This is a good pitch. It has led to good cricket.
A one-day pitch can be flat, because the game progresses with each over, but Test matches progress with the fall of wickets. When a match is progressing, other events other than wickets also matter more. It is how Test cricket should be.
A flat pitch tests the relentlessness and concentration of batting sides, but little more. A pitch like this one at Trent Bridge tests those things to a lesser degree, but it also tests skill and decision-making. A hundred in this context is worth so, so much.
Rahul Dravid hit a hundred and it is innings like his that remind you why a batsman’s average doesn’t directly correspond to his value. Dravid’s average is high, obviously, but if Thilan Samaraweera is a better batsman than he is, we’ll start going on work nights out at the next available opportunity.
Samaraweera is a good batsman too, but his 231 during this absolute horrow show boosted his average more than Dravid’s 117 yesterday – that’s the point we’re making. We’d describe exactly why Dravid’s innings was so good, but we have little to add to Mike Selvey’s dissection of it.
In not entirely unrelated news
Ravi Bopara achieved something similar this week. Overshadowed by a Test match and David Masters’ bizarre figures of 8-10 in the same fixture, Bopara’s innings has been lost a bit.
Only two of 44 indvidual innings in the Essex v Leicestershire match were of over 40. Billy Godleman made 77. Ravi Bopara made 178. That is exceptional.
However, while the pitch added to the challenge and therefore the achievement, County Championship second division bowling detracts from it.
What detracted from Dravid’s innings? Nothing. That is Test cricket.
Last year, we were going to watch a cricket match with a friend who hadn’t watched the sport in many years. “I only like it when we bat,” he said.
We’re off work today and we’re a bit disappointed that England are batting. We prefer cricket when England are bowling. We get more excited.
When England are batting, it’s too much like life. Things can only go wrong. Progress comes incrementally, almost imperceptibly and then one shit-for-brains move knocks you back again, undoing all the hard slog.
When England are bowling, it’s actually possible for good things to happen. Wickets are great highs and they come without warning, like the postman.
One minute, you’ve nothing, the next minute you’ve got a £6 train voucher in your hands because someone has felt pity for you after you were stupid and bought the wrong ticket the other day.
D Charlton writes:
It was my brother (G Charlton)’s stag do. We went to Bristol and watched the Twenty20. As is customary, he dressed as a morph. And he made some friends.
By the end of England’s innings, the bloke at the back had said: “You’re allowed peanuts in, Orange, you don’t have to smuggle them.”
By the end of Sri Lanka’s innings, the bloke at the back had said: “I would. I would do Orange, I would.”
This was Orange’s view of the cricket.
India don’t like some elements of the decision review system (DRS) and their refusal to use it might at some point come back to haunt them. Okay, we get it. Does the schadenfreude really have to be so obviously primed for deployment?
We also have issues with the term ‘DRS’. This is largely because it’s an abbreviation and we bloody loathe abbreviations. People think every second thing is important enough to warrant an abbreviation these days and it’s not the case. At least half of the abbreviations that are currently in common use are indecipherable to us and it really pisses us off.
An opaque abbreviation implies that elements of the speaker’s world are so important that everyone else should automatically be aware of them. We worked with somebody who once asked a customer whether their RSO had arrived. RSO meant ‘remote swap-out’ and the term had been coined in the office about a week before. The customer was baffled, obviously and we felt like stoving in our colleague’s stupid, self-centred head.
Abbreviations rapidly lose their original meaning as well. If you don’t believe us, we’ve already heard at least one person refer to ‘the DRS system’.
South Australia off-spinner, Nathan Lyon, has been called up to the Australia Test squad after just four first-class matches.
Can we be the first to brand him ‘the next Shane Warne’? You have to get that in early with your Aussie spinners these days, what with the rapid turnover and all.
Despite this, you’ll note that we’ve opted not to add a new ‘Nathan Lyon’ category to the site. Even though we have absolute conviction that he will go on to become one of the all-time greats of the game, we can’t just continue adding categories every time Australia pick a new spinner – site structure would quickly get out of hand.
Andrew Hilditch used his “X may be a surprise selection, but he impressed all who have seen him in the last year” speech when announcing Lyon’s selection. He did well to remember to replace the X with a name and even better to remember he was back at ‘Nathan’ after ‘Xavier’, ‘Michael’ and ‘Jason’.
