Tag Archives: England v India

Cook, Bopara and Sehwag: Ritual Combat, Mental Scaring and Lasting Damage at Test 3 Day 3

Was it the British politician, Enoch Powell, who said that every political career ends in tragedy?

Yesterday Alistair Cook set the record for the highest score made at Edgbaston, beating the score reached in a very wonderful and technically innovating innings by Peter May in 1957. 

Yet, when Cook went to bed last might he nursed a mental wound.  When he wakes this morning the open cut will have begun to mend but a scar is developing which will be with him for the rest of his life. 

Every innings ends nihilistically, contaminated by regret.  Every innings leaves a scar.

Cook’s will be a deep and lasting reminder, the legacy of remorse as permanent as a tattoo.  He fell short of the triple hundred by 6 agonizing runs.

His was the innings of a scaffolder, carefully setting out the base and erecting the first row of vertical supports on Wednesday evening. A row of horizontals were carefully placed next morning, always in partnership, always alone.

Every batsman deceives himself, but in reality he is  always a hangman erecting his own gallows.

Ravi Bopara might have been in on the second day of the match when Morgan was twice dropped, first by Sreesanth at backward point and then by Dravid.  But instead he had to wait through a night and then through much of the third day.  Add to these fretting hours the couple of years he has had to wait for reselection and an idea may form of the nerves and expectations that he carried to the wicket when his chance eventually came.

As he took guard he will have known that there was no chance, at 596/4, for glory only psychological disfigurement.  It is a cruel, cruel game, this cricket. 

He had watched as balls spun from Mishra and Raina across the bats of the two left handers and so he not unwisely played for turn.  The ball rotated rapidly towards him, bounced, but for some inexplicable reason failed to grip, kept on at him and struck his pad in front of the wicket – the victim of unpredictable natural variation.

It is most likely that Trott will return for the next Test, it is likely that Bopara has played his last Test.  He will carry the scar for the rest of his life.

There have been something like 15 King Pairs in Test cricket history.  (That is, a first ball dismissal in both innings by the same batsman.)  The membership list is dominated by bowlers and there may have been a run out or two in the forms of dismissal.  Batsmen of the quality of Sehwag do not willingly apply.

Many watching yesterday will have nursed a feeling throughout the day that Cook would fall short of 300 and that Bopara would meet ill-fortune.  Just as many would have predicted a King Pair for Virender Sehwag .

It was one of those days.

Sehwag did not disoblige the god of cricket the sacrifice. Having waited over sixty hours to avoid this fate, thirteen of them in the field, he attempted to drive at a ball from Anderson more than a fraction too short and curving exponentially away from him like a life-raft sweeping away from a man drowning in that unbridgeable river of life.

Sehwag is a member of the exclusive 300 hundred club that had, minutes before, excluded Cook, now he was a member of the equally exclusive King Pair Club.  In fact as a member of both he is in a club of his own –  which distinction he will be reminded of (and remind himself of ) every day for the rest of his life thanks to the angry red scar blemishing his mind.

Later, Swann and Pietersen turned the ball sharply, they will have dreamt of scars inflicted like duelists of old.  The combat may be ritualistic in cricket but the wounds, though mental, are real and last longer than the physical.

India 224 and 35/1, England 710/7 dec


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The Road to Trent Bridge – Beyond the 2000th Test

The Law of Large Numbers operated yesterday as India failed to hold out against England for the prescribed number of overs remaining in the first Test or to score that other large number, 457, needed to win the match.  

As anticipated the expected value of the Champion’s second innings was drawn towards the average of the results in what is now a sample of 2000 similar experiments. 

Their score of 261 runs in 93.3 overs was normally distributed about the mean and gave encouragement to the Central Limit Theorists hunched over their calculators sheltered under the canvas bell tents atop the new Mound Stand.

It was never going to be enough and, with the final Indian wicket falling 28.3 overs before the scheduled end of this Test, England were home and hosed (by the old crone of Clicquot) well before the shadow of the Warner Stand could creep over this famous playing surface on which neither Tendulka nor Laxman have achieved triple figures.

No Game Changer emerged from the pack of overcooked, undercooked, ill and injured Indian players.  They fought the Law, and the Law won.

Lady Luck had not been on their side.  Inserting England on that first morning, they were making progress when Khan (undercooked) pulled up lame.  Then, bad light and rain intervened to shield England from the worst of the batting conditions.

Timorous umpiring and the good sportsmanship of Dravid allowed Pietersen to escape and add a further 150 runs to his score – close to the ultimate statistical difference between the two sides.

Tendulka (overcooked) was beset with a virus that disrupted the settled batting order and the disposition of Gambhir, struck on the elbow while fielding at short leg, caused further disturbance and limitation. 

Sehwag is not here, timing his absence for surgery to the demands of the IPL calendar.

The majority of these set backs will persist as the Indian motor-coach takes the M1 north to Nottingham where the second Test starts with only a three day breather.  The champions are in a difficult place. 

Their captain, who Sunny Gavaskar says has ‘a life-line running up to his armpit’ is exploring every inch of this portent.  The reputation of their motivator-coach, Duncan Fletcher, is balanced precariously on the top of a steep and pinnacled normal distribution.

