Moeen Ali and Jimmy Anderson – kings in defeat

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Jimmy the bat

The final pole was taken with just a cherry to spare. But just as a snatched draw wouldn’t have erased England’s shoddy cricket from the previous day, so falling short shouldn’t negate the efforts of Moeen Ali and Jimmy Anderson. Jimmy was basically in tears when Mike Atherton tried to interview him afterwards, but he can comfort himself with the fact that most of us will remember his efforts just as fondly as if he’d seen the job out. Sometimes it’s about how you lose.

Jimmy played 55 balls in making the best duck we’ve ever seen. Moeen Ali played 281 and hit a hundred in the process. As first Test hundreds go, it was just about as good as you get.

Moeen batted proactively to lubricate a partnership with Joe Root that would otherwise have seized up, he marshalled the tail and he did it all with such profound unarsedness that you can’t imagine he’s ever been nervous about a single thing in his entire life. To take England from where they were in the morning to within two balls of a draw was immense. If you were wondering how he might respond to pressure, this provided a pretty clear answer.

The finish

It’s hugely annoying when people describe cricket in football terms, but in this instance it’s instructive (and also pertinent being as the action played out concurrently with a deathly dull World Cup match).

In football terms, the situation was this. There were going to be 60 more shots on your team’s goal, they had an outfielder between the sticks and if they conceded even once, it was 10 days’ play and 10 days’ efforts flushed down the khazi.

That puts the tension in perspective. In short, it simply could not have come about in ‘the beautiful game’. You might get 10 minutes of tension in football. In cricket, you can get an hour or more. As the minutes tick by, it becomes more and more intense until you start wondering whether it’s even safe to watch; whether there might actually be a physical risk to subjecting yourself to this.

Your hopes could be dashed by any delivery and being as number 11 will always be at the crease in these situations, the fragility of it all is even more pronounced. There are no short cuts to these sorts of finishes and that is precisely why Test cricket can never die.


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  1. Aye, don’t worry Jimmy. We won’t blame you for making a hash of it with two balls to go. It’s not what you’re in the team for.

    We might blame you for making a hash of England’s fourth new ball of the match, though, given that you are in the team for that.

  2. Could you please not do the pole-cherry thing anymore?

    Deep Cower.

    1. thank fuck someone said it, and thank all the assembled cricketing gods that it was someone with renowned (presence and/or timely lack of) gentlemanly manners… such as deep cower πŸ™‚

  3. Proper cricket played when it mattered that very nearly changed the course of the match. That is what sets some people apart from the rest. That they came up a fraction short makes absolutely no difference.

    We need more like these.

  4. So now what?

    I think this is the starting XI for the first Test against India – none of the batsmen are going anywhere, possibly Buttler coming in? Stokes for Jordan would be harsh.

    How do they turn this into a winning side?

    1. This England team will easily beat India. Cook always plays well against India and India don’t have the bowling line-up to get 20 wickets. I doubt the English batsmen will be dreading facing any of the bowlers in the Indian squad.
      Our batsmen, while good, are an impatient lot – England’s plan of bowling dry will work very well. India’s only hope is that their batting consistently comes good and they sneak in 1-0 win due to a couple of good sessions with the ball. I doubt they can pull it off in a five test series, I’ll be happy if they manage to draw a few matches.

    2. Bring in Agathangelou, use Chris Read as a batsman/quasi-wicketkeeper (see the Scottish highlands), tell Alastair Cook to bowl a bit, let Ian Gillan write the goal music, follow the guidance of Don Bradman’s Australian side, England have no opening problems (Carberry is a decent batsman though), use Simon Kerrigan because he’s clearly trying to be the next Shane Warne and somebody needs to produce one before Beckham does it, and draft KC into the team before the Celtics manage to get the vote.

  5. I’ll retain vivid memories of the of the last two overs for the rest of my life – flipping between the Guardian OBO and Cricinfo as I didn’t make breakfast (6am NZ time). Mostly I’ll remember the pause – y’know – the cricinfo pause (replicated on the Grauniad) when update for the next ball doesn’t arrive… the pause that says SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED with lots of exclamation marks. (or the Wifi has dropped)

    But anyway… bloody test cricket aye?

  6. (of course you have also had some dream source materials to work with, let’s face it…)

  7. Leeds – shocking scenes today as Test Match Cricket BITES ITS OWN OBITUARY in an unprovoked attack, infront of dozens of horrified spectators and broadcast live on international TV.

    Appalled, global cricket administrators and/or T20 franchise owners are urgently considering what action to take, amidst calls for a LIFETIME BAN for Test cricket.

    “This kind of behaviour is dangerous and frankly unacceptable,” one leading businessman and cricket supremo commented off the record. “After years of threatening its dwindling audience with death through boredom, now Test cricket runs the risk of inducing heart attacks in fans.”

    Doctors warn that other medical conditions linked to watching, Test cricket include couch potatohood, tension, stress, emotional exhaustion, heartbreak, clinical nostalgia, a nagging sense of guilt at bankrolling Rupert Murdoch, and – for England fans – depression.

    1. I was one of those at Headingley today – and thankfully I survived the myocardial infarction. Perhaps it was the ‘Black Sheep anaesthetic’ imbibed from the lengthen rain break onwards. A fabulous day. An England Test, no seat restrictions and Β£5 entry. Heavenly!