Update: Australian spinners given Cricket Australia contracts this year: Doherty, Hauritz, Krejza and Smith. Australian spinners in the Test squad for the Sri Lanka tour: Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer.
We’re starting to think that Australian spin selection is actually a very complex post-modern joke.
Fine by us.
Hyperbole, but not entirely unwarranted. Sometimes a pint of dour dissatisfaction and a willingness to take the negatives doesn’t do you any harm.
India had the misfortune of having three players handicapped by a perennially twangy hammy, a pock-marked elbow and the wild shits. This wasn’t their fault. They also didn’t bother acclimatising to English conditions – which is their fault. Some day they’ll recognise that giving the opposition a 1-0 headstart every series isn’t the best way of staying at the top of the tree.
Even so, their three remaining bowlers gave England a reminder of how the top Test side operates in the second innings – and it’s much like England, actually. They bumble along, playing fairly conventional cricket and then suddenly, out of nowhere, they viciously mug the batting team, ferociously panning them into the ground in a weird speeded-up way.
Which isn’t to say that England weren’t very good. In fact, what impressed us most is that they actually managed to polish off the last few wickets in fairly short order. In years gone by, playing a physically pained team who seemed on the brink of defeat, they’d have ended up going through the motions and would have let the game get away from them.
Not any more, but we can’t help but feel that sterner tests await.
We well remember the first Test of India’s last tour, which is weird, because we were in Canada for all but the final day.
But it’s that final day that’s important here. Nine wickets down, MS Dhoni blocked the shit out of it and for England, that was the difference between drawing the series and losing 1-0.
In recent years, India have started Test series slowly. This might be down to the fact that they tend to have half-an-hour of beach cricket as their entire build-up, but whatever the reason, the home team needs to take advantage while they can.
England also have an opportunity because half of India’s team are queueing up to see the team doctor. As the old saying goes ‘strike while the iron’s injured or insufficiently prepared’.
In other news, we’ve done a piece for Cricinfo which even we don’t really know what to make of.
It’s not the usual way round, but it makes a lot of sense if you follow cricket. Rahul Dravid should be on the Lord’s honours board. And now he is.
After Dravid made his hundred, there were a lot of people implying that he has played in the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar. If that’s true, it’s a very faint shadow as if there are a large number of light sources in the immediate vicinity, because we’ve considered him to be one of the finest batsmen of all time for about as long as we can remember and so has pretty much everyone else we’ve ever spoken to about him.
Rahul Dravid deserves a better nickname than The Wall. Walls are always dotted with Polyfilla. Dravid’s classier than that.
If you answered ‘yes’ to that question, you’re wrong. Kevin Pietersen was not out on 202 when England declared.
The consensus seems to be that Pietersen probably should have been given out when he tucked the ball down to Rahul Dravid, but we care more about what happened after that. He wasn’t given out and India had another 196 opportunities to dismiss him, but didn’t.
As many of you know, we never really accepted that Kevin Pietersen was in some dire run of form, but he still surprised us a bit with this innings. To go all Tour de France for the third time this week, he drifted along in the slipstream of Bell and Prior, conserving his energy in the mountainous morning and evening sessions. Then, when the England peloton approached the flat of an evening session featuring three fully-knackered frontline bowlers, he burst out and sprinted like Mark bloody Cavendish.
On Sky, they called Matt Prior the catalyst, which may well be true, but it’s worth keeping things in perspective. Kevin Pietersen scored three times as many runs as Prior.
As for England’s declaration, 474 really doesn’t seem like that many runs to us. We’d have been tempted to try and inflict some more wear and tear on the immense Praveen Kumar being as we’re at the start of an overly rapid four-Test series, but maybe we’re going too far with the long range planning with that. After all, the guy who wins the Tour de France will have done so by picking the right times to attack.
Bert has just left a comment drawing attention to Zaheer Khan’s performance this morning, pondering whether Operation Greggs has been put into practice. Operation Greggs involves plying Zaheer with meat and tatty pies until he’s bowling at Praveen Kumar pace.
Bert is right to raise this possibility, but it is worth investigating more thoroughly and thus far, we see little evidence that Operation Greggs has had any impact.
According to Hawkeye, Zaheer’s deliveries have averaged 80-odd mph thus far and he’s even hit 88.6mph with one. This is perfectly respectable.
He’s also got 2-9 at the time of writing. We move that a different pie be introduced. The man has a weakness, we just need to identify precisely what it is.