England’s strongest unit supported by England’s biggest unit

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Photos by Sarah Ansell
Photos by Sarah Ansell

At lunch, Samit Patel had 0-33 off nine overs – neither here nor there. Fortunately, lunch is Samit’s secret weapon.

Popeye gains superpowers when he consumes spinach. In much the same way, Samit Patel gains superpowers when he eats pretty much anything.

“Bring forth the pastries!” he cried.

After lunch, he bowled like a man possessed – a man possessed by the spirit of a reasonably solid, attritional, left-arm orthodox finger-spinner, but a man possessed nonetheless. In that session, he took 1-24 off nine overs.

In the end, Samit got through 23 overs in the day, which was really rather handy because it allowed James Anderson and Stuart Broad to be James Anderson and Stuart Broad rather than James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s weary, insipid doppelgangers.

The extra seamer fallacy

It’s common in these situations to point to the success of Anderson and Broad (4-17 and 2-13 respectively) and say that England should have picked another seamer, but it doesn’t work like that.

If you aren’t already aware, Liam Plunkett isn’t James Anderson. Nor would he have been able to bowl as many overs as Samit Patel. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid could perhaps have taken up the slack, but neither was as economical as our pastry-fuelled friend. Things probably wouldn’t have worked out the same.

Back to Anderson and Broad – plus absent friends

England will rarely if ever again find themselves playing in difficult pace bowling conditions with two pace bowlers of such experience, skill, expertise and adaptability.

In a parallel world these two are still playing alongside Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and perhaps even Kevin Pietersen. Rather than being battle-scarred from mistreatment and overuse, those players are battle-hardened and England have more of a chance on these tours.

This isn’t to yearn for the past (or parallel worlds). It’s just an observation. We sometimes feel that the brilliance of England’s opening bowlers is to some degree frittered away by the callow nature of the other ‘units’ within this current side.

New players are fun, but old players are generally more effective. Sadly, when it comes to cricket, England is no country for old men.


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  1. I think the “if only we’d had another seamer” argument was amply undermined by Stokes. Though I do hope his shoulder’s patchupable.

    1. “What’s the prognosis, doctor.”

      “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m afraid that it’s unpatchupable.”

      1. Blakey from ‘On the Buses” played in that Test. His nickname was Dick possibly due to his Test batting average of 1.75.

    1. In the second and third Tests of England’s last tour of India, Swann, Monty and Samit all played. Samit only bowled five overs over the two matches, though.

    2. Last time Samit was in the team in 2012 he played with Swann and Panesar both in Sri Lanka and India.

      England have played far more spin than this in the past. In Kanpur in 1964 England sent down 165 overs of orthodox spin from Titmus, Mortimore, Wilson and Parfitt in the first innings; while India blasted their way towards following on at 1.46 runs per over. Of particular note was Mortimore’s offies giving him the figures of 48-31-39-1.

      In the second innings, in an attempt to force the issue, England bowled 111 overs of spin, including 100 from the above four plus 11 overs of Compton and Parks’ part time leg breaks. The period of play with those two bowling was described by Wisden as ‘a frolic’.

      It was a never-in-doubt draw, India being only three down at the close, despite there being 516 overs bowled in the match.

  2. On the subject of enormously talented English cricketers on our TV screens this test match – Daisy is very concerned about Rob Key. She says that she has never seen him looking so slim and she wonders whether he is overdoing it in the gym this winter or perhaps has some sort of wasting condition.

    Any intelligence on this matter, which is after all central to so many concerns here at King Cricket, gratefully received.

    1. It’s his winter weight. He doesn’t need such plentiful energy reserves at this time of year.

      1. A compact yet comprehensively excellent response, KC, in keeping with the (winter version of the) subject matter.

  3. So what we’re saying here, the take-away message, is that Samit Patel is fat.

    Have I got that right?

    1. The takeaway message would be something like: “Here’s your order, Mr Patel. We threw in a garlic bread with cheese.”

    2. Samit has plentiful energy reserves for the winter. He is NOT fat.

      Please be more precise with your adjectives, Sam. I thought you were supposed to be some sort of professional writer.

      1. He’s not fat, he just winters well, and it’s always winter somewhere in the world.

        Going along nicely at 135-3 at tea but I do worry that another wicket or two could expose the soft underbelly of our batting lineup.

  4. Has anyone else not got hover captions on the new site?

    I eagerly hovered over the Anderson picture expecting ‘Anderson using the Force’ or some such only to be left waiting

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