Four days of predictability
The second test at Old Trafford last week was entirely and thoroughly predictable. That didn't mean it lost its entertainment value, though.
After the spanking defeat at Lord's there was the entirely predictable deliberate press spinning of Alastair Cook's comments that it had not been pleasant watching the Pakistanis perform their press up celebrations. That level of misinterpretation of meaning would have landed any of my students in remedial English but it was just a normal day's work when our 24 hour media saturated environment needs to find conflict to feed its own sense of being.
Cook's decision to bat first was predictable: the whole team was loitering nearby waiting to see who won and as soon as they saw Captain Cook walk to the mic they rested easy knowing almost all of them had a rest in store. And the outcome of the match was entirely predictable come about 1.45 on day one with Cook and Root comfortably in and scoring with ease. Root's comeback from two disastrous dismissals at Lord's was entirely predictable: he's just to classy to stay down for long.
As you probably know, I love my stats, and I comfortably declared the result with Cook and Root on about 80 each because history shows us that England win when Cook scores 100. Usually I'd look this record up, but I'm writing this from the middle of a roundabout waiting for Chris Froome and co to ride past in the London Surrey Classic and I've got no internet access. On discussion of this with my family during the evening session on day 3, we refined it further to Cookie scoring a first innings century. Pretty sure that wins all round.
After our mammoth batting, Pakistan's first innings failure was entirely predictable. It's very unusual for any team to get close to a score in the 600 area and the manner of England's batting had just left them totally downbeat. On the radio and TV there was much talk of enforcing the follow on. Not just to me, but also to Ed Smith was this entirely predictable: Cook is conservative. He inherently distrusts the follow on as a strategy. Yes, it was a hallmark of the ruthless Aussie 90s team but we all know the one we remember most was against India in Calcutta (again, Internet-free I'm really having to back my stats and cricket history knowledge!) when it failed spectacularly. Hehe. I can remember where I was when I got the updates on that match. Still funny.
Once Pakistan got within 400 runs of England Cook was just never going to do it. The only surprise was that so many Sky commentators seemed surprised by it. But then we're back at the 'must find a conflict' mantra of modern journalism.
The only thing that hasn't been predictable is the admirable spirit with which both teams have approached the series. Too often clashes with Pakistan are bad tempered but this time the visitors were given the task of winning friends as well as test matches, and I'm delighted to say that so far Misbah's team are doing just that. Well done to them, and the England boys, and bring on Edgbaston.