Continuing my analysis of how I see the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet faring against on another.
Yesterday I started the long process of analyzing how my teams for each letter of the alphabet measure up against each other. In that post I have covered the As XI against Bs, Cs, Ds, Es and Fs. At that stage the As rated at 13.5 out of 25. We pick up where we left off.
THE As V THE Gs
The Gs have substantial advantages batting wise in positions 1 and 6, a theoretical disadvantage in position 3 and are otherwise about even down to number seven. WG Grace’s test batting average of 32.29 has to be looked at a) with regard to the fact that he was 32 when his career at that level began and almost 51 when it ended and b) with regard to the fact that he played on some pretty ropey pitches. I would thus say that he should be regarded as at minimum Babar Azam’s equal in that department. In bowling the Gs have a very clear advantage, with their sixth best bowler by average, Gregory, marginally better than the As fifth best, Shakib Al Hasan. I also have to say that I reckon that WG has to be considered a better skipper than Shakib Al Hasan. I would score this one as Gs 4, As 1.
THE As V THE Hs
The question here is whether the Hs can make their massive batting advantage tell, when their bowling is weaker than the As. With Hammond prospective third seamer for them, they probably need a turner, when their spinners Harmer and Herath are probably a stronger pair than Ashwin and Al Hasan – Ashwin may be better than Harmer, though it is far from conclusive, but Herath is unquestionably superior to Al Hasan as a bowler. For all the greatness of Hadlee and Holding, they are outnumbered by Akram. Ambrose and Anderson, and the first named of the trio is left handed to add a point of variation. I think that anywhere other than India or Sri Lanka the As would be able to make their pace bowling advantage count, and I score this one As 3, Hs 2.
THE As V THE Is
The As have a huge advantage in batting and in seam bowling, additionally, Ashwin’s clear superiority as an off spinner over Illingworth counter balances Ironmonger’s advantage over Al Hasan as a bowler. Finally, the tail end of the Is is very weak batting wise – Anderson would bat above any of Islam, Ireland or Ironmonger. This is a colossal mismatch in favour of team A, and I accordingly score it As 5 Is 0.
THE As V THE Js
Down to number five the Js win every batting match up. They also have an ‘X factor’ player in Jessop, a great captain in Stanley Jackson. In bowling the Js have greater depth, but the As have more frontline strength. I consider the As to have a definite advantage overall, courtesy of their stellar bowling line up, but not enough to score it at 4-1. Final verdict: As 3.5, Js 1.5.
THE As V THE Ks
Positions 1-3 are fairly even between these two teams, but the Ks boss positions four and five, and while Shakib Al Hasan has a slightly better batting average than his rival skipper, Imran Khan’s bowling average blows Al Hasan’s out of the water. Ames has a better batting record than Kirmani, but the Indian was probably the finer keeper. Charles Kortright, Bart King and Imran Khan are a faster trio than Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, though don’t include a left armer in their number. The contrasting pair of leg spinners, Kumble and Rashid Khan probably give the Ks the edge in the spin department, and they also have the luxury of having Kallis available as sixth bowler. Finally, whereas the As who two genuine tail enders in Ambrose and Anderson, the Ks bat literally all the way down, with the no11 having two first class hundreds. I award the Ks a substantial advantage, my final score being As 1, Ks 4.
As STATS UPDATED
In the end, with two heavy defeats, one overwhelming win and two respectable wins in these five matches the As score another 13.5 points, now having 27 out of a possible 50 and still being on 54%.
Assembling an XI all of whose surnames begin with A. Also some photographs.
I am revisiting the theme of All Time XIs. This time I am focussing on teams that can be composed with players whose surnames all begin with the same letter. I begin at the beginning with the letter A.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Bobby Abel – Surrey and England. The diminutive opener scored 74 first class centuries with a best of 357* v Somerset at Taunton. He was the first England batter to carry his bat through a completed test innings, scoring 132* on that occasion. He was also a fine fielder.
Saeed Anwar – Pakistan. A superb left handed stroke maker, an excellent counterpart to Abel at the top of the order.
Babar Azam – Pakistan. One of the best all format batters in the world at the moment.
Zaheer Abbas – Gloucestershire and Pakistan. The only Asian to have scored 100+ FC hundreds, a roll of honour that includes scores of 274 and 240 vs England in test matches and eight instances of a century in each innings of an FC match, including four where one of the centuries was a double.
Mohammad Azharruddin – India. A wristy middle order batter who did enough before his career ended in scandalous circumstances (match fixing and other dealings with dodgy bookies) to earn his place in this XI. He announced himself with centuries in each of his first three test matches, and at his peak dominated attacks all around the world.
*Shakib Al-Hasan – Bangladesh. Has an amazing all round record and has achieved it without ever having what could be described as a stellar supporting cast around him
+Leslie Ames – Kent and England. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds. Also holds the record for career stumpings in FC cricket (418). Won the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in its first three seasons. Three of the four instances of the ‘wicket keepers double’ – 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in FC cricket in a single season – were achieved by him.
Wasim Akram – Lancashire and Pakistan. Among left arm fast bowlers who bat only Alan Davidson of Australia, who played many fewer matches, boasts a test record to rival him.
R Ashwin – India. The best off spinner of the current era, and a handy lower order batter. It is a fair bet that England’s exhilarating run chase at Edgbaston would have been harder work had India picked him rather than Thakur for the number eight slot in their team.
Curtly Ambrose – Northamptonshire and West Indies. The list of bowlers with over 400 test wickets at under 21 a piece currently stands at one: Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. He rocked the WACA in Perth in 1998 by claiming seven Australian wickets for one run in a spell of 33 balls. Australia having reached 100 only one wicket down were all out for 118. At Trinidad in 1994 England need 194 in the last innings to win, with an awkward hour and a bit to survive in murky light on the penultimate day as their first task. By the end of that short session England were 40-8, and although bad batting played its part, so to did an immaculate spell of bowling by Ambrose.
James Anderson – Lancashire and England. More test wickets than any other pace bowler, and nor is there any obvious sign of his powers waning as his 40th birthday approaches.
This XI has a heavy scoring top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an all time great keeper batter at seven and a quite awesome quartet of bowlers, two of whom can certainly also bat. While the bowling attack is missing a leg spin option it is by any standards both powerful and varied, with left arm pace (Akram), two of the greatest right arm fast mediums of all time, who are different in methods to boot (Ambrose, relying on his immense height and unrelenting accuracy, and Anderson with his mastery of swing and seam). This trio is backed up by a pair of contrasting spinners (Ashwin, off spin, and Al-Hasan, left arm orthodox spin). The biggest decision is likely to which of Anderson or Ambrose gets to share the new ball with Akram.
