England vs. India, 4th Test, Day 3 – The Flames Are All Long Gone, But The Pain Lingers On.

As a holder of a ticket for the 4th Day at the Oval, I was somewhat worried yesterday that my chances of seeing a decent amount of live play weren’t looking great. Oh how wrong I was. India were superb and dominated a tired and undisciplined England attack, the first over with the new ball excepted and have put themselves in a strong position to go 2-1 up in the series, barring a remarkable 2nd innings with the bat from England.

The day seemed set up for bowling with cloudy overhead conditions and a bowling line up used to get prodigious swing in English conditions. Of course, none of that happened, the seam bowlers whilst generally being economical posed little threat and the swing that we were hoping to see never materialised. As a former bowler, it still interests me how overhead conditions can be so different at different grounds with regard to how the ball behaves and how sometimes a ball will do nothing, then get replaced by another ball after the captain has complained so much and got it replaced and then that ball will suddenly start hooping. An interesting titbit, I read on Twitter (thanks TLG) is that an Indian NASA scientist once did a paper trying to explain reverse swing. It intrigued them so much they ended up supporting the whole project. Long story short was they couldn’t fully work it out. Now if NASA can’t work out why a ball will or will not swing and sometimes reverse, then I think us mere mortals don’t stand a chance. Whatever it was today, be it the pitch, the outfield, or the ball, it simply didn’t swing and hence England’s bowlers looked pretty innocuous on a day where we hoped they could dominate.

That all being said, both Pujara and Rohit batted beautifully, with the latter recording his first century on foreign soil. Both were circumspect in their defence but equally adept at putting away anything loose from the English bowlers, which unfortunately there was a fair amount of. I always thought of Rohit as a one-day player and have memories of him coming in down the order in his early days of Test cricket and struggling. He has obviously worked massively hard at his red ball game, and it has absolutely paid off. Apart from Joe Root, who has had a quite breath-taking series with the bat, Rohit has probably looked the next most assured at the crease. Pujara also looks a different player in the 2nd innings compared to what he does in the first innings and despite being hampered with an ankle injury, played a fluent knock that took the pressure off of Rohit at the other end. Indeed it was a surprise when both departed off consecutive balls of the first over of the new ball, with Rohit mistiming a pull straight down the throat of Chris Woakes and then Pujara nicking one onto his pads that was taken in the slip cordon. Speaking of which, it was another chastening day for Rory Burns, who after dropping Rohit on 6 last night (well he technically didn’t get a hand on it), then dropped Rohit today on 31. It was no means a dolly but those are the sort of chances that you have to take to win Test matches. Quite frankly you could have a cardboard cut out of Alastair Cook in the slips and it would probably have the same chance of catching an edge as Rory Burns.

As for the England bowlers, the quicks looked leggy in what was a placid pitch with 2 set batsmen in. No-one bowled terribly, but there wasn’t really any stage where they looked at all threatening. One might be entitled to answer the question why a 39-year Jimmy Anderson has been picked in 4 consecutive Test matches as there is no doubt that both he and Robinson look like they are getting close to the red zone where bowlers start to break down. I also felt that Woakes, playing his first Test match in a year and recovering from injury, understandably looked a bit short on stamina. If the quicks were tidy without looking too menacing, the same sadly can’t be said for our spinner. I genuinely don’t like to have a pop at Moeen, as he is clearly a classy individual on and off the pitch, but his bowling today as it quite often can be, was at best buffet bowling. Moeen is the classic jack of all trades and master of none, as his brain-dead dismissal yesterday evening showed. Today he was unable to maintain a line or length that could restrict the Indian batsmen and for Root, trying to set a field for him must have felt like trying to put out the Great Crystal Palace fire with a leaky bucket. I like Moeen and think he should be a fixture in the white ball teams, but with Woakes perfectly capable of batting at 7, then there is no need to carry on with the clearly flawed Moeen experiment. After all, there is a spinner that England have chosen not to pick this Summer with a record of 40 2nd innings wickets at an average of 21 during his Test career. I said it at the start of the series and will say it again that Jack Leach should be one of the first names on the team sheet and his continued omission strikes of something a little sinister from Silverwood and Root.

I’m not sure who has tomorrow as I will be frequenting the Oval, but as ever thoughts on the game below are very much appreciated.

England vs. India, 3rd Test, Day 4 – Hold The Line

After what can only be described as a hard fought and gritty day of cricket yesterday, did anyone really believe England would roll over in India in a session this morning? I certainly didn’t when I volunteered /told it was my bloody turn to write today’s match report despite knowing that I was due to meet a friend for lunch. Still, I thought it would be easy to catch up on things especially as it was a bright sunny day in Headingley. Oh, how I was wrong.

