At the time of writing, Australia have made a solid start to chasing 400-and-plenty to win against Pakistan after losing ten wickets for 60 runs in their first innings.
We can’t at this point say what we expect the situation to be at the close of play, but it seems highly likely it will be a time for wide-eyed optimism. The very best form of wide-eyed optimism is when teams are chasing very big fourth innings targets and play ends for the day and everyone takes stock and loses all perspective.
At these times, the team that is highly likely to lose, pats itself on the back and says ‘maybe, maybe, maybe’ and they all say it to each other enough times that they get a little ahead of themselves.
The phrase ‘records are made to be broken’ is 50 per cent this and 50 per cent the professional obligation to try for a win (or at least a draw) no matter what the circumstances.
Records aren’t made to be broken. Records are made in the absence of a statistically superior event from the past.
Anyway, we’re very excited to see whether an Australia player says ‘records are made to be broken’. That’s the main thing that hangs in the balance in the final session – the possible saying of that phrase.
This is a somewhat ironic headline because as a rule we don’t remember things. Our brain long ago adopted the after-midnight-at-a-popular-nightclub policy towards nuggets of information – one in, one out.
So consider this a note to our future self that you’re all invited to read in the present. It’s not exactly the highlights of the 2018 international summer. It’s more a bunch of striking moments that may or may not create a sort of join-the-dots effect where linking them together maybe allows you to draw a vague outline of the season as a whole.
Pakistan arrived, Pakistan bowled England out easily – and lo, the theme of the summer was set.
England turned up fairly late for a one-day international against Scotland, lost it and then basically said that they didn’t care because they were only treating it as glorified practice anyway. Trevor Bayliss was so moved by what he saw that he flattened out the pocket of his hoodie.
If you’re tired of Australians being on the receiving end of world record totals, you’re tired of life. England made a still barely-believable 481-6 in a 50-over match and it was bloody hilarious.
“Oh my God, they have got to get this guy into the Test team,” said everybody (before later concluding the exact opposite once India had done precisely that).
MS Dhoni seemed poised to explode at any minute… but he never did. It was marvellous. He basically trolled the entire cricket world via some batting.
It was actually nowhere near as good a ball as everyone made out, but Kohli’s reaction to it was unparalleled.
Kohli seemed hell-bent on being dead centre of every single thing that happened when England and India finally got round to playing a Test match. After running out his opposite number, he mimed a mic drop to take the piss out of Root’s ‘bat drop’ at the end of the one-day series and then told him to fuck off.
It was bloody brilliant.
And Jennings quite miraculously failed to make any sort of contact with the ball whatsoever. This moment summed up the wonderful series-long Anderson v Kohli duel and also Keaton Jennings’ summer.
This also summed up Keaton Jennings’ summer. Poor Keaton Jennings.
Has anyone ever been more serious about anything ever than Sam Curran about everything always? He had a very successful summer and looked determined to ensure that would be the case throughout.
Rashid hitch-hiked his way through the Test series without anyone particularly noticing he was there, but then trotted in and dismissed two centurions just as everyone started to think they were maybe going to deliver a record run-chase in the final Test innings of the summer. The delivery that dismissed Rahul was everything the Kohli one pretended to be and wasn’t.
One of the great things about cricket is that a match can be unimaginably massive and yet one of the key contributions will come from someone who doesn’t even practise.
Kedar Jadhav doesn’t really bowl in the nets. He’s probably worried that any attempt to hone his craft will wash off the thick crust of filth that is his greatest weapon.
If you haven’t seen Jadhav bowl, try and imagine that your dad’s been drinking heavily and now he’s trying to do a Lasith Malinga impression for the very first time.
He pretty much just dobs it in. We believe it’s supposed to be spin.
According to Hassan Cheema, the previous time a spinner took three or more wickets for fewer than 30 runs against Pakistan was in 2013.
We honestly haven’t got much left to say about England’s batting, so let’s instead turn our attention to Hasan Ali’s hand and whatever the hell is up with it.
Here’s Hasan Ali’s hand midway through delivering the (apparently) fiendishly tempting wide one that did for Joe Root.
Strapping is a form of injury treatment/management that has always mystified us and this might just be the most mystifying example of all.
What the hell is wrong with Hasan Ali’s hand that he needs two bands of elastoplast around his hand at the top and base of his palm?
To be clear, this isn’t some coded attempt to accuse him of Bancroftian nefariousness because every cricket team is about eight per cent strapping anyway. Strapping is everywhere. The only thing striking about this strapping the way it’s been applied.
