Don’t get us wrong, India do have some real collapsing pedigree. Their performance at Lord’s was borderline exceptional, but the spectacular nature of that particular showing shouldn’t distract from the fact that they were assisted by conditions.
India generally need the ball to swing or seam to deliver a proper collapse. England are a more rounded side. They collapse home and away and can perform on even the flattest tracks. They are able to transcend conditions like no other team in world cricket.
They are also more consistent than anyone else. Again and again they deliver. Even their larger totals are typically only built following a full top six implosion.
Then there’s the depth of talent. It doesn’t seem to matter who comes into the side, they invariably deliver. This is primarily down to culture. England have a rich history of batting collapses stemming from a prolonged spell of extraordinary form in the Eighties and Nineties. To some degree this is taken for granted here in the UK, but this is the kind of grounding that players from other major Test nations lack.
So, to recap, these are the four main reasons why you should never challenge England to a collapse-off.
Their ability to transcend conditions
Their unparalleled consistency
Their depth of talent
The rich and inspiring history they have to draw upon
India have performed well in the first two Tests, but only the very best can continue offering indeterminate prods to balls wide of off stump throughout an entire five-Test series.
Cricket Captain 2018 is fundamentally the same game as last year. Here’s a review of Cricket Captain 2017 for a broad overview and what follows here is a (not particularly) quick look at All-Time Greats mode, which is one of the new features.
We’ll probably do a review thing about playing a career as Afghanistan further down the line as well.
What is All-Time Greats mode?
What do you think it is? It’s a gameplay mode where you can pick historical players.
You know, all these sorts of guys…
What follows is a true story
To test All-Time Greats mode, we played a series. We played exactly one series and we didn’t save and replay any parts of it and we aren’t lying about any of what follows either. [You’ll see why this statement is necessary shortly.]
An All-Time Greats series can be in any format and up to five matches. We played three Test matches because we thought it would be unfair to make our guys play five matches, what with most of them being quite old and several of them being dead.
We played as England and we played against India because England are playing India at the minute and we weren’t feeling very imaginative.
Step one was to pick our 18-man squad.
Can you pick Ian Austin?
Can you pick Ian Austin? You can pick Sep Kinneir. The Cricket Captain 2018 database isn’t going to let you down. Of course you can pick Ian Austin. You can also play him in the first Test ahead of WG Grace.
Our other major selectorial moves saw Rob Key edge out Graham Thorpe because we ran out of batting spots, while the trickiest decision was whether to go with Bob Willis or Syd Barnes. We went with Willis in the end because we felt our attack needed a bit of pace.
There are two options for selecting the opposition squad: you can either pick it yourself or you can not pick it yourself. We didn’t feel it was in the Spirit of Cricket to be picking the opposition’s squad for them, so we left them to do it themselves.
When we started the match, we were greatly surprised to see that India’s idea of an All-Time Great squad is the exact squad they have right now. They stuck KL Rahul behind the stumps and picked seven specialist batsmen, two spinners and two quicks.
The first Test
Having won the toss and batted, Marcus Trescothick made a bombastic 144. Despite that strong start, there was every chance of a disappointing score until a counter-attacking lower order partnership between Matt Prior (93) and Willis (41). The England All-Time Greats ended up with 431.
Beefy made a duck.
The very first ball of India’s innings was wholly believable with Shikhar Dhawan caught at slip off Jimmy Anderson. The team continued to make great early inroads but then Graeme Swann was totally unthreatening and a large partnership built between Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin.
Obviously we gave Rob Key an over. Much less obviously, he dismissed Ashwin. It was at that point that we resolved never to bowl Key again as there was no way it was going to get any better than that in the field.
It got better with the bat though. As we pushed for a second innings declaration, Key notched a fine 200-ball half century. This then turned into a 300-ball unbeaten hundred.
Alas, there wasn’t enough time to bowl India out and England All-Time Greats had to settle for a draw. It was no-one’s fault.
The second Test
We were keen to get WG Grace into the side to give us an extra bowling option and this sadly meant that we had to drop David Gower. Ian Austin had been unable to bring his one-day form to the Test arena, so we dropped him for Syd Barnes, even though that meant lengthening the tail.
