One pole needed but no cherries left

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That’s a reference to something Shane Warne said late on day five.

“59 cherries left. Four poles to get.”

Okay, you’re Australian, we get it. Just speak normally, okay.

The cherry shortfall

Following the nine wickets down draw between England and Sri Lanka, it’s hard to avoid pointing to the overs lost due to slow over rates. We have two points to make about that.

Firstly, an over in the middle doesn’t exactly equate to an extra over at the end. Sometimes it’s the escalating tension that comes with the countdown that leads to mistakes. You still only get the same number of closing overs. It’s the flat, lifeless ones England could have had more of.

Our second point is that the flat, lifeless ones might have been enough. Shitloads of overs were lost in this Test. Okay, we just said that earlier overs are perhaps less likely to result in wickets – but not by that much. Another 10 or 15 overs is a hell of a number when you finish one wicket shy of victory.

Plus there was the declaration thing.

The pole shortfall

This was a very good draw in that there were a couple of chances in the final over, but we’d have to say it fell down in one key respect. If you want real tension, it needs to be protracted.

That’s what Test cricket can give you – the one-ball-away final hour with two incompetent dingbatsmen at the crease, edging and missing and cowering and surviving. This wasn’t quite like that in that the action came in an accelerating rush towards the end. It was exciting in a different way, but it didn’t really wring your innards like the very best finishes can.

Great draw though. In no other sport does that make sense.

Cook’s exciting field settings

We were going to give Alastair Cook a bit of credit for some nicely creative field settings on the final day. It’s easier to dick about when you’ve a stack of runs in the bank, but even so there was some real weirdness going on and it was most welcome. Sadly, he revealed in his post-match interview that they were all Jimmy’s doing.

Anderson of course cannot become England captain on account of his being a Northern bowler.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Forty or so additional cherries traded for a heart-warming century for one of the chaps. Who needs success when you can get a chap’s name on the Lord’s honours board? Huzzah!

    1. Public school educated former-FEC who’s turned out to not be a very good captain declares on Zimbabwe-born batsman in the 90s preventing what could be a career-defining century, and didn’t help win the match anyway.

      Sounds familiar. Don’t all parties involved regret that decision now?

      In the history books nobody will care about the result of this test, but they might look at it as the start of a fine Test career for Ballance.

      I’m all about the individual stats. Sod the team result.

  2. Well done everyone. I think we can all agree cricket was the winner. But it’s hardly The Ashes, is it? In fact I’ve already forgotten the result of this match. Cheers!

  3. The timing of the declaration is a bit neither-here-nor-there.

    This pitch remained pretty lifeless for almost the whole test and it was only England’s batting order’s ability to collapse at a moment’s notice that gave it any tension for much of the match.

    That said, it was quite nice to watch a desperate last wicket grasp for a draw that didn’t rely on Monty Panesar’s batting technique.

    1. Agreed. Let’s not forget that Cooky’s declaration decision was delayed by his batsmen’s inability to bat, apart from the people who weren’t in the squad to bat (and Ballance I suppose, who rather ruins my point).

      Of course, that then raises the question of who the first person who proved himself unable to bat was…

    1. I am a blueberry person myself. But they must be on par, anti-oxidant wise. I think.

  4. Your point about overs at different times having a different chance of success is a valid one, KC.

    Which makes the decision to delay the declaration the real culprit here.

    We all know that those tense few overs late in the day can get you a valuable opener wicket, plus that bonus of getting a night watchman out there mucking up the batting order for the oppo.

    The “delay for the Ballance century” is a red herring too. Ballance clearly got a message a few overs before stumps that the declaration would be overnight – so he went for it and got it in time. Had he been told 30-40 minutes earlier that the declaration would be made to get 20-30 minutes at the oppo that night, he’d have started his acceleration earlier. He looks very powerful when set too, so I wouldn’t have wagered against him making it.