Mike Atherton was close to claiming an opening slot and Dennis Amiss even closer, but I feel credit should be given to Abel for the fact that most of his runs were scored in the 19th century when pitches were often treacherous, and in the case of Amiss also feel that his decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa counts against him. Two top order batters who could bowl seam up both entered my thoughts: Mohinder Amarnath and Tom Abell. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka came close. Among the quicks I could not accommodate were Kyle Abbott (Hampshire and South Africa) and Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire and Pakistan). Sri Lankan strokemaker Charith Asalanka may merit a place in few years time. Tommy Andrews, an Aussie middle order batter and ace close fielder of yesteryear was another who could not force his way into the middle order. West Indian left hander Keith Arthurton needed a bit more substance to go with his style to claim a place. Finally, although anyone capable of scoring 167 on the kind of pitches that existed in 1777 as James Aylward of Hambledon did must have been a very fine player, but I felt that there was just too little evidence to justify such a selection.
I shall be producing three XIs – a current men’s XI, an all time men’s XI and a current women’s XI. In the latter I will mention several names who would feature in an all time version.
MEN’S CURRENT XI
Dean Elgar (left handed opening batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner). The South African has established himself as one of the best long form openers around, and he is a natural counterpoint to the other opening batter.
Chris Gayle (left handed opening batter, occasional off spinner). The greatest T20 batter the world has yet seen, he can also handle long form cricket, as evidenced by two test triple centuries.
*Tom Abell (right handed batter, right arm medium pacer, captain). With Elgar and Gayle opening he would likely get to the middle somewhat later than he usually does for Somerset, for whom he plays. Until September when things went pear shaped both for him and for Somerset he was having a fantastic season, and I for one look forward to seeing him playing test cricket.
Joe Root (right handed batter, occasional off spinner). Since the start of 2021 seven test centuries have been scored by England batters, and six of those stand to the credit of Joe Root.
Kane Williamson (right handed batter). The Kiwi recently led his side to victory in the first ever World Test Championship final.
+Ben Foakes (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The best keeper currently playing the game, and at no6, with a bit of ballast between him and the genuine tail enders he should fare well.
Matt Critchley (right handed batter, leg spinner). His bowling is not necessarily going to feature (as you will see I have gone spin heavy). He has had an excellent season for Derbyshire and would certainly be in my Ashes tour party.
R Ashwin (off spinner, right handed batter). The best off spinner currently playing the game, and as England learned in India recently a more than useful lower order batter.
Kagiso Rabada (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). One half of an explosive new ball pairing I have selected.
Jack Leach (left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter). England’s best current spinner, with 340 FC wickets at 26 a piece. His test record from 16 games reads 62 wickets at 29.98, very respectable. His next outing unless that tour gets cancelled will be in The Ashes later this year.
Jasprit Bumrah (right arm fast, right handed batter). His spell on the final afternoon at The Oval broke England’s resistance in that match. He is also one of the select few visiting fast bowlers to have rattled the Australians in their own backyard.
This side has a strong batting line up, with everyone down to Ashwin at eight capable of major contributions, and has a splendid range of bowling options, though some my consider it light on seam/pace options, with Tom Abell the only bowler of that type other than the new ball pair. Ashwin and Leach should function well together as a spin duo, and although this is mainly about players I would want to see in action I would expect this combination to fare well against any opposition.
MEN’S ALL TIME
*WG Grace (right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain). The founding father of cricket as we know it, his career figures are staggering – 54,896 first class runs, beaten only by Hobbs, Woolley, Hendren and Mead, and 2,876 wickets, beaten only by Rhodes, Freeman, Parker, Hearne and Tom Goddard. From hitting a then ground record 224 v Surrey at The Oval (maiden FC ton) to saving a Gentlemen vs Players match by scoring 74 on his 58th birthday, his great moments in FC cricket spanned 40 years.
Victor Trumper (right handed opening batter). In the wet season of 1902 he had what was virtually a royal progress around England, amassing 2,570 runs in first class matches for the Australians, including 11 centuries. The highlight both of that season and of his career came in the fourth test match at Manchester, when reached his century before lunch on the first day. England hit back strongly, and at one stage in the final innings were 92-3, needing only a further 32 to complete victory, but a batting collapse saw them all out for 120 giving Austalia victory by three runs and with it The Ashes.
George Gunn (right handed batter). One of cricket’s great eccentrics, he could do almost anything depending on his mood. He once gave his wicket away because he did not want to bat in the hot weather, and on another occasion he responded to being told that lunch was being taken later than usual by getting himself out so that he could eat at his regular time. He was would dance down the pitch against fast bowlers. Neville Cardus described him as “o rare George Gunn”. His brother William was an England regular and also the original Gunn of Gunn & Moore batmakers. Although she is also a native of Nottinghamshire as far as I am aware Jenny Gunn who has recently finished a long career for the England women’s team is unrelated to him.
Frank Woolley (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner). The only player ever achieve the first class career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches. He scored his runs at a tremendous rate, and must have been incredible to watch in action.
Wally Hammond (right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler). His chief glory was his cover drive, rated by Don Bradman as the greatest example of that shot the he ever saw (and Bradman as well as being the best batter ever to play the game saw almost every great player of the 20th century).
Garry Sobers (left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket). The most complete player the game has ever known, and surely one of the most watchable as well.
Gilbert Jessop (right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). The fastest scorer the game has ever seen, a fine bowler (it was actually in this capacity that he was first selected for England) and a gun fielder.
+Alan Knott (wicket keeper, right handed batter). One of the greatest ever exponents of the keepers art and a more than useful lower middle order batter, noted for his ability to improvise long before that was a major thing in cricket.
Harold Larwood (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). One of three English fast bowlers to have blitzed the Aussies on their own pitches, along with Tyson in 1954-5 and Snow in 1970-1. In the final match of the 1932-3 Ashes, what turned out to be his last ever test appearance, he scored 98 as nightwatch. On his previous tour of Australia in 1928-9 he had scored 70 from no9 in the first test match.
Syd Barnes (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter). 189 wickets from just 27 matches, an average of seven wickets per game, and they cost him only 16.43 a piece. His great weapon was a leg break, delivered at fast medium pace. The only bowler other than him to master a delivery of this type was Alec Bedser.
William Mycroft (left arm fast bowler, right handed batter). The only non-test player in the XI, but over 800 FC wickets at 12 a piece. In 1876 he became the first player ever to take 17 wickets in a first class match, for Derbyshire against Hampshire, but Hampshire sneaked home by one wicket.
This side is fantastically equipped in all departments, and would fare well against most combinations.
WOMEN’S CURRENT XI
Tammy Beaumont (right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper, occasional off spinner). The diminutive opener demonstrated her enduring class with a superb century against New Zealand at her home ground of Canterbury in the last international fixture of the 2021 season. Her innings laid the foundation for a late onslaught from Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley that propelled England to 347-5 from 50 overs, a total that NZ never looked like chasing.
Laura Wolvaardt (right handed batter). The South African has not yet played test cricket (the women don’t get to play nearly enough of that format) but all indications, including the fact the she is much better in ODIs than in T20Is are that she would be at home in that format.
*Smriti Mandhana (left handed batter, captain). The stylish Indian has just burnished an already hugely impressive record by scoring a test century against Australia in Australia, at Carrara.
Ellyse Perry (right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler). The best all rounder of either sex currently playing the game. If she learns to bowl spin (both off and leg spin would be required) she would rival Sobers for the title of the most complete cricketer of them all.
+Amy Jones (right handed batter, wicket keeper). A brilliant wicket keeper and a fine attacking batter.
