A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tour of India - the 4th and final Test

4th Test: Nagpur, Jamtha VCA Stadium

'Wanted across 28 states of India for attempting to run off with a series win'

Pre-Test ramble

Well, well, well. It's just over three weeks since England succumbed grimly to defeat in Ahmedabad in the first Test match of this series. There was an abundance of wailing and tears about our boy's inability to play spin (yes, some of those complaints were mine). At the same time the Indian media and fans weren't backwards in coming forward with loud declarations of the "revenge series".

How things are different now eh? Captain square jaw the magnificent and his band of brothers stand on the brink of a series win for the first time since Adam was a lad. Our plucky boys can play spin. Oh, and the Indian media are now calling for heads to roll with even 'untouchables' like the great Sachin now being mooted for retirement.

So time for us to play it cautious-like then? Well, no. The team management pull off a election coup that catches everyone by surprise by dropping Samit Patel (ok, well maybe that part isn't too much of a surprise) and replacing him with 21 year old Yorkshireman Joe Root. Personally, it's not on the basis of his talent that I'm surprised , his first class average of 38.01 is good as the clip below indicates the precocious fielding talent that the boy has. Nor is it the fact that he looks about 10, OK, maybe nearer 11. 

However, throwing him into a Test match debut that will determine our first series win in India since 1985 could be construed as something of a gamble. On the other hand Messrs Flowers and co rarely do something like this unless they have complete faith in the player involved, as a certain Mr Cook would testify.

Day 1

Well it seems at least some people in the world are listening to me. The double headed coin used in the first three Tests was sneakily substituted by Captain Cook's magical slight of hand trick at the toss and so for the first time in the series we win it and decide to bat first. Informed opinion, well mine, suggested that winning the toss and batting first would go a long way to ensuring the series win on a pitch that the Indians would surely have designed to spin as early as possible. So plain sailing then, you would think…

On inspection it seems that the prepared pitch has as much life in it as something that has absolutely no life in it. Nobody is quite sure what the Indians are playing at, but it could be part of some cunning master plan as they include just one seam bowler and 3 spinners. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is saying that this is possibly the most lifeless and sub-standard pitch for many years and that barring any major calamity once you get in, you're in…..something dastardly is afoot. The Indians may indeed bore the England batsmen to death, but its also another potential nail in the coffin of Test cricket.

So begins what turns out to be a day in what the commentators keep calling 'for the purists' - in other words, periods when the play is bloody boring. It was indeed a day of attritional batting, time will tell if the England batsmen were making heavy weather of it all. Wickets fell cheaply early on with a mixture of good seam bowling from Sharma (boy, this guy can bowl),  a number of inept umpiring decisions and a couple of players practically giving away their wicket (yes I'm talking about you Mr Petersen). Captain Cook's Lbw decision was clearly a mistake, with Geoffrey Boycott on TMS particularly incredulous - "That's a shocking decision. If he can't see that from 22 yards, that's a shocker. I can see it from 170 yards away." cried our Geoffrey.

On a number of occasions, Trott and Pietersen, brought up on fast and lively South African pitches, attempted to pull a short ball before playing defensively on the crouch as the ball ambled towards them after contacting this lifeless pitch. Their third-wicket stand of 86 with Pietersen provided England's only concerted response, but after Trott made an error of judgement, Ian Bell's unimpressive record on the sub-continent continued as he prodded a half-volley to short extra cover.

Not the most exciting of days play.

CLOSE OF PLAY- England are on 199-5, a below par score in the modern day game, but probably representative of the state of the pitch.

Joe Root takes time away from his cub scout meeting to bat for England

Day 2

There were a couple of moments in the early overs when I thought England could collapse this morning, but oh me of little faith as they battled hard in this continuing war of attrition. Particular mention needs to be made of  three fabulous innings from Prior (an excellent 57), Root ( a patient 73) and Swann (smashing 56 quick runs) - Root was just like a 'Yorkshire Wall' in the mold of Rahul Dravid  - not like me to get carried away eh? Regardless, Joe Root's time at the crease was the longest debut innings for an England player since Roger Tolchard against India at Eden Gardens in 1976-77.

