Home India 2021 Stand and Deliver

Stand and Deliver

by Midnight

The latest diary starts with a quiz question!

The following cricketers have all been ‘rested’ in line with England’s revolving door selection policy : Jonny Bairstow: Jos Buttler: Moeen Ali: Sam Curran: Chris Woakes. What do these players all have in common?

Here’s a clue to help, the initials I, P, L and C feature in the answer.

Woakes, the latest to fly home, must be especially tired. He hasn’t played a single game on the tour of the subcontinent, his last match was an ODI last September!

A more cynical and world weary blogger than myself might question the players motivation here.

Meanwhile, as the revolving doors spin, increasing levels of flak are heading in the direction of Joe Roots team, some from unusual sources.

Alex Hartley, England Womens cricket team, currently touring in NZ, on twitter:

“Nice of the England boys to get this (3rd) Test match finished just before England women play tonight…..!”

Bit of fun, ha ha ha.

Cue predictable, ‘holier than thou’ type tweets from the ‘slighted’ England men.

Rory Burns reacted badly. “Very Disappointing attitude….etc etc”. Well Rory, that’s the same description as your batting lately. The VD part, anyway.

Ben Duckett went even further, and got close up & personal:

“Average Tweet. Don’t think any of the men’s team would have been applauding if the women lost.” In my view, that is an average re-tweet from a very average batsman, for God’s sake, pick up your toys and put them back in the pram!

Our boys have had a nice, long rest since the last match by virtue of their appalling batting, so let’s see if it has done any good. To the studio with Rishi, Straussy, and the welcome return of Ebony David-Brent and her handcuff earrings. The England team has been announced: Bess returns (unsurprisingly), so does Lawrence of Essex, allegedly to bolster the batting.

Archer and Broad are dropped, leaving Jimmy Anderson as the only specialist seamer.

Rishi turns to Ebony and asks her what she thinks of the England team.

“I have to be honest, it feels a little bit odd” pronounces Ebony. At last, we agree on something.

“It feels like the decisions are coming out of a lack of confidence” she says. That’s two things we’ve agreed on already and the Test hasn’t even started yet!

Forget the rotation policy for a moment, the squad England have picked for this tour simply invites comment – why, for instance, is there no place for a batsman of the proven quality of Dawid Malan? Instead we are subjected to Lawrence of Essex. Why? No additional spinners. Why?

I suppose Ray Ban Smith is just the latest in a long line of terrible England selectors that have had me gnashing my teeth. Why are they ALWAYS so useless?

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England have won something this morning, the toss, and bat. We have a newly appointed batting coach, Marcus Trescothick – welcome to the ever expanding club, Marcus – and he must be working wonders already as we don’t lose a wicket until the sixth over – strangely enough, the first over of spin. Patel fooled Sibley with a straight delivery which ripped out the stumps. Enter Jonny Bairstow, still looking for his first run of the tour since arriving in India.

There was no way I was getting up at 4am to watch this morning, so I am a few hours behind live play. As I turn on my phone, the frenzy of incoming messages is reminiscent of an amusement arcade. Not ‘Penny Falls’ though, but ‘Wicket Falls’. No doubt England have collapsed in a heap again. I resist the urge to read the messages of doom. It is far too early to resort to the bottle, so I settle in for the painful ordeal.

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We have scored just 15, when Crawley hits one up into the air for a bit of Indian catching practice. Back in the studio, even the normally unflappable Straussy is getting hot under the collar. First ball after the drinks break, Root is trapped on the crease by Siraj and is plumb lbw. Not the pitch, not spin, just lack of concentration. 30-3, another sub-200 score coming up. I start scanning the other channels for something else to watch. Channel 5 at 9pm sounds good: “The Yorkshire Ripper’s New Victims.” Blimey, is he still killing from beyond the grave?

Mercifully, Bairstow and Stokes put together a modest partnership up to the lunch interval and England reach 74-3.

“At 30-3 the spectre of another paltry score loomed large, but a recovery of sorts, hope has been rekindled for England supporters.” says Rishi Persad.

Not for me it hasn’t, mate. I’ve seen who is coming in next!

There are no qualms from anyone about the quality of pitch, so no further excuses are feasible on that score. “We have won the toss, now we need to capitalise” says Ebony. Admirable words. But can we do it? Ashwin tried his best to help by wasting India’s second review against Stokes, but next over Bairstow was given out lbw to Siraj and the DRS did not come to his rescue.

Olly Pope was in now, curiously wearing a wide stripe of white sun block across his face and looking like Adam Ant. Could he ‘Do us all a favour’ and rediscover his Port Elizabeth form? Or would it be yet another fine mess?