Sophia Dunkley (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). She has rapidly established herself as an England regular.
Deepti Sharma (left handed batter, off spinner). The Indian all rounder helped to build on the platform that Mandhana’s innings referred to above gave India in Carrara, scoring 59 of her own.
Katherine Brunt (right arm fast medium, right handed batter). The veteran from Barnsley remains a formidable bowler, has developed her batting to the point of being not far short of a genuine all rounder, and is always hugely entertaining.
Sophie Ecclestone (left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter). She takes her international wickets at 20 each and at the age of 22 is the best finger spinner currently playing women’s cricket.
Stella Campbell (right arm fast, right handed batter). The tall (1.86 metres = 6′ 1″ in old money) Aussie teenager is a perfect contrast to the much shorter Brunt. She is also significantly quicker than the Yorkshirewoman, as the tweet below from Hypocaust shows:
That wicket ball from Stella Campbell was 124.3 km/h (77.2 mph).#AUSvIND
11. Poonam Yadav (leg spinner, right handed batter). From the tallest member of the side, and its fastest bowler, to the shortest and its slowest bowler. She tosses the ball so high that one sometimes wonders whether air traffic control towers pick up tiny white dots on their radar screens when she is bowling. The method is undoubtedly effective for her – she has a magnificent record.
This side features a strong batting line up and a beautifully balance bowling unit, with Campbell, Brunt and Perry to bowl pace and the trio of Yadav, Ecclestone and Sharma providing three very different spin options.
I have chosen not to an all-time women’s XI, but the following players not named above would all be ones I would want to accommodate somehow: Charlotte Edwards (right handed opening batter), Enid Bakewell (right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner), Carole Hodges (right handed batter, off spinner), Karen Rolton (right handed batter), Sarah Taylor (right handed batter, wicket keeper) and Cathryn Fitzpatrick (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter)
An acknowledgement of a great performance by India and some magnificent bowling by R Ashwin and Axar Patel, with an honourable mention for ‘Daniel in the lions den’ Lawrence.
This is the second time I have used India Zindabad! as a title (see here). The first referred to a series win in Australia sealed in extraordinary circumstances at the Gabba. This one refers to events at Ahmedabad, which have just concluded with a masterful bowling display by Axar Patel and R Ashwin.
I covered the events of day one here, so I now resume with coverage of day two. England bossed the opening session, and did likewise for most of the second, at one point having India 148-6, still 57 behind, when Washington Sundar joined Rishabh Pant. England then paid for a team selection that had left them short of bowlers, with Stokes and Anderson both exhausted and Bess unable to provide any control. Pant completed a magnificent century and then fell immediately after, but then Axar Patel joined Sundar, and they were still together at the close, with India 294-7, 89 runs to the good.
THE CONCLUSION TO THE INDIAN INNINGS
Day three began as day two had ended, with India making merry, and it looked for a good while like Sundar would be joining Pant in the centurions club. The breakthrough finally came after 90 minutes, when Axar Patel was run out for 43. Ishant Sharma was then trapped LBW by the persevering Stokes, and then Mohammad Siraj took evasive action in anticipation of a bouncer and was bowled by the full length ball that Stokes actually produced. That gave Stokes four wickets for the innings, with Anderson taking three and Leach two.
ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS: DANIEL IN THE LIONS DEN
The reason for the biblical allusion in the heading of this section will become apparent as the story of England’s second innings unfolds. Zak Crawley was first to go, falling to Ashwin for five, before Bairstow played his first ball straight into the hands of a fielder to end his test career with a golden duck (there can be no way back for him in this format, though he will still be a white ball regular for some time). Sibley was then bowled by Axar Patel to make it 20-3, with Root already looking comfortable. Stokes was sent in at no5 in spite of not having much rest from his bowling endeavours, and he accrued two runs before playing a ball from Patel into the hands of Kohli to make it 30-4. Pope made a decent beginning but was then stumped by Pant off Patel for 15 to make it 65-5, which brought Daniel Lawrence to the crease to join Root. Almost immediately Ashwin trapped Root LBW, which he reviewed out of sheer desperation, but it was never going to be overturned. That was 65-6, and Ben Foakes came out to join Lawrence. Foakes resisted stoutly for a time, lasting 46 balls and 61 minutes for 13 and the partnership between him and Lawrence yielded 44 runs. Bess managed two before Pant took a catch off Axar Patel to account for him and make it 111-8. Jack Leach resisted stubbornly as Lawrence moved towards a 50, and a further four after that would have given him an aggregate of 100 for the match. Just after Lawrence had reached his first milestone Leach edged Ashwin to Rahane and it was 134-9, which brought Anderson to the crease. Anderson got a single, and Lawrence had a big swing at Ashwin and was bowled to end proceedings with England 135 all out and India winning by an innings and 25 runs. Daniel Lawrence had scored 50 out of 70 runs scored while he was at the wicket, off 95 balls and in 112 minutes. R Ashwin had just pipped Axar Patel to the bowling honours, with 5-47 from 22.5 overs to the left armer’s 5-48 from 24 overs. In the series Ashwin had 31 wickets and Patel 28, a combined tally of 59, with Axar Patel not playing the first match, while England’s bowlers between them had accounted for 58 wickets in the series. The pitches for the second and third matches both attracted adverse comment, some of which was merited, but this match was played on an excellent cricket pitch that brought everybody into the game, and England quite simply and abysmally failed to find any sort of counter to two excellent spin bowlers who bowled very few loose deliveries. Ravindra Jadeja is due back fron injury in the not too distant future, and slotting him into the team will give India the right kind of dilemma (I would say that Rahane who has neither current form nor an outstanding past record in his favour and Sundar are the two most vulnerable current team members).
I conclude this post by congratulating India on a magnificent performance. New Zealand will have a tough battle on their hands in the World Test Championship final, though that will be in England. An analysis of England’s two tours in the early part of 2021 is a subject for a separate post, which will be coming either today or tomorrow. A full scorecard for this match can be seen here. Pant’s ton and immaculate keeping have deservedly earned him Player of the Match, while Ashwin’s outstanding all round effort has equally deservedly seen him named Player of the Series.
An account of day 1 in Ahmedabad and some related matters. Plus a few photographs.
This post looks at day 1 of the day-night match in Ahmedabad and at certain issues relating to that day’s play. As a disclaimer before moving into the main meat of the post I wish to make it clear that I India are in the driving seat firstly and mainly because they have played far superior cricket. That does not mean that certain complaints about luck, the pitch and some of the umpiring are invalid.
ENGLAND PAY FOR OVERLONG TAIL
England’s selection for this match showed four changes from the second test of the series in Chennai, with Crawley, Bairstow, Archer and Anderson replacing Burns, Lawrence, Ali and Stone. This resulted in an XI of: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad and Anderson. My own pre-match feelings were that this was a high risk selection, with such a long tail, and with the selection of three specialist pace bowlers. Ali was not available for selection, and it was always unlikely that Bess would be recalled, which with the refusal to promote either of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves dictated that only one spinner would play. I would have retained Burns and Lawrence, moving Lawrence back down the order and away from no3, would from the 17 England had named in advance have gone with Woakes at eight, would have retained Stone after his good performance in the second test, and Leach and Anderson were virtually mandatory picks in the circumstances. India opted to strengthen their batting, bringing Washington Sundar in for Kuldeep Yadav and relying on Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma for the pace bowling, with Axar Patel and R Ashwin to bowl spin, and the latter, coming off a century in Chennai quite possibly to bat at number nine. The first news other than the selections was the toss, which England won and chose to bat.
