Rhythm, timing and a diverse bowling attack

This starts off as a Twitter story, but stick with it because that’s merely the setting. The point we’re about to make has nothing to do with that.

Firstly, let us just say that we don’t make predictions on Twitter. No-one really cares what we think and it’s too easy to get drawn into predicting things which are fairly likely anyway. In any given match, someone will get runs and someone will get wickets. Why name names? Keep it for your fantasy league.

However, with India 453-9 and the last pair having been together for two and a half hours, we made an exception. Moeen Ali came on to bowl and we said:

That over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was dismissed.

A lot of people were impressed by this. We even got a ‘whoa man!!!’ off Pommie Mbangwa.

Pommie spoke for many and there were lottery number jokes and so forth, but to us it wasn’t a lucky guess. We thought it was highly likely to happen and that’s why we broke our own unwritten rule about making predictions.

Why was the wicket highly likely?

Rhythm.

We play squash. Every now and again, the stars align and both ourself and our opponent have decent fitness and excellent timing and we play the sport like it’s meant to be played. At these times, the rallies drag on. When things are going really well, we middle the ball every time, play it exactly where we want to, but neither of us can engineer a winner. It becomes a strategic battle, which is very satisfying. However, these points are almost always resolved in exactly the same way: with a mishit.

It’s not that every shot in the rally’s the same. It’s that you get used to the way the ball moves, whether it’s a drive, a drop shot or something played off the side wall. You’re in rhythm. Your body’s moving into the right position long before the ball arrives and it does so with perfect timing. A mishit plays havoc with this. Your brain simply can’t get to grips with the weird, looping trajectory or the non-angle which brings the ball to the middle of the court.

Are you calling Moeen Ali a mishit?

No. It’s about bowling diversity and presenting a change of rhythm. Shami and Kumar were starting to look like unmovable top order batsmen, but they’re no such thing. It was just that England’s sterile monoculture of a bowling attack had allowed them to get into a groove. Bowling changes were no such thing from the batsmen’s perspective. They were timing everything.

This is England’s problem at the moment. It happened against Sri Lanka and it’s happened again. It’s not about the quality of the bowlers. It’s about the lack of diversity and the more tired the seamers get, the more it becomes a problem.

Here’s another prediction: it will happen again.

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34 Appeals

  1. You’re right, he IS a shit captain.

  2. England need to manufacture a world class spinner from somewhere. And I am pissed Jadeja was picked in lieu of Ashwin.

  3. Who could be picked to make the bowling more diverse? Is just bowling Ali more enough?

    Panesar, presumably, because none of the other spin options are realistically going to be better than Ali – which would require better batting from whoever is keeping, because they’d have to drop a batsman to accommodate him unless you want to go with three seamers, two of whom are already knackered at the start of the series; plus the only candidate for dropping on form is Cook, so that won’t happen.

    How about some left arm pace? Decent ones of those in England come around as often as good leg spinners. I can’t remember one who was even good enough to be called mediocre (as mentioned before, Sidebottom was only good against NZ). Is Mills even close to ready? Anyone else? Topley? Gurney?

    Cook (by default), Robson, Bell, Root, Ali, Buttler, Stokes, Broad, Anderson, Gurney, Panesar?

    • Topley’s having a fantastic season (albeit in Division 2) and for me is the best like for like replacement for Anderson when he goes, perhaps as early as next summer. This summer is probably a year too early for him though.

      Mills needs a lot of work before he’s ready for Test cricket, hopefully that work doesn’t mean he loses pace.

    • To maximize diversity, one would suggest Cook (Sammy privilege), Robson, Bopara, Bell, Root, Kerrigan, Ali, Prior, Buttler, Broad, Anderson, Cook (by merit.) That should give you three pace bowlers, a good ratio of approximately 2:1 spin bowlers to each pace bowler, two wicketkeepers (in case one needs to bowl), and allows for people not selecting Chris Jordan for some reason (is it the WICB? It must be the WICB?!)

  4. England definitely need an X-factor quick that bowls 90mph+, taking the pitch out of the equation somewhat. Plunkett is not the answer. India will probably have the same problem in this game. Still, they could have picked Aaron (who will feature in one of the Tests this tour).

  5. I’ve already dropped to fourth place. Told you so.

  6. You play squash? Want to get a game in some day? When I am executing my skills and playing as a unit, I can be unbeatable.

    • You don’t sound quite there if you’re only executing your skills – you should be executing your ‘skillset’ to build momentum. In squash it’s also important to put the ball in ‘good areas’.

      If you lose, though,remember that The Opposition Is Allowed To Be Good, and try and accentuate the positives, eliminate the negatives, and above all don’t mess with Mr. Inbetween.