So, I’m in the situation of having to write up the report despite only seeing the first half hour of play and consequently one wicket to fall, that of Pujara who misjudged a seaming delivery from Robinson and was given out LBW on review. From there it was a procession of Indian wickets many of which were casual wafts outside the off stump, which never ends well in English conditions. Naturally the most concerning for India, aside from Pant’s dreadful form, is the continued struggles of Virat Kohli who once edged a ball to the slips on a 4th stump line. It is somewhat reminiscent of when Kohli first toured England and whilst no doubt he remains one of the world’s premier batsmen, there is obviously a technical flaw in his game as all six of his dismissals have been pretty much the same. I have no doubt he’ll be working hard to address it, but fast bowlers from every cricketing nation will all have a keen eye on his form in the rest of the series.

Naturally, the English bowlers couldn’t have cared less if they tried. Robinson was once again the pick of the bowlers with a nagging off stump line and length that Josh Hazelwood has earnt his living from. I thought he bowled well yesterday without much luck, so a Michelle was fully deserved. Robinson was ably assisted by Craig Overton, who despite seeming to be the odd one out in most squads, bowled with good control and Moeen who as he often does, bowls some outstanding wicket taking deliveries but can also mix it up with some dross.

The best thing about the Test (no it’s not Jarvo) is the sheer turn around in fortunes from the result at Lords. Many, myself included, pretty much wrote England off after the calamitous defeat at Lords, so to go to Headingley and then thrash India by an innings and 76 runs shows how Test cricket is still the greatest format. The ECB’s treatment of their Test squad is nothing short of shoddy, but for the players and coaching staff to rally round after the Lord’s disaster and to then produce a performance like the one we saw, shows that we should give them some great credit as a squad. Of course, they won’t be able to claim any of the £2.1million bonus on offer, that’s only available to those who are trying to kill our county game. Plus ca change!

On a final note, now the Headingley Test match is consigned to the books, it must be time for the ECB to grow a backbone and pressure Yorkshire County Cricket Club to release the Azeem Rafiq report. I find it incredulous that no-one from the top echelons has realised the damage this is doing not just to Azeem but to the wider game with rumours and counter rumours abound. My guess is that no-one from Yorkshire will come out looking good from it, hence the delay, but if we’re serious about trying to promote equality and eradicate racism from our game, then the release of this report can’t come soon enough.

As always, any thoughts on the game are gratefully received below.

England vs. India, 2nd Test, Day 1 – I Sit There Staring and There’s Nothing Else To Do

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:

England vs India, 1st Test, Day 3 – What’s That You Say Mr Robinson

One would be forgiven for packing it all in when both teams went off for rain after 9 balls of the start of play today, though thankfully the rains did halt for some period, mercifully allowing us an extended passage of play. However, just when things were starting to get interesting with a bit of needle between England’s two openers and the Indian bowlers, the weather gods decided to intervene again. Unfortunately, this time it was terminal for today’s play.

England came into the day needing early wickets and to keep the scoring rate in check to have any hope of rescuing their situation and after an early onslaught from Pant including a six and a four of successive delivering from Robinson, he then rather tamely scooped the ball to cover. I’ve seen some weird criticism of his batting style on social media, which I think is pretty unfair considering he averages more than any other player on the England team except Joe Root. Yes, his batting isn’t one for the purists, but it has shown to be mighty effective, so I’m all for him playing his natural game. England would have hoped that this might have opened up the door to roll India out for only a small lead; however, some enterprising batting and some woeful fielding allowed India to stretch the lead to 95, a not insignificant lead in the context of England’s batting woes. 

The positives for India were that both Jadeja and Rahul played some entertaining and enterprising cricket, even if the latter was dropped twice on his way to a well made 84. Jadeja also confirmed why he is a bona fide number 7 with another half century showing how markedly he has improved with the bat in the longest form. That coupled with a last wicket stand of 33 from India’s two bunnies, which was bigger than all but two partnerships in England’s first innings, has set India on the road to a likely victory. The negatives for England were there for all to see though. England were incredibly sloppy in the field, dropping another 2 catches, missing 2 run outs, the first of which was a pretty easy chance for Burns and then a succession of mis-fields allowed India to get away with more than they should have. There is simply no excuse for poor fielding at this level especially when your batting order looks like it could fall in a heap at any time. I’d also say that today has to end the experiment of Sam Curran as a front-line bowler. There is no doubt that Sam has some fantastic qualities but at this time, he should be a 4th seamer and no more. The lack of nip is there for all to see and I’m just not sure he is going to challenge Test batsmen without very helpful conditions. With Curran looking less than menacing and leaking runs especially with the new ball and Broad having a rare off day, then England were basically left with Anderson and Robinson as their only wicket taking options. There were certainly times during the day when I wish I had a penny for Joe Root’s thoughts.

