England Test cricket has a new selector. England Test cricket has a new batting line-up. England Test cricket has a new approach. Yet, whilst everything is supposed to be changing, nothing is changing at all. Pakistan rocked up at Lords and played some ‘proper’ Test cricket and left England on the verge of defeat in the 1st Test at Lords.
How? Well, they bowled well, batted sensibly and fielded brilliantly, the kind of things England have forgotten how to do.
England’s batting line-up received the Ed Smith tweak, bumping Root up to three and recalling Joss Buttler to add some free spirit from seven. It didn’t really click in the first innings