What is happening with Hasan Ali’s hand that this is necessary? Is it constantly trying to explode? Is the left of it being tethered to the right of it so that they don’t part ways? Did he trip while playing trains and brace his fall by planting his hand on the miniature track?
They say that prison changes a man. We ourself have never been incarcerated. One time we accidentally ran a red light late at night because a cat was crossing at the junction. We slowed to a stop and watched it safely cross, but when we looked up again, we found that the lights had changed and we’d rolled a few feet beyond them.
Bang in the middle of a deserted junction, we had to choose between pointlessly reversing or simply driving off forwards. We went for the latter. Unfortunately, all of this took place immediately outside a police station and a cop car pulled us over and it was terrifying. It was about this point that we concluded that we probably weren’t equipped to do serious time in the slammer.
So we’re not 100 per cent clear what they mean when they say prison changes a man. As far as we can tell, it fractionally dulls outright cricket brilliance, because while Mohammad Amir remains a very, very fine bowler, the extraordinary gasp-inducing, match-turning moments seem to have come less frequently during Act Two.
He seems very slightly eroded. We’re interested to know what proportion of him remains and whether we can express that as a percentage of his former self.
Amir entered Feltham Young Offenders Institution with 51 Test wickets at 29.09. Since he emerged, he’s taken 49 at 34.91.
His one-day international figures tell a very similar story. The synopsis for that story would be “not quite as good, but similar” which is not exactly the kind of tale where people will be rushing to buy up the film rights.
Maybe this isn’t about the stats.
The most captivating cricketers are generally those who give you very specific memories. We are struck by those whose manic peak form transcends everything else we see, even if there is also a depressive compensatory period afterwards. We’re pretty sure Mohammad Amir fits into this category.
Sadly, Cricinfo does not record the number of times a player makes you say “holy shit!”
Maybe this is something CricViz or someone could look into. The general sense though is of holy shits arriving with reduced frequency.
They can still happen. For all the jaded, stubbly, not-quite-as-pure-and-joyous-as-he-wasness about Amir Mark II, he still has it in him to do things other bowlers cannot.
Not many people can bowl deliveries that would dismiss Virat Kohli in a one-day international. Fewer still can bowl two in a row. The only real disappointment was that the second one was caught, denying Amir a sort of Kohli moral victory hat-trick.
He should also be a bit better prepared for bowling in England than last time around. He played for Essex last summer and speaking to Wisden Cricket Monthly, wicketkeeper James Foster said something along the lines of: ‘He was getting crazy mad swing, the likes of which I’ve never seen before even though I’m old.’ (This is not a direct quote.)
Three things Foster literally said:
This is difficult. We’re absolutely regretting floating the idea of expressing this as a percentage because it doesn’t make sense. But you can’t just scroll up the page and delete stuff, can you? No, you can’t. Not in this day and age. You have to try and deliver what you suggested you might deliver, even when it’s impossible.
Amir himself says he’s learned new skills, but at the same time, he’s a bit more chronic knee problemmy. Let’s write those developments off against each other because then we can just concentrate on the original Amir and whether there’s been any reduction there.
The stats say there has been a reduction, but the Essex performances say otherwise (he averaged 13.50 in three Championship matches and was their most economical bowler in 13 T20 matches).
Conclusion: Maybe, if last year’s spell reminded him how to bowl in England, we’ll get somewhere around 95-100 per cent of the old Mohammad Amir (only without the propensity to make huge, life-changing mistakes).
This Ireland v Pakistan Test is a big deal and Ireland are treating it as a big deal. If feels the way international matches are supposed to feel.
Ed Joyce said that Test cricket “wasn’t even a pipedream” for Ireland’s men’s team until relatively recently, which really puts things in perspective. (And this is an All-Ireland team as well, lest we forget – which is not insignificant in itself.)
Tomorow 11 of us will represent the 688 who have gone before us. Thank you for paving the way for us to fulfill our dreams. 🍀 pic.twitter.com/ahPmpgw9h9
— Andy Balbirnie (@balbo90) May 10, 2018
“Test cricket is the best,” said Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, speaking to the BBC earlier this week. “It’s the pinnacle format and still has the perception of the romance of the game – if we were not playing it we would not be playing the best format.”
Deutrom speaks of cricket being the pinnacle in a way that is manifestly less hollow than when most other cricket administrators use that word.
Here are two other things he said, which betray a rare fundamental understanding of things.
