Sunday, 26 November 2006

Do England know how to save Test matches?

Considering their cataclysmic first three days, England can be content with reaching 293-5 on the fourth day. It is, rather prematurely, being lauded as the start of England’s attempts to retain the Ashes. England’s endeavours were certainly an improvement. But they didn’t bat in the manner that saves Test matches.

Three of England’s wickets were lost to reckless shots, the sort that would attract light criticism even in limited overs games. Andrew Strauss was caught pulling for the second time in the game; Paul Collingwood, after a fine innings, was stumped; and, most inexcusably of all, skipper Andrew Flintoff played a suicidal shot, caught trying to hit Shane Warne out of the state. It was more reminiscent of his pre-2003 batting, characterised by a lack of coherent thinking.

Though defiant, England’s batting was more Edgbaston 05 than Johannesburg 95. Rattling along at 3.66 an over, England were responsible for a day of exhilarating cricket. Yet their emphasis seemed to be on taking the game to Australia, rather than saving the game themselves.

It is an indication of modern Test cricket that the art of saving games has been lost. Batting time has been replaced by belting.

England have long since been a victim of ‘100 and out’ syndrome; indeed, Collingwood would never have attempted such a reckless shot had his score been anything other than 96. We only need to look at the Australians – Ricky Ponting was devastated to have missed out on a double ton, having made exactly 100 more than the Durham man.

Collingwood’s feisty knock deserves enormous credit, and has surprised many, myself included. But he must realise that, the moment he put century before the match, he ended England’s hopes of salvation. His partnership with Kevin Pietersen constituted the most uplifting facet of England’s performance.

At 244-3, Australia were searching for their next wicket, and there was a very real chance England would save the game. Alas, England gifted it to them.

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Anonymous said...

you have a nice blog yourself.

this post reminds me of brian lara's comments a few months ago, when his team was playing India and he did not enforce a follow on.

he said something to the likes of before the windies can learn how to win matches, they need to learn how to draw them. i think that was a pretty solid statement from lara, when his main aim was rebuilding his side.

eng are in a turmoil no doubt. though in order to get out of it, i would encourage aggressive batting rather than defensive, atleast in the first innings.

with regards to their 2nd innings display. i really think they could have pulled off a draw. that would have been a remarkable acheivement and a true victory for them. rash shots in the morning and rash shots on the 4th day did them in

Tim Wigmore said...

Thanks for the comment mate.

Interesting point about Lara, though it's slightly depressing to think of England's Test side as at the same level as the West Indies!

Australia didn't bowl very well and, while a positive attitude was important, England rather overdid it, scoring at close to 4 an over.

Chrispy said...

I can understand the Colli moment, Warne and staring at a first hundred against Aus can get to people, but Freddie played a ludicrous innings, hitting four fours befour being caught at mid-on going for a big hoick in to the leg side. Not clever batting, not a captain's innings, not the way to save a test match. More Thorpe's and less Flintoff's needed in the middle order but then we won the ashes playing very aggressively and when it comes off it's beautiful. I agree they should find a balance though, like I am pleased to say Kp appears to be doing with his game. No sixes?! Well done Kev! Spot on! Let's praise him considering the stick he gets when he gets out to a rash shot.