After again winning the toss, we chose to bat. Rob Key notched another 200-ball half century and then pressed on to make a breath-taking 109 off 386 balls.
With rain around, Beefy, Jimmy and Syd Barnes secured an 87-run lead, but England All-Time Greats were again running out of time. We set India 271 to win in two sessions and they finished on 153-5. We can’t remember who took the wickets, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t Graeme Swann because he was still proving singularly ineffective.
Everyone blamed the weather for the match ending in a draw.
The third Test
Swann’s muted performances had left us seeking an additional spin option. While WG Grace had batted competently, his medium-pace offered nothing to a team already boasting Syd Barnes. We therefore dropped him for Wilfred Rhodes, who brought a slow left-arm option to the attack.
With 58 first-class hundreds to his name, we felt confident Rhodes could do a job at number three and his 4,204 first-class wickets suggested he wouldn’t be overawed if the pitch started to turn either.
For their part, India stuck with seven specialist batsmen but this time went with four seamers and no spinner. Interesting decision.
England All-Time Greats again batted first and an under pressure Alastair Cook showed admirable resilience to grind out a hundred. Key, by now in blistering form, raced to 50 off just 120 balls and then 103 off 282 balls before being dismissed. Even with India’s long batting line-up, 477 felt like a good score – particularly in light of the home team’s broad range of bowling options.
India started well enough, but it was hard to avoid the feeling that this was going to be England’s match when even Graeme Swann managed to take a wicket (Kohli). We then brought Wilfred Rhodes on for the first time in the 44th over. He took a wicket with his first ball. And his fourth. And his sixth.
Rhodes finished with 4-16 in the innings. Swann managed something like 3-400 in the series.
India then followed-on and Willis took 5-49 to secure victory by an innings and 69 runs.
England All-Time Greats took the series 1-0 and with no further playing obligations, the players made their way back to their respective homes/old people’s homes/graves.
Series (and game mode) review
If we can play an All-Time Greats series and Rob Key finishes with most runs (344 at an average of 86.00) and the lowest bowling average (4.00) then that to us seems like an excellent thing.
Cricket Captain 2018 is available now on PC, iOS, Android and Mac. For more information, see the Childish Things website.
Ged spotted these in the beer garden bar of The Milk House, Sissinghurst, Kent.
He wasn’t sure whether they qualified for our regular feature Cricket Bats In Unusual Places or whether they might give rise to a whole new feature based on The Device. (Somewhat surprisingly, this is actually the second time someone has contacted us about another version of The Device.)
Ged said: “The bartender, who I think might have been Henry, claimed that the bats/devices are not as useful as they look, because the bar serves beer in tall glasses that don’t really fit in those holes.”
It’s not the bats/devices that are the problem here, Possibly Henry – it’s your glasses.
Why would any establishment seek out and purchase glasses that failed to work in conjunction with these magnificent objects?
Send your pictures of cricket bats and other cricket stuff in unusual places to firstname.lastname@example.org
India have had very much the worse of conditions in this match and they have also been facing some masterful swing bowling. All the same, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they haven’t really made any runs.
Out of interest, we checked which batsmen had played in the Test matches the last time they toured so that we could judge who had failed to come up with a method for dealing with difficult conditions.
Turns out it’s everyone.
You may or may not (want to) remember that India were bowled out for not-very-much several times when they toured England in 2014. A couple of guys made hundreds, but this seemed to coincide with all the other specialist batsmen making nothing. Other times everyone made 30 or 40 but not much more.
By the end of the tour, they were very much batting like they are now with the captain (MS Dhoni back then) playing a lone face-saving hand as the world collapsed around him.
The batting line-up for the first three Tests was Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.
The one thing you could say is that they didn’t get a huge volume of experience of batting in difficult conditions for the simple reason that they kept getting dismissed.
Apparently that was just practice, which explains why this particular world cup music video is incredible and slightly less bad.
How long would it take for the Daily News to fold?
Daily News (all images via YouTube)
The front page is weather, which is good, strong UK tabloid fodder. The back page is “CRICKET WORLD CUP IS COMING.”
