Photo by Sarah Ansell
Yeah, why not? It’s not like he’s scoring any runs at the minute. We’re also a great believer in the redemptive power of “I could do better than that.”
Have you ever found yourself believing you weren’t qualified to carry out a given task, only for someone else to complete it in your stead and do a really shitty job? Other people being crap at things is a real confidence booster.
Ideally, Jonny Bairstow would come in and do an excellent job as England wicketkeeper. Then again, he might not. In that event, Jos might well think: “I may have an odd first name and one too many Ts in my surname, but by the Beard of Grace I had my moments in Test cricket. Maybe I could have more moments.”
At that point, he’d turn into Sanath Jayasuriya only with more hair.
Plus it’s not like he’d be fully dropped, sentenced to 300 hours of county cricket. He’d still be in the team for the shorter formats where everything seems so effortless for him. Without Test failure grinding him down, we have every reason to believe that Buttler would at some point return to being England’s best one-day batsman.
Once he has, and having been vastly superior to his team-mates for a period of time, he’ll doubtless start to feel pissed off about not playing the longer format. Mark our words, a surly sense of being unjustly overlooked combined with poor form from your replacement is the recipe for Test success.
The formula for deciding on the man of the match is as follows:
- Which team won?
- Which of that team’s batsmen scored the biggest hundred?
And that’s your man of the match. In the event that no-one made a hundred, you pick the guy who took most wickets.
However, in an unprecedented subversion of the normal rules, whoever was responsible for naming the man of the match during this Test picked Wahab Riaz (4-66 and 1-78). Misbah-ul-Haq could have been a contender for delivering another excellent coin toss, but by dismissing Root, Stokes and Buttler in the space of one monster weather-and-pitch-defying spell, Wahab inserted a sharp corner into what has generally been a smoothly meandering series. The odds were against England from then on.
Adil Rashid deserves a mention too for an innings of glorious futility. At 172 balls, it was longer than any of England’s first innings efforts. Much like life, it was all effort and no reward.
Good bowling exacerbates uncertainty. This is a very inexperienced England batting line-up and it therefore has good cause for self-doubt – particularly in unfamiliar conditions. When confronted with the contrasting threats of Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah, it was no surprise that it collapsed in on itself like a cheap bike tyre punctured by a thorn.
We floated the possibility that an England batting collapse might happen as long ago as yesterday – and not for no reason. Here are England’s batting averages for the last 12 months. You can see that Alastair Cook and Joe Root have scored roughly twice as many runs at twice the average of the third most successful batsman, Ben Stokes. Beneath him, England possess a whole slew of number eight batsmen, it would seem.
This isn’t entirely an unfair assessment. As has been pointed out, very few of England’s batsmen are actually specialists. Maybe the modern thirst for three-dimensionality has ushered us into the era of the jack-of-all-trades cricketer. Perhaps one or two might like to remove strings from their bows and instead focus their efforts on just one aspect of the game. It worked for Bradman.
Not as in ‘returned’ because he hasn’t been away. We’re more worried that he might have ankylosing spondylitis.
If Alastair Cook doesn’t get the runs, Joe Root will, and if Joe Root doesn’t get them, then England fans better hope that the team can cobble together a good number of 20s and 30s from all of their all-rounders, wicketkeepers and other batsmen, because you can’t really see anyone else making a big score.
The team’s batting seems about as well-balanced as a pissed-up baby giraffe trying to moonwalk across a tightrope these days. Cook and Root are the run-scorers and England can’t afford to lose either one.
Mike Atherton, who knows a thing or two about the subject, says Root’s back-knack is brought on by squatting down more when facing the spinners. If you’re going to make runs in the UAE – and Root seems keen to do so – there’ll be plenty of that.
More pilates, Joe! We need you.
If Bryce McGain to Ashwell Prince and Dale Steyn to Paul Collingwood made the beast with four backs, their progeny would be Misbah-ul-Haq against England in Dubai.
Misbah is a man of extremes, as capable of batting for a draw when there isn’t one on offer as he is of making the fastest-ever Test hundred – but seemingly with little in between.
On the face of it, 102 off 192 balls is as close to a bog standard hundred as you’re ever going to get, but look a little closer and you’ll see that it’s half Tavaré, half Afridi.
Against the seamers, Misbah made 26 off 120 balls. Against the spinners, he made 76 off 72 balls. If we’d have been Alastair Cook, we’d have brought Ian Bell on and told him to bowl cutters, just to see what would have happened. Perhaps the bipolar computer inside Misbah’s head would have fused, unable to decide on a course of action. Dismissal by Venn diagram, effectively.