After a night in their hotel, a balanced, focused and primed England team will make their way north to Trent Bridge where their ‘game’ will be even more suited to the conditions.

“Fait vos jeux.”

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Deep Cricket in Shallow Waters – England v India Test 100 Day 1

At Lord’s in England’s crowded metropolis, with the humidity clocking 80 per cent and a wicket prepared in a period when only one in the last eleven days had been fine, it was perceived wisdom that the first day of the 100th Test between England and India would be a bowling day. 

So it was no surprise to the throng of 30,000 cricketing experts, buzzing with the expectation and hope always roused by attendance at the Taj Mahal of cricket, when an immaculately blazered MS Dhoni, on winning the toss, chivalrously invited England to bat.

The stage-wise magician Zaheer Khan, who knows that, if you are to deceive an audience, you have first to control their mind, deceptively appeared less threatening than his opening partner Praveen Kumar who swung the ball at 80 mph and repeatedly beat England’s lefty openers with deliveries ducking late across their blades making them resemble those who, waking in the night, grope for a light switch in the darkness and confusion.

In a manner that immediately undermined the perceived wisdom that this was a bowling day and gave encouragement to the iconoclast, it was apparent that the ball lacked pace and bounce as it travelled through to Dhoni’s gloves.  The keeper and slips advanced a yard or three and still seemed deeper than prudent.  Was this simply a ‘leaving’ day?

Nevertheless, and however strong the mind, recurring failure preoccupies the attention that should be watching for the conjuror’s sleight of hand.  Away and away and away went the ball hypnotically from Khan as he manoeuvred Cook mentally into familiarity and physically across his stumps until this recent run machine’s heavy head reached beyond the point of balance at which precise moment the Wizard of Shrirampur imperceptibly changed the direction of movement to send the ball inward where it cannoned  into Cook’s pad. 

There is no DRS in this series which is a shame for a sport that calls for as much justice as can possibly be dispensed.  But those who thought the ball might have missed leg stump were less worthy judges than the eyes and experience of Umpire Rauf.  “That’s out!” 

Astronaut Strauss about to leave the Mother Ship on a Space Walk to the Middle.

Trott joined Strauss and a short midwicket and a couple more fielders positioned square on the leg side testified to the influence of India’s new guru, Duncan Fletcher, who sported a fetching India tracksuit to remind those looking on that he now ‘batted’ for the other side.

After lunch Khan addressed his arts of prestidigitation to England’s captain who he encourage to preoccupy himself with questions concerning the orientation of his off-stump. 

Once Strauss’s mind was thus fully engaged he slipped him a short delivery which the batsman tried to yank from outside off to leg only to be caught in the deep by Sharma in a manner identical to a dismissal a few years back.

Note to England batsmen: dig out the old videos.  How has he got you out before?

Pietersen, who replaced Strauss had a simple Pietersenian plan; stand a couple of feet outside your crease, step across and play forward.  It worked in as much as he survived until bad light and then rain deprived the throng of any further play, by which time Trott had moved his score to 58 and England’s to 127 for 2.

India would have wished to have taken four or five wickets in this time and they might have done so, but Dravid could not hang on to a slip catch off Bhaji’s first ball and between them Dhoni and Dravid allowed a catch to intersect them.

The wicket’s lack of pace and bounce meant that survival was possible for the careful batsman and wickets less probable than might have been anticipated.  Zaheer was Khan the Magnificent, but he limped off the field with the spell binding figures of 13.3 overs, 8 maidens, 2 for 18.

Everyone, except those campaigners against the practice of selecting only four bowlers in a Test side, must hope that it was a case of cramp and not a pulled hamstring.

This was enthralling cricket – deep cricket – but, as has happened so often in this miserable English season, rain has done its worst to destroy of a precious chunk of time in this mighty test of cricket played fittingly for the Pataudi Trophy.

England127 for 2

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Cricket and Other Affairs of State

Monday brought a surprise  early morning call to the Great House from Downing Street.  It was quite like old times.

In the days of the old Queen, God Bless Her, Melbourne would often send a messenger down to the Great House for the scores and some little tittle-tattle concerning the escapades of one or two of the players with which to amuse the Young Victoria during an Audience and take her mind off The Worsening Situation.

It was satisfying to learn, then, that on Monday morning the present PM was rushing round the second most famous Street in the land to find anyone who could tell him Bell’s average for this series  and the last.  

It might have been thought by the commentariat that he would be busy with matters concerning Greece, Libya and sentencing, but it seems he has learnt something from the old roué.  There is more than a passing resemblance you understand.

Or is it possible that Her Majesty is thinking of placing a wager on the chances of England dominating India again this summer?  (TM chooses the word hesitantly.)  And was sounding out Her principal adviser?

Third Man was not able to listen in to the conversation between the PM and the Squire but it is reassuring to know that cricket still matters in this way.  Expect a more robust line on Greece, Libya and sentencing in the coming days.

Her Majesty is a shrewd sportswoman who knows that statistics seldom lie. England’s top six are on sparkling form. (Just follow the links above).  And the bowlers are jostling for selection and revelling in the conditions.   

Mr Hill  for one is offering 5/4 England, 7/4 India and 5/2 a drawn Test series. 

Do we really have to have all these ODIs first?

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