England reach 330 all out - is it enough? Well, read on below…..

The benign pitch had offered little seam, swing or spin for the Indian bowling attack, but as soon as Golden god Anderson got the new ball in his hand he immediately had India in trouble.The pace man bowled both Virender Sehwag (0) and Sachin Tendulkar (2) and had Gautam Gambhir (37) caught behind.

Poor old Sachin, what the heck is going on? It seems that every other week at the moment that one of the modern greats realises that father time has finally caught up with them Last week Punter decided that enough is enough and that going down as the only Aussie captain to lose an Ashes series home and away was a fitting epitaph for a fine career. My guess is that Sachin is next on the list, if he fails in the 2nd innings that could well be it for the little master.
The entertainment wasn't yet finished as we witnessed in the last over of the day Jonathan Trott having a trundle with his right-arm military medium. The panic in the eyes of the Indian batsmen knowing that every one of the millions in India know he's the sort of bowler that getting out to is tantamount to chucking ones cricket career away. As it turns out, nothing happens of note as the Indian pair walk off,  still trailing by 243 runs…….surely we are in the driving seat now? 

Jimmy and his ongoing impression of being a Golden god.

Day 3


The quiz question for today is as follows;

Which buffoon got at at stupid o'clock to watch perhaps the most uneventful day of Test cricket ever, then decided to leave the tv coverage to take the dog for a walk and subsequently missed the clatter of wickets at the end of the day's play?
I'll leave you to ponder on that a little while……

The days play once again tested the patience of even the most hardened cricket watcher, bringing back memories of watch Chris Tavere opening the batting…..yes it was that bad. The day progressed with me feeling less than excited at the attritional rate of runs being scored. However, that feeling was quickly being usurped by a sense of unease as Dhoni and Kohli developed a partnership what was taking the Indian total ever nearer the English first innings score. Even when Kohli was eventually out lbw to spin twin Swann for a magnificent 103 and then shortly after Jadeja given a seeing to by golden god Jimmy Anderson it still left India just 30 odd runs shy of Englands score. Nerves were starting to jingle jangle. 

What was needed at this moment was a hero, a man of steel, a square jawed leader of men…… step forward Alistair Cook, you beauty….

Picture the scene……..

'There just two overs left and the Indian captain, Dhoni, is on 99 to face Jimmy Anderson's last over of a very long day…..he prods a quick single to mid-off….. captain fantastic is waiting there and springs into action, his throw smacks into the stumps with a direct , is he run out?…… the decision spends an age with the third umpire……Oh boy, its very, very close - Dhoni's bat is on the line when the stumps are broken, but the line belongs to the fielding side, we all know that…….... Does the third umpire dare give the Indian captain run out for 99 and risk being run out of the country???……The decision is… OUT!!!!'

Wow, just wow. That was reminiscent of Freddie Flintoff''s run out of Punter in the 2009 Ashes game at the Oval in it's importance  - this moment could be as important in turning the tide of the match after it seemed certain that Dhoni but would both reach his 100 and steer his side well past England's total.

Five hours without a wicket (which I watched mostly every ball), then four wickets in an hour (which I missed, every bloody ball)…..

India eventually finish the day 33 runs behind England on 297-8. Talk about the match being delicately poised. Both  Dhoni and Kohli rather annoyingly played the situation precisely right and they have provided their side with a chance in this match that didn't seem available at the end of yesterday's play. The pressure is now back on England to make it safe……oh goody, more stress.

Blimey, maybe he is indeed a golden god.

Day 4

A days cricket that frankly had it all - Some strange decisions regarding a declaration from the Indian captain, some good pressurising bowling, the occasional stroke play from under pressure batsmen and to top it all there was a bit of argy-bargy out there in that final session after a dead ball smash from Trott.

The opening overs of the game were quite frankly rather bizarre from both teams. England seemed quite content to set a defensive field almost as though that Don Bradman was at the crease. Yes maybe they were trying to take time out of the game, but all it seemed to do was betray England's fears that they actually didn't want  to bat. Even when Ojha was bowled by spin twin Monty our boys didn't seem that happy, in fact they looked positively annoyed that they were one batsman nearer to having to bat themselves. Bizarre. Not a good signal to be sending to the Indian team. 