Sibley got a good one and fell without scoring. Crawley was playing nicely, but Bairstow could not pierce the field, and the very first delivery by a spinner, Axar Patel in this case, pinned him LBW for 0, and Bairstow then burned a review, a call by him that was bad enough to warrant the label ‘Watsonian’ in honour of a certain Aussie batter of the not too distant past. For a time Root and Crawley went reasonably well, but then both got out with lunch approaching, and England were 80-4, 53 of them off the bat of Crawley. Immediately after lunch things got worse for England as Pope was dismissed to make it 81-5, and then Stokes fell cheaply as well, leaving Foakes to bat with the tail. It was 98-8 at low water mark, but Foakes, Broad and Anderson inched the score up to 112, off 48.4 overs, before Foakes was last out. Axar Patel had bowled 21.4 overs and had 6-38, following up his five in the final innings at Chennai. R Ashwin had three and also bowled superbly. England were psyched by the fact that there was turn on day 1, and a number of their wickets fell to balls which actually went straight on. Save for Crawley no England batter even managed 20.
England did not bowl badly, although they did not have the right attack for this pitch, and they were unlucky on several occasions, and there were also two very poor pieces of work by the third umpire. First Shubman Gill edged Broad to Stokes and it was given out on field but then referred upstairs, and the third umpire overturned it very quickly indeed without due care and attention – he may have got it right but if so it was by luck not judgement, and in a test match that is not acceptable. The second incident of poor third umpiring saw Rohit Sharma reprieved for the third time in as many innings, all being controversial. Foakes executed a stumping of Leach, with to all appearances Rohit Sharma’s foot behind the crease but in the air, and it was sent upstairs and again after looking at one replay for a very short period the third umpire overturned it. I am absolutely certain that this one was a wrong call, and the failure to follow protocol even if the call by some chance had been right was unacceptable. In the event Gill’s did not cost much, as he got out not long after to Jofra Archer, being caught by Crawley, too far off the ground for even this third umpire to think of intervening. Leach got Pujara, an LBW that was so plumb that it was not sent upstairs, and just before the close Kohli who had two escapes, first when Pope just failed to pull off what would have been a miracle catch and then when the same player missed a more straightforward effort off a less than impressed Anderson, was bowled by Leach. Rohit Sharma however was still there on 57 not out, with India 99-3, a mere 13 short of matching England’s first innings. Leach currently has 2-27 from 10 overs, meaning that the combined figures of the left arm orthodox spinners on day one of a test match are 8-65 from 31.4 overs. Two days before the start of play this pitch had a respectable covering of grass, but by the day before every last blade of grass had been shaved off, and with nothing to bind it it is already breaking up, and never mind day 5, I would definitely not bet on there being a day 4 and would make it no more than even money that there will be a day 3.
WHERE NOW FOR ENGLAND?
With this test match, and with it, England’s hopes of making the World Test Championship final, effectively gone already, barring miracles, I would go experimental for the third test, promoting Virdi and Parkinson from the reserves with a view to selecting at least one and possibly both, I would rest the veterans Anderson and Broad, probably selecting Woakes and Stone as my new ball pairing if I even picked two front line pacers. Out would go Bairstow, who as regular readers of this blog know would not have been in my tour party anyway, and I would move Stokes up to three, bringing Lawrence back in the middle order. A drawn series, especially when it ushers Australia into the final of the WTC, is less appealing than looking to the future even at the risk of sustaining another defeat. England have mishandled several things in this series, but most egregious has been the Bess/ Moeen Ali situation, where because of Covid (he actually had the disease) and his need to return home to see his family between the test and limited overs legs of the tour Ali was available for just one match, and England were so eager to play this 33 year old who averages 29 with the bat and 36 with the ball that they dropped Bess in a rather insensitive fashion. Even worse, they then allowed it to become public knowledge that they had begged Moeen to change his plans and stay on for the remainder of the series. This left them either to pick Bess with his head not in the right place or, having announced 17 names from which the XI for this match would be selected, to go in with only one specialist spinner. They took the latter option, and we were treated to the sight of four bowlers of above medium pace bowling on a spinning track, as Root was not willing to swallow his pride and acknowledge that England’s chosen bowling attack was unfit for purpose by bringing himself on.
Looking further ahead, to the home season and beyond there are several things that need addressing:
The County Championship cannot keep being shoe horned into the worst times of the season for spinners.
Counties who dare to produce turning surfaces should not be punished, but rather applauded for offering a wider variety of surfaces for cricket to be played on.
England need to find new spinners. Other than Leach and the out of favour Bess only Parkinson and Virdi among the men are remotely close to having records that would justify elevation, which is why I recommend what I am now going to call the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’ – just see what Sophie Ecclestone, with 101 wickets at 25.90 in international cricket at the age of 21 can do playing among the men.
England also need to improve their batting against spin. Elizabeth Ammon, who tweets as legsidelizzy, has pointed out that England had a spin bowling camp in Sri Lanka, but no ‘batting against spin bowling camp’, and that that needs to change.
A look back at the second test in Chennai, with complete player ratings. a look forward to the third test and beyond and some pictures.
Although today’s play was not especially long this post will be because I there are a couple of extra features related to this match and also because owing to the fact that I wish to mark tomorrow being IPL auction day by doing something entirely non-cricket related on here I am going to make a provisional selection for England for the third test match, the day-nighter in Ahmedabad.
THE LAST KNOCKINGS OF THE MATCH
England resumed on 53-3, needing a purely nominal 429 to win on a surface playing serious tricks. The first to fall was Dan Lawrence who showed considerable pluck yesterday, but today charged at Ashwin’s first delivery of the morning and was stumped by half a metre or thereabouts. Stokes, who might have stopped the rot, failed, and it rapidly became a procession. When Stone was dismissed, ninth to go, it looked like England were going to fail as a team to match the opposition’s highest individual score in either innings. Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad provided some late fireworks and just spared England that indignity, raising the total to 164, before Ali, with the quickest test 50 of all time in his sights, was caught to end the brief final flurry. The margin was 317 runs, India’s biggest ever win by a runs margin over England, beating the 279 run margin at Headingley in 1986. Axar Patel on his test debut snared five victims in this second innings, while R Ashwin completed a memorable trio of innings by accounting for three, following his five first innings scalps and second innings hundred. Had England won the toss and batted, it is possible that without 300 already being on the board against them they would have scored 230in the first innings rather than their actual 130, but they would never have won on this surface. It is not so much that India bat better on such surfaces, though they do, the much more pronounced difference is that they bowl hugely much better on them. Only Jack Leach hinted at the control needed on such pitches – India were allowed to score at four an over in their two innings, whereas India, knowing that there was assistance for them went for only two and a half per over. Still, England would have accepted a series scoreline of 1-1 going into the day-nighter when this series started. England played poorly, India superbly, and England must pick themselves up from this, and fortunately have a week in which to do so. Full scorecard here.
