England got to have a go at partnership-breaking when the ball wasn’t doing a right lot today. Everyone had a go and everyone failed and then Joe Root finally gave Adil Rashid a bowl and he got both lads out.
That’s a very simplistic way to describe how things went, but it’s also good to keep in mind. Partnership-breaking when the ball isn’t doing a right lot is a very important aspect of cricket outside England. From time to time it’s actually more important than the ability to concede only 2.1 runs an over.
It’s also worth bearing in mind when you look at Adil Rashid’s Test record. For most of this series, he’s been given just five, six or seven overs an innings. Today he didn’t really get a proper spell until KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant had put on 200. Imagine being a seam bowler treated like that. Imagine what you’d average. The answer is ‘even more than Adil Rashid’.
Rashid generally gets to bowl when things are going badly for England; on flat pitches when batsmen are scoring fairly easily.
There are two ways this can pan out.
Even if Rashid were the best bowler in history, the first of those would be way more likely – yet when it understandably happens he is regarded as a failure because there are almost no other circumstances on which to judge him. Perceptions of his bowling seem… unfairly weighted.
Today, KL Rahul batted brilliantly, but he fell to a delivery that appeared to bounce off an invisible side wall. Rishabh Pant batted brilliantly, but he didn’t seem to pick the wrong ‘un and played the ball more up than along.
Adil Rashid turned his arm over and dismissed two centurions. A few overs later England took the new ball and he drifted off back into the outfield.
As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.
Is Adil Rashid a bowler who can take wickets when others cannot? Yeah, probably. Sometimes.
Does Adil Rashid’s selection for the Test squad having previously jacked in red ball cricket maybe raise a couple of awkward questions? Erm, yeah, probably. But let’s focus on the wickets, eh?
Earlier this year, Adil Rashid supposedly gave up first-class cricket to become a white ball specialist. A major reason why he did this was because he suspected that he was not going to play Test cricket under England’s current captain.
Rashid didn’t think this for no reason. He’d been England’s first-choice spinner for the tour of India and while he didn’t perform spectacularly, he did better than everyone else and well enough that he’d have expected to retain his place. Instead he was dropped. Double-dropped even.
England picked Mason Crane as their second spinner on the Ashes tour, even though it was clear to everyone that he was never actually going to play.
Rashid thought about this and he thought about how he could make an unarguable case for reselection bowling leg-spin in the County Championship. With half the matches played in April and May and England clearly not much interested in picking him for Tests, he concluded that he’d be pissing in the wind.
We’re not sure whether you’ve ever tried pissing in the wind, but honestly, there’s little to be gained from it. More often than not you’ll end up thinking that you never should have commenced the piss in the first place. Rashid therefore binned red ball cricket to focus on his England career. It’s worth noting that he subsequently played very well.
Who knows what happens next, but thanks to a change in selection policy and good form in limited overs cricket, Adil Rashid has won back his place in England’s Test squad.
When Jos Buttler came back into the Test team off the back of his IPL returns, he said that it wasn’t a question of playing the right format. He pointed out that in an alternate universe, maybe he’d have made five first-class hundreds for Lancashire and won his place back that way.
That’s true, but the same doesn’t hold for Rashid. The chances of a leggie tearing it up in the Championship on damp seamers is nil because no matter what form he’d been in, he simply wouldn’t have been given the ball. He’d have been lucky to get three overs. He might not even have been picked.
Plenty of people will moan about Adil Rashid’s return, but it’s hard to envisage any other way he could have won his place back.
Good luck to him.
When we wrote about what it’s like to be Virat Kohli, we didn’t for one minute think that there would be any overlap with what it’s like to be Mike Gatting.
Turns out there is. Virat Kohli and Mike Gatting both do a thing where they make an astonished face after being bowled by a leg-spinner.
Here’s Kohli’s ‘I’ve just been bowled by Adil Rashid’ face.
Because he’s pressed for time.
Adil Rashid has signed a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire for the 2018 season. Some will say he’s looking to become a short format specialist because it’ll allow him to buy a bigger car or house or whatever, but that’s missing the point.
The point is that Rashid is not going to play Test cricket under England’s current captain. He is however going to play 20- and 50-over cricket under Eoin Morgan and so the 2019 World Cup is his overwhelming focus.
There is only so much time to hone his one-day game before then and adequate rest is likely to prove far more important than fiddling around with a red ball, bowling in a different way to different fields.
The margins are fine in international cricket. A player with 100 per cent focus on a particular goal is likely to do better than one with 90 per cent focus on it.
It’s not greed. It’s professionalism. We spelled it out with Mark Wood as the example last week. The IPL and England one-dayers take precedence over first-class cricket for anyone likely to make England’s 2019 World Cup squad.
This month’s Wisden Cricket Monthly features an interview with Jason Roy in which he says he’s “ready” to play Test cricket.
He’s wrong, but only in the sense that you can only really perfect something if you actually practise it. Seven first-class innings between September 2016 and July 2018 will not amount to much practice.
Given a bit more experience, a bit more game-time, a few more hours instilling the decision-making that is such a key part of long format batting, Roy would surely make the grade as a Test cricketer.
So would Jos Buttler. So would Alex Hales. All those who dismiss these players as one-day specialists miss what they could become were they playing in a different environment.
The ECB doesn’t give a shit. The England and Wales Cricket Board is happy to sacrifice these players’ long format opportunities because it means they’ll be fully-focused on the 2019 World Cup and the 2019 World Cup is The Big Thing right now. Everything else is secondary.