You’d think with all their well-paid medical staff they’d be able to distinguish between the wild shits and the common-or-garden variety, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
Alastair Cook said:
“He’s had a 24-hour bug, he didn’t look very well yesterday apparently but he’s here now and we’ll see. He should be fine, but we have to be careful – it depends how badly he has been knocked about.”
Even from this distance, the evidence is pretty clear. There is no way in a million years that a case of the wild shits could ever be overcome in just 24 hours.
How badly has Stokes been knocked about? Not very badly at all. He’ll almost certainly be able to play the second Test.
Virender Sehwag retired from a fairly broad range of formats today. It’s about as close as you ever get to a proper retirement in this day and age when the Ghosts of Legends Past can regularly be seen haunting cricket grounds throughout the world.
We have pretty much no time to write about this at length, which is a shame, because considering he was only a batsman, Sehwag was really rather fun. Few players have possessed his ability to transform bowlers into smeared-panted long-hop machines and that ability warrants comment.
Sehwag liked to try and hit every ball for four. That was pretty much his gameplan and the fact that he succeeded for so long with such a pig-headedly flawed approach speaks loudly of his talent.
To finish off, here’s a fairly random selection of Sehwag articles, several of which will reappear in the list of related articles generated immediately beneath.
Shoaib Malik’s always been hugely popular with a certain segment of Pakistan fans and we’ve never remotely understood why. He’s always seemed so nondescript.
He’s long had some sort of PR machine behind him which, as well as skewing our perception of his popularity a touch, may have won over a few people – but it wouldn’t have that much impact, would it? Those who follow sport aren’t generally won over by marketing hype for long.
At least now, with a whopping double hundred to his name, there’s some sort of justification. It’s still not an explanation though. Unless you have recourse to a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of power, explanations have to come beforehand, not afterwards.
So what’s the appeal?
We can only presume that for Pakistan fans, Shoaib Malik seems wildly exotic. Amid all the fast bowlers, wrist spinners and dashing stroke-makers, a lumpen, plodding batsman who bowls a bit of finger spin must really stand out. Local TV probably runs fawning documentaries about Dan Vettori during lunch intervals.
As you’re all no doubt aware, pretty much all DIY tasks can be embarked upon using only a dessert spoon and a hammer. They’re adaptable devices and allow you to make a start, but after a bit you may well yearn for more specialist tools which would enable you complete the job in question more quickly and effectively.
Yesterday King Cricket favourite, Adil Rashid had the worst figures on Test debut and his performance had supposedly highlighted the paucity of spin bowling in county cricket. Today he’s a miracle-worker; the guy who took a five-for on what had up until then been the flattest of pitches, allowing England a highly unlikely tilt at victory.
Why would anyone expect a debutant leg-spinner to take a sackful of wickets in the first innings on what was, after all, a completely flat pitch at that point? Despite what some people seem to believe, pitches that don’t favour seamers don’t automatically favour spinners. Some favour neither. For a nation that’s produced decidedly few wrist spinners, you’d think expectations might be a notch or two lower than ‘relentless perfection from the outset on debut’.
Then came the second innings; a period of the game that had been pre-emptively disregarded as irrelevant by a host of pundits. It baffles us how many people who purport to know about cricket – people who are almost exclusively ex-England players, it should be noted – repeatedly pass definitive judgement on Asian pitches early on in a match. Tests in the UAE frequently accelerate on the fourth or fifth day. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s foolish – perhaps even stupid – to ever conclude that it won’t happen. You can only know one way or the other with hindsight.
Adil Rashid is not a steady, reliable spinner who will keep things tight in the first innings. Everyone knew this in advance but yet many still spent half the match saying: “What’s he doing wrong? He must be doing something wrong.”
Maybe Rashid’s not doing anything wrong. Maybe, like a spoon prising plaster off the wall, he was simply being employed in a task for which he isn’t especially well-suited.
Don’t look for what he does wrong. Look for what he does right. Judge him at an appropriate time. Judge him when you’re eating apple crumble.
Epic, they say. Monumental. Alastair Cook batted for 836 minutes against Pakistan. That’s almost 14 hours. Or, in other words, not even two days’ work for a normal person.
So before we start lauding Cook’s extraordinary powers of concentration, let’s just stop a minute and ponder whether he could spend a full 37 and a half hours working on the same bloody spreadsheet. No six-hour shifts with breaks every two hours either – proper, long, miserable stints where even taking a lunch break is frowned upon.
How would he cope then? It’s pretty easy to avoid playing an airy-fairy cover drive – most of us achieve this goal daily – but how would he cope trying to work out which cell contains a buggered-up formula? How long could he spend methodically entering data without getting a decimal point in the wrong place?
That’s concentration, Alastair. That’s work. What you did was what kids do at playtime.