England’s demise on Saturday was behind the sofa, can’t take the hands away from eyes horror story I thought we had put behind us. It had all the hallmarks of a team abjectly lacking in belief, a team who thought the pitch was a minefield, a team with a lack of bottle. When you think of it, this team hasn’t chased down a target worth a light in its run of successes. It has battled out of every corner to force draws, and in the case of India at Trent Bridge, a victory. But all our road victories have been of the comfortable variety.
The way we chased on Saturday had scary undertones of how we tried to get a draw at Adelaide in the test this blog is named after. Boycott was clear in his advocacy for “occupying the crease” “bat and bat and bat” etc. so the openers batted for an immense amount of overs for just 20-odd runs (Cook was out at the end of the 15th over). We became utterly shotless. Anyone there that day in Adelaide knows that leads to trouble.
Then came Ian Bell at number three, and his dismissal just about had me lift off the chair and through the ceiling. A careless dab, rolled back onto the stumps, and under pressure again the master of the small occasion had been found wanting. KP came in, and his nightmare run against Pakistan continued. After his 2010 horrors he has looked bereft of a clue in this series, and sure enough, he succumbed. Now is the time to test the bloke’s real commitment. I don’t think he should be dropped due to form – that’s a joke and the calls for him to go are ridiculous when in reality only Cook and Trott at this stage are more certain batting selections – but maybe a warning shot across the bows might really wake him up. Leave him out of the 3rd Test, put in someone else, in a test that despite this world number 1 bollocks, is a dead rubber. Yes, you read it here. Drop KP.
Meanwhile Eoin Morgan looks miles from being a reliable test batsman, and yet the potential replacements seem a mile off. Bopara is just returning to a past failure, so where is the new blood? James Taylor? Who the hell else? Who do the selectors have in mind?
A scribe on here was berating Bob Willis for crying out for someone to come in and slog a quick 20 or 30. You know what, Danno, I agreed with him? This needed England to get to 50 for the loss of 1, 100 for the loss of 3, and we were there. Australia in its pomp would have just counter-attacked, put the pressure on Pakistan. This was not a simple pitch to bat on but it wasn’t a 72 all out pitch. It needed a Broad-like innings from the first dig and the game was done. Instead the England team subsided like wet cardboard. 68 for 5 to 72 all out in 11 balls. I have rarely been more ashamed of a batting performance.
So those mouthy Indian cricket fans were correct. England can’t play spin, can’t play sub-continent cricket and are not worthy of the number 1 slot. This England team has the best bowling line-up in all conditions in the world. Panesar is our reserve spinner and would walk into the team of our non-subcontinent rivals. Anderson and Broad were superb. Swann is a doughty fighter and although a bit over-rated, is well regarded. Prior is a sound keeper now with a fighting attitude at the crease. The top six need to take a serious look at themselves. Changes MUST be made if only to take these guys out of their cosy positions where once again it is much harder to be dropped than to get a chance.
One last note to Geoffrey Boycott. I was listening on the radio en route to Costco on Friday when he announced that the test was over. I screamed at the radio (the beloved was not pleased) that the tiresome old buffoon should just shut his mouth. Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq were at the crease and batting solidly. Any target over 100 is an adventure with this England side. The previous test had seen our two innings buffered by tail-end antics, not top order solidity. Their keeper still had to come in and he’d made an excellent half-century in the first test. Under no stretch of the imagination was this test over. It never is.
So for the TMS “expert” to witlessly announce it as if FACT, is moronic. He can spout off all he likes about England being roooobish and what not, but he need only look at recent history against our opponents. On the back of the Ashes 2005, England went to Pakistan and in Multan in the first test, we bowled Pakistan out for 274. England piled on and got an excellent lead as Tres’s 193 put us 144 runs in front on 1st innings and in an unassailable position. At 131 for 3, England looked in the box seat, with plenty of time for Pakistan to bat, but they did solidly and set us 198 to win. We were bowled out for 175 and lost the test. While not quite as stark, it did show how pressure rose on the team batting last. On that surface our top five wickets went for 90-odd. It was all about pressure, it happens.
Just teams supposedly the best in the world overcome that and win.
Meanwhile Australia completed a 4-0 whitewash of India, and are now mouthing off about how great they are. Well, they do have a series win in Sri Lanka to boast about, but still, 47 all out and a home defeat to New Zealand in a test aren’t also things that should be cheered. As it should also be remembered that much of the attack they put out this time around got spanked around Australia by England, and their batting subsided most times. Ponting and Clarke aren’t going to rescue your top three every time.
Back to England and the notes coming out are of batsman being replaced. That should be funny given only Bopara appears to be out there. Maybe he deserves a go, but the way he played Sri Lankan attacks a few years ago doesn’t suggest long occupations of a crease.
Finally, well played Pakistan. Brilliant bowling, superb captaincy, and resilience to build your way out of a hole. The batting needs a new star and then we could be seeing a really dangerous team in all conditions. I’m not sure where their next travels take them, but I’ll be a really interested follower. They showed in 2010, when the old betting nonsense wasn’t getting in the way, that they could bowl England out cheaply, and they are proving it at home. Their batting was so awful in 2010 that it cost them, yet even with that awfulness they chased down a total similar to our requirement on Saturday, at the Oval. They are not to be underestimated. However, at Abu Dhabi it must be remembered that not long ago AB DeVilliers made 278, I believe, and no England player has got a ton in the first two games. Our road woes make us a rickety world #1 when good teams like Pakistan hit form.