This is (a) a woeful headline and (b) hardly a sudden and newsworthy development.
We’d suggest that the kind of newspaper that runs ‘cricket tournament that has been scheduled for years is shortly about to start’ as its main sports story is not one that is going to earn a huge and profitable readership.
The only way this makes sense as a back page headline is if there are about 15 different editions of the newspaper every single day – and if that’s the case, they’re going to go bust almost instantly.
Who the hell are these needy tag-alongs and what the hell is going in their heads?
We’ve seen Andrew Flintoff several times in real life. We have never once felt an urge to follow him.
Now we like Fred very much, but if we saw him and he suddenly broke out into song, we would honestly be physically repelled by this. We would rapidly begin to move in the opposite direction without hesitation.
What can possibly be happening in these people’s lives that they instead think: “Well this is unbelievably weird. I know – why don’t we not just follow, but actively join in.”
The two on the right are definitely on their lunch breaks, in which case this free time should be incredibly valuable to them and surely not to be frittered away on ex-cricketer-following wild goose chases.
What were these three guys doing before they joined in?
‘Just hanging around in town in my England clothes with my entirely normal hair.’
Is Charlotte Edwards the greatest facial actor in history?
Look at Charlotte Edwards’ face here and try and tell us this face doesn’t somehow crystallise all of the many conflicting emotions you simultaneously feel while watching the video.
Either (a) Charlotte Edwards is the greatest actor in history or (b) they didn’t warn her and this is just her genuine, honest reaction.
Why is there a police officer?
The opening gives the impression that this is one of those impromptu celebratory parades that often seem to occur in music videos and nowhere else.
If that’s the case, where did this guy come from?
What kind of impromptu celebratory parade has a police escort?
Maybe this isn’t an impromptu celebratory parade. Maybe we should stop thinking of it as one.
What is the guy at Mani’s Greengrocers doing?
At first we thought he was a customer and that was maybe his rucksack in front of him.
But then we noticed that he has bright blue hands.
Either he’s wearing a luridly coloured disposable latex glove, like they use at crime scenes or he’s bagged something up.
The second option seems more normal, but it looks more like a glove to us, in which case who is he? Does he work at Mani’s? Is he Mani? (He’s certainly not Mani from the Stone Roses.)
If he’s just a customer, why is he putting a glove on and where is he putting the fruit? If he’s an employee, what is he doing? Also, why doesn’t he so much as bat an eyelid at the demented torrent of people pouring past him.
Maybe this one isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s bugging us all the same.
Who are these people and how did they know this parade would happen?
Did they have 4 and 6 signs lying around? Do they attend Tests annually but retain their signage from one year to the next? Did they see the parade coming on CCTV giving them time to dig out the signs and display them at the appropriate moment?
We’re pretty sure the guy’s not a proper cricket fan because a proper cricket fan would always wave the 6 as a 9. (We’ve no idea why this is the case, but we’ve seen it happen enough times to know that this is 100 per cent true.)
Is this one of the Currans?
Kind of looks like one.
Maybe not one of the current ones, but we assume there are more Currans still to come.
How long is this parade?
They start somewhere urban, they end at the Oval, but then at one point they’re here.
Is this one of those bits of London where they leave a field surrounded by big trees to try and trick you into thinking you’re not in London? (Nice try London, but we can still hear you.)
It’s also worth noting that going off the background, Charlotte Edwards’ bench is in this area but then when Fred acknowledges her, he’s back in suburbia (or possibly urbia (why does no-one say ‘urbia’?)).
This is a very slow response time. Fred’s reactions have deteriorated markedly since he was a professional cricketer.
In terms of famous cricketers, does the video mostly just feature people who happened to be in and around the Oval on the day that they were filming?
Fred obviously got the train down especially, but other than that you kind of feel like they just roped in whoever stumbled past.
Other than Edwards, we get Phil Tufnell (obviously) and Kumar Sangakkara (less obviously, but also totally obviously if we subscribe to the ‘in-and-around-the-Oval’ theory).
Greg James is there too. A Venn diagram pretty much demanded his presence because this is both music and cricket.
