No you can’t come up for air

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Tomorrow, a view on India’s Test series, but today let’s look at England’s – or at least at how it finished. Some of the later events are being ruled ineligible for analyss on the grounds that India were too crap, but we found England’s approach quite interesting.

178 all out, 152 all out, 161 all out, 148 all out, 94 all out

It’s easy to to avoid bowling sides out for less than 200. This much should be obvious. But even when you’re in a position to do so, things often go awry. Bowlers get overconfident, change bowlers spray it around, or everything’s going so gosh darned swimmingly that the whole team suddenly realises it’s eased off a bit and the moment’s passed.

England didn’t make those mistakes. There were times when they could have bowled India out for fewer runs, but in general we’ve been rather impressed with their lack of mercy. It’s not a quality that’s always associated with England sides. Maybe all the months of humiliation have bequeathed them an embittered remorselessness.

Don’t slip

Field settings were particularly noticeable. There were attacking oddities like a short slip, but the most impressive thing for us was the sheer number of conventional slips. Yes, it’s easy to attack when you’re miles ahead, but Alastair Cook clearly has no reservations about setting his men out as if the whole side’s queuing to keep wicket. This was impressive for the simple fact that we thought that he was precisely the sort of man who would have reservations about doing that.

How can you bat?

We all knew England could do steadfast batting. Also in their known repertoire were: patient, accumulative and boring. Turns out they can also bat with gay abandon.

Jos Buttler clearly brings gay abandon, but few people thought Gary Ballance would. It takes him a while to get going, but if circumstances call for it, the shirt comes off and the runs flow. Then there was Joe Root and Stuart Broad on the final day of the series. 101 runs in 11.3 overs was a sadistic demonstration of strength of which Kaiser Soze would be proud.

Kicking them when they’re down

Does all of this matter? Will all of this apparent remorselessness really add up to much when things aren’t quite so easy?

We’d say so. After all, capitalising when things are going your way is basically the way in which you turn any match in your favour.


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  1. There seems to be an awful lot of narrative taking the form of ‘what happens when things aren’t so easy’, which is shite. It hints at two realy dire ideas that refuse to go away in the minds of english cricket journalism.

    One, that accomplishments are worthless if it’s at all conceivable that more difficult things exist or existed. Even when England had won a dozen series in a row and had the best claim to be the best team in the world, most of the commentary seemed to focus on what they couldn’t do, such as beat South Africa 5-0 away or be Viv Richards.

    Two, that this series was actually 3-1 and not 5-0 doesn’t matter. Only three times in their history have England come back to win a series when they were losing it after the first two tests. It matters. But it seems that writing the ‘complete capitulation tour’ story is more familiar to people after the last few years, so that’s the one we’re writing.

    1. The invaders you drove out yesterday
      have come back with new banners;
      the princes’ outstretched hands
      have all been washed in shame
      and it’s said that the country
      is rejoicing in defeat
      The papers are riddled with lies
      but no one around me
      is trying to disprove them
      (All this means nothing, for I’ll guard
      this charge with my life)
      The ones who go back on their words
      the ones welcoming disgrace
      the ones…
      I don’t know any of them
      I look at nothing but the sun, which shines
      like your helm at victory’s zenith

      Eight centuries have passed
      like a nap in the afternoon
      my throat is choked
      with words I cannot speak

      – Najwan Darwish, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, no relation in both cases. Famous! Palestinian poet, not to be confused with Pakistani or South African authors such as Chris Barnard.

  2. The “kicking them when they’re down” has two important facets. One, it gives the batsmen confidence, boosts their averages, and probably buoys the bowlers too. Two, it stops “them” from getting up again.

    I’m all for things like Stuart Broad applauding MS Dhoni on his counter-attack at the Oval, but only after he’s been bowled out and his side is lying in ruins on the floor, their guts making messy little puddles in the pitch.

  3. Well put, m’lud. I’m glad you mentioned Ballance and his more-than-one-geared-ness. He’s a really nice addition to the team. The players themselves have acquitted themselves well, even Robson, whose failures stem from a lack of technique rather than of application.

    I’d add a caveat to all this. The players still all play too much cricket. This systemic change looks as though it’s going to be slow to arrive, and certainly won’t do so until after the World Cup.

  4. This test season is like a film that started off like a particularly depressing Icelandic crime thriller where any brief glimpse of light and joy was snuffed out like a particularly well liked Game of Thrones character.

    Why some of the actors thought it could be turned into a slapstick movie however remains a genuine concern about artistic vision when an attempt is made in the Australian spin-off later this year.

  5. There’s a New Zealand A vs. Scotland match going on that has to be setting the all-time record for players named Hamish in a single match.

    Also, Anamul Haque is about to get a century as I type this, and I can’t remember anyone pointing out that his name is basically the Legion of Doom’s names. Also he apparently just invented the reverse hook shot.

  6. Since this post was visibly lacking in pessimism, I thought I’ll bring in some. Success is not guaranteed to beget success in sport. Nothing changes the fact that Cook, like Dhoni, is not a wartime Consigliere. They are both ruthless when things are going their way, but come one good top-order innings, the slips would’ve vanished. Cook was lucky that India collectively stripped naked and bent down without so much as a verbal protest.

    The only things that stood out for me were things I already knew: Root is a fine batsman and Jimmy is a workhorse. And Broad is still a dick.

    1. To quote Thomas Mann: “I know, from life and from history, something you have not thought of: often, the outward and visible material signs and symbols of happiness and success only show themselves when the process of decline has already set in. The outer manifestations take time – like the light of that star up there, which may in reality be already quenched, when it looks to us to be shining its brightest.”

      I think he was originally writing about the 2005 Ashes series, but I can’t be sure.

    2. We only remarked on Cook’s fielding positions because we previously felt that even if England were on top, he wouldn’t attack that much. It has little relevance for when they’re under the cosh, but it’s a nice surprise all the same.

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