    • A P Webster, given your extensive knowledge of squash, can I hire you as my coach and media person? When I thwack KC, you will get to gloat at the press conference.

      You also get to be my Brearly-esque captain and get to write a book.

    • Coach: No, sounds like I may have to deal with failure in some way

      PR person: Definitely.

  7. Simon Kerrigan got absolutely battered by Mark butcher on the verdict. I know very little of Kerrigan. But he must be better then butcher said he was. Then grumpy bob said every spinner was basically crap.

  8. Pretty much the way to bowl out a tail is to think like a spinner. A spinner trying not to give away any runs. The general idea here is that just as every team which wins anything (not much of an overstatement) presents its opponents with the situation where they can try anything without winning, or everything seems retrievable, so the way to a legitimately successful team or player is always to defend and own the batting area/court, and this awkward beginning remains the only foundation for what comes later and hence always forms the basic character of any further actual style. Defence is, in any case, all that the opposition should be able to see. Then you just take that, and you play defensively.

  9. When people talk about the spinners England could pick, and I think how they compare to Panesar, it reminds me of that comment about “better George Brown drunk than Harold Wilson sober” or however it went.

  10. Am I the only one optimistic about the outcome of this test? With the early movement of the ball having apparently completely died, leaving the same placid pitch that the Indians’ last two notched up a Nelson on, and with two batsmen at the crease who have shown that they can (hashtag) dig in, against the infamous Indian attack, I don’t see why England couldn’t make stupid amounts of runs in return. Cook got out early, but that’s what Cook does nowadays. There are seven batsmen below him.

    Of course the match will at best be a draw, but I feel that’s still optimistic given the current situation.

  11. Great punditry KC.

    This morning before start of play, dominions of Your Majesty occupied 3 of the top 5 slots on that overall fantasy league, and 4 of the top 10. Given there must be many hundreds of teams in play (I know this given my own humble ranking) that’s a very impressive level of punditry for this blog.

  12. Jolly good, England. Making a complete horlicks of it once again.

    Glad to see we still have brainless Bell in tow with hapless Cook.

    • Re Bell. I know it’ s modern sport and we are supposed to be very serious about it….but it was a really entertaining 25. Isn’t that sort of “stylish cameo ended by a soft waft for twenty odd” why those of us of an age still drone on about Gower?

    • Stuart Broad is a tail-ender, was much more entertaining, and got 47 out of it.

    • No, it was what made us want to beat Gower’s brains out.

    • Gower averaged more than Gooch.

    • As a young ‘un I was very much in the Gooch and Prost camps.

      I made a huge mistake.

  13. Sorry “entertaining 25 ” was probably the wrong term. I meant “lovely 25”. Broad’s was a stonking 47 .
    Daneel you are right of course about what we felt at the time.

  14. “Here’s another prediction: it will happen again.”

    Whilst not quite so sure which “it” you’re referring to KC, you seem to have gotten the punditry right again! Outstanding insight to predict another significant 10th wicket partnership.

    • And apologies on the name Bertram, I just saw the way it looked with Bert featuring prominently on the comments above. We’re possibly not the same people (aside from having an affinity with either Sesame Street or The Code of the Woosters)

  15. What do you mean about Gooch and Prost? Prost was possibly the best F1 driver at the time. Tour de France seems to have stopped with all the British riders falling off their bikes. I have Anderson to score 50 tomorrow at 20/1

  16. aggers: “people do have to be patient at the moment because this (eng) is a team in transition”

    – oh, well that’s ok then. still in transition. can someone let us know when the transition has finished? will it be when they finally win a match? but then – what happens if they go on to lose the next five after that??

  17. Also from the perspective of rhythm, Shami didn’t really face many 140 kph deliveries that day. If you are going to try and bounce any batsman out, you need to be able to get the ball to steeple up, to whiz past on the up instead of flattening out.

    If you look at the beehive, you find as much as they bowled short, Plunkett was the only one to consistently put the ball anywhere near the batsman’s head. But just because it was viable for a tall guy bowling 135-145 kph, doesn’t mean it works for everyone else. England might have fallen into the trap of bowling to plans they could not execute.

    So for England as much as there’s a need for diversity, there’s also a need for the bowlers to specialise. If you’re a swing bowler, just be a swing bowler. That is something that India’s slower seamers seem to manage, and to their credit.

  18. Commentators are forever banging on about how England bowl too short and when the opposition pitch it up they get wickets.

    It can’t be an accident, so I’d like someone to ask Cook, Saker or Moores what the strategy is.

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