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Where would India be given another half-revolution of the coin?

Coin tossing (CC licensed by Gerwin Sturm via Flickr)

Coin tossing (CC licensed by Gerwin Sturm via Flickr)

When trying to assess the state of play after the first day’s play, it’s often tempting to imagine a parallel world where the toss-winning captain has opted for heads instead of tails, tails instead of heads, or just totally gone off on one and gone for arms or thoraxes or some other body part not commonly associated with a coin.

Had that happened in this match, most people would reckon that India would most likely be more for fewer. We conclude from this that it was “India’s day.”

It’s worth pointing out at this point that India have a very good attack. Not so many years ago, England might have been facing one seamer, one makeweight seamer and two spinners. Virat Kohli’s India field two excellent seamers and three spinners.

That is quite a difference. There is no drifty afternoon lull. There is no part-time dob.

That is perhaps why so many of the batsmen’s contributions – from Chris Woakes’ 25 to Jonny Bairstow’s 89 – fitted somewhere on the good-effort-but-probably-not-of-any-enormous-consequence-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things scale. Amid talk of whether Jos Buttler would prove to be a success or a failure, his effort was neither, falling pretty much bang in the middle of this range.

If there’s one thing that might encourage the mandatory taking of positives in English quarters, it’s that India managed to get some reverse swing. England are unlikely to outspin or outbat their opponents, so this represents as good an area as any in which to gain an advantage.

That said, India found some reverse swing in the first Test and England pretty much didn’t. There’s a chance that the toss might be the only thing England win in Mohali.

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Even if you’re not normally much into this sort of thing…

It’s worth pointing out that David Gower makes an appearance in our latest Cricinfo Twitter round-up.

Yes, that’s right – Gower.

David Gower.

On Twitter.

His contribution is every bit as wonderful as you would imagine.

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How to dismiss Faf du Plessis – make friends with him

Faf du Plessis is a competitor. That’s the kind of thing people say. It’s a shorthand way of saying that he only seems capable of playing to his full potential when there’s a stronger taste of conflict to proceedings.

Performing in what is never called the crucible of county cricket, du Plessis didn’t really make any runs. Quite often he fails to do so in Tests too.

Then there are the good days, when he looks cut from a different cloth. Nothing silky. It would be some sort of high quality durable fabric, possibly with water repellent properties and a rough finish.

Psyched up for his Test debut, he made 110 not out off 376 balls to earn South Africa a draw after they’d been 45-4. Today, having spent the week being harangued for being a ‘guilty‘ man, he made a hundred in a day-night Test when everyone else struggled.

This particular adrenaline-sharpened form of Faf didn’t even get hit in the nads.

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Rishabh Pant is not India’s wicketkeeper – what possible reason is there for this?

Wriddhiman Saha is injured. India’s selectors said it was too early to hand a debut to Rishabh Pant who is still only 19 years old. They instead picked Parthiv Patel, a 31-year-old who made his Test debut against England in 2002.

In seven innings this season, Pant has made four hundreds. One was a triple, two were made in one match and he has generally scored at around a run a ball. For the second of those twin hundreds, against Jharkand, he upped his pace to two runs a ball.

He is also called Pant. He should be selected if only to see whether he shouts “Pant’s!” should an England batsman accidentally sky one.

Such an exclamation would serve as both a means of claiming the catch and also as a blunt appraisal of the batsman’s performance.

 

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Somerset v Glamorgan, Royal London One-Day Cup match report

taunton

Sam writes:

It rained on the drive from Cornwall to Somerset. We had left our 18-month old son at home, and brought along our 34-year-old friend instead. He turned out to be slightly lower maintenance.

The seating rules were not clear, so we plonked ourselves behind the bowler’s arm underneath the new pavilion.

Taunton has a lot of pavilions.

Before leaving the house, my wife had asked if I had washed the strawberries. I said yes. Mistake number one. As noon approached, she turned to me and said ‘Well done on washing the strawberries’. I told her I hadn’t actually washed them. Mistake number two. A mini argument ensued. I decided to sulk by not eating my lunch until 2pm.