    No, that was ultra conservative captaincy. Which I can accept (while disagreeing with the decision), but for the England camp talk along the lines of “there you are – see – we are playing a new brand of positive cricket. Look – we scored at 4 an over or so on average on a Lord’s flatty.”

  5. In defence of the declaration decision,(a) isn’t the “tricky 20 minutes” a bit of a myth? How often does it really produce a wicket ? (b) I remember Allan Border used to pile on the runs to demoralise a side so they had nothing to bat for but survival, then declare- and that worked pretty well (admittedly that side being demoralised was late 80s/90s England) (c) would have been a bit of a mean thing to do to Ballance. Yes it was conservative, but with only 4 bowlers and no front line spinner on day 5 of a flat pitch , against a side that can has shown they can make big scores quickly, with Sangakkara looking like he could bat all week if he wanted to, I’m not sure I blame Cook .

    1. Later the same day…

      West Indies 6/1 off 7 overs.

      I have never seen the comparative stats between, say, strike rates in the first 15-20 overs of the innings if split across two days rather than morning only. Would be interesting. But my heuristic judgement is that it is not a myth.

      I am pretty sure I know what Sri Lanka will have preferred – fresh day, just one day to bat.

      …and don’t forget the additional few overs at the end of Day Five with the second new ball, had the declaration allowed four or five overs at the end of Day Four.

  6. The important thing (with declarations and a few overs in the evening) is intent. It doesn’t matter whether it works some or most of the time – what it does is demonstrate a desire to win. Take a risk, say to your opponents that you back yourselves, and if it doesn’t work, shrug and tell them you’ll come back at them harder and faster next time.

    Those of us who watched England through the 90s saw a captain who by his own admission didn’t care about winning, and what an appalling time it was as a direct consequence. The English cricket establishment loves people like this; they are “the right sort”, so we’ve had a succession of them as captain. No highs, no lows, mediocrity of performance as a goal. We did OK, lots of positives, and remember, we didn’t lose. Cook is the ideal man for this job, and therefore by definition the very worst man for the job. In the winter, it wasn’t the defeat that hurt so much as the feckless way England went about losing. And the response, which was to sack the people who got angry about that fecklessness, tells you all you need to know.

    Sport is not about winning, but it is absolutely about trying to win. Losing is irrelevant, so long as you are trying to win. Risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose, and start again. But for god’s sake show some balls and try.

    1. All very noble and gung-ho in theory, Bert, but there’s a difference between amateur and professional sport. These guys are playing for their careers and their livelihoods. If it comes to it, most captains would surely play safe for a draw to save their own skins rather than risk a defeat which could destroy them in the pursuit of glory.

      Who is the 90s captain who “didn’t care about winning”? As I recall, none of them actually had the players required. It was all they could do to not lose.

    2. Atherton. He said it in his autobiography. To be fair to him, it was possibly his way of dealing with the pressures of the job, to effectively choose not to care. But even in that case it meant he was unsuited to the role.

      I completely disagree about the amateur / professional difference though. I understand that professional players might feel that way, but that it exactly what marks them out as being mediocre professional players. The English cricket system, which is set up to punish players for flair and risk-taking, brings the greyest of them to the top and allows them to build on their greyness. If they can leech all the colour from their teammates, so much the better. Cook’s brilliance as a batsman is flattened by the weight of a job he isn’t very good at, but that’s OK because mediocre will do, and anyone who disagrees will be made unavailable for selection.

    3. I think we’re on the same page really. I definitely agree that it’s the system which is at fault, rather than the players.

      Pietersen is the elephant in the room in all this, and he’s turning into a bit of a martyr. But he’s still a giant egotistical tool.

    4. The thing about ‘sporting’ declarations is that this happens.

      I had a bit of an argument with Charles Dagnall on the old twitters about this one, because I was extremely pissed off with Sarwan.

      Personally, I’d rather bat until you can’t lose, then try to win. Just grind the other side into the dust, don’t give them a sniff. Make the other side go out knowing they can’t possibly win.

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