England have made too many runs and they don’t deserve any credit. India will now make more and England will lose.
A lot of England supporters seem to have swiftly moved on from ‘England are doing brilliantly’ to ‘India would have done just as well had they batted so this doesn’t really count.’
This is the problem with Test cricket for many people – the desire to assign a value (marks out of ten, perhaps) even while the match is in progress. A team starts to make runs and they earn respect, but then at some point they make too many runs and their efforts are downgraded, even discarded, thanks to application of the ever-primed flat pitch penalty.
So one can always find cause for a moan. What a wonderful sport.
All we know for certain is this: 537 is never a bad score. England could probably have made more, but would almost certainly have expected to make less. That alone is cause for celebration for fans of the touring side.
The concept of ‘par score’ in cricket is woolly and not especially useful. The way the term is normally used, it refers to the score the average batting side would have made when facing the average bowling side on a given pitch.
What this doesn’t take into account is whether the average batting side in question is allied to an average bowling attack, or whether the average bowling side they are up against is backed up by an average batting line-up.
Whether a score is above or below par for the conditions doesn’t really matter when we don’t yet know what’s needed. In this instance, that will depend not just on the runs made, but on how England bowl, how India bat and whether or not the home team’s innings exceeds or falls short of par.
Even then, the changing conditions mean that reference to par doesn’t actually help you know who’s ahead. Test cricket is an unbalanced sport. On a pitch that deteriorates throughout, four ‘par’ innings would see the team batting first win. Par attainment would presumably be little consolation.
Back to the match
You have to admire England’s pragmatism. With the lower order having consistently out-scored the top order in recent times, they’re increasingly filling the team from the bottom up. If the all-rounders are the only ones who are going to score runs, well to hell with it – pick more all-rounders.
Number six used to be the doorway in and out of the England team, but that’s no longer the case. Nowadays number six is Ben Stokes in the corridor; a place you regularly pass by when heading in one direction or the other.
Moeen Ali has been past more times than most.