Our friend suggested we “do a circuit”. My wife didn’t know what that meant. We explained the concept of doing a circuit. We left it until the break between innings. Mistake number three.

There were lots of pictures of Ian Botham and Sir Viv Richards on the walls. “How are we going to cope when Sir Viv Richards dies?” I asked. Nobody seemed to know.

We visited the shop to buy a mini cricket set for our son, then the bookshop to pick up a cricket-themed romance novel for £1.

sams-son

I discovered a programme from the 1992 England v Pakistan Test at Edgbaston. I once owned that programme, aged seven. Leafing through, it brought back some overwhelming emotions. If I had a therapist, I would have been straight on the phone to him.

I had brought along some Waitrose Country Slices, to much ridicule. “They look vile,” my friend said. All the more for me, I thought gleefully. I ate all six.

In the afternoon we started feeling sleepy and went in search of refreshment. I ordered a latte and discovered a tea bag hidden inside. “That can’t be right”, I said. Nobody seemed to know.

Marcus Trescothick was wandering around the perimeter. “Must be nice to walk around like you own the place,” my wife said.

Back in Cornwall, we went for a curry. We skipped starters and poppadoms. I had prawn saag and lemon rice. My wife offered to drive the rest of the way home so I could have another pint.

We finished the day scrolling through YouTube trying to find footage of that time Gareth Batty and Peter Trego had a fight. We couldn’t find it. We ended up watching a video of Jade Dernbach showing off the contents of his kitbag.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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Mop-up of the day – guilt, great promise and grey trivialities

‘Du Plessis found guilty’ reads the Cricinfo headline. We don’t really feel it necessary to add much to your likely response to reading that. The effect of imposing black and white morality on the sport’s grey trivialities could barely be clearer.

Here’s something we wrote last time Du Plessis buggered about with a cricket ball. It’s still relevant.

Shot!

“If he does come in I think he’ll give it his best shot,” said Trevor Bayliss about the likely inclusion of Jos Buttler in England’s third Test team instead of Ben Duckett.

We’re rather hoping to see plural shots, but England are in no position to impose such lofty expectations on a man who presumably thinks of red cricket balls as being exclusively reserved for use in the nets.

At the same time, Buttler is a player for whom his first-class record appears to tell but the smallest fragment of the story. We’re excited about his return.

Had England brought him back into the team for a home Test match despite almost no first-class cricket in recent times, there’d had been an outcry. Plucked from an emaciated touring squad, his inclusion can more easily be justified.

Perhaps it was always a deliberate ploy to take Gary Ballance on tour only to instantly drop him.

Series appraisal

Basically still what we said after the first day of the second Test: “On pitches that deteriorate over the course of a five-day match, England are capable of having the better of things when they bat first. When India bat first, they are good enough that they seem almost certain to dominate. That appears to be the difference between the sides.”

Given a pitch that deteriorated quicker, England could have won the first Test. Given a pitch that didn’t deteriorate so much, India could still have won the second. The tourists need a lot more things to go their way than the home team to win Test matches here.

We’re going to stop writing about grey trivialities now.

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England fans: redouble your pessimism – your country needs you

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

When they’re not favourites, sides will often talk about proving people wrong. This is all well and good, but it can leave them susceptible to the viewing public’s fickle mood swings.

At the start of this India tour, plenty of us thought England could lose every match. In the first Test, they proved people wrong.

Having proven that they could compete, the mood changed. England then set about proving people wrong once again by conceding a 200-run first innings deficit in this Test.

‘Well, this match is basically over,” many of us concluded.

‘We’re not having that,’ replied England and promptly set about having a stupendous fourth day.

Towards the end of that fourth day, many of you England supporters may have just begun to harbour faint hopes that some sort of outlandish victory could be achieved. Go on, admit it. Against your better judgement, it crossed your mind.

England duly countered.

