Time is meaningless. Although the sooner a cricketer can appreciate that, the better – so maybe time isn’t meaningless.
The fifth Test moved forward almost as much in the last eight deliveries of the day as it had in the previous 483. England will have finished with a sense that they put in a decent shift today, but as the post-stumps minutes wore on the reality of the scorecard will have begun to impose itself on their consciousness.
Three wickets in almost-an-entire-day is not the same as three wickets in an entire day. Spread ’em out how you like – England lost five wickets.
Right from early on, Joe Root seemed all set for a score between 50 and 99. He’ll be disappointed to have left 16 runs out there, but his dismissal did give Jonny Bairstow the opportunity to edge behind for five – an opportunity he gratefully accepted.
Moeen Ali will be at the crease first thing on day two, despite having been dropped from the team several days ago. Playing as the second spinner and basically just keeping a spot warm for someone else, he’s almost certain to make a double hundred.
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.
Now is not the time to analyse. Now is the time to look at Joe Root’s losing-the-Ashes face.
Oh, England have lost the Ashes, by the way. Don’t know if you’ve heard.
Before we look at Joe Root’s losing-the-Ashes face, it’s worth pointing out that you have to be a bloody good cricketer to deploy a true losing-the-Ashes face. Plenty of Britons will be sporting just-watched-my-team-lose-the-Ashes faces today, but it’s not quite the same.
This is the face of a man who is so good at cricket that he plays for and captains the national side. However, the sad fact is that it’s not all linseed oil, glamour and bon bons. Sometimes you lose the Ashes.
What does this face say?
Does it say: “Usually things go my way. It hadn’t really occurred to me that this might happen. I mean obviously I was aware of the possibility, but now that the moment comes I realise I hadn’t emotionally prepared for it.”
Does it say: “It’s beginning to dawn on me just how many depressing interviews I’m going to have to do. It’s not just this match, the line of questioning probably isn’t going to be too cheery in Melbourne or Sydney either.”
Or does it say: “I can’t remember where I’ve put my sunglasses.”
Being England captain: seems like fulfillment of a childhood dream, but most of the time it’s actually kind of a ball-ache.
The Ashes, you know, it’s hard to really get up for. Hard to get up at 5am or whatever and hard to get up in the ‘come on, let’s give it everything’ sense too.
Or at least that’s the way England have been painting things.
James Anderson said the tourists could take “extra fire” from having got into good positions during the first Test only to let them slip.
More fire? It was the first Ashes Test? Why on earth weren’t you already deploying your full complement of fire? What were you saving it for? Some scented candles? An alien queen’s egg chamber? The one-dayers that no-one gives a flying full toss about?
Referring to that Bairstow-Bancroft bollocks, Anderson added: “We don’t need an extra incentive, but if we did it will give us that.”
This kind of comment is all very ‘going to give it 110 per cent’. He’s essentially implying that they’re already doing their best but from now on will do better than their best.
Joe Root agrees. He believes that Steve Smith’s recent press conference appearance in which he guffawed like a child dosed up to the eyeballs with Sunset Yellow will work “massively in our favour”.
“To see a reaction like that in a press conference is- I mean if that can’t get you up for the next game then I don’t know what can. If that’s not motivation to the players, I don’t know what is.
“Hopefully that will work massively in our favour. I know it’s an Ashes series, there is a lot on the line and naturally you are going to be motivated for every game but knowing the characters in our dressing-room that will really give them a bit of something else to make sure we put things right this week.”
So England fans, rest assured that England will be bringing extra fire and extra motivation to the second Test. If they lose that one too, you can be sure that they’ll then bring EVEN MORE to the third Test.
Not less. Losing Test matches definitely can’t eat away at fire and motivation. This is why the worst sides are always the most fiery and motivated.
Joe Root has done many great things in international cricket. He launched England’s rebound in 2015 and kicked off the last Ashes with a magnificent hundred later the same summer. Now he’s shone a light on the fundamental bullshittery of ‘targeting’ the opposition’s captain/best batsman.
“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me, in particular,” he said. “That’s always the talk. From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them – we won’t be singling any one out. To win a Test you’ve got to take 20 wickets.”
If he ploughs through his captaincy stint methodically undermining all of cricket’s clichés, we’ll happily allow him to bat James Vince at three.
If Joe Root’s going to try and lead by example, he might want to check whether anyone’s actually following him. If no-one does, then we’re afraid it’s just plain old ‘batting well’ – which is what he always used to do anyway. What kind of captaincy is that?
If you’re outperforming everyone else in your team by an order of magnitude, you’re not actually leading. You’re just wandering off and having breathtaking adventures on your own. That’s excellent. Decidedly handy. But it is not leading.
Leaders have followers. That’s just the way it works. Found an ashram, give people spiritual guidance, somehow raise obscene sums of money – that’s leading. Say exactly the same sorts of things after five pints in The Pheasant’s Arms and everyone will ignore you because you’re a mental.
Alternatively, leading by example isn’t really a thing.
If there’s one thing the England captain generally lacks, it’s advice from random members of the public. Fortunately for Joe Root, we are prepared to step in and fill that void.
It’s a little-known fact that our critically-acclaimed Club Captain’s Handbook for All Out Cricket was originally penned as a guide to being England captain. Tweak the headline and standfirst and replace the phrase ‘everyone at the club’ halfway down the page with ‘England fans’ and that’s it – job done. You can now see the piece as it was originally envisaged.
If you’re Joe Root, pay close attention to our words. Feel the anxiety well up in you as the scope of what you must now master dawns on you.
Everyone else, settle down with your halloumi and tomato Staffordshire oatcakes (which were inspired by last week’s café barmcake) and enjoy our wisdom free from the pressures of having to captain England yourself.
When Joe Root made 254 against Pakistan earlier this year, there was much talk of how he’d cracked it; how he’d responded to the move to number three by adopting a newfound merciless approach. The responsibility of batting at three had firmed Root’s desire to eradicate errors and from now on he would transform all those fifties into daddy hundreds.
Even at the time, we thought: ‘Joe Root’s hit a double hundred before.’
Before that innings, Root was a batsman capable of double hundreds who made a lot of fifties – and he’s been much the same since. Today saw his seventh fifty in that period to go with one hundred.
It’s hard to say whether this ‘conversion’ thing is a problem or not. There are plenty who will say that Root should be reaching three figures more often, but maybe that’s not the freakish bit. Maybe Joe Root is an otherwise average batsman who is just uncommonly good at reaching double figures.
Imagine that today is exactly like today only Moeen Ali made a duck. There, you see – things could be slightly worse.
This isn’t so much a ‘glass half full’ attitude as a ‘there’s still something in there, I’m sure – maybe if I tip the glass the right way for long enough the minuscule droplets will gather and form something visible in the corner’ attitude.
You work with what you have. An increasingly polluted world continues spinning. As do R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, for England have managed to bat out a full day of Test cricket.
Big first innings and a game that accelerates alarmingly as it approaches its denouement. That’s our prediction.
Predictions are for fools, of course, but there are so many fools these days that the addition of another one won’t tip the balance.