The Indian commentators wasted no time in criticising Olly’s technique – they even had a short clip of his previous dismissals ready for use, entitled ‘stuck on the crease’.

Lucky they didn’t have to analyse Gary Ballance’s technique, is all I will say to that. He wasn’t so much ‘stuck on the crease’, as embedded there in quick-setting concrete.

More comparisons of Olly to Ian Bell in the afternoon, this time from Graeme Swann, who clearly is not a subscriber to ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’ fanzine :

“Olly Pope looks just like Ian Bell under that helmet. If he becomes half the player for England Belly was…!”

Clarkie, if you happen to be reading this, my regards pal and I hope you are well.

Ben Stokes hadn’t given up yet. He went to fifty in the afternoon via a reverse sweep for four, and his innings also contained two sixes. It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. On 121, Stokes was pinned lbw by Washington Sundar, and off he trotted. At least no review was wasted.

“England have gambled with the extra batsman, they are happy to go in with one bowler less, that’s how Lawrence gets a game” explained the Indian commentator – I’m glad someone knows what England are doing.

Lawrence also pressed the gamble button, and went on the attack. Two consecutive fours off Axar Patel. Well why not, he might as well get out trying to score some runs as scratching about trying to defend.

The pair were still there after tea, and with the total trickling upwards, for about half an hour I had hopes of a meaningful first innings total.

But it couldn’t last either, and it didn’t.

Olly finally copped for an inside edge that flipped off his back pad and went straight to the fielder at short leg. He batted for 87 balls, scoring 29 and for once it was possible to sympathise with the freak nature of his dismissal. However, at 166-6, there isn’t an awful lot of room for tea and sympathy, and at 170-7 there is even less. Foakes was caught in the slips for just 1 before he had settled in.

Lawrence of Essex had made 35 and already exceeded my expectations when he had a fortunate escape. Given out by the umpire caught at short leg off the boot of the fielder, the DRS replay showed just enough ground impact to overturn the decision, although it was a mighty close thing. His eventual method of dismissal, however, spoilt all the earlier good work. An insane charge down the wicket to the spinner – head all over the place trying to hit a four for his fifty – and easily stumped.

Straussy in the studio was ‘frustrated’, for at least the second time today.

I dread to think what the late, great Bob Willis would have said about that shot but I will hazard a guess: “f****** awful”.

The end was nigh. Bess made just 3, and as Jimmy Anderson came out to join Leach England had made just 189. So much for ‘stacking the batting’. The sheer idiocy of this team selection will undoubtedly come back to haunt us. Joe Root and Lawrence of Essex had better get ready for lots of bowling. Enough time for a trademark Burnley Lara reverse sweep for four, then the game was up. Bundled out for 205.

Look on the bright side, at least we broke 200. Makes a change. I hope the selector and coaching staff are happy with that pathetic effort. I can’t for one second imagine many supporters are. I’m even more frustrated than Straussy.

The final few overs brought an unusual sight, Ben Stokes sharing the new ball with Jimmy Anderson. Jimmy struck in his first over, nailing Shubman Gill lbw for a duck, but surely the number of overs he can bowl here must be very limited.

India finished just the one wicket down and only 180 runs in arrears.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s cricket about as much as Nicola Sturgeon did to her appearance before the Alex Salmond enquiry – unfortunately, I suspect my memory regarding this latest cricket scandal will be somewhat more retentive than that of Ms. Sturgeon relative to her own.

Day two, and the depleted England bowling attack started surprisingly well. India’s plan seemed to be to wear the bowlers down by defence, without any emphasis on scoring runs. Jimmy Anderson gave nothing away as usual but just as India’s plan seemed to be working, Leach struck with the wicket of Pujara, trapped lbw just before drinks.

At the other end, Stokes was wheeling in during a long spell and suddenly the crowd was silenced as Kohli fended at a short ball and was caught behind for a duck. 41-3.

Straussy and Ebony are suddenly waxing lyrical about England in the studio – the optimism level is now rising off the scale – usually a bad mistake with England. However there is no denying that to see the back of Kohli would raise most peoples spirits!

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A lull for a while. Bess came on. “This is the chance for India to score some runs” said the local commentator. Charming. Instead, joy for England as Jimmy Anderson motored in just before the break and had Rahane caught in the slips by Stokes. India 80-4 at lunch – England’s morning!

