Watchful batting and watchable batting

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< 1 minute read

We generally approve of England’s somewhat one-dimensional approach to top order batting. However, the fact that it’s highly appropriate for the current era doesn’t mean it’s always the best approach. Against equally patient bowling attacks, it can result in stand-offs less spectacular than when two cats spend three-quarters of an hour looking everywhere but at each other.

Many fielding sides have grown weary and moved to Plan B in the face of the numbing barrage of obduracy delivered by the England top order, but New Zealand aren’t like that – we’re not entirely sure they have a Plan B. The nature of their bowlers means Plan A can be delivered consistently. Cut from the same hardwearing grey cloth as England’s batting line-up, the Kiwi bowling attack doesn’t scythe through batting orders, but nor does it try to.

Reactive batting

What do you do in the face of this? Fight lukewarm water with lukewarm water?

While it’s comforting to see your nation’s cricketing representatives taking their job seriously, sometimes you need a bit of irresponsibility to open a match up. Not too much; just a touch. In fact just enough to keep full-blown, overcompensatory irresponsibility at bay (Nick Compton, we’re looking at you).

There are times when a little proactivity is required, but Kevin Pietersen is the only upper order England batsman prone to trying to set his own field. The others play according to what they are presented with.

Today, a slow outfield reduced the likelihood of boundaries and run-scoring was further stymied by the fact that this allowed more fielders to be placed saving singles. So perhaps today wasn’t the day for proactivity. Perhaps watchfulness was the correct approach and 160-4 is less underwhelming than it seems. Perhaps open-ended closing paragraphs are unsatisfactory.


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  1. It will be more exciting tomorrow.

    For a starters, I’ll be there.

    And for seconds, the four obdurate batsmen of the snoozocalypse are all out, leaving less obduracy on the cards.

  2. I agree Ged; it’ll be much more exciting tomorrow. Unfortunately for you guys the exciting part will be us ripping through your lower-order, followed by Rutherford & Fulton smashing it around for the afternoon. Probably.

  3. It was a terrific day. I’m sure Geoffrey approved and until Bairstow came in and murderously bludgeoned 3 off 7 Trott had the highest strike rate of the innings. Definitely a good sign.

  4. It were proper crickeet. We have all become too accustomed to fast-moving, fun stuff. This reminded everyone of a simpler time.

    1. New Zealand are getting through England like they’re boiling frogs. Slowly, inexorably, painfully.

    2. I can only imagine England’s approach is that if they waste enough time attaining their pathetic score, they might just be able to bat out a draw, as long as the weather does its bit too.

      Oh, for the days of 2005 and 400 all out in a day.

    3. NZ 5 for 1 now. Extrapolating, that means they’ll be 50 all out and we will win.

  5. The cricinfo headline was so misleading. For a second, I was amazed that a fast bowler could manage a triple century.

    1. Worth the price of entry alone, it was, to witness Jimmy’s 300th.

      That was also the only point in the day when we thought that England might be on top of the match.

  6. Speaking of ways to follow the Test, the Guardian’s OBO blog is knackered. I am resorting to Cricinfo and Twitter.

  7. Only three letters of the alphabet batting for England right now. I reckon that’s a world first, unless one of Peter May’s teammates was actually a woman called Amy in disguise.

    1. Superb piece of classic loafers’ trivia there, Bert – probably correct yet hard to prove or disprove – and utterly useless information.

      I love it – well done.

  8. Bert – you must be discounting the times when players of the same name have batted together. I’m thinking A & B Hollioake, the Bedsers, etc.

    1. I rather think that you, Sam, have missed the key component of Bert’s challenge, which is the bit about only three letters of the alphabet being in use.

      I cannot think of any pairs with the same name who fit that criterion, as names with only three letters of the alphabet are in themselves extremely rare.

      But even if you were to find or recall an example of, for example, Peter May bringing in his brother Maurice for one test and the two batting together, I think that would still be missing a couple of additional rarity characteristics:
      * Trott and Root are NOT the same name
      * neither name has only three letters but both have only three letters of the alphabet.

      Magnificent Bert, I am still getting pleasure from the idea and working through all the permutations in my head. Does anyone know what’s been happening in the test match since Bert’s posting?

    2. Yes, this really does rank as one of the finest pieces of Test match trivia. It acknowledges a particular match situation whilst simultaenously being of no consequence whatsoever.

      It’s a kind of perfection.

    3. This was mentioned on the Guardian OBO yesterday.

      “So some more correspondence and pub quiz questions: “How many partnerships in Test history have involved players both of whose surnames used the same letters?” asks Justin Horton. “Root and Trott use only three (I trust readers can work them out) which I’ll speculate is a record low for such a pairing.”

      Is Bert moonlighting as Justin Horton?

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