A few weeks ago, we spent a good long while discussing what time we should leave the County Ground in Bristol when we already knew the match was over. We stick around at the end of cricket matches. We certainly don’t leave early.
Today, England made the decision to bat again when most people didn’t think they needed to. A lot of people get very angry about this sort of thing. We don’t. But we do find it a bit boring.
When England came out for their second innings today, there was no saying that a single one of their runs would count towards the outcome of the game. There are arguments for taking some time to rest the fast bowlers and that sort of thing, but the runs themselves may well prove of no significance if Pakistan are later bowled out for less than 391.
Batsmen don’t win Test matches. Batsmen don’t move the game forwards. They are really just necessary impediments who slow the game down. These circumstances – England batting a second time despite an already gigantic lead – really brought these points home.
Whatever the merits of the decision from a ‘winning the match’ point of view, we were at Old Trafford today and for the first time in our life we went home before the end of play. It wasn’t just the may-or-may-not-be-of-consequence nature of the cricket – although that certainly contributed – it was also the atmosphere.
New Fun England, or however they’re branding themselves these days, left an awful lot of people in the ground having not very much fun at all and when you’re surrounded by people who are quite pissed off and can’t really see much point in what they’re watching, it’s hard to stay positive.
It was a good morning though. There were wickets.
Someone came to Old Trafford dressed as the Cookie Monster today. Perhaps it was a reference to the hundred-scoring monster that is Alastair Cook. Or maybe all his other clothes were in the wash.
Earlier today we made a comment about how we generally feel like we’ve seen Cook’s innings before. It wasn’t meant as a criticism. The familiarity of his run-scoring is a sign that he’s good at it.
Cook has his palette of shots and he deploys them to great effect. If he scored more quickly today, the innings will still look exactly the same on the highlights.
If you’re in any doubt of his worth, why not contrast his method with that of James Vince. Here is a batsman who is just as committed to his own, distinctive strokes; a batsman who in fact seems to have narrowed them all down to just one: the edged drive to slip. Good luck building a Test career on that one.
Joe Root also scored a hundred. Also familiar. Also welcome.
We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.
Google does currently appear to be conflating Jake Ball with the Welsh rugby player of the same name. The cricket one’s tall, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t weigh 121kg. Our first impressions indicate that he will eventually be recognised in his own right, however.
We’ve already mentioned that Ball’s tall and assuming he’s not actually 121kg, that’s an advantage too. Other than that, he swung it a little, seamed it a bit, and didn’t really bowl any dross. He bowled at new-young-England-seam-bowler pace (87mph) and didn’t look particuarly arsed about being asked to open the bowling for England.
Ball doesn’t stand out as having any particular quality that would elevate him above all other bowlers, but then if you took one look at Stuart Broad you’d probably conclude much the same about him.
So, in summary: all good.
Via Sky Sports
For all the good cricket Pakistan played to beat England at Lord’s, their greatest attribute was that they visibly enjoyed playing Test cricket. Throughout the match, they were like a group of 11 children revelling in some sort of collective birthday, and when they won, it seemed they’d received the greatest present ever.
Unusual victory celebrations can go one of two ways. They can seem mannered and choreographed and a little self satisfied, or they can come across as a symptom of group giddiness. Pakistan’s press-ups seemed like the latter; like just a minor thing; something that arose as a result of broader positive qualities.
Regardless of the result, this was a fun Test match.
That’s right, fun.
You know, like sport’s supposed to be.
We had a first look at James Vince in Test cricket and weren’t much impressed – but we did add the proviso that we don’t ascribe much value to debut performances anyway. We’ve had a few more looks now and we’re still not particularly impressed.
We generally find people’s decisiveness about relatively new players unsavoury and hasty, so let’s just say that we’re politely awaiting an innings that will persuade us of his worth. We hope it arrives. Don’t keep us waiting too long, Jim.
So with our non-judging position established, this is nevertheless the situation as it stands. After five innings – which is very few – Vince is averaging 14 in Test cricket. More worryingly, this fits a trend where he seems to average less in higher standards of cricket.
In 2013, Vince averaged 64 in first-class cricket. Very impressive. In 2014, he averaged 61. In both of those seasons, he was playing in the second division.
In large part thanks to those 2014 performances, Hampshire were promoted. Last season Vince averaged 33 in first-class cricket.
To be fair to him, this year he’s averaging near enough 40 in the first division (although he’s only actually passed 50 the once).