After the interval Bess continued to bowl, no doubt in a show of misplaced and misguided confidence from Joe Root. Unfortunately the local commentator was right. Full toss followed full toss and we were treated to a wide ball outside leg stump that even the doughty Foakes could not prevent from going for four byes. Batsmen of the calibre of Sharma and Pant are going to feast on poor bowling, and we were giving them exactly that. I genuinely felt sorry for Bess. The Indian commentators criticized him incessantly. He is a trier, but his skills are not yet honed finely enough to be bowling in a high – pressure Test match on the sub-continent. Okay for Headingley, but not for Ahmedabad or Madras. Not his fault, but the selector – once again.

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By the time Root brought himself on, the escape valve was open wide, and the boundaries had started to flow. Stokes had to be brought back on, much sooner than hoped or intended. But our talisman did the trick. Just as the din of the crowd was starting to reach ‘annoyingly high’ on the Midnight noise abatement scale, Stokes well and truly shut the buggers up. With Rohit Sharma on 49 Stokes trapped him lbw. Sharma was given out, and despite two ambers on the DRS review he had to trudge disconsolately back to the pavilion. England needed that. My ears needed that. One of the things I have treasured from the lockdown is the ability to watch cricket in India thus far without the dervish-like screaming from the spectators. God only knows what the noise level in this stadium would be like if it were full!

Olly Pope took a further step in demonstrating his increased mobility & that he was no longer ‘stuck on the crease’ by leaping high to catch Ashwin off the bowling of Jack Leach. The sullen glare the arrogant Ashwin gave him would have curdled milk. India 154-6 at tea, still 53 runs adrift.

In the final session England ran out of steam and also ran out of luck. Pant and Sundar began to dominate the tired bowlers. India took the lead. Stokes, especially, looked out on his feet, he has really put in a shift today. Events demonstrated what can happen when a team goes into a Test without sufficient bowlers, compounded by the inability of one of the chosen bowlers to exercise control. Flawed selection coming back to haunt us.

Jimmy Anderson had so far been spared the worst of the flogging, but he was more or less obliged to take the new ball after 80 overs. Pant by this time was seeing it like a beach ball on the way to his century and he proceeded to wreck Jimmy’s so far economical figures. By the time Pant reached his milestone, with a six, India’s lead stood on 53, but as so often happens he then got out almost immediately, giving Jimmy his third wicket.

As a very long day drew towards its close, the unfortunate Bess was brought back on to bowl and was promptly smashed by Washington Sundar. The timing of Bess’ reintroduction was questionable to say the least, and brought back memories of Simon Kerrigan at the Oval vs. Australia, in a torrid spell that effectively ended his international career. Do England not have a duty of care to these players?

Michael Vaughan on BBC Sport: “I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed with the management of a player as I am with Dom Bess.” For once, it was hard to disagree with Mr. Rent – a – Quote.

At stumps, a disastrous final session saw 141 runs scored for the loss of just one wicket. India’s lead amounted to 89 runs and barring a miracle, this game is now out of reach for England. No better, or worse, than expected, with this very limited bowling attack.

Saturday morning. Straussy and Ebony are picking over the bones of England’s corpse in the studio. The height of their ambition seems to be for England to take the game into day four.

After the last match, I am happy to still be watching cricket on day three!

Jimmy starts with a maiden, then amazingly Dom Bess is introduced at the ironically named ‘Reliance End’ – it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is a make or break spell for poor Bess. His second over goes for ten including a straight six off the first ball. Looks like its ‘break’ then. Leach is brought on to replace Bess straight away. He also gets smashed down the ground by Axar Patel, and continues to be smashed thereafter.

I wish our ‘specialist batsmen’ could bat as well as the Indian tail enders!

After the first hour a wicket still hasn’t fallen, and the body language of our team is quite revealing – they all look as if they would rather be anywhere else, a funeral even, than suffering in Ahmedabad. It is drinks, and if I were Joe Root, I would immediately declare the entire team as alcoholics and order eleven treble vodka red bulls. It looks like the only thing that might get the lads going!

Rishi Persad, bless him, is still looking for positives back in the studio.

“Can we take any solace in the fact that maybe the pitch is easier to bat on?”

Unfortunately, not even a quantum, Rishi. The pitch won’t behave like that by the time England get to bat on it again!

Finally a wicket. Not from the bowlers though. Axar Patel was run out.

India 365-8, a lead of 160. “England are struggling, they really are.” says Ebony.

No arguments from me on that one!

Stokes then nailed Ishant Sharma and Siraj in five deliveries, leaving poor Sundar stranded at the non-strikers end on 96 not out. From a neutral point of view that’s a real shame, as he batted very well and has won the game for India.

Just the second time in all of history that England have been stuffed by Washington!

