Let’s Hear it For the Boy

There will be plenty said about this Test, the blow by blow accounts of what happened and why. It was genuinely remarkable, and the problem with the grade inflation of besteveritis is that all the superlatives have been used up on far lesser events and performances, leaving many to reach for the same words for something that did astonish.

Yet it should not be forgotten in the afterglow of praise for England’s approach of somehow extracting a win from a terrible pitch that plenty were queuing up to criticise as reckless both England’s approach to the second innings as they lost wickets, and also the declaration itself as far too generous.

Perhaps it is confusion, that Stokes and McCullum really mean it when they say they are prepared, as Warne would have put it, to lose to win, but there was a strong logic in what they decided that went far beyond simply dangling a carrot.

England could not have won the game had they batted on and only offered Pakistan a chance if they wanted to take wild risks. The final five wickets might have fallen in a heap, but the chiselling out of the top order batsmen required there to be the genuine prospect of a successful run chase. It wasn’t a matter of chucking everything on red and hoping for the best, it was a hard headed calculation as to the best prospect of winning. Had Pakistan chased it down, it still would have been a fine pursuit, but it wasn’t generous, it merely opened up a possibility sufficiently widely that there was little choice but for Pakistan to try to win given the time available, and that is what brought England in with a chance of bowling them out.

This isn’t always going to work, but it probably is England’s best chance of regular success. They aren’t an outstanding team by any means, and some of the stalwarts who have bought in to the new ethos are coming to the end. England will collapse in a horrible heap from time to time, but that was happening anyway, there was little to lose by trying this, and thus far it is working. That it won’t work every time is not the point – it can’t be argued that there will be criticism when it goes wrong given that there was plenty of criticism here even when it went right – in fact absolutely perfectly.

Outcome is everything. Its like the shot that just clears a fielder for six; there will be praise for it being a great shot, but if it falls two feet short and is caught, there will be cries that it was reckless. Same intent, slightly different outcome, but it is unhelpful to say the least to criticise the intention based on how well it turned out.

Yes, if they try this in the Ashes it might go wrong. Or it might go brilliantly. Either people buy in to what they’re attempting and accept it is a high risk but thoroughly calculating strategy, or call for them to do it completelt differently and traditionally overall. There’s not that much middle ground, and it’s certainly not reasonable to criticise the overarching strategy when it doesn’t work only to be adulatory when it does.

We know Test cricket is in trouble. This is a way of saving it for the future. Stokes has talked about his determination to do something to popularise the best format of cricket there is, and he deserves everyone’s support for that, because it’s really important, and a damn sight more so than a three match Test series.

You’re not going to find me having a go at them when this goes tits up and England get hammered, not even if it’s in the next Test. I love every element of what they are doing and I want more of it. And we are going to lose matches.

I made a flippant observation this morning that Ben Stokes would make an outstanding Sunday 2nd XI captain, but within that is a serious point – the creativity required for that thankless task is something he possesses in spades. It is genuinely a high compliment.

Strap yourselves in, we’re in for a hell of a ride.

15 thoughts on “Let’s Hear it For the Boy

  1. Mark Dec 5, 2022 / 6:27 pm

    Its going to blow up in their face at some point. If you come out swinging in a boxing match every time, you leave yourself open to a counter punch.

    However what is the alternative? We don’t have the players, particularly in the batting to play in a more traditional style. We have tried that for the last few years and it was a complete disaster. So instead we are playing to our strengths and let the devil take the high road.

    We produce white ball cricketers now who look to be positive and score fast. When we tried to get them to play normal test cricket we struggled to make 200 most times. So what have they got to lose? Eventually they will fall flat on their faces and get a massive hammering. But that was happening anyway on an almost match by match basis. This England are likely to recover quickly from any set backs because this is the way they play now. They have confidence.

    I also want to point out just how poor the last two captains of Englands Test team were. They may have been great batsman, but they were never captain material, and should never have been given the job. Both were kept in situ because we were told “there is no one else.” There is always someone else. In a short period of time Stokes has proved that.

    Stokes took the risk, and it paid off. He would have been hammered if he had lost, but the mindset is all important. You can’t teach that. It comes naturally to a certain type of person.

    You could do a three year phycology degree and still fail to understand how a team of complete failure have been transformed in only a few months by a new coach and captain. It doesn’t compute in any modern management theory course or a dubious stats data company. What it demonstrates is how some people who were completely unsuitable were employed by the ECB for years with no accountability.

    It won’t last of course. England are now both feared, and vulnerable to opposition coaches and captains examination of how to beat them. I suspect the pitches won’t be much good in future because if you play England on very flat pitches, they might just score far too many, very quickly.

    It’s a roller coaster, and it will have a certain shelf life, but enjoy it while you can because normality and mundane will return. But maybe they won’t? Perhaps test match crickets future is destined now to be a two innings 20/20 match?

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Dec 5, 2022 / 9:27 pm

      I wonder if normality will return. I suspect the desire to make Test cricket thrilling and popular will resonate among many other players around the world. They’re watching closely, that’s for sure. And Pakistan certainly weren’t negative in this match.


