That is… stellar. Particularly when you consider that he made three off 58 balls in the first innings.
He wasn’t alone either. You can see the full deadbattery in scorecard format here. South Africa were playing for a draw to secure the series and succeeded in fine complete-absence-of-style. Rangana Herath opened the bowling and delivered 45 overs.
30 of them were maidens.18 Appeals
After winning the previous Test with four-and-a-bit bowlers, India could have gone either way for this one. Unsurprisingly, they went with four bowlers, not five.
Sometimes you can determine a lot from these fifty-fifty calls and MS Dhoni does seem to be a bit of a ‘pick the extra batsman’ kind of bloke. He doesn’t mind picking five bowlers every now and again (just so long as at least two of the bowlers are also credible batsmen) but you can tell he’s a lot more comfortable once the team’s back to normal, even if that means losing.
Dhoni captains his team as if runs win matches. This is all well and good in the shorter formats where runs are indeed the unit of currency, but in Test cricket runs merely prevent you from losing. To win, you need to take wickets. What message does picking six batsmen send to the opposition?
Why those five runs mattered
When you’re dismissed for 95, one crucial thing does not change. People can still say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…”
Right now, on the day he made 95, we all know that Alastair Cook played an innings that was tantamount to a hundred. However, in about a fortnight, when it’s no longer fresh in the mind, people will say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…” and it will seem that nothing has changed.
It’s also important to note how ludicrous it is that this innings will to some degree shore up his captaincy credentials when it had precisely ball-all to do with the aspect of captaincy he most struggles with, which is of course ‘captaincy’.
‘At least Ballance is still in’
Come on, admit it. You’re starting to think that too now. That constantly snarling facial expression is embedding itself in your brain and becoming just another part of your everyday life, like drinking tea or sighing each morning at the sheer pointlessness of it all.28 Appeals
This year they moved the Twenty20 Cup to Friday nights to create an ‘appointment to view’. The premise is if people know when matches are being played, there’s a better chance they’ll watch.
This year also sees a five-Test series taking place between England and India which boasts four different start days. That’s back-to-back scheduling for you. They have to leave an extra day or two to allow the players ‘rest’.
If you didn’t know, the third Test starts today.7 Appeals
The first is the unflappable maestro, Mahela Jayawardene, who is giving up the five-day game. Fun fact, stats nerds: his first innings hundred in the ongoing Test against South Africa has tipped his average over 50. He’s actually got another series after this one yet though, so don’t get too excited.
At the other end of the spectrum, the angriest county stalwart there’s ever been, Steve Kirby, has called it a jeffing day. We’ve written about him in our latest Shire Horse thing over at All Out Cricket.15 Appeals
We’ve produced a valuable guide just in case any England fans aren’t overreacting sufficiently. It can be found over at Cricinfo. Tick all the boxes and you too can call yourself a true England supporter.
Andy Caddick’s ears
Sam was greatly disappointed that they didn’t get a mention in another recent Cricinfo piece of ours which focused on the 2000 Test series between England and the West Indies. The article’s about hope really.
The Kingdom conquers
The Kingdom, this website’s mini-league in the All Out Cricket fantasy league, is supplying the first and seventh ranked sides in the whole competition. Balladeer’s Bhangra-Morris Fusion side have danced their way to the top spot, while Patrick’s p = mv are seventh.
We feel this reflects on us well, but as we said in the comments section yesterday, we can do better. Come on, everyone! Accurately predict cricket within the fantasy game’s defined parameters!
Cryptic crossword news
Those of you who read all of the comments will have known about the above. Those of you who receive the email and never actually read the comments, you’re missing out – they’re the best bit.
For example, you also missed a link to Bert’s Tour de France cryptic crossword. It’s nothing to do with cricket, but we know quite a lot of people who read this site enjoy his efforts and so thought we should draw attention to it.
Sri Lanka v South Africa
Dale Steyn’s class, isn’t he? We were worried he was on the wane a bit, but after taking 9-99 in the first Test, he’s doing it again in the second. Or at least he was at the time of writing. Those Sri Lankan pitches, hey? They’re no place for quick bowlers.10 Appeals
Captaincy is an odd thing. It always strikes us that becoming captain is like being a writer promoted to a management position.
We’ve had jobs where a senior colleague with a stupid job title has come up to us and basically said: “Your writing and editing is so good that we don’t want you to do that any more. We want you to look at spreadsheets instead and do maths.”
We don’t really do maths.
It seems a similar story with Alastair Cook. The ‘Cook out!’ bandwagon is rolling along a little too rapidly for our taste and we don’t particularly want to urge the driver to accelerate further (What’s that? There’s no driver?). But at the same time, what captainly qualities has he ever actually displayed? None really, beyond being a bit older than most of the team and having some sort of inclination to do the job.
A week or so ago, Cook was talking about how stubborn he was and how determined he was to see things through.
“I’ve never quit on anything.”
That seems to us to be half the problem. Sometimes you’re supposed to give up.
The problem is that Alastair Cook is a professional sportsman. He’s spent his whole life being told that determination and a will to succeed are desirable qualities – and of course they are – but they can also lead to exploration of the farthest reaches of pig-headed futility.
Imagine it’s the 1980s and you’ve got a telephone directory in your hand and you really, really need to tear it in half for some unspecified reason. As you grunt and gurn, Geoff Capes walks up behind you and asks if he can help you out. “No, it’s fine Geoff – I’ve got this,” you reply.