A most dispiriting morning, one of the worst I can ever remember, devoid of hope – and now we must bat…….I’m not sure that watching England is good for my mental state during Covid lockdown. We manage not to lose a wicket in the few minutes remaining before lunch, and I cheer myself during the interval by looking at a map from the National Trust showing the parts of the UK that will be most affected by climate change by 2060 in a worst case scenario. Hmm. Leeds as a seaside resort – shame I wont be there to see it!

The afternoon started with a wicket, as Crawley edged another straight delivery to slip. Enter Jonny Bairstow, who obligingly guided his first ball to leg slip. Good ol’ Jonny. Never mind, you will be able to sit on Leeds beach in a deck chair by 2060!

10-2, and the crowd noise is at fever pitch. Not an ideal start to the run chase. Root was plumb lbw, not given out, and for some reason the Indians failed to review it. Maybe they are feeling sorry for us. Sibley must have a lot of packing to do, he didn’t hang around, hitting an uppish sweep shot onto short legs pad, which looped up and was caught.

Graeme Swann thought this was unlucky. Maybe someone should point out to him the balls trajectory as it left Sibley’s bat.

Stokes got out in a similar vein to Bairstow. Just a matter of time now as the dominoes fall over.

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Enter dandy highwayman Olly ‘Adam Ant’ Pope. We need him to ‘Stand and Deliver’.

Oh no. In an effort not to be ‘stuck on the crease’ he’s ‘done a Lawrence’ and gone running up the wicket.

Never mind, Olly. Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

Root was next, lbw, mind you no blame attached. Not for the first time, he’s made half the teams runs – 30 out of 65-6.

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“England’s problem is, they are losing wickets too quickly!” says the Indian TV commentator.

Hey, that’s perceptive – wonder why our selector and coach never thought of that? Quick, add the Indian chap to our army of consultants and advisers while there is still room in the team bus.

Even Rishi Persad has lost his mojo by tea:

“What we are watching from England is pitiful….”

It’s fairly common, as well, Rishi, as you would know if you had been covering England Test matches for any length of time. As long as the Barmy Army, for instance. Their spokesman appeared on Channel Four at tea, gushing the usual blind optimism, with the Barmy flag pinned to the wall behind him. In the lower right hand corner, this now says “The ORIGINAL England Supporters Club”.

Ouch! We will have to take that on the chin, I’m sorry, Freddie!

The Ashes tour is discussed in a not so well disguised Barmy Army plug – “other tour companies are, by the way available…..”.

You’re got a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a load of unvaccinated young lads into Australia in November, mate. Have you watched the news lately?

The final knockings after tea. As the England innings subsided, poor Bess was caught behind for just 2, making Ahmedabad a most miserable experience for him.

He must almost feel like a supporter after this.

On the plus side, Lawrence of Essex did go on to make fifty, not that this will be remembered for very long.

All out for 135. Another humiliating innings defeat.

No doubt the well rehearsed excuses will be trotted out, as they always are after heavy losses like this. I’m sorry, I’ve stopped listening.

Rather than get hot under the collar about this latest embarrassment I’ve decided to do a Gerard Houllier instead.

“Let’s look at the facts.”

England’s away series record since their Ashes win in 2010/2011:

2012. Sri Lanka. DREW 1-1

2012. India. WON 2-1

2013 New Zealand. DREW 0-0

2013/14 Australia. LOST 5-0

2014/15 West Indies. DREW 1-1

2015/16 South Africa. WON 2-1

2015/16 Pakistan. LOST 2-0

2016 Bangladesh. DREW 1-1

2016/17 India. LOST 4-1

2017/18 Australia. LOST 4-0

2018 New Zealand. LOST 1-0

2018 Sri Lanka. WON 3-0

2019 West Indies. LOST 2-1

2019 New Zealand. LOST 1-0

2019/20 South Africa. WON 3-1

2021 Sri Lanka. WON 2-0

2021 India. LOST 3-1

Series Won – 5. Tests Won 18.

Series Lost – 8. Tests Lost 28.

Series Drawn – 4. Tests Drawn 8.

The evidence is there for all to see, this series is not a ‘blip’ or a ‘bump in the road’ it is simply the continuance of a long term trend of substandard results since the 2010/2011 zenith. Apart from the win in India in 2012 with KP’s star shining, the only teams we have beaten away are a weak Sri Lanka and a South African team riven by internal political interference.

The trend has been perpetuated for a decade by average coaches, incompetent & arrogant selectors, a plethora of unnecessary advisers and support staff and the intransigence and ineptitude of the ECB.

None of the above are fit for purpose. A last song from Adam Ant to sum up.

“Test cricket’s lost its taste, let’s try another flavour….T20!….T20!”

 At least England will only have to try and survive for twenty overs!

Regards, Midnight x

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