In combining a century with a haul of eight wickets in the game Ashwin underlined his status as one of the game’s greatest players. Imran Khan (6-98, 117 not out, 5-82 v India at Faisalabad in 1982), Ian Botham had three such matches, against New Zealand at Christchurch when his maiden test hundred combined with eight wickets and a couple of catches, against Pakistan at Lord’s when a score of 108 was backed with ground record innings figures of 8-34 and at what is now Mumbai in 1980 when his figures were 6-58, 114 not out, 7-48. George Giffen had a first innings 161 and two four wicket hauls in an ultimately losing cause at Sydney in 1894 (Australia 586, England 325 and 437, Australia 166, England won by 10 runs). Alan Davidson’s effort across the four innings of the first ever tied test at Brisbane in 1960 deserves a mention as well: 5-135 (WI 453 all out), 44 (Aus 505 all out), 6-87 (WI 284 all out), 80 (Aus 232 all out). In first class cricket George Hirst stands alone with a remarkable quadruple feat of centuries in each of his team’s innings and five wicket hauls in each of the opposition innings, achieved at for Yorkshire against Somerset in 1906. Finally, a nod to Enid Bakewell, who in 1979, at the age of 39, scored a century and had a ten wicket match haul for England Women against the West Indies Women. After 76 test matches Ashwin’s record reads 2,626 runs at 28.23, 394 wickets at 25.20. Better than five wickets per match, at an eminently respectable average, and he also averages 28 with the bat. For comparison in 61 matches, likely to be his final test tally, Moeen Ali who was Ashwin’s England counterpart in this game, has 2,831 runs at 28.88, fractionally better than Ashwin, and 189 wickets at 36.24, fully eleven runs per wicket worse than Ashwin and not much more than half as many wickets per match.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
The achievement that I just devoted the above section to earned Ashwin player of the match, a decision which might appear unarguable, but nevertheless, though this is a minor kvetch, I am not entirely happy with it. For me the Player of the Match should go to the player who has done most to influence the result, and I would have said that Rohit Sharma with his majestic innings on the opening day, which was incredible at the time and has only looked better as the game progressed was that person. It would have been hard on Ashwin not to have got the award in front of his home crowd, and I would have been happiest with a shared award between the two top performers in the game, while I have to say that if forced to give the award to a single individual I would have plumped for Rohit Sharma.
I will start with England, and my ratings are as follows:
Dominic Sibley: 4. The normally adhesive opener failed in both innings this time.
Rory Burns: 3. It is hard to see him being retained much longer on present form.
Dan Lawrence: 4. He showed some fight in the evening session yesterday, but his dismissal at the start of today’s play brought his mark back down – it was very poor.
Joe Root: 5. Failed to deliver with the bat, but bowled respectably, although it is an indictment of his specialist colleagues that he found himself in action in that role before the end of day 1.
Ben Stokes: 4. It is a rare match in which the all rounder entirely fails to make an impact but this one was perilously close to being just such a game.
Ollie Pope: 4. Played half decently in the first innings in partnership with Foakes, but was part of the procession back to the pavilion on the final day.
Ben Foakes: 8. Confirmed his utter brilliance as a keeper and has surely established himself as England’s #1 in that department. He also top scored in England’s first innings, showing real determination. I would have scored him higher, but he was part of a badly defeated team. I will just point out among those who were open-mouthed with admiration at the brilliance of his keeping was Sarah Taylor, his only serious rival for the title of the most accomplished English keeper of the 21st century.
Moeen Ali: 5. Some of you will look at his figures for this match and think that this is being harsh. The sad truth is that seven of his eight wickets and all of his runs came with England pretty much condemned to defeat. His bowling on the first day, on a pitch that even then was offering turn, when his figures at one point read 1-94 from 20 overs was an utter disgrace, and at that point he was headed squarely for a rating of 1, but he did pick things up, far too late, and I have increased his rating to reflect that.
Olly Stone: 7. Fast bowlers were not major players in this game because of the pitch, but he bowled well, capturing four wickets in total, and has earned the right to play in conditions which will favour him more.
Jack Leach: 7. On the first day, when everyone else was going round the park he went for less than three an over, and at no time can he be said to have done a lot wrong.
Stuart Broad: 5. He was a little unfortunate not to get more reward for his efforts with the ball, but by his own titanic standards he was undoubtedly poor.
Now it is time for India:
Rohit Sharma: 9.5. His innings on the first day pretty much settled the outcome of the match.
Shubman Gill: 6. Not a great game for him, but a few flashes of skill.
Cheteshwar Pujara: 5. A rare ordinary match for him.
Virat Kohli: 7. A first innings duck, but he played beautifully in the second innings. On pure play he deserves more marks than I have given, but I have penalized him for some of his behaviour, which was less than exemplary.
Ajinkya Rahane: 7. Was Rohit Sharma’s best support in the first innings, failed in the second. Had some great moments as a slip fielder.
Rishabh Pant: 7. An entertaining 50 in the first dig and some good keeping on a pitch which caused problems for almost everyone.
Axar Patel: 8. A superb debut for the left arm spinner, highlighted by a five wicket haul in the final innings. Although Ravindra Jadeja will be available again in a few weeks time I expect plenty more good things from this man.
R Ashwin: 9.5: Failed with the bat in the first innings but was magnificent in the other three, producing a truly superb all round performance.
Kuldeep Yadav: 7. Bowled steadily, though overshadowed by his colleagues Ashwin and Patel.
Ishant Sharma: 5. A bit part player because of the pitch.
Mohammad Siraj: 7. Like Ishant reduced to the status of a bit part player, but I have upgraded his score on account of his magnificent celebration of his team mate Ashwin’s century.
I conclude this section with an infographic giving a brief version of the above:
THOUGHTS ON ENGLAND SQUAD FOR THIRD TEST
England have announced a squad of 17 from which the XI for the third test will be chosen. Moeen Ali is needed for the limited overs games, and not fancying what would otherwise be a full five months away from home, is returning for a short break before coming back out to India in time to quarantine before the limited overs leg of the tour starts. Thus, the squad, viewable on the ECB’s website is as shown below:
Rory Burns I think has to go, with Crawley fit again, and my choice for number three in these specific circumstances is Ben Stokes, who should not need to do a huge amount of bowling. I feel that having the engine room of Stokes and Root at three and four is something England need in this situation, and Root loses much of his effectiveness when made to bat at three, so I am prepared to promote Stokes to provide some experience near the top of the order. I believe Lawrence deserves a chance in a position in the middle of the order where he is more likely to succeed, and I am loath to discard Pope so soon after his return from injury, believing he will come good. Foakes is inked in as keeper. That leaves the bowlers, and for a day-night match I am prepared to chance having only one front line spinner in Leach, which means I either have to opt for Woakes or accept a tail of diplodocus proportions (see this article from the Natural History Museum, and the picture below, which comes from said article, for why I have chosen that analogy).