But you haven’t.
Alastair Cook used to be a cracking batsman and now he’s a shit one. The cracking-to-shit shift roughly coincides with his tenure as England captain.
What we’re saying is that sometimes it makes more sense to hand the telephone directory to Geoff Capes so that he can tear it in half, leaving you free to find a more productive use for your time.
Update: We’ve just remembered that this article was supposed to be about how Alastair Cook shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place; how he probably only did so because he’d been conditioned to believe it was something he should want and should aspire to.
We always suspect that there are quite a lot of people who become doctors or lawyers without ever really considering whether the job might suit them or not. They just follow a path without giving a great deal of thought to where it leads.37 Appeals
After Matt Prior missed one particular catch in the second Test, a Sky commentator – possibly Mike Atherton – suggested that the wicketkeeper might be having trouble moving to his right due to all his accumulated injury problems. In his statement announcing that he was standing down for the rest of the series, Prior basically confirmed that.
“I saw the edge all the way but I couldn’t move as quick as I needed to, and that is when I knew.”
Prior is only 32. If he played for another country, you’d expect him to return following surgery, but how many recent England players can you think of who have lasted long into their thirties?
Most sides can boast of at least one, usually several. Ponting and Hussey for Australia with Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris still going. Tendulkar and Dravid for India. Sangakkara and Jayawardene for Sri Lanka. Kallis for South Africa. Chanderpaul for the West Indies. Chris Martin – a pace bowler, no less – lasted until he was 38 for New Zealand. For Pakistan, Misbah-ul-Haq’s (at least) 40.
And England? Strauss made it to 35. Collingwood and Swann were 34. Alec Stewart was the last with real longevity.
The finest batsmen and spinners frequently seem to have their best years in their mid-thirties, but many English players have succumbed to wear and tear type injuries by then. Swann’s elbow, Vaughan’s knee, Prior’s Achilles, Flintoff’s everything. Is it the way they’re managed? Do they not get enough sleep? Or is it just one of those things?20 Appeals
It’s an unlikely Cluedo solution, but it happened. We saw it with our own eyes.
Joe Root was the third caught attacking the short ball after lunch and he did a cracking Charlie Brown slope upon being dismissed. It was really, really first class. We were in awe.
We don’t know anything about rhythmic ceremonial rituals. Is there a dance called The Retreat where you take one step forwards and then two steps back? That’s the way England are operating at present.
Do The Retreat
They take a few top order wickets, then concede a bunch of runs to the tail. Alastair Cook shows signs of being a less than desperate captain, then fails to score any runs with the bat. They get within a spit of batting out the morning session without losing a wicket, then Moeen Ali is dismissed off the final ball of the session triggering alarming subsidence.
Maybe as well as taking the positives, they should also take the negatives and put them in the debit column. It’s shitty accountancy to only look at one side of the ledger.
But at the same time…
Top win by India and it’s also heart-warming to see Ishant Sharma getting the wickets. He usually draws adjectives such as ‘gangling’, ‘awkward’ and ‘hapless’ but yet there was Rahul Dravid describing his spell as being one of the greatest by an Indian fast bowler.
But as we said yesterday, this match wasn’t won on the last day. Sharma’s contribution was the final layer of gloss. The construction work has been going on throughout. This is no fluke built on foundations laid down by one individual. There’s been Ajinkya Rahane’s blinding hundred, Murali Vijay’s stout resistance, Ravindra Jadeja’s joyride and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s everything.
But it’s more than that, because India haven’t won away from home since 1912 when they beat a hungover Shropshire side by one wicket. They had to overcome that record and will themselves to kill England. Sometimes that’s the hardest bit, but they bravely grasped the pillow and put the home team out of their misery as swiftly and effectively as they could.40 Appeals
It’s okay to start headlines with ‘and’ when you’re emphasising the repetitive nature of something.
Ravindra Jadeja isn’t exactly the tail, of course. Even if you play half your domestic matches on the world’s flattest pitch, scoring three triple hundreds shifts you out of the tail-end category never to return. He bats wonkily, but with gusto and when he gets it right, it sounds less like a cricket shot and more like a gunshot.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar seems rather too skilled to be considered a tail-ender as well. He’s looked a damn sight more solid than Alastair Cook, which reflects on both of them. Don’t worry, we’ll return to Cook next week. If you’re desperate to read more about the England captain’s plight, we’re sure you can find something pretty much anywhere.
As far as this match goes, England have to score plenty of runs on a fifth day pitch where both seamers and spinners look threatening. Unless the play somehow takes on a completely different form, they will lose. The fourth innings isn’t the problem. This match will have been lost thanks to cowardly first innings bowling and an inability to polish off innings. Bowling first using tired bowlers seemed odd too, but perhaps Captain Hindsight is paying a visit there. The bowlers probably could have made it the right decision.28 Appeals
Virat Kohli’s due a score, isn’t he? And how many runs has Alastair Cook got in his bag, just waiting to be plucked out?
Or is it more that Cook’s now suffering the inevitable consequences of frittering runs away earlier in his career. There was a complete lack of rationing during the 2010-11 Ashes series, for example. Sometimes you have to save, Alastair. You should have set something aside for when you were captain as well as opener and therefore had double the opportunities to attract criticism.
Meanwhile, the match is poised, innit? We think it’s Mike Atherton who always claims that first innings scores of around 300 tend to make for the best Test matches. We know what he’s saying.16 Appeals