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Jayant Yadav seems a nice bloke

The second Test is progressing pretty much as you’d imagine, so this is what we’re passing off as insight today: India’s new off-spinner Jayant Yadav seems a decent sort.

We’re basing this exclusively on one interview with Sky Sports’ Ian Ward. This may be misleading because Ward’s genial curiosity does seem to get the best out of people. But even so, Yadav seemed cheery and thoughtful, which is never a bad combination in an interviewee.

He gave considered, informative answers which were underpinned by the kind of slightly giddy, faintly intoxicated demeanour which Ward himself always seems to project. We won’t go into specifics. He just had a likeable air about him and that is pretty much the full extent of the point we’ve seen fit to put forward today.

Yadav’s cricket seems half-decent too. He got a few runs, took a wicket and secured the run-out of Haseeb Hameed with the kind of turn and throw that England could have done with producing at some point during their 129.3 overs of first innings toil in the field.

This article may feel worthless and irrelevant right now, but it’s worth noting that this is just the kind of flimsy basis on which most of our cricketing obsessions are born. In years to come, you may be able say that you were here when we first started boring people with this particular hobby horse.

Okay, obviously he’s not going to be another Rob Key, but he could become a Mominul Haque or Neil Wagner kind of figure. To a great extent it’ll depend on how much he gets to play. There’s a chance he could just be the next Burt Cockley.

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Snapped stumps and pitch predictions – day two at Visakhapatnam

Alastair Cook
“Cook in particular had lived dangerously in his 11-ball stay,” reports Cricinfo. You wonder how he found the time. At least he went out in style, his off stump halved by Mohammad Shami.

Ben Duckett was also bowled. “Here are my stumps,” he seemed to say. “Snap one if you can!” R Ashwin correctly deduced that merely dislodging the bails would be sufficient.

Haseeb Hameed was run-out moments after Prince Prefab had goaded us by saying that the young opener was “unjinxable” and destined for a hundred.

Joe Root whopped one to a deep fielder. Moeen Ali came down the pitch and padded up – which didn’t work.

There were pitch-related challenges, but it was probably England’s response to pressure which played the greater role. We predict that this rapidly deteriorating pitch may improve markedly in time for the next innings before then falling completely to pieces. Depends who bats next really.

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Why England could match India in this Test and still lose

James Anderson watching the ball in much the same way that he doesn't when bowling

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We were going to start this piece: “Not to be defeatist, but…”

We then realised that this would be entirely misleading. Defeatism is precisely what we are about to deliver.

This doesn’t mean being a naysayer. It’s just our honest ‘on the balance of probabilities’ assessment of India and England based on recent history.

To engage in defeatism based on the likelihood of different outcomes…

On pitches that deteriorate over the course of a five-day match, England are capable of having the better of things when they bat first. When India bat first, they are good enough that they seem almost certain to dominate. That appears to be the difference between the sides.

If the respective scores after day one of these two Tests have been near-identical (311-4 for England in Rajkot, 317-4 for India in Vishakaptnam) you’d say India have arguably had to play a smidge better to achieve that.

This was Cheteshwar Pujara’s third hundred in his last three Tests. Virat Kohli made 99 runs for once out in the last match and made a double hundred in the one before. Insofar as it’s possible, these two batsmen don’t look like they’re going to make mistakes when presented with a pitch that starts off pretty decent to bat on.

James Anderson transcended conditions, but sadly for England that isn’t going to be enough. Even if he manages to bowl India out on his own, it’ll take him 50 overs of toil. Sometimes even brilliance requires a fair whack of hard labour.

So can England still win?

Of course they can, but even if they match India in terms of skill, they could still lose because they will have to bat in more difficult conditions.

That’s not to cry ‘unfair’. It’s the nature of Test cricket. Given the bat-first advantage in the previousTest, England couldn’t do enough to win. Conversely, we think it’s fairly likely that India will come out on top in this one.

So, in summary, why’s everyone so down on defeatism?

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