England vs India 2018

Ah reality. It sets in all too soon doesn’t it? You think you can hide away the truth; instead the cracks loom larger and larger until an abyss appears. A gaping, widening hole which swallows the fictional reality and leaves you gasping with the insurmountable truth of the situation. England. Cannot. Bat. The 2-0 series lead against India?  A mirage of bowling excellence. When that stops, every England fan cannot help but think, ‘Here I Go Again.’

Here I Go Again On My Own

At the time of writing it is lunch on Day 4. For the Indians a hearty meal, full of warmth and joy. They have taken the match by the scruff of its neck. Absolutely hammered England into submission. The 150 partnership between Kohli and Rahane. Making England exhausted in the field, not declaring until 352-7. Holding onto their catches. It has been a masterclass in test match cricket from the number one side in the world. We shouldn’t be surprised. In a reverse of style, as changeable as the temperament of a ginger drinker, India are regenerated.

Suddenly there are other batsmen in the side. Dhawan and Rahul reached half century opening stands in both innings; Pujara settled into his stride; Rahane brought the class; Kohli, well, Kohli is back to being the King. They exploited the ancient proverb; ‘when the ball doth not swing, many runs it will bring.’ For England lacked a cutting edge in the bowling department.

Particularly in the second innings, the spark was quashed. Rashid’s over exuberant celebration as he bowled Rahane summed up the desperation. With 3-101, he bowled the most overs in the innings. Anderson was fairly tidy, but when you have three fairly similar pace bowlers there is no variety, no choice for change. We have seen Anderson and Woakes revel in swinging conditions at Edgbaston and Lords. No real express pace hurt England at Trent Bridge. There was nothing different Broad or Stokes could offer. Like an umbrella on a windy day, England were blown in all directions by India. And unlike an umbrella, absolutely nobody was protected by the stinging rain.

Going Down The Only Road I’ve Ever Known

Quick question for you. What’s the difference between England and teenagers? Answer: Teens catch STDs, England can’t catch anything! Drum roll please. But seriously (Ed – nothing is ever serious with you), 14 peas have been shelled in the series so far by England. And 6 of those in this test alone. The slip catching has been atrocious. Jennings putting down Dhawan on the first day has to be one of the easiest we’ve ever seen. Even my gran could catch that. And she’s been dead for ten years!

The only road England are travelling down right now is one where their headlamps are broken. In the dark. Since 2015 Alastair Cook is statistically the worst slip catcher in world cricket, with just a 70% success rate. Yes, Chef roasted a blinder in the first innings, but then he dropped the chicken on the floor not long after. Worryingly Ben Stokes is second worst, snaffling only 74%. This is drastically different compared to those with God like hands. Faf Du Plessis for example succeeds 96% of the time. Cook and Stokes have Jesus’ hands; full of holes. Jos Buttler is another culprit, which is bizarre considering he is a trusted wickie. None in the cordon seem able to grasp anything. Toss them a tomato and they’d only succeed in making tomato sauce. Toss them a hand grenade and… actually no they’d be fine as why would you want to catch a grenade?

India on the other hand have palms of steel. Especially KL Rahul and debutant Pant, who between them have 11 catches out of the 14 dismissals so far. Luckily for Pant he’s had a rather brilliant first test match, so gets a reprieve from the underwear based jokes I had lined up. What a bummer!

Like A Drifter I Was Born To Walk Alone

We’ve discussed England’s bowling and catching… Don’t think there’s anything we are missing out on is there? Hang on. I thought there was a third aspect to cricket? Nope. Can’t quite recall what it is. Might as well end the article here…

Wait! I remember.

Batting.

That little known discipline which allows your bowlers a total to try and defend. Come to think of it, that’s the key. Discipline. Something England have never looked up in the dictionary. In that first innings only one dismissal wasn’t a catch. The plumbest LBW you will ever see to Stuart Broad. The rest? Mostly caught in the slips. Hence England played with the hardest of hands; pushing at the ball like the erect genitalia of a horny Tiger Woods. Yes, India bowled tightly, with Hardik Pandya excelling, but some of the shots were mindless. Worryingly we saw the third time in two years England have been all out in one session…

Forget a slice of toast; Ishant Sharma has Cookie on a whole loaf of badly burnt bread. Eleven times the long legged paceman has Alastair out in his career. Probing deliveries on the off stump line, tempt England’s left handers into nicking behind. However in Cook’s defence he has been on the receiving end of a few absolute corkers. Both his edges at Lords were genuinely cracking deliveries. Consequently the same can be said of his edge in the first innings here.

And I Made Up My Mind, I Ain’t Wasting No More Time

What is worrying is the ex-skippers 2018 form. Averaging just 19 in his last 14 innings, the choir boy is falling short of the high notes. Unsurprisingly people are calling for his head. Which I understand I really do. There is just a teeny tiny problem. Who the heck replaces him? Over the past six years England have yet to find a second opener, let alone replace Cook! Here I go again; Keaton Jennings is not cut out for test cricket. We saw his Tin Man like stance last summer against South Africa. His hinges are still rusty.

So you drop Cook alongside Jennings? Now we need two openers! And those buses aren’t coming along. We stated on HFAL previously how Rory Burns is ready to make the step up. With over 800 runs in Division 1 surely he’s worth a shout? Here I go again, waste no more time. Drop Jennings, try Burns. After all, it can’t get any worse…

As for the rest of England’s batting. Root looks like a deer caught in the headlights of a roaring truck. Saintly Pope isn’t yet the answer to our prayers. His manic drive to Shami, a tad reminiscent of James Vince. Clearly youth here resembles recklessness, rather than fearlessness. Speaking of our friend Vince, he has the most runs in all formats of county cricket this summer. Guess who’s two runs behind? Sir Ian Bell. Could he be a short term answer to England’s selection problems? Belly has stated he’d love to return to England duty. With over 100 tests and an average of 42.69, does Ed Smith turn back the clock? Or go even further and bring back Tres? The future for England is far from rosy.

Here I Go Again

We don’t want to get carried away though. Currently Buttler and Stokes have a handy partnership. Dare we dream with four and a half sessions left… The nightmare of England’s batting has returned. Cracks were covered up at Edgbaston and Lords by superb bowling. With India more than likely on the verge of victory and two tests still remaining, this series could get dark very quickly.

Moeen Ali has a handy double century for Worcestershire. As Jonny Bairstow soaks his finger in ice (works for you and me, works for pro cricketers), Mo could return for a graze in his meadow. Try him at number 3, Root 4, Stokes 5, Pope 6, Buttler 7.

Sigh. Here I go again. Making outrageous claims nobody will pay attention too.

At least this test taught me something. I have the exact same average as an international cricketer.

One. Identical to Jasprit Bumrah.

Hoorah!