      • Mark Dec 6, 2022 / 9:36 am

        It’s almost two hundred years since Mary Shelley wrote Dr Frankenstein. A tale about a scientist who wanted to create a new living creature . But once he fired up the generator, and brought the monster to life he could no longer control it. It got off the operating table and was heading for the town.

        The cricket authorities, namely the ECB, have done the same thing. They created a creature called “hit and giggle.” They thought they could control it, and now it’s taken over the cricket world. Shelley’s warning has not been headed by the ECB who have repeated the same experiment by cobbling together a new creature called “The hundred.” By all accounts private equity now wants to sink hundreds of millions into this new monster.

        Like it or loathe it all cricket will soon be this way. Test matches with white balls, and coloured pyjamas played over two days are only a Frankenstein away.


  2. dlpthomas Dec 8, 2022 / 9:13 am

    So Pope keeps the gloves – bugger.


  3. Mark Dec 8, 2022 / 5:18 pm

    Grab the popcorn, looks like sandpaper gate is about to erupt again. Surprise, surprise the official story was a pile of shite.

    Turns out it wasn’t just a few bad apples. No one could have predicted that almost everyone was in on it., and had been in previous matches including administrators. LOL

    The players should have come clean at the time, and told the full story. Then dared the board to fire the entire team, and officials. Warner was naive to trust the board. They used him to cover it up. And for an offence that according to the ICC only carries a one match ban!! LOL LOL LOL


  4. StaffordshireKnot Dec 8, 2022 / 8:43 pm

    I have to concur.

    Now we can see why they persevered with Crawley after he was constantly getting out to loose shots – against a deviating ball in England.

    I am perfectly willing to accept the odd failure – IF the pitch and weather make it appropriate to attack.

    This tour tells me a few things:

    > ENG’s younger batsmen – Crawley, Pope and Brook – really do have tremendous talent.

    > Root and Stokes look good for another 5-6yrs

    > Anderson really is one of the greatest bowlers to turn an arm

    > Robinson is going to be really good too

    > ENG have a very good, proactive captain for the first time since Vaughan

    The next few days will tell us more. Here’s hoping they kick on.

    Lastly, so great to see cricket back in Pakistan.


  5. dlpthomas Dec 9, 2022 / 7:10 am

    Bit of a frenetic start to this test – turning wicket, lots of reverse sweeps and 3 decisions already overturned by DRS.


    • dlpthomas Dec 9, 2022 / 7:36 am

      Now 4 decisions over-turned.


  6. dlpthomas Dec 10, 2022 / 6:48 am

    So Robinson finally gets to bowl and gets a wicket 2nd ball with a peach of a delivery


  7. dlpthomas Dec 10, 2022 / 8:21 am

    Pakistan have been poor today and 281 is looking like quite a good score. As the saying goes, I wouldn’t want to be batting last on this pitch.


  8. dlpthomas Dec 12, 2022 / 1:02 am

    England’s turn to bat poorly and they let Pakistan back into the game rather than batting them out of it, And I was wrong about the pitch – it hasn’t deteriorated at all so Pakistan have a real chance to win this.


  9. dlpthomas Dec 17, 2022 / 5:03 am

    Lovely to see Rehan Ahmed get picked (even if it does make me feel very old). I assume Stokes is going to bowl in the match otherwise the bowling looks a bit thin.


  10. StaffordhshireKnot Dec 17, 2022 / 11:30 am

    To things:

    > I don’t think that Test cricket is in trouble.

    > I do think that ENG are a fine side………..or becoming one anyway. The key is what happens when Anderson and Broad retire. As things stand though, I am optimistic about the Ashes……..especially as Labuschagne is emptying his run locker against Windies and SA.


  11. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 2, 2023 / 10:23 am

    Happy New Year everyone. Sorry that I haven’t posted much recently. I was in India for much of the Pakistan series. Ironically, I was in North West India, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujurat. As the crow flies, that isn’t so far from Karachi, but you hardly need to know much about international relations to know that getting there to watch a day of cricket is not exactly a practical prospect! That said, I did catch the odd bit of action here and there on the TV.

    Anyway, it was brilliant to see England go on the front foot from ball one until the final denouement. By the end, Pakistan were a rabble and their bowling selections to replace those injured players became ever more absurd with clear bits and pieces players being rather reminiscent of England in the 80s.

    That said, England now look to have a real batting spine from 3-7 even if there is more uncertainty about the openers. There is depth in the bowling too with Robinson finally sorting himself out and Wood being correctly used I. A 3-4 over blast them out merchant. Hopefully, Archer can be used like that too….

    I don’t need to say too much about Rehan other than a fine intuitive pick for the situation and I hope he is managed properly in domestic cricket. It doesn’t look like it will be boring watching England, that’s for sure!


  12. dlpthomas Jan 14, 2023 / 1:22 am

    I see Scyld Berry and the Telegraph “readers” have picked their all time greatest England 11. As usual, Ken Barrington doesn’t make the side.


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