The major positive for England was the performance of Ollie Robinson, who stepped up to the plate much like Jimmy Anderson did the previous day. I’m not going to go into the where’s and why fors of his Twitter history as I believe that has already been dealt with, but focusing purely on his bowling, he looks a perfect fit for Test Cricket. Whilst Robinson might not be express, he bowls the sort of nagging line that Glen McGrath made famous and Josh Hazelwood is renowned for, then add that to the fact that he rarely bowls boundary balls to release the pressure is a really positive sign. Sure, there are times when I think he can pitch the ball up slightly fuller, especially at the likes of Trent Bridge, but his nagging accuracy is perhaps something England have lacked for a little while. His first Five-Fer in only his 3rd Test was great reward for helping to prop up England’s beleaguered attack alongside Anderson. Presuming he stays fit, then I think he can cause the Australian batting line up all sorts of issues in the Ashes down under.

So, with inclement weather forecast for the next couple of days and with a deficit of 70, England’s best hope to salvage something out of this game might be to bat long and bat stodgily. Whether our batsmen have the skill and ability to that is a different matter and a few early wickets tomorrow morning could quite easily see the England dressing room engaging in a rain dance or two.

As ever thoughts on the game are welcome below:

England vs. India, 1st Test – Preview

I’m struggling to remember a time when on the eve of such a high-profile Test Series that it feels like it has completely snuck up on us. With the BBC and Sky focusing their undivided attention on their new shiny product as mandated by the ECB, it feels like the most important format of the game has been shunted aside in order to focus on some salty snacks. It doesn’t help either that cricket social media is currently involved in a bloody civil war, the likes I haven’t seen since 2014, in what at best is likely to result in a pyrrhic victory for one side. I have tried not to comment too much on The Hundred due to some of the vitriol being thrown around, but both Dmitri and TLG here and George Dobell, Sam Morshead and David Hopps elsewhere have written some terrific and balanced articles around it. Let’s just say the £50million punt to attract a new audience seems to have been less than successful so far.

Anyway, back to the upcoming Test Series, which has only really been covered by the media due to the sad but absolutely correct decision by Ben Stokes to withdraw from due to mental health challenges. Thankfully it is only a minority of the nose breathing public that have been critical of this decision arguing that these cricketers are being paid a lot to perform, thankfully the majority have rightly expressed their concern for Ben’s welfare. Most of us don’t understand the pressures that top class sports individuals face especially with an unrelenting schedule and added pressure of the ‘bubble environment’, after all these people are only human like you and I, therefore it is no surprise that eventually this was going happen. Ben won’t be the first, nor will he be the last cricketer who will need to take time out to preserve their mental health. I’m sure everyone who reads this just wants Ben to take the time out he needs to get better, after all, cricket will still be here when he is ready to return. As someone who freely admits to have gone through my own mental health challenges, all I can say is go well Ben.

As for actually previewing this series, the lack of any of red ball action that either side has played recently due to the ECB shoehorning an unnecessary format into the summer, makes it almost impossible to precisely predict what will happen. The majority of England’s red ball specialists (except Haseem Hameed) haven’t played a red ball game since a rain affected round of fixtures on 11th-14th July, whilst the likes of Sam Curran and Jos Buttler haven’t played a red ball game since January and February respectively. With injuries and absentees for Archer, Woakes and the aforementioned Stokes, it makes it difficult to predict what sort of side England will pick. One would imagine that Anderson and Broad will play at Trent Bridge and it wouldn’t surprise me if Curran is picked at 7 as an all-rounder. As for the batting it will interesting to see if Hameed, who is the form batsman currently is picked ahead of Sibley or Crawley. One can argue that a top 3 of Sibley, Burns and Hameed might be too stodgy, but with this England batting line up, beggars can’t be choosers. The one thing I hope England avoid is going in with an all-seam attack. It didn’t work against New Zealand in the summer and I’m pretty sure it won’t work now. Jack Leach has been in great form for Somerset and played well against India in the sub-continent, so I genuinely feel it would be a grave mistake for the selectors to overlook him again.