Dhoni, on the other hand seemed to think that there was a prize for simply getting as close to the England score as possible, not realising that lost time just prodding around for a few runs here and there was probably harming them more than us. Finally sanity prevails and the Indians declare on 320-9, just 4 runs behind.

This means that in order to make the game ram-rod safe, England will need to bat for over 4 sessions……. if anyone mentions the word 'collapse' I will hunt them down…..

If the proceedings earlier in the day needed some form of explanation then the period of play up to lunch was pretty self explanatory - England knew that sessions and sessions lay ahead so the go-slow was on… style. At one point Cook scored just 1 run in 46 balls. Things slightly improve after lunch when in one particular over Cook goes boom boom crazy and scores two runs in succession and gives the scorers a real fright when they are suddenly waken from their nap.

The attrition (sorry) continues, only relived by another contentious ( i.e wrong) decision to give our magnificent captain out. Cook clearly didn't nick the ball, wrong again umpire Dharmasena - worlds number 1 umpire? I don't think so.

And so we come to the bizarre highlight of the day.

Picture the scene..

'Jadeja runs in to bowl to Mr Trott……his run-up starts to go wrong and the ball spurts to less than halfway down the pitch and away towards short leg….our hero Trott chases after it like a dog after a bone into the leg side…..he gives the ball a smack and lifts it over the mid-wicket boundary like Tiger Woods chipping onto the green at Augusta!…… The Indians are NOT happy…….They turn practically apoplectic when they find out that, a)Trott was precisely entitled to do this and, b) it was a no-ball as it bounced more than twice……..Trott has a big grin on his face…….this pisses off the Indians even more…..'

The atmosphere frankly from that point goes downwards pretty quickly with the combination of England making slow but sure progress and Trott (yes him again) being 'challenged' on more than one occasion by the odd rude Indian fielder (yes I'm talking about you Mr Kohli). Trott being giving not out after probably nicking the ball only goes to make things more tetchy. Would me emailing the Indian cricket board and mentioning that DRS wold have clearly benefited them help at all?…methinks not.

England finish the day on 161 for 3 and lead by 165 with one day of the Test series remaining.

That's it for another day - just one day of a memorable Test series to go, and all four results are still possible in this topsy-turvy game.

Day 5 (together with a few post-series ramblings)

In the end it was all rather ( and this is not a word that is often said as and England fan) easy. The pitch continued on it's docile way and contributed little in the way of either helping the bowlers and enabling fluent stroke play. To be fair, Trott and Bell played magnificently with the former eventually out for an excellent 143. Bell too made his century ending the day unbeaten on 166, England eventually reaching 352-4 and thus drawing the match. Golden God Jimmy Anderson was rightly named man of the match. I think it may be about time that I started lying and saying that actually he is related to me.

So, for the first time since the 1984-85 series the England boys win a series in India (2-1). What is even more impressive is the fact that this happened after Cook and the boys got their arses well and truly slapped in the nine-wicket thrashing in the opening Test and releasing  immediate boasts from some Indian quarters of a 4-0 whitewash. 

Were the Indians complacent? Well possibly so. Were some of their world class players not on their best form? Yes, absolutely. However, what cannot be denied it that after the disaster of that first Test lessons were learnt on and off the pitch. Monty was given his rightful place back in the side which meant that together with fellow spin twin Swann we had better spinners than the Indians.
KP ( and it seems the rest of the team) put the texting nonsense behind him and went back to producing at least one world class stunner of an innings per series. 
Cook's runs and captaincy reached new and heart stopping heights and the potential for the lad to go on and smash every cricketing record in the books is simply huge.

So the future is bright. Captain fantastic is becoming ever more, well, fantastic. Many of our  players returned to form and and others further cemented their qualities. What is also exciting is the number of young players, such as Root, Compton and Bairstow legitimately vying for places.

Lets not complacent and carried away though eh? There have been a few false dawns before.

Nah, bugger that. BRING ON THE AUSSIES!!!!!!

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