Where do you go after this last bit?
The problem with climactic moments like this is that everyone has to do something immediately afterwards and you’ve honestly got no room for manoeuvre. It’s all downhill from here.
We’re guessing that everyone looked around awkwardly; no-one really spoke; a bunch of people checked their watches and hurried back to work; and the Saint George’s Cross person got the Tube home, leaving little deposits of tinsel and ticker tape here there and everywhere.
Fred’s probably still there, pratting about with the beach ball or something.
The ability to counter green pitch dobblery in April may not be wholly relevant to the challenge of facing India at the back end of an arid British summer in which the grass has turned beige. Fortunately, Pope has managed to squeeze in four more Championship innings since May and they have gone okay. He made 41, 117, 69 not out and 30 and almost certainly faced a few overs of mediocre spin during that time.
Given a choice between him and James Hildreth, it makes sense to go for the younger guy who is in better form. And make no mistake, Pope is a great deal younger. He was born a year after Face/Off came out. (We use Face/Off as a reference point largely because we watched about 40 minutes of it the other night and the overacting was even more incredible than we remembered. Nicolas Cage simultaneously whooping and crying shortly after kicking Frank Sobotka in the nuts is a particularly fine moment.)
The BBC reports that Pope played for Campbelltown-Camden in Sydney grade cricket last year, living with club secretary Jason Ellsmore.
Ellsmore said: “When it came to laundry, he didn’t realise that in Australia we let our clothes dry outside. He asked me where the dryer was. His first life lesson was how to use a washing line.”
Setting aside the suggestion that washing lines are somehow a uniquely Australian innovation, it’s an interesting gauge of a young man’s life that he would never have really encountered one (or at least would assume that using a machine was ‘normal’).
We don’t exactly know what it says. Maybe it’s just a damning indictment of the energy wastefulness of modern Britain. Consider this revelation ‘colour’ ahead of the second Test.
As for what Pope will deliver in that match, all that we can be certain of is that it will by definition be papal. We’re very much interested to see what that means in a cricket context.
Having not been to Sophia Gardens before, I was a little unsure what to expect. However, having been to international matches before, I knew that I would be at least £60 less well off before I started.
Nevertheless, we got in, only to find out they can’t serve until 10am. There was a man with a watch there to enforce it.
We made the mistake of going to the first bar we found: Foster’s or Strongbow. I wanted something vaguely resembling beer, so cans of John Smith’s it was.
£5 each, plus £1 glass deposit.
We mooched around the ground and found bars that sold a better standard of drink (more fool us).
We came across the team playing 5-a-side. That clearly meant a late start – not that anyone bothered to announce it.
A glance at the Guardian site informed me that the toss was delayed because of the rain. Why do you need to delay a toss? It went ahead shortly and Australia elected to bowl – as you would unless your surname was Hussain or Ponting.
I avoided the food because it was ridiculous – right up until I seriously had to eat. I bought a hot dog which was a shade under the £6 everything else was. It was just about edible.
A man had an odd shirt on who sat on the steps.
We won with plenty to spare and so back we went to our conveniently located hotel.
I had to go to Brussels the next day so other than a couple of pints round Cardiff, hoping to run into Gladstone Small, Mike Gatting or anyone, I called it a night.
Send your match reports to email@example.com. 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.
There’s this odd belief in cricket that people want to see fours and sixes. They don’t. They want to see jeopardy.
What is jeopardy? It’s when wickets matter. It’s when everything you see has an impact on the outcome of the game.
When one team makes 400 and the other makes 500, every run is less valuable because everything derives its value from the result. Runs are just a proportion of a win and the more of them there are, the less significant each becomes.
The story is everything and the story needs to corner. If it turns like a barge, there’s nothing.
Soon afterwards, India were 50-0, at which point Sam Curran swanned in like a scale model of the world’s greatest left-arm swing bowler. Ben Stokes thought he too would swing it and suddenly the score was 100-5. England were going to win.
That became 182-8, but delusional Virat Kohli was surging. The closer England got to the end of India’s innings, the faster he seemed to move away from them. What was happening? Which team had that most precious of all cricketing commodities, momentum? Who was going to win now?