In the circumstances, with Broad not at his best, Anderson mandatory after being rested for this game, rather than gamble on an 8,9,10,11 of Archer, Stone, Leach, Anderson or Wood, Stone, Leach, Anderson (for reasons already outlined I am not in favour of discarding Stone) I go for Woakes as third seamer, giving the XI shown in the infographic below:
LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD
It is relatively unlikely that any English test pitch will warrant the selection of two specialist spinners, and the next tour is Australia, never the happiest hunting ground for English off spinners (In my lifetime only John Emburey on two tours when Australia were fielding weakened sides due first to Kerry Packer and WSC and then to Ali Bacher’s activities arranging for cricketers to make ‘rebel tours’ of apartheid South Africa has had really successful series as an English off spinner in Australia, and the past save for the very earliest days of test cricket tells a similar story), so I would consider Leach the first choice spinner and groom the leg spinner Parkinson as understudy, taking him on the Ashes trip as official second spinner. At the moment after a mere six first class appearances an elevation of Tom Lammonby to international ranks would seem a huge gamble, but if he has another good season for Somerset he too could be picked for the Ashes tour as an opening batter.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Having mentioned the Natural History museum I cannot resist offering a couple of links relating to that museum’s location, South Kensington:
A look at day three in Chennai, and provoked by events therein a feature on off spinners who bat.
This post looks at day three in Chennai, where there was much drama.
THE INDIAN INNINGS
India resumed at 54-1, an advantage of 249. England, helped by some sensational keeping from Ben Foakes took five wickets quite rapidly, reducing India to 106-6, at which point R Ashwin came in to bat in front of his home crowd. He and Virat Kohli put on a superb partnership, before Kohli fell to Moeen Ali, and although neither Kuldeep Yadav nor Ishant Sharma lasted long, Mohammad Siraj stayed there to see Ashwin complete a superb century, the third time in his 76 match test career that he has combined a century with a five wicket innings haul (only Ian Botham who did so against New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Australia and New Zealand has done so more frequently in the history of test cricket). The Indian innings ended at 286, an advantage of 481. The record 4th innings chase in test history is 418, although at Lord’s in 1900, in that year;s big showpiece game the Players after being rolled for 136 in their first innings did chase down 501 in just over a full day to beat the Gentlemen. There were four wickets each for Jack Leach and Moeen Ali, with Stone ending the innings with his fourth wicket of the game. This was the fifth successive test match second innings in which Leach had taken four or more wickets.
While victory was clearly the longest of long shots there was plenty for England to play for. A respectable showing with the bat second time round would salvage some pride, and Rory Burns and Dan Lawrence were both in need of runs to secure their positions, with Zak Crawley likely to return from injury for the next game, Bairstow also available, and Foakes surely established as keeper after his performance here.
Sibley fell cheaply to make it 16-1, but Burns and Lawrence played with aggression but not mindlessly so to take the score to 50, before Burns departed. Leach came in as nightwatchman, and almost immediately departed to his left arm orthodox spinning rival Axar Patel to make it 50-3. England nearly suffered a monster hammer blow just before the close, Joe Root being hit on the pad, given not out by the on field umpire, and the DRS technology showed that the point of impact of ball on pad was “umpire’s call”, while the ball would have made a right mess of the stumps had the pad not impeded it. The replay also showed that the ball actually brushed the stump very faintly on its way through even after impact with pad. England had been on the wrong end of some horrible decisions during the first two days, including one clear breach of DRS protocol by the third umpire, and now it was India’s turn to experience some frustration. Kohli disputed this one with the umpires after the DRS adjudication, at least his third significant infraction of that type in the match, following standing there for a clean bowled on day 1 and talking back after being reprimanded for running on the pitch during his own second innings. I gather that he is danger of a suspension, and he richly deserves it – his behaviour towards umpires here has been ‘Punteresque’, and the original ‘Punter’ committed his worst infraction of that type when there was at least the explanation (not, never, excuse) that his team were on the wrong end of a monstering at the MCG in 2010, whereas here it is Kohli’s side who are handing out the thrashing. England closed on 53-3, needing 429 with two whole days to go, while India need seven wickets.
OFF SPINNERS WHO BAT
The fact that Moeen Ali has taken a few wickets in this match, long after it was already pretty much a guaranteed loss, a position that owed much to his earlier dreadful bowling has led to a resurgence of support for him. I remain adamant that replacing a 23 year old with 33 year old whose record is at best moderate is a retrograde step and may well have damaged Bess’s confidence to boot. I have hunted out some figures for players whose main task is to bowl off spin, but whose batting is considered part of the equation. Below I show four sets of figures, three for contemporary cricketers, two of whom are involved in this match, and one for a fine player from the long past, with supplementary explanation. (see mini gallery that ends this section as well)
R Ashwin – the best current purveyor of off spin, and as he demonstrated earlier today a very useful lower order batter: test cricket: Averages 27.54 with the bat and 25.47 with the ball excluding the current match, first class cricket, averages 29.46 with the bat and 26.19 with the ball
Moeen Ali – being regarded at present by far too many as an “all rounder”: test cricket: Averages 28.97 with the bat and 36.59 with the ball excluding this match, first class cricket averages 36.72 with the bat and 37.94 with the ball. His averages in test cricket are the wrong way round by some way, and his first class averages less so, but the relative paucity of his bowling in non-test first class cricket is illustrated by the fact that more than half of his first class scalps have come in test cricket.
Dominic Bess – dropped and replaced by Moeen Ali: test cricket 26.16 with the bat and 32.00 with the ball, though he has played very few matches at that level, first class cricket 24.09 with the bat and 29.32 with the ball. His 37 ordinary first class matches yield a bowling average of 28.54, 3.46 runs per wicket better than his current test average, and at 23 he is very much an improving player who would be expected to hit his absolute peak years in approximately five years.
Billy Bates – someone who was this kind of player in the early days of test cricket. His 15 tests yielded 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42, while the much longer sample of his first career yielded a batting average of 21.75 and a bowling average of 17.13. Allowing for inflation due to surfaces being kinder to batters these days that first class record equates in modern terms to averaging 32.36 with the bat and 25.70 with the ball, putting him marginally ahead of Ashwin at that level.
Today’s gallery comes in three parts: a special section marking the 50th anniversary of the introduction of decimal currency in Britain, a standard issue gallery, and a standalone infographic created to serve as the feature image.
A look at day two in Chennai and some matters that arise from it.
This post looks at day two in Chennai, and at a few related issues.
INDIA’S DOMINANT DAY
The second day of the second test match got underway with India 300-6 overnight. Jack Leach began with a maiden over. Moeen Ali was gifted a couple of wickets (one a magnificent stumping by Foakes when Axar gave him the charge in the day’s second over, and one a full toss placed into the hands of the fielder) to bring his tally up to four, but also continued to bowl regular quantities of dross. It fell to Olly Stone, the fast bowler, to end the Indian innings, taking the last two wickets, to go with his earlier wicket of opener Shubman Gill.