As far as the ECB’s concerned, the players are just ‘human resources’. If you play for England’s 50-over side and you want a more diverse career, you’re going to have to find a way of fighting for that yourself – but don’t come crying to the ECB if someone wholly committed to one-day cricket leapfrogs you.
The weighting towards short format cricket is particularly acute in England right now due to the home World Cup looming on the horizon, but this is still the fundamental situation throughout the world at all times. The fixture list is sufficiently congested that tough decisions have to be made and nine times out of ten first-class cricket will come out on the wrong side. A major consequence of that is that Test cricket also loses out.
Many will feel that nations are still putting out their best Test teams, but they are only putting out what’s best when viewed from a single moment in time when many of the country’s most talented players have already been reluctantly siphoned off into mono- or bi-format careers.
As a slightly less bleak conclusion to this article, we’d like to put forward a notion that could see the odd high profile cricketer actively seek out first-class cricket to improve their game. That notion is base training.
Four-day cricket offers a lot of game time. It offers hours at the crease and overs bowled and surely helps players groove their game in a less pressured environment. In that Wisden Cricket Monthly article, Roy says that his few games for Surrey last year helped him regain rhythm. Perhaps left to lash out in short format purgatory, that rhythm never would have returned.
It’s sometimes said that there are three main variables involved in training. The first two – frequency and intensity – are easy enough to find in short format cricket. Who knows, Adil Rashid may find himself wanting when it comes to the third one – volume.
Everyone was weirdly fine with Adil Rashid’s omission from England’s Ashes squad, even though he was England’s only consistent wicket-taker on flat pitches last winter. Considering England have spent much of this tour looking decidedly fast-medium, it seems a fair time to revisit the decision.
We took a look at Rashid’s record compared to his fellow bowlers for Wisden.com and have since found ourself wondering whether England’s current Test captain may have made the call. Intriguingly, a Wisden tweet of the story, saying “Adil Rashid is yet to play a Test under Joe Root” was subsequently retweeted* by Yorkshire’s Azeem Rafiq.
It has to be said that building pressure by bowling in a consistent area hasn’t really helped England of late. A lad who turns it both ways and who also has first-class hundreds to his name might have come in handy.
Go and read the Wisden piece. Someone somewhere might at some point call it a ‘doozy’.
* And later deleted.
We’ve done this one already. Mark Stoneman has finally turned up in an England squad about a month after we expected him to. He’s a patient man though – the oldest something-or-other to maybe do something, according to a piece we read earlier.
We’ve covered Mason Crane too, so you’ve no excuse for not being ahead of the game on this one too. In contrast to Stoneman, he will be the youngest something-something who might be about to something. Probably.
We haven’t actually read anything about Crane’s call-up yet, but he is very young, so it seems safe to assume that he can lay claim to at least one ‘youngest to…’ type thing. Youngest double-surnamed leg-spinner to carry the drinks for England, say.
Poor Adil Rashid. He appears to have been deemed too flakey for Test cricket.
Also, Chris Woakes’s back! As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.
The formula for deciding on the man of the match is as follows:
And that’s your man of the match. In the event that no-one made a hundred, you pick the guy who took most wickets.
However, in an unprecedented subversion of the normal rules, whoever was responsible for naming the man of the match during this Test picked Wahab Riaz (4-66 and 1-78). Misbah-ul-Haq could have been a contender for delivering another excellent coin toss, but by dismissing Root, Stokes and Buttler in the space of one monster weather-and-pitch-defying spell, Wahab inserted a sharp corner into what has generally been a smoothly meandering series. The odds were against England from then on.
Adil Rashid deserves a mention too for an innings of glorious futility. At 172 balls, it was longer than any of England’s first innings efforts. Much like life, it was all effort and no reward.
As you’re all no doubt aware, pretty much all DIY tasks can be embarked upon using only a dessert spoon and a hammer. They’re adaptable devices and allow you to make a start, but after a bit you may well yearn for more specialist tools which would enable you complete the job in question more quickly and effectively.
Yesterday King Cricket favourite, Adil Rashid had the worst figures on Test debut and his performance had supposedly highlighted the paucity of spin bowling in county cricket. Today he’s a miracle-worker; the guy who took a five-for on what had up until then been the flattest of pitches, allowing England a highly unlikely tilt at victory.
Why would anyone expect a debutant leg-spinner to take a sackful of wickets in the first innings on what was, after all, a completely flat pitch at that point? Despite what some people seem to believe, pitches that don’t favour seamers don’t automatically favour spinners. Some favour neither. For a nation that’s produced decidedly few wrist spinners, you’d think expectations might be a notch or two lower than ‘relentless perfection from the outset on debut’.
Then came the second innings; a period of the game that had been pre-emptively disregarded as irrelevant by a host of pundits. It baffles us how many people who purport to know about cricket – people who are almost exclusively ex-England players, it should be noted – repeatedly pass definitive judgement on Asian pitches early on in a match. Tests in the UAE frequently accelerate on the fourth or fifth day. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s foolish – perhaps even stupid – to ever conclude that it won’t happen. You can only know one way or the other with hindsight.
Adil Rashid is not a steady, reliable spinner who will keep things tight in the first innings. Everyone knew this in advance but yet many still spent half the match saying: “What’s he doing wrong? He must be doing something wrong.”
Maybe Rashid’s not doing anything wrong. Maybe, like a spoon prising plaster off the wall, he was simply being employed in a task for which he isn’t especially well-suited.
Don’t look for what he does wrong. Look for what he does right. Judge him at an appropriate time. Judge him when you’re eating apple crumble.