England’s first innings lead was an almost meaningless 13 runs and when R Ashwin chipped out the top three with the lead barely 50, it was still hard to gauge the value of a run. However, after a percussive intervention by Ishant Sharma and with the scoreboard now reading 87-7, the scarcity principle could confidently be applied. When Sam Curran hit some fours and sixes, it was like stumbling across a massive great savings account you’d totally forgotten you had.
India’s target ended up being 194 – a total that for almost the entire innings felt both entirely attainable or wholly unattainable depending what had happened the previous ball.
A massive great outswinger would beat the bat and you’d envision more edges than a d20 and an England win. A solid punch for four and you’d imagine a growing torrent of runs and an India win. When did a four become such an extraordinary volume of runs, you’d think? When did one shot start to have such an enormous impact on the outcome of a Test match?
Every time there was a wicket, there’d be a clunk as you shifted down a gear and adjusted to the new mental cadence. When Kohli was dismissed after his 200th run in the match, it felt like dropping down from the big chain ring to the little one. It wasn’t an incremental shift. It was a step change.
But still the number of runs required came down and still the value of each run scored went up. 40 to win and a bosh to the ropes became a tenth of the match. With two wickets remaining, a long drawn-out LBW review became half the match.
One wicket to go and all of this – all of the runs; all of the wickets; all of the reviews and appeals and drops and leg-byes; all of the time spent plotting dismissals; all of the hours spent diligently countering bowlers; all of it, all of it – was bound up in whether that wicket would fall or whether those priceless few runs were scored.
There were three phases to Virat Kohli’s hundred. There was the bit where he kept being beaten by the bowlers; there was the bit where the ball wasn’t doing quite so much but he was still shaken up; and there was the bit where everything went back to normal and he played like he was going to make a hundred all along.
Far and away the most interesting of the three was the bit where he was shaken up. This is because it didn’t particularly seem to exist.
Have you ever had a near miss on the road?
Like a scary near miss. Someone pulling out on you or moving into your lane on the motorway without looking. Maybe some absolute knobsack in a 4×4 towing a trailer went to overtake you while you were flying downhill on your bike but then instead of actually passing, he just sat there alongside you, trapping you within an 18 inch wide strip of tarmac as you both approached a bend at speed.
Something like that happens and you know about it. Your body carries a memory of it and if anything remotely similar occurs within a certain span of time, your vital systems take a shortcut directly to full-on panic.
This is quite often what happens to batsmen. It’s not so much the one ball with their name on it that gets them as the accumulation of all the balls with very similar names on them. Misses, edges, wrong shots – even just failing to score – eventually batsmen get nervy and then they do something stupid. Maybe not even stupid. Maybe just something less than excellent because that can quite often be enough to get you out in a Test match.
Improving his odds
Doing something wrong (or not quite so well) because of a bunch of stuff that happened previously is one of three main ways in which batsmen get out. (The two that bookend it are unplayable deliveries and getting too cocky.)
Kohli seems to have all but negated the effects of near-misses though; the reverberations just don’t seem to touch him. This is pretty weird because getting freaked out by things that almost result in your (cricket) death is a very natural human response. The elite level of obliviousness being displayed by Kohli is therefore almost literally inhuman.
Forget about it
People talk about shrugging off those moments when you almost lose your wicket, but while many batsmen appear to do so, few move from a close call to complete conviction that it’s going to be their day quite like Kohli.
Such a move requires a great fat tree trunk of confidence; the kind that’s fed by thousands of little tendrilly roots, so that if you cut a few off, it barely even matters. It perhaps also demands [looks shiftily from left to right, lowers voice to a whisper] a certain amount of delusion.
Delusion is very much a strength in sport. If things fall your way, it can be rebranded as confidence after the fact, whereas lack of confidence will pretty much always see you fall before luck can even become a factor. Certainty is good, no matter where you get it from.
This seems to us to be the area where Kohli has an advantage over most people. He’s not invincible. He has weaknesses and periods where he’s vulnerable. It’s just that immediately after he’s threatened, he denies that it ever happened with such absolute certainty that he even convinces himself.