Moral of the story? How about three?
- The first and second divisions of the County Championship are different standards of cricket
- Batting averages only tell you what’s already happened, not what’s to come
- Yasir Shah is okay at bowling
Then reverse sweeps him for four. Then sweeps him for four again. Then he blocks one because he fancies a change of tempo. Then he sweeps him for four again.
It could be a long summer for Moeen Ali.
In amongst all the sweeping and reverse sweeping for four, Misbah-ul-Haq drove and nurdled a few to nudge his score up a bit and get it into three figures. At that point he did some press-ups.
It is incredibly hard not to warm to Misbah-ul-Haq.
Misbah is a man who achieves things he sets his mind to – and generally at the first attempt. We’re pretty sure today was his first innovative hundred celebration for example, and it was hilarious. In 2014 he had his one and only go at batting aggressively and equalled Viv Richards’ record for the fastest Test hundred. He had never played a first-class innings in England before this tour, but now he’s made a Test hundred here at the first time of asking.
Maybe when you’re 42, you have greater awareness of how few opportunities you’re likely to get and so make damn sure you make the most of them. Somehow it feels like he’ll have plenty more opportunities to sweep Moeen Ali for four though.
Younus Khan’s record is even more remarkable when you consider that he seemingly makes contact with most deliveries while airborne. We made this observation on Twitter and Karthik pointed us in the direction of the Airborne Younis Khan Tumblr, which is rather delightful (and also reminds us of a time when the internet was a joyous land of minutiae rather than whatever the hell it is now).
We half suspect that Younus has mastered batting to such an extent that he deliberately hops around to try and hoodwink the bowlers into thinking they’re getting somewhere. However, it seems more likely that his compulsion to launch himself skywards is a genuine reaction when he’s troubled.
“This particular delivery hasn’t bounced exactly as I expected to,” he appears to think in the split second between the ball pitching and arriving. “I’d better climb into the air,” he then concludes.
‘In the air’ isn’t a conventionally secure place from which to play a dangerous delivery, but it seems to work for Younus.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.
It’s also worth pointing out that that’s a younger version of his back in the photo above. Younger head too. Same age as the back, in fact – 2010 vintage.
What are the odds on Mohammad Amir getting a wicket first ball? This feels like one of those occasions. We’re a great lover of damp squibs and anticlimaxes, but this doesn’t feel like it’s going to be one. Or maybe the world is toying with us and he’ll pull out of the Test with a minor groin strain.
Speaking of groins, whatever happened to Gary Ballance’s groin has unhappened and he will play. A batsman seemingly designed to fall to late swing from left armers, he’ll no doubt be delighted by Amir’s presence.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
Ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, Stuart Broad said one thing that made sense.
“The biggest test for the bowling unit will be trying to do what no other team has done this year, which is to win a game and take 20 wickets at Lord’s.”
Lord’s: Home of Rain-Affected Draws as well as Home of Corks. Engineering a result will indeed be a challenge.
But after that, Broad said the following about communicating with the other bowlers: “We always talk, not as an ego thing, but to try to get one over the opening batsman.”
“Not as an ego thing”? What in blazes does that mean? Why would verbal communication – the basic keystone supporting the whole of humankind’s development – ever be considered merely ‘an ego thing’?
Not a year goes by – not one single year – when we do not see two or more human beings engaged in conversation with one another. Not once have we ever thought to ourself: “Look at those raging egotists.”
The content rehashing practices at an old job of ours gave rise to an unofficial company slogan of, “Yesterday’s news – today!” Old habits apparently die hard, because this week we have consistently been one step off the pace. Just like in life.
Today we bring you the news about England’s next Test squad that you’ve already finished talking about. Gary Ballance is somewhat inexplicably in, while Toby Roland-Jones pulls up to the pace bowling taxi rank to wait his turn.
The threads that bind the Test and one-day squads together seem to grow thinner by the day. Test squad bowlers Jake Ball and Roland-Jones don’t seem to get mentioned for short format stuff and yet have been chosen ahead of Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett and David Willey (who can barely even get a first-class game for Yorkshire).
Similarly, gallons of one-day runs for Jason Roy and Jos Buttler weren’t enough for them to edge ahead of Ballance, who was averaging the square root of ball-all in the County Championship before a couple of solid knocks in the last couple of matches.
It seems they do things differently today. Find out more about this, here at this website, tomorrow.