Speaking about the fact that Ireland will only play a few Tests a year, he said: “We’ve an opportunity to create a brand around its sheer rarity.”
That idea, that scarcity can increase the value of something, is so simple and so important, yet it is utterly alien to cricket.
And amid all the hoo-ha and dumb ideas and market research, Deutrom also comprehends that something rare and with status can draw attention even in this age of supposedly shortened attention spans. Speaking about why Ireland want to play Tests, he said: “It’s also a means to an end; namely to popularise cricket and try to make it a mainstream sport in Ireland.”
On top of all the sense he speaks, the bloke clearly also absolutely loves cricket. Warren Deutrom is our cricket executive hero. We are going to get a grey suit with DEUTROM across the shoulders.
Now onto the match. Could Ireland win? Why not? We can think of two pretty major reasons why they might triumph.
(1) They’re playing at home and the weather forecast is pretty Irish. These guys know a hell of a lot more about playing in Ireland than anyone else does.
(2) Look at the Ireland team. Most of these guys will be more familiar to you than the England team. They have been playing together for years, they’re well-drilled and they have experience of giving a good account of themselves in big one-off matches.
That second point is so important. People often think that an international match is an international match, but do you honestly equate a dead rubber in a five-match bilateral series with a knock-out game in a World Cup or in World Cup qualifying?
Even if they recently failed to make it to the 2019 tournament, big matches in which the players absolutely have to perform are Ireland’s soda bread and butter. As they have fought their way to Test status, every game has mattered in a way that fatter, more complacent cricket nations cannot comprehend.
That fight also seems to have given Ireland a sense that Test status is actually something worth fighting for. Quite honestly, that is really very uplifting to witness.
Firstly, let’s just savour yet another fine moment for Rangana Herath, an international cricketer who is not only older than us, but also better than every other cricketer there’s ever been (possible hyperbole). Spending most of your career with Muttiah Muralitharan as your benchmark can lead to having standards some way above the clouds, it seems.
Yesterday, the homicidal capybara did what he has done so often – he bowled Sri Lanka to victory when they were almost wholly reliant on him to achieve it. No-one else could have got the side home, but Herath is by now unfazed by such things and took six Pakistan wickets for 43 in 21.4 overs of predictable brilliance.
Pakistan suffered greatly in that match through not having another fine old cricketer at their disposal. Misbah-ul-Haq averaged 239 in the fourth innings of Test matches in the UAE. Not bad when you consider what those pitches can be like by then.
We watched Race and Pace last night. It’s not a post-acrimonious-split lowbrow ITV sketch show from the Eighties, but a documentary about West Indian pros playing in the Lancashire leagues. It’s exactly the kind of BBC programme about which you think, “what in hell possessed you to make that?” but also “why didn’t you make it far longer or do a whole series?”
Professionals playing against amateurs is one of our absolute favourite facets of cricket. The idea that world stars rock up and showcase their unearthly talents against carpet fitters and foundry workers is demented but also gives rise to all the best stories.
The juxtapositions in Race and Pace are plentiful. The finest is Viv Richards turning up to play for Rishton in a helicopter. Have you been to Rishton? The current population is under 7,000.
None of it makes sense. David Lloyd says Accrington played Rishton twice at home and that covered their finances for two years. They seemed to make most of the money from selling pies.
Speaking of which, how’s this for a Viv quote: “I found out about another cuisine that you had in that part of the world: mushy peas and pie. Looked a little foul at the time, but I’m an honorary Lancastrian so I’m going to let it work.”
That’s so Viv to say ‘let it work’. King Viv will allow pie and mushy peas to function.
Anyway, it’s only half an hour long and available via the iPlayer and we heartily recommend it for these and other reasons. If you’re overseas, there’s almost certainly some workaround that will allow you to watch it, although we don’t know what it is because we don’t need to and therefore can’t be bothered finding out.
England and Australia fans who enjoy answering the question “so why isn’t this the Ashes then?” will be delighted to hear that the two sides are going to do that thing where they follow the Test series with five don’t-give-a-toss one-day matches six months later in the other country.
The news comes as part of the ECB’s announcement of England’s 2018 summer fixtures.
Pakistan will turn up first in a somewhat forlorn bid to try and breathe a bit of life into the springtime two-Test non-series.
After that, it’s a one-dayer against Scotland and then five against Australia, during which both sides will doubtless make an attempt to ‘blood some exciting new talent’.
Then it’s India for the main event. After three T20 internationals and three one-day internationals, the tourists will play five Tests: three in the South-East and two in the Midlands.