Why England could match India in this Test and still lose

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James Anderson watching the ball in much the same way that he doesn't when bowling
Photo by Sarah Ansell

We were going to start this piece: “Not to be defeatist, but…”

We then realised that this would be entirely misleading. Defeatism is precisely what we are about to deliver.

This doesn’t mean being a naysayer. It’s just our honest ‘on the balance of probabilities’ assessment of India and England based on recent history.

To engage in defeatism based on the likelihood of different outcomes…

On pitches that deteriorate over the course of a five-day match, England are capable of having the better of things when they bat first. When India bat first, they are good enough that they seem almost certain to dominate. That appears to be the difference between the sides.

If the respective scores after day one of these two Tests have been near-identical (311-4 for England in Rajkot, 317-4 for India in Vishakaptnam) you’d say India have arguably had to play a smidge better to achieve that.

This was Cheteshwar Pujara’s third hundred in his last three Tests. Virat Kohli made 99 runs for once out in the last match and made a double hundred in the one before. Insofar as it’s possible, these two batsmen don’t look like they’re going to make mistakes when presented with a pitch that starts off pretty decent to bat on.

James Anderson transcended conditions, but sadly for England that isn’t going to be enough. Even if he manages to bowl India out on his own, it’ll take him 50 overs of toil. Sometimes even brilliance requires a fair whack of hard labour.

So can England still win?

Of course they can, but even if they match India in terms of skill, they could still lose because they will have to bat in more difficult conditions.

That’s not to cry ‘unfair’. It’s the nature of Test cricket. Given the bat-first advantage in the previousTest, England couldn’t do enough to win. Conversely, we think it’s fairly likely that India will come out on top in this one.

So, in summary, why’s everyone so down on defeatism?


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. You’ll never do it, KC. You’ll never convince everyone that defeatism is the way forward. It’s dead in the water, you might as well give up now.

    1. You’ll never convince us of that. You may as well stop trying. You’re destined to fail.

      1. I would argue with you both, but what’s the use? I’m doomed to lose the argument whatever I do.

  2. I’m playing with Ivy, my new gadget, again. Wondering whether you get my little red-faced avatar or the youthful me to accompany my posting.

    I’m not being defeatist. Merely curious.

    1. The worst kind of pitch is one that favours batters for two days, and then breaks up on day three. It means whoever bats first has a good chance of making 500/600, with the following three innings struggling to make half that.

      Not saying that this is necessarily that kind of pitch, we won’t know til it starts to take spin, but visitors choose wouldn’t really help. It’d certainly help the visitors, but it’d still massively favour the side batting first, which doesn’t make things any more fun for the team batting second.

  3. Let’s all take a second to appreciate that New Zealand have picked a man named Colin de Grandhomme, and he’s just taken his first wicket.

    1. If you really mean “we need more de Grandhommes” you are in luck…

      …Colin is from a long line of Zimbabwean de Grandhommes.

      30 year old debutant. What a start.

      Remember the name.


  4. Is James Anderson a Jedi? He seems to be using The Force to stop the flight of the ball just by holding up his hand. Impressive stuff.

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