Awful. Atrocious. Abysmal. And that’s just the first innings. Over the weekend we were ‘treated’ to one of the worst cricket displays Lord’s has ever witnessed. For the first time in twenty three years, England lost the first match of the summer. Lost? As Tuffers eloquently put it, ‘more like walloped.’ England were destroyed by a Pakistan team which contained just four players from their last trip to Lord’s two years ago. Add in the fact they’ve only played three test matches in the past twelve months and England’s performance gets a hundred times worse. Which is ironic considering hundreds are exactly what they’re lacking. It’s about time they are educated in how to play a test match.

Oh Captain, My Captain

Let’s start with a word on the skipper, Joseph Root. With his boyish energy rapidly vanishing to the clatter of wickets, Root looks a shell of the excited puppy from twelve months ago. There are bags under his eyes the size of Yorkshire; the cheery grin is as forced as any sane person meeting Trump and the blue eyes have lost their diamond sparkle. Our captain appears drained. Already he is fed up of delivering the same excuses in interviews. Already his batting has suffered.

Choosing to bat first on a green, seaming wicket was an unusual decision. Yes, of course we have the benefit of hindsight but Joe’s choice raised a few eyebrows. Telling Mark Wood to bounce out the batsmen on the second morning, when ignoring Jimmy Anderson was interesting. Constant field tinkering, which saw a host of different slips from Buttler to Malan was puzzling. Placing himself under the helmet at short leg was downright weird. Root appeared like a deer in the headlights of the Pakistan truck. A truck mind you which was merely sticking to the required speed limit of test cricket. There was no need for Root to be so panicky. He was constantly changing his plans like an inept army officer; suffering annihiliation just like Custer.

In fifteen tests in charge Joe Root has won just five and lost eight. Granted four of those were in incredibly tough conditions down under, but don’t forget one was being embarrassed by the Windies last year. Taking on the added responsibility of batting at three and Root needs to be careful he doesn’t burn out. Aside from Cook, he is the only genuine world class test batsman, albeit still searching for that century. We cannot afford to lose his batting prowess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he should resign the captaincy, just that he needs to be monitored closely and not put under unnecessary pressure. Root is in his captaincy infancy and, like any baby, needs support to stand upright and not spend hours shitting in his nappies.

I Feel The Need…The Need For Speed

Test match batting is like gardening; you snip away the bad flowers and leave the good bulbs to bloom. Alright so I may be struggling with this analogy but it’s much cleaner than the one I had in mind. The sentiment is clear though. Defend good balls. Hit the bad ones to the boundary. Simples.

Why then do the England team play like a crazed gardener, high on crack cocaine who chops away at his flowers, leaving a petal scattered ruined mess? There is no patience, no reliability, no… well thinking. It’s all a bit mindless. Take Jonny Bairstow for instance.

At seven Bairstow had freedom to play his shots. But in being promoted to five, Jonny has to realise that he is the lynch pin of the side. Coming in at 43-3 there is no room for attacking shots, you’ve got to play the situation and shut up shop. Instead Bairstow opened his shoulder driving, missed the line of the ball and was sent back to the pavilion. He was essentially creating a buy one, get one free deal for the Pakistan bowlers. Then in the second innings he arrived at 91-3, defended the first ball and missed the second. Two for the price of one! Pakistan were getting all the deals. Where they stocked up on bags for life, carefully batting, England went for the cheap plastic approach, had their bags rip and shopping spill onto the floor.

It wasn’t just Bairstow. Every single batsman, with the exception of Cook played with the patience of a baboon. Ben Stokes holed out to mid-on; Dawid Malan kept on nicking to slip and Mark Stoneman was… well Mark Stoneman. Statuesque on the crease he was a credit to his name. Nobody was prepared to knuckle down and play sensibly.

Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give A Damn

In the past twenty two tests England have failed to get past 300 twenty four times, which when you consider 300 isn’t even a par score in red ball cricket, is absolute shite. Since 2014, twelve batmen have debuted, with their combined average being 26. The likes of Balance, Lyth, Robson, Westley and Jennings have all less than impressed in the test arena. What’s that sorry? Jennings has been called in to replace Stoneman for Headingley? I give up. I really do.

Simon Hughes was right when he described England’s technique as ‘half cock’ which means they never firmly get forward or back to a ball; trapped in the middle prodding like a nervous stick. I’d go further and say half the team are cocks. It made embarrassing listening. There was no dedication, no pride in the whites. Only Jos Buttler and Dom Bess provided any resistance. Both players who, if you’d said three weeks ago would put on a partnership of 124, would have laughed themselves silly. In fact many of our bloggers had never even heard of Bess, or seen him play (Editor- yourself included I believe!).

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

To give England credit they did try at take attention away from their floundering with the bat. By dropping five catches in the Pakistan first innings! With all the reactions of a dead person Cookie failed to cling onto two, whilst Buttler in the gully found it was impossible to hold the ball, without wearing massive gardening gloves.

England simply did not look like a team. Pakistan are a well-oiled machine, lubricated to bat cleanly, bowl accurately and field superbly. Their youthful fearlessness was there for all to see in the patient displays of Babar Azam and Shadab Khan with the bat, whilst Mohammad Abbas’ 8-64 is the best ever bowling figures by a Pakistan player at Lord’s. I’ll touch on them more in tomorrow’s article, for they were excellent. However England played like the tin man; rusty, creaky and without heart.

With just three days until the second test, England have little time to prepare. Bringing in Jennings won’t make an iota of difference. There needs to be a complete overhaul in how they approach test match cricket, for the attitude and disciplines shown are non-existent. Trevor Bayliss, although incredibly successful in limited overs cricket, has an appalling record of losing twenty of his forty four tests as coach. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were his last summer of test cricket. It should be. Fully expect Pakistan to beat us this weekend. England need change.