A two part post here, both parts inspired by goings on in places that begin with a ‘ch’.
England had already had two good days in Chennai, and resumed on the third morning on 555-8. It took 10.1 overs for the last two wickets to fall, in which time the score advanced to 578 all out. Then Jofra Archer removed both openers with the ball still new, Bess claimed the prize scalp of Kohli and was gifted the wicket of Rahane. India at that point were 73-4, but Rishabh Pant then joined Cheteshwar Pujara in a fine stand. Bess picked them both up eventually, but Sundar and Ashwin held out until the close with the score 257-6. With the pitch beginning to wear England’s likeliest path to victory is to wrap up the Indian innings fairly quickly tomorrow morning, aim for quick runs in their own second innings and give themselves a day and half to bowl India out again. If India bat long but slowly tomorrow it may be necessary to enforce the follow on because there is not time to win it by batting a second time, but going in again for short burst of rapid scoring and having India bat last when the pitch is at its most difficult would be preferable. There would be a case for Burns and especially Sibley being held back in this second innings, to be used only if wickets are tumbling.
BETTER TO BE A LUCKY
GENERAL THAN A GOOD ONE
The nature of the dismissals that gave Bess his four wickets prompted some comments about him being lucky. However, apart from the Napoleon Bonaparte quote that heads this subsection, which is valid in any case, Bess has now had respectable hauls too often for the accusation of being lucky to hold much water. David Denton, the Yorkshire batter of the early 20th century was known as ‘Lucky’ Denton, but the reason people noticed him benefitting from good fortune was because of the use he made of his lucky breaks – 38,000 first class runs cannot be scored by luck alone. Similarly, another Yorkshireman, Herbert Sutcliffe was also renowned as a favourite of fortune, but again the good luck he enjoyed was noticed because he cashed in on it.
THE CHITTAGONG COUP
Yesterday Bangladesh declared their second innings closed at 223-8, an advantage of 394. When the West Indies were 59-3, with Kyle Mayers, a 28 year old test debutant whose first class batting average stood at a modest 28, walking out to bat it was looking a shrewd judgement. He and Nkrumah Bonner, also a debutant, put on 216 for the fourth wicket, reducing the ask to 120, before Bonner fell for 86. Jermaine Blackwood could only muster nine runs, and that was 292-5, still 103 to get. Wicket keeper Joshua Da Silva proved an excellent partner, scoring 20 himself, but playing an excellent support role to Mayers, already by then holder of the record for the highest ever fourth innings score by a test debutant. By the time Da Silva was out Mayers had gone past 200 and only three further runs were needed for victory. One more wicket fell before the target was reached, Mayers 210 not out at the end, and appropriately scoring the winning run. This the third recent match to have been won in the face of seemingly impossible odds, following the Headingley Heist (2019, see here) and what I will now dub the Brisbane Burgle (here). This one tops the lot – Stokes, the hero of Headingley, was on home turf and was already an experienced test cricketer, while of the three key figures on the final day in Brisbane only Sundar had not previously played test cricket. There have been other notable steals in test history, including but not limited to:
- The Oval, 1882 – England needed just 82 to win in the fourth innings but FR Spofforth, provoked to fury by WG Grace’s sharp run out of Sammy Jones in Australia’s second dig, took seven wickets as England crashed to defeat by seven runs.
- The Oval, 1902 – England were set 263 to win on a pig of a pitch, and at 48-5, with Jack Saunders having taken four cheap wickets it must have looked all over. Gilbert Jessop blasted 104 in 77 minutes, but even at his dismissal England were 187-7. George Hirst rallied the tail, and was on 58 not out, to go with 43 in the first innings and five wickets in Australia’s first innings when the winning single was taken by Wilfred Rhodes, the no11.
- Melbourne 1907 – When Syd Barnes, renowned as possibly the greatest of all bowlers, walked in to bat in the final innings England needed 73 from their last two wickets. When the wicket keeper Humphries was adjudged LBW, Arthur Fielder had to join Barnes, and nos 10 and 11 needed to conjure 39 runs to pull off the win. Little by little they inched their way closer, and eventually Barnes took on a sharp run with the scores level. A calm return to the keeper from Hazlitt would have led to test cricket’s first tie, but he panicked and shied wildly at the stumps, and England were home by one wicket.
- Lord’s 1984 – England, for about the only time in the 1980s, had the upper hand on the West Indies to the extent that some were criticising skipper Gower for not declaring overnight. Gower’s eventual declaration on the fifth morning left the Windies needing 342 to win. Gordon Greenidge played one of the most brilliant innings ever, scoring 214 not out, well supported by Larry Gomes, a reliable left hander, who was on 92 not out when the Windies sealed victory by nine wickets.
My usual sign off…