalise the report, when the promise was “weeks”, yeah, no one will actually think you consider such matters urgent, in other words, racism is fine as judged by the actions and inactions of YCCC.
As for several Yorkshire CCC employees threatening to sue Azeem Rafiq for comments made in the media, yeah good luck. I hope they do – the more publicity the better. When it is their employer that is delaying, stalling, and hiding behind a fig leaf. No reasonable person would think they are in the right position to do so, given what is going on. Or rather what is not going on.
So I guess, I should not have made the previous comment about Yokel County Cricket Club. Yokels have higher ethical standards, and as such could sue me for defaming them, by making fun of them by dint of comparison to Yorkshire CCC. Apologies to yokels.
I have the utmost confidence however, that the ECB will do the right thing, and dock Durham some points for this.
Mark says a lot of what is on my mind. England have not looked reliably good away from home for quite a while.
As for India, I think perceptions that they aren’t very good should clue us in that Test cricket is in trouble, as it’s pretty hard to argue they aren’t at least the 2nd best team in the world.
It will come as absolutely no surprise that Moeen Ali probably needs to have two broken hands before Root might possibly consider that Leach might play as a sole spinner.
I guess that means the ECB spend about 1 million pounds per cricketing IQ point in the Test setup. Now we know why the ECB are desperate for moolah.
Apparently, Jos Buttler is “integral to what we are about” according to Joe Root.
Which explains why what England seem to be “about” is not really scoring enough runs or catching the ball when it comes their way.
How long ago did the “he’s a great character to have in the dressing room” usurp “he has some talent with the bat/ball?” Because it seems like forever to me…….
This is spot on. If I were the ecb, I would schedule county cricket to be played all across the season. I’d persuade touring teams to have longer tours with games between tests and I’d make my central contacted batters play in off weeks for their counties. Then when a player needed dropping, I’d simply select the person with the best average, modulo some other stuff like consistency across seasons. It’s not rocket science. If you average 45 in the cc you have a fair chance of averaging 40 in tests. If you average 35 you don’t.
“ Apparently, Jos Buttler is “integral to what we are about” according to Joe Root.”
At the moment what England are about is losing. I leave it to others to decide if they think Jos Butler is integral to that.
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India forfeit the match. Pity the ECB did not extend the same courtesy to South Africa a year ago …
Also would be farcical if India miss out on the next WTC final / England qualify on this. After all, hardly anyone will argue that the UK government handled COVID exceptionally well …
As for why the Indian players don’t want to take undue risks, there is an IPL coming up. And a positive Covid-test in England means that the players involved will be forced to basically sit that out. Leading to huge losses on the part of the players.
Oh, and Yorkshire took the opportunity to release a statement on their racist antics on their non-working website. Surely not a coincidence?
Always ready with a conspiracy theory
For once I don’t think this is a conspiracy theory. BCCI were in talks with the ECB about not playing the fifth test after the rescheduled IPL.They didn’t want to play this match. The ECB did not agree and said it would count as a forfeit of the match.
So a Covid outbreak is vey convenient.
Makes England’s failure to bat out the day in the last test even more incompetent.
As always it’s the paying fans who lose out. But nobody cares about them. Cricket treats it’s fans worse than any sport I can think off. But India are so financially powerful that nothing will happen because the ECB needs their money for future series.
IPL takes precedence over tests. Just as the hundred has taken precedence over red ball cricket in England. Test match cricket is dying, and the authorities are happy to let it die.
I do hope the ECB send the BCCI an inflated bill. Then the ECB can come begging for a third Test next time around :D.
Also convenient to England to play depleted opposition. As has been happening for a decade already. But I somehow don’t recall the likes of Selvey diminishing such series victories one iota.
I have no sympathy for the ECB. But the BCCI is no benevolent nice guy. The ECB were happy to team up with them, and Australia to screw over the rest of world cricket. So they can’t complain when the bigger bully screws them.
I just feel sorry for the paying fan who as always is secondary to the governing bodies greed.
Cricket treats its fans (customers) like shit. They deserve to have no fans at all. Something they seem to be aiming for as far as test cricket goes.
That I wholeheartedly agree with. The fans are being screwed over.
But the ECB did not mind doing that in South Africa (albeit those fans were not in the stadiums, but going to watch TV (never mind the effect on the coffers of CSA, which also had made substantial costs). And they could get away with it, because they were the bigger bully. Now, suddenly when the BCCI is in town, and the ECB are effectively powerless, they want to preach morality? Yeah, not buying it.
Also, as far as I am aware, the restrictions in the UK have mostly been lifted. We have had an idiot invading the pitch repeatedly, in short both the UK government (for the former) and the ECB (for the latter) are partly responsible as well for what can be termed as breaches of safe protocols.
The suspicion is that an Indian player could well get a positive COVID-test result (not that strange since the assistant physio who tested positive had been in close contact with a lot of the players). And I doubt the substitution protocols cover replacing half a team throughout the game (let alone that India do not have that many people in reserve). That too would make a mockery of Test cricket. And God forbid that such a player develops severe complications, as a result of playing high intensity Test cricket (before the positive test result arrives). That would be too ghastly to contemplate.
All in all, the only winner of the day seems to be Yorkshire CCC. For their statement will mostly fly under the radar now.