The beard that smeared – Moeen Ali enjoys the evening session

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Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

Smeared with exquisite timing and grace, we should say. It was poetic smearage. Smearage without breaking sweat. Smearage that involved all moving parts working in perfect harmony to pan the ball to the fence.

Morning session

It’ll be interesting to read the reports about this morning’s play. Was Alex Hales unlucky after hitting the ball in the air towards a fielder? Was Alastair Cook unlucky to completely mishit the ball, propelling it into his own stumps?

What happened after that was easier to interpret. Joe Root did a James Vince impression and James Vince was sufficiently unimpressed by it that he immediately felt compelled to demonstrate how edging behind should be done.

Perhaps England felt threatened by the looming presence of the mace. No-one seems to want the damned thing.

Afternoon session

Gary Ballance’s dismissal clearly belonged in the morning session, both thematically and because it came in only the 28th over.

Pakistan were now so dominant that mace-spurning duties switched to them, allowing England to counter. Jonny Bairstow did his usual hunched biffing and Moeen Ali did nothing of the sort, nonchalantly flicking the ball to and over the ropes as if long hours in the gym were the most pointless activity in which any wannabe big-hitting batsman could ever indulge. He loves to feel bat on ball.

Evening session

Jonny Bairstow got a bit ahead of himself and thought it was Pakistan’s turn to be on top. This meant England’s two finest batsmen were now at the crease. Chris Woakes joined Moeen in their favoured pastime of batting sumptuously until it was time for the famously feckless momentum to yet again shift.

Woakes was out, just when it seemed he was entirely without failings and then Broad departed two balls later. Moeen Ali didn’t care. He just carried on whopping the ball wherever he chose. He just loves these evening sessions for which Pakistan’s bowlers seemingly don their heaviest shoes.

Moeen was last man out, which meant England got to bowl in what we’re now going to name the night session on the grounds that it only began after the scheduled close of play.

Night session

With England having scored a somewhat ambiguous 328, no-one was quite sure which team was most at risk of being a mace recipient. Probably India, so Stuart Broad took a wicket.


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  1. Too soon to switch “By the flaxen locks of Gower” to “By the raven beard of Moeen”?

    Or “Mooen”, as everybody seems to call him.

  2. Surprised you didn’t mention Pakistan dropping Moeen on 9 and 15 in fear of winning.

  3. Some (semi-random) thoughts from me:

    Just think how good England would be if they had a(n upper-)middle order.

    Has someone replaced the Chris Woakes of three months ago with some sort of ‘probot’ (© Uncle Jrod, possibly)?

    If this was an Ashes series, people would be talking about it as one of the great Test series of recent years. It’s got a bit of everything – two teams towards the the top of the rankings, heroic performances, comedy awfulness, momentum shifts, moaning about captaincy, etc.

    1. Think plenty of people following it consider it a top series. Maybe they’re just not going on about it.

      We’d say it was easily the best since New Zealand toured in 2015.

      1. I guess when I say ‘people’, I have specific people in mind. All readers of this website, of course, are well aware of the tippity -topness of the current series.

        That New Zealand tour had a lot more wicketkeepers in it than this one, I’ll grant you that.

  4. In U10s rugby, all tournaments have different trophies for different levels – cup, plate, bowl, vase, and so on. I’m sure the ICC keeps a keen eye on U10s rugby, so maybe this is the way they’ll go – a different medieval weapon for each position in the table:

    Two Sharps, Two Flats and a Bag of Gravel
    Army of Serfs

    Each time someone wins a match, all the captains should get together and exchange weapons, according to the constantly updated table. Then the two applicable weapons could be displayed at each test match, so we all know what’s going on.

    1. This is a brilliant idea marred only by the tragic omission of the halberd.

      Should additional teams be granted Test status, we also vote for the addition of the trebuchet.

      1. The exact order is very important, because the next part of the idea is that in the event of a draw, the two captains would use their respective weapons to settle the result gladiator style (*).

        This has two important advantages. Firstly, we’re commonly told that it is the lack of a result after five days that keeps the general public from liking test cricket more. Secondly, imagine just how big fifth day crowds would be.

        (*) As in “What we do in life echoes in eternity” gladiators, not “You will go on my first whistle” gladiators.

  5. Good to see that Mace ranked even higher than the trusty longbow.

    MANDY: Hmmm. Aah, all right. We’ll have, uh, two with points and… a big flat one.

  6. India, sensing the mace approaching, have caused it to rain in Saint Lucia, thus making a draw the likely outcome of their match with West Indies and ensuring the mace will stay out of their possession.

    As best I can tell, barring a not-entirely-unlikely pair of West Indies batting collapses, the mace will go to England, unless Pakistan win this match, or this match is a draw and Australia win in Colombo. Who needs a World Test Championship when we’ve got all these different if/thens?

  7. Moeen’s style when being interviewed is quite unlike any other.

    I cannot work out whether his manner is attempting to mask nonchalance, “I always knew that I could do this” or pleasant surprise, “I didn’t realise that I could do this”.

    No matter, there is something endearing about Moeen Ali, not least his contributions when it really matters.

    Medieval weapon of choice? The seaxe. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  8. The over rate yesterday was especially poor even by modern standards – at 6.10pm they were still 13 short of the full allocation, and I don’t think any time was lost to other factors.

    What’s the King’s view on mooted in-game penalties (10 runs per over short, say) for such aberrations?

    1. Only problem is that it’s not wholly the fielding side that’s responsible these days. Reviews take pure time.

      By and large we’d be fine with it though. We’d hate an over-rate penalty to decide a Test, but we’d hazard that would never actually happen; that teams would actually ensure they got through their overs quicker.

  9. Three Tests going on today. Three Tests! We’re spoiled.

    Well we’re not actually. These are something approaching, but still a long way off from, an apology for the proposed biennial-ness of the T20 World Cup, while still holding the ODI one. I’m quivering with dread at these extended passages of LO already.

      1. Think it alternates with the ODI WC at the moment, one every two years. While the Champion’s Trophy hangs limply on like a monkey to a cliff edge.

      2. World T20s have been held in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016…
        Although they are currently debating whether to have one in 2018 and where to hold it (must fit in with Indian TV schedules, climate windows and IPL concerns, obviously).

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