As for India, they haven’t exactly had a smooth build up to the series either. Firstly, they had Covid in the camp and then they have been afflicted by the same injury bug that England have had with Agarwal the latest to be declared unavailable due to a concussion sustained in training. This leaves India seriously green at the top of the order with either Rahul or Pujara likely to have to step up to open which is not their natural role. This combined with a complete lack of red ball practice for Rahane and Kohli, who both missed the Durham game, also means that India are entering this series with a batting line up that is seriously undercooked. The one thing India does have is fast bowling attack that is spoilt with riches and a world class spinner in R. Ashwin, who has proved he can perform in all conditions. It does make me think that whichever side bowls the best will win the first couple of games.

The one thing that I am most looking forward to about tomorrow is to put all the strife and vitriol behind me for a little while and to concentrate on the format that I love best. Hopefully the weather will behave, and we can concentrate on exciting series against one of the best Test team’s in world cricket.

As ever thoughts on the game and anything else, gratefully received below:

WTC Final, New Zealand vs. India, Open Thread

So we’ve just had Day 1 on Day 2 of the World Test Final or something like that, although I’m actually impressed that the ICC have included a reserve day, especially as inclement weather wiped out the whole of yesterday and affected today.

India will definitely be the happier of the 2 sides having been inserted in dank overhead conditions and finishing only 3 down. It certainly wasn’t a pretty performance by their batsmen, but one of grit and skill against the swinging ball. In years past, an Indian team would have fallen in a heap in such conditions, but this Indian team is a completely different proposition.

As for New Zealand, they’ll be disappointed not to have made further inroads into this Indian batting line up. They’ll be especially disappointed how they wasted the new ball in the first hour and despite the fact that they bowled much better for the rest of the day’s play without much luck, that first hour might be crucial to the outcome of the game.

On a final note, it was disappointing to see the umpires set such a low bar for light readings which they’ll need to adhere to for the rest of the game. This is the World Test Championship final after all and we want a result. Sure it was gloomy, but far from dangerous.

We wont be covering the game in much depth as we’re all busy at the moment, but please do share your thoughts on the game below.

England’s Women vs India’s Women – One Off Test, Open Thread

I had hoped to post this before the opening session of the Test, but unfortunately work gets in the way as it sometimes does, and this is the first opportunity I’ve had today.

I would like to have written about form and favourites for this game; however, this is only the 7th Test match England’s women have played in the last 10 years, so this makes it somewhat difficult for someone who admittedly isn’t an expert on the women’s game. 

A lot of the build-up was around the ECB’s decision to play this on a used pitch, which quite frankly is pathetic and for all their bluster about promoting the women’s game, this combined with the lack of red ball opportunities for women, really does highlight the ECB’s refusal to commit to growing the women’s game. It doesn’t matter that the pitch has played well so far and looks to be a batter’s paradise, if the roles had been reversed and the England men’s team had played a Test on the on a used pitch, there would have been an almighty uproar.

Owing to our work commitments over the next few days, we’re unable to properly cover the Test fully (and unfortunately no-one seemed keen to write reports for us for free). However, we will be retweeting videos and match reports from Raf Nicholson’s fantastic account @crickether. 

If you do wish to comment sensibly about this match or the challenges the women’s game faces, then please do so below.

England vs. New Zealand, 2nd Test, Day 2 – We’re Off To Never-Never Land.

It was a day of contrasting fortunes for England to say the least. On the more positive side, they would have been incredibly pleased to have made 300, especially when they found themselves in the mire at 175-6 yesterday. However, on the less positive side, it seems that this score is very much under par as a stubborn batting performance from New Zealand has put them in the box seat.

Unfortunately, I haven’t watched that much of the day’s play, I’ve been lucky enough to find some interim work for the next couple of months and although I’m working from home, I’ve genuinely been annoyingly busy for a Friday. I did manage to catch the enjoyable partnership between Wood and Lawrence, with the former probably a little annoyed he didn’t manage to get to 50; however, once he was dismissed, neither Broad nor Anderson were able to support Lawrence in getting his maiden ton, with the latter stranded on 81, when he absolutely deserved a hundred. Lawrence does baffle me slightly in that he can look all at sea as he did for the first 30 odd runs yesterday and then switch on and look like he’s playing Test Cricket for years. With Zak Crawley looking horribly out of touch and the James Bracey experiment looking like it’s going to end in failure, Lawrence to me looks the one most likely to keep his place in the side. Whether he’s a bona fide number 3 is another matter, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him batting there against India later in the summer.