    2. Jealousy successfully invoked! Would I be more jealous if the last balls had panned out differently? Hmm. Not sure, some defeats are glorious failures and in England’s case evoke a deep nostalgia. I’d feel happier with a draw but it would have felt like a stolen result.

      If the England unit could improve in just one skill, I’d suggest they master the art of stealing results they don’t really deserve. That 3-0 Ashes scoreline showed great promise in this regard, but progress has been squandered with a lot of “fair” results lately.

    3. We’d suggest that England have deteriorated from being a team that won convincingly to one that edged the close games to one that loses the close games.

      Incidentally, THE Darren Pattinson, A Darren Pattinson or not-really-a-Darren-Pattinson-at-all?

  8. It is slightly odd that Cook keeps mentioning that they “won 7-8 of the days in this series”, implying that the winning of days is somehow a useful metric of your overall performance in tests.

  9. Peter Moores as quoted on the BBC:

    “Alastair Cook has been magnificent today…Today was a great comeback in some ways and that was led by the captain.”

    I’m not sure how Peter Moores defines leading. Apparently he got everyone going in the morning.

    Also from Geoffrey Boycott:

    “Cook is a really, really nice boy, he’s honest, he’s straight”

    1. Superb use of the word “unit” deeper in that Peter Moores quote, Ibking – I’m sure KC’s alter ego, Cricket Badger, will pick up on that one.

      Meanwhile, both of those quotes are of the kind that, in other walks of life, tend to precede a “resignation”.

      Will Cook even be available for the next match? The over rate seemed to me wicked slow again.

  10. Well writ, KC, well writ.

    However much the ICC bollix up test cricket, it will survive and thrive because it is such an amazing advert for itself, with matches like this one. On a surprisingly regular basis.

    1. Indeed, considering how often people lable test cricket as boring, I can remember a vast number of extremely exciting tests in the last couple of years. It seems that close finishes seem much more commonplace for some reason lately.

  11. They should have had the queen on standby by the end; ready to walk onto the field, knight Jimmy on the spot, give him a castle somewhere and possibly name him Warden of the North.

    1. It’s a shame they didn’t make it in the end. I had images of Jimmy and Ali skipping off the ground, arm in arm, singing ‘Trolololol’ as they went past the stunned Sri Lankan fielders…

  12. “If you look at the whole series, I think we probably had the better of eight, maybe seven, of the 10 days.”

    “With the fifth ball of the last day of the first Test, it was taken away from us and with the fifth ball of the last over, we’ve lost this Test match.”

    “It doesn’t change the fact we’ve lost the series. But I think it would be wrong to look at it as such a negative series, just because we lost it.”


    Why do we have a captain who doesn’t understand the fundamental rule of the sport he plays? Does he know that there are no style marks in cricket? Does he think that England has lost this series due to the two balls he mentioned? As one of those F1 commentators is fond of saying – leading the race is great, but there is only one lap on which it actually counts. He continues to dig a deeper hole for himself every time he opens his mouth.

    One of the best things Rugby League ever did was switch the method of finding the champion team to a playoff system. Yes, you have to be good through the season, but as Leeds have shown too often for it to be a fluke, a good team can win this match, now, when it matters. This ability is completely absent from English cricket, and especially so from its test captain.

    Next England cricket captain? Kevin Sinfield. That is only partly a joke.

  13. To be fair to football (which certainly isn’t the treatment it deserves), you can sometimes get huge amounts of tension, but never during a single isolated match. Instead, how about a cup final that one team loses in the last minute of extra time? There, your vested interest in the outcome is dependent on the 5 or 6 matches that have gone before.

    Or there’s the penalty shoot-out analogy — the final overs of both Tests did feel strangely like England vs Germany back in 1990.

    Test cricket. Awesome.

    1. Yes, but part of our point is that even in those situations the utmost tension still only lasts a minute or so. It’s intense, but not so prolonged. That is what is unique about Test cricket.

    2. Oh, of course. Sort of like Test cricket being Sting to football’s Ron Jeremy.

      Or so I’ve been told. Erm.

    3. haha… yeah, but *what* have you been told exactly? sting famously admitted in an interview that the whole tantric sex thing had been wildly exaggerated (as regards himself at least), and that any reports of twelve-hour sex sessions actually meant “eleven and a half hours of begging, followed by a shag”.

      ron jeremy OTOH is renowned throughout the “adult” industry for his proven ability to ejaculate on cue – which requires greater self-control than the vast majority of us can even dream about. moral of all this? not much, except don’t always believe what you heard down the pub (or down that ashram, for that matter!)

  14. Well done SL. Jimmy wasn’t going to be 27th time lucky with another rearguard, let’s face it. He dug in manfully.
    What I would have given to see Michael Vaughan’s face after that wicket. Glorified county attack, indeed. If so, then England are a glorified county team. And Michael Vaughan is nothing more than a glorified county cricketer.

    1. In a way, ‘glorified county cricketer’ is the very definition of ‘England international’.

    2. Yep, good point…I realized that when I wrote it. I was joking anyway. I respect Vaughany as a cricketer. He was the poor man’s Ricky Ponting. The blind man’s Steve Waugh.

    3. He’s an arsehole.

      I would, however, support parachuting him back into the side as captain.

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