Sunday, 5 August 2018

A great test match, or was it?

England won an enthralling test match by 31 runs in three and a half days.  At first it looked like England would dominate with Root and Bairstow both making fifties and taking the score to 216-3.  Then a brilliant run out from Virat Kohli broke the partnership and started a collapse, England finished on 287.  Not enough runs!

India reached 50-0 before Sam Curran took three quick wickets, the top order were blown away and the game swung again.  However England's slips dropped Kohli twice!  At 182-8 it looked like England would have a good lead but Kohli was magnificent with the tail, he made 149 and India stopped only 13 runs short.

England have a bad habit of messing up on third innings and wickets fell regularly, at one point we were a perilous 87-7.  Step up Curran once again, making 63 and setting India a decent target of 194 to win.  Ashwin took wickets in both innings and Sharma 5-51 in the second.  

By close of play on day three India had been reduced to 110-5 and the game was in the balance, crucially Kohli was still at the crease.  Saturday morning was tense, Anderson struck early but Kohli and Pandya came together and started to chip away at the target.  Enter Ben Stokes with a quick burst and the game was wrapped up.  Sam Curran was named man of the match with wickets and runs.  He looked a much better player than on debut in June, a left arm swing bowler with a bit of nip and like the unlucky Dom Bess, he looks like a batsman too.

It was a really close fought game of proper cricket and a superb advert for Test cricket but was it a great game?  Probably, however had England managed to hold on to their catches it wouldn't have even been close.

Kohli was superb throughout, he really is a superb cricketer.  He captained very well, made a crucial run out and hit scores of 149 and 51.  None of the other Indian batsman stood up though and if they don't improve then this series will be as one sided as the last time these two teams met.  The Indian bowlers were excellent, much better than I expected and should be a proper test for our batsmen this summer.

The England selectors have made changes already, Malan has been on a poor run and dropping catches hasn't helped his cause.  He makes way for Ollie Pope who is just 20 years old but the form batsman in county cricket averaging over 85 this season.  I don't know much about him but based on the stats I like this selection.  Stokes is up before the beak so unavailable next week, Chris Woakes comes into the squad as a like for like replacement.  Woakes had one great game against Pakistan a couple of years ago but take that away and his stats are average at best.  He'll get by in English conditions but I wouldn't have him in a touring side.  If the brains trust thinks Lords will take spin then Moeen Ali could well step into Stokes' shoes.

Of the nine players expected to retain their places Alastair Cook didn't contribute many runs but to be fair he got two great balls from Ashwin.  Cook will remain in the England team for as long as he wants, there is no competition for his place.

Joe Root made a decent 80 in the first innings but pretty half centuries don't win too many test matches.  His captaincy was poor in India's first innings but improved in the second.  I'm not convinced he has what it takes to captain in test cricket.  Also he is a dam good catcher so should be standing in the slips instead of prancing around at mid off.

Buttler and Bairstow are both good players but their positions in the batting line up don't make sense.  If Bairstow is going to keep wicket then he should bat at seven where he has scored the majority of his runs.  If Buttler is picked purely as a batsman then he should be in the top five.

Rashid was the controversial selection this time with professional gobshite Michael Vaughan making a big deal about it and heaping extra pressure onto the player.  He done OK with the bat, contributing to partnerships when England were in trouble.  He only bowled twelve overs in the match but picked up three wickets and in the circumstances had a pretty good game.

The next test starts at Lords on Thursday and this supporter/selector would pick;
Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Pope, Bairstow, Ali, Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.

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