England’s bowlers also got the start they wanted with Broad pinning Latham on the back foot plumb in front of the stumps; however, there was little else to celebrate after that as Conway and Young batted New Zealand into a position of superiority. In fact, it was genuinely surprising when Conway pulled a ball straight down the throat of Crawley at deep square leg when a hundred was there for the taking. Conway of course, could have been dismissed earlier when Broad thought he had a nicked a ball to the slip cordon; however, the umpire gave the soft signal of not out and once that had happened, the technology available is just not able to decipher whether it carried or not. Broad seemed incensed by the decision, but until the technology improves, the likelihood is that the umpires will give the benefit of the doubt to the batsmen in contested catches. With the dismissal of Conway, England thought they might have opened up an end with Ross Taylor looking all at sea against Broad and Anderson. However, Taylor gritted it out, despite being given out which was later overturned on review and finished the day unbeaten, though not before Dan Lawrence with some very part-time spin managed to get Will Young to edge one onto his pad which was snaffled up by short leg in the final over of the day.

England’s quick bowlers toiled away but there was very little to aid them on a pitch that looked pretty flat without much swing or seam. This to me is why I don’t like picking an all-seam attack, unless you are lucky enough to stumble upon the West Indian pace attack of the 1980’s. Sure Joe Root is capable of turning his arm over and he did just that, but his bowling wasn’t exactly threatening, which is probably the kindest thing I can say about it. Now I’m not saying Leach or Bess would have torn through the Kiwi top order but having a front-line spinner just makes the attack more balanced and can help tie up an end whilst the quicks rotate. Leach in particular looked very good in India and has been in decent form for his county so I’m genuinely confused why the England brains trust don’t trust him. He might not be a huge spinner of the ball, but he would have been a welcomed addition to what is looking like a very one-paced English bowling attack on this pitch.

So, with New Zealand only 3 down and with the lead under a hundred, England have it all to do to ensure they’re not trying to bat out for a draw again. Of course, 1 wicket can bring 2 or 3, but it would be fair to surmise that it’s not exactly looking promising.

Views on the day’s play are gratefully received below:

Lyrics: Enter Sandman, Metallica

India vs. England, 4th Test, Day 2 – I Closed My Eyes and I Slipped Away

When I wrote the preview for this series back in early Feb, one of the key things I highlighted as a concern for England was their habit of picking a team that they wished they’d picked for the previous Test like they did when they last toured India. Sadly those that ignore history are doomed to make the same mistakes time and time again as Rishabh Pant piled into a tiring England attack who were a bowler short with their selection for this Test.

Whilst Pant took away this game and the Test series in the last session on Day 2, it must have been extremely galling for Stokes and Anderson, the former suffering with a stomach upset, who had bowled quite gallantly in difficult conditions earlier in the day. The lack of quick bowling options forced Stokes into a frontline bowling position, which is not exactly ideal as he is one of England’s best batsmen, yet he bowled with heart and no little skill to get England into a position where a first innings lead was a possibility before the Pant pyrotechnics. The wickets of Kohli to a sharp riser and then a wonderful inswinger to beat the defences of Rohit were a fast bowler’s dream scenario and with Anderson at the other end bowling miserly, the thought of a Mark Wood backing them up would have been the absolute ideal on this pitch. It was only when a clearly exhausted Stokes returned for his final spell that the wheels came off, though that was hardly unexpected due to the heat and workload put upon Stokes. Put it this way, I really don’t want to see our best all-rounder having to bowl 20 overs in a day anytime soon.

Of course at the heart of this was England’s nonsensical decision to go in with only 4 front line bowlers and Joe Root, who was never going to repeat his bowling heroics of the third Test. The recall of Dom Bess in essence gave England 3 front line bowlers as once again he struggled with rhythm, bowled too many full tosses and gave the Indian batsmen easy runs to relieve the pressure. This isn’t me having a go at Bess mind, being an international spin bowler is one of the hardest jobs in cricket and asking a young lad, who has never been first choice at his county, to learn on the job against one of the best attacks against spin bowling was always going to be an incredibly tough ask. I said during the Sri Lanka tour that Bess really looks like he needs a couple of seasons of county cricket to hone his skills before he should be playing for England on a regular basis. Don’t forget Graeme Swann, probably England’s finest proponent of spin in the modern ages was a bit rubbish when he first came onto the international scene but was a different player when he returned to the international side after honing his skills at Northants first and then latterly Nottinghamshire. Of course the ECB’s decision to push 4 day cricket to the outer extremes of the cricket season is not going to help the development of any young spinner coming through, but I would like to see Bess bowling regularly for Yorkshire this summer.