England’s response was shocking, as they slumped to 39-4 and then 52-4. At that point the two Surrey men, Pope and Foakes, who had been sensational with the gloves, shared a stand that bolstered the total to 87, before Pope was dismissed. Moeen Ali, whose batting was allegedly part of the justification for his selection, contributed six to a stand of 19 for the seventh wicket, Leach made a run less but batted for longer, and Broad, sent in at number 11, made that position look his natural one, getting out as he did. Foakes was stranded on 41, and England, were all out for 134, a deficit of 195. They had taken the follow-on question out of India’s hands, just, but there was no way India were going to enforce and take even a 0.1% chance of having to bat last on this pitch.
Olly Stone took the new ball with no joy, but Broad did not share it with him, Leach coming on instantly. Moeen leaked 11 from his first over of the second innings. Leach got the wicket of Gill, and England deserved more success but were unlucky on several occasions with close decisions, and victim of at least one scandalously bad piece of umpiring, when Rohit Sharma was given not out for an LBW, and the official grounds for confirming it as not out were that he had played a shot, when even he did not make that claim on his own behalf, having tucked his bat in behind his bat. In the end India closed on 54-1, 249 runs to the good, and the question is when, and not if, they level the series.
Let me make one thing clear here: I am not in the business of deflecting blame or denying India credit. India deserve to be in the box seat in this game, having both batted and bowled better than England. However, it is legitimate to raise questions about a pitch is certain to see the game end with one whole day unused and may even see it end with two days unused. India have made better use of it than England (and how!) but that does not excuse producing such a strip for a match that is scheduled to last for FIVE days.
Secondly, although I do not believe them to have had any serious impact on the match situation, there have been a number of very poor umpiring decisions all of which have gone against England. None of the officials handling this game, either the two on-field umpires or the TV replay umpire have done their jobs anything approaching properly, and none should ever stand again in any match of any importance.
India correctly dropped Sundar, who although he batted well in the first match was a liability with the ball. Ashwin, Axar Patel (who has had a splendid test debut) and Kuldeep Yadav all bowled impressively, especially Ashwin (5-43). By contrast, willfully refusing to learn from what happened with Sundar, England went the other way, dropping Bess and recalling Moeen Ali. For all that he somehow has four wickets against his name Ali is also the single biggest reason that England are in quite such massive trouble, having been leaking runs at nearer five than four per over on a helpful surface. He is almost 34, his bowling average at test level is approximately 37 and not improving, his batting average is below 29 and on the decline. I am absolutely certain that England need to admit to perpetrating a colossal blunder and drop him forthwith. The third match of this series is a day-nighter, and I would be tempted to for that game to go in with Leach the sole specialist spinner, with Stone selected alongside both of Anderson and Broad as a pace attack. If England feel they must have two front line spinners then they should either recall Bess or promote one or other of Parkinson or Virdi in his place. Pardon the all-caps here, something I very rarely do, but just to emphasise: MOEEN ALI IS NOT TEST MATCH CLASS WITH EITHER BAT OR BALL and continuing to pick him will hand the series to India on a plate.
My account of the first day of India v England in Chennai, plus some photographs.
This post deals with day 1 in Chennai, where India and England have been doing battle. For those of us here in the UK coverage has been available on Channel Four for TV fans (which I am not – don’t look here for any comments about TV coverage) and on Talksport 2 for radio fans who want live commentary (TMS have been running a ‘cricket social’ on n 5 live sports extra). The time difference between the UK and India, and my preferred methods of following the game meant that at 3:45AM local time I was tuned into talksport2 and had a cricinfo window open on my computer for extra detail.
England were without Zak Crawley due to injury but did have Stokes, Pope and Archer all available and all were duly selected. England also departed from their stated rotation policy with the veterans and gave Anderson a second successive match. Fortunately, for all that some who should have known better were spruiking such a move England did not pick Moeen Ali. The selected lineup was thus: Sibley, Burns, Lawrence, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Bess, Archer, Leach, Anderson. India meanwhile had lost left arm spinner Axar Patel to injury. Somewhat surprisingly they opted not pick wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, going instead for deepening their batting by picking both offspinners, Sundar and Ashwin, both of whom are handy with the bat alongside a debutant left arm spinner, Shahbaz Nadeem. Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. Indian skipper Kohli, being a sensible chap, did not resort to the ‘psychological ploy’ of saying that he would have bowled anyway (note to captains who still do this, no one is buying it, OK?) opting instead for honesty.
The morning started quietly, but with no great trouble for England. With 15 minutes to go until lunch the score was 63-0, but then Burns essayed a reverse sweep, not wise on day one of a test match and especially not so close to lunch, and edged the ball to Pant who took the catch. In the next over the unfortunate Lawrence got an absolute beauty from Bumrah and was pinned LBW and it was 63-2. The third umpire then spent ages agonizing over a decision on a potential run out after Root was a bit dozy, but fortunately he had made his ground. England took lunch at 67-2, and Root and Sibley were able to regroup. Post lunch scoring was slow initially but neither batter looked in any real trouble. Things picked up somewhat in the second half of the afternoon session and England reached tea at 140-2, with Root playing superbly and Sibley doing precisely what he was in the side to do: bat time and get some miles into the bowlers legs.
After tea Root hit the accelerator, while Sibley continued to be an excellent foil at the other end. Sundar was bowled comparatively sparingly, and was expensive and sadly posed little threat. Nadeem’s debut was marred by the bowling of several no-balls (pretty much inexcusable for a spinner), leaving only Ashwin as genuinely threatening spinner. The faster bowlers were better, Ishant being accurate enough to command respect at all times, and Bumrah bowling splendidly and deserving rather more reward than he actually got.
There were three scheduled balls of the day remaining and we were deep into the half hour over spill in which overs can be bowled when another corker of a ball from Bumrah pinned Sibley LBW. Because we were already over time, the dismissal ended play for the day, which means that England will resume on 263-3, Root 128 not out and Stokes the new batter. Root’s innings was a gem, his handling of the spinners especially brilliant. Sibley was rocklike until that fourth last ball of the day beat him, and his determined effort should not be overlooked. Root’s first innings scores in his last three tests have been 228, 186 and now 128 not out with power to add. In terms of an English batter going big successively in two different away countries I can think only of Hammond in 1933 who scored 101 and 75 not out in the fifth and final Ashes test and then produced scores of 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand in the next two games as a performance to rival Root’s.
Sundar’s figures of 12-0-55-0 indicate the problem with picking someone in a bowling role based on their batting ability, and underline the rightness of England not selecting Moeen Ali who is undoubtedly a less skilled practitioner with the ball than Sundar.
Root and Stokes need to get England through the first hour of tomorrow, and then England should have India where they want them. Root after the close made it quite clear that England are aiming to go big, and on this surface which appears to be very unresponsive that is necessary – I reckon that at minimum England need to double their current score before they can feel in control of things. However, I would much rather be in their shoes than India’s at the moment, hence the title of this piece.
There has been some sun today, and the finches are out in force here in North Lynn…
A great test match, some fine BBL10 action, a very important petition and some photographs.