As for Rishabh Pant’s innings, well what can you say that others have not said? His positive approach whatever the scoreboard shows is absolutely refreshing and whilst it might not come off all the time, he has undoubtedly been a big reason why India will compete for the World Test Championship in England later on this year. The two shots that will live in memory for a long time were the sight of him charging down the wicket against Anderson with a new ball in hand and thumping it over mid-off and then the most audacious reverse paddle sweep over the slips from the same bowler. Even though the pitch wasn’t the most conducive to fast bowling, to do that against a guy with over 600 wickets is something else. The look Anderson gave when returning to his mark said everything that needed to be said.

We at BOC don’t like the current culture of besteveritis or comparing young players to past greats, but there are certainly shades of Adam Gilchrist in the way Pant bats and his ability to take the game away from you in a session. Of course, there will be tougher times ahead for Pant on pitches that offer more lateral movement, but I do hope he continues with his approach as it’s wonderful to watch as long as you’re not on the end of it. It would also be churlish not to mention the contribution of Washington Sundar, who looked at ease at the crease and played a gem of an innings as second fiddle to the fireworks going off at the other end.

Whilst it may not be over yet, with England having a squeak of a chance if they can take the final wickets with a lead under 100, it would be a very brave or foolish person to wager on England winning from here. A poor first session tomorrow morning and it may well be start the car time.

As ever thoughts on the game appreciated below.

India vs. England, 2nd Test – Day 1

After the rightful celebration of after an English victory on Indian soil in the First Test, England came crashing down to earth with a large bump today. On a pitch where winning the toss became vitally important, India won the toss, duly elected to bat and Rohit in particular put England to the sword.

There were a number of discussions on the BOC Twitter feed about what type of pitch we would see for this Test, and to the surprise of not many, the ball spun and spat from the off. There had been rumours that the Indian camp were far from happy with the surface for the First Test and even some who reported that the head groundsman had been replaced, so it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is the pitch that we have. This by the way isn’t a criticism of the Indian team, as it is no different from England preparing a green seamer up at Headingley in the early summer, but some also might argue that preparing a pitch so suited to the home side doesn’t exactly help the integrity of Test cricket. That discussion is probably for another day mind.

Today belonged to Rohit Sharma, who bullied the English bowlers from the off and now has a remarkable record of averaging nearly 88 in Tests in India. Perhaps seeing the wear and tear on the pitch and also seeing his opening partner inadvisably shouldering arms to Ollie Stone early in the piece, Rohit played with aggression throughout his innings knowing that he could he easily cop an unplayable one. Naturally he had a little bit of luck throughout his innings, as you need to playing on a Bunsen of a pitch, but it would be churlish to begrudge him any such luck, such was the quality of his innings. By the time he was caught in the deep attempting to slog sweep Leach for 161, the damage had been done and this could very well be a match winning innings.

The ironic thing was that England made some early inroads with Gill, Pujara and Kohli all falling cheaply. Naturally Kohli’s dismissal and refusal to walk after being bowled being the highlight. One did wonder if he was going to go to do a W.G Grace and calmly put the bails back on before taking guard. I have a lot of respect for Kohli the batsman, but it is episodes like this that give his critics plenty of ammo. After this slapstick moment, Rahane joined Rohit in the middle and took the game away from England in the afternoon session. After Rahane was finally given out after a howler of a DRS decision from the Third umpire had previously reprieved him, Pant came in with plenty of positivity and remains a threat being unbeaten at the close of play. The sight of Joe Root getting the ball to rip late in the day, probably won’t help the mindset of the English batsmen either.

As for England, they manfully toiled in the field with Leach and Stone being the pick of the bowlers. Broad was pretty ineffective as has often been the case in Indian conditions, and Moeen’s bowling performance perfectly encapsulated his Test career so far in that he can take wickets with brilliant deliveries but is completely unable to offer any control in helping to restrict the scoring. Ca Plus Change.

It could be argued that the game is already beyond England; however they are going to need to get these last 4 Indian wickets cheaply and then hope someone plays an innings of a lifetime for them. If not, then this could be over in 3 days. Let’s just hope Star Sports don’t manage to fix their camera’s for any stumpings when it’s England’s turn to bat!

As ever thoughts on the day’s play received gratefully below.