Overnight UK time Australia and India were fighting out a test match in Sydney, while this edition of the BBL continues to impress. I am going to start with…
TEST CRICKET IS THE BEST CRICKET – A FIVE DAY DEMO
Australia took a first innings lead of 94 over India – 338 vs 244. Ravi Jadeja suffered an injury which ended his participation in the series, although he said that if necessary he would bat in India’s second innings. Jadeja is almost criminally underrated by the cricketing world at large, being on recent figures the best all rounder in test cricket (although New Zealand youngster Kyle Jamieson is bidding fair to change that if he continues as he has started). This was therefore a massive loss – he had already contributed four first innings wickets, some useful unbeaten runs and a superb run out to this match.
Australia made decent runs for the second time of the match, although they were once again heavily dependent on Smith and Labuschagne to do so. They declared at 312-6, setting India 407 in four sessions to win, or else bat out for a draw. By the close of day four India were 98-2, with Pujara and Rahane together.
Rahane was out almost before the final day had begun, which brought Rishabh Pant to the crease. I regard Pant as a proven liability with the keeper’s gloves, but have never questioned his batting talents, and he played a magnificent innings, which briefly ignited hopes of an incredible victory for the visitors. Once he was dismissed for 97 victory was pretty much off the menu, but Pujara was still there, playing very well. Vihari strained a hamstring taking a run, but battled on gamely. Pujara’s dismissal seemed to have once again swung things decisively Australia’s way, bringing R Ashwin to the crease, since Jadeja was being held back due to his injury. Ashwin to a blow to the ribs, but like Vihari, he refused to allow the pain of his injury to deter him. Some hostile bowling, led as usual by Cummins, and alas some vicious sledging, failed to dislodge either of the pair. Eventually, the close of play arrived, with India 334-5, 73 short of victory, and possibly by then favourites had the match been extended to give a definite result.
This was a match which commanded attention throughout five absorbing days of play, and while the heist did not eventuate, the way Ashwin and Vihari, both incommoded by injuries, battled it out at the death and saw their side to a draw will live long in the memory. The final match takes place at the Gabba, a ground where Australia have not lost since 1988. If India win or draw they retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, while only a win will do for Australia. In 2010-11 England staged a great escape at the Gabba in the series opener, after trailing by over 200 on first innings, and then obliterated the Aussies in the second match at Adelaide, and just maybe saving this game in such a fashion as they did will be the fillip India need to produce something very special to finish this series.
There have been three BBL games since my last blog post. In the first Scorchers sprang a surprise by beating Thunder who had been topping the group. Scorchers batted first, and after 14 overs were 101-4, at which point they claimed the Power Surge. They made brilliant use of those two overs with fielding restrictions in place, accruing no fewer than 40 runs from them. This was followed by a strong finish and a final score of 185-6. Thunder were behind over the Power Play, ahead in runs at the 10 over mark, giving them the Bash Boost point, but also a wicket behind on the comparison. They had a good start to the second half of their innings, reaching 119-4 after 14, at which point they claimed their own Power Surge. This was where they lost their way, and with it, the match. The two overs of Power Surge yielded them just 18 runs and saw the fall of two wickets – suddenly they were four runs and two wickets worse off than the Scorchers had been at the same stage. Overs 17 and 18 were good for them, and with two overs to go they were 161-7 and still just about in the hunt. The 19th over settled the issue, just two runs coming from it and a wicket falling. 23 off the final over was never going to happen, and in the event Thunder were all out for 168, beaten by 17 runs.
Yesterday morning UK time the Heat were in action against the Sixers. Heat were put in after the Sixers won the bat flip, and after four overs were 29-2. After 10 overs this had become 59-3. After 13 overs, when they claimed the Power Surge for overs 13 and 14 they were 77-3. By the end of the 15th, the second Power Surge over they were 109-4, 32-1 from the Surge. The last five overs of the Heat innings were disastrous, yielding 39-6 for a final score of 148 all out. Sixers were behind most of the way through the chase, though they got the Bash Boost point, being 60-4 after their first 10 overs. They were 104-4 after 15, and in the hunt, but not comfortably placed. In the 18th they looked in real trouble, seven down, and still noticeably adrift, but the veteran Dan Christian was batting very well at one end, and he pulled the game out of the fire for the Sixers, just getting them home off the penultimate possible ball. Heat were unfortunate to come away from this match with nothing, while the Sixers moved to the top of the group.
This morning’s game featured the Stars against the Strikers. The Stars were second bottom and in need of a win, while the Strikers were more comfortably placed but were about to lose the services of Rashid Khan, departing from the tournament to play for his country, Afghanistan, and could do with a cushion between them and those just outside the qualifying zone.
The Stars chose to bat first, and were in trouble for almost the entirety of their innings. They were 17-1 after four overs of what was supposed to be POWER PLAY, picked things up somewhat to be 67-3 after ten, then delayed the Power Surge far too long (my own opinion that the Surge is best taken somewhere between over 11, the earliest point at which it becomes available and over 15 depending on circumstances being strengthened by having heard during today’s commentary that Brian Charles Lara, who certainly knows a bit about batting, is also a fan of using the Surge early rather than leaving it late), eventually taking it at 105-5 after 16 overs. They managed 16 runs and lost two further wickets in those two overs. 121-7 after 18. A flourish at the end got them to 149-7, a total that looked decidedly modest. Strikers missed out on the Bash Boost point, Carey holing out in attempting to get it off the final ball of the 10th. After 14 overs Strikers were 96-3 and they claimed the Power Surge at that point, a sensible move. The Power Surge overs saw Strikers score 20 and lose one wicket. A quiet 17th over seemed to have brought Stars back into things, but the 18th over settled the issue, 18 coming from it, and even with a wicket falling along the way, 12 runs off 12 balls was never likely to test Strikers. In the event the 20th over was not needed, as the winning runs came off the final ball of the 19th, when a difficult catch went down and the batters got through for the two they needed. Save for overs 5-10 inclusive the Strikers had won every phase of the game. Where they were decisively clear was in the Power Play and Power Surge overs – Stars managing a combined 33-3 from those overs of their innings, while Strikers scored 47-2 from the equivalent overs of their innings, 14 runs and one wicket better. As this tournament develops it is becoming clear that the Power Surge needs to be claimed fairly early, firstly so it can act as a springboard to a big finish, and secondly to ensure that you actually have proper batters to cash in on it. Stars should probably have used in overs 11-12 of their innings, when Stoinis, well set, could have used it as a major launching pad. As it was, their last pair of recognized batters were together when they finally took it, with Adam Zampa next man in.
All of this means that Stars, Heat and Scorchers are now all on 16 points, separated only by net run rate, although Scorchers, leading the trio and in the final qualifying place, also have a game in hand. Strikers have temporarily gone third, displacing Hurricanes, who in action tomorrow, and have a four point cushion, equivalent to a win plus a Bash Boost point, on the teams just outside the qualifying zone. The two Sydney based teams, Sixers and Thunder, top the group and are pretty much sure to qualify, Strikers and Hurricanes are also well placed to do so, while Scorchers, Heat and Stars are battling for the remaining place, with Renegades effectively gone.
A PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Just before my usual sign off, a petition, calling on the government to give key workers a pay rise. Please click here to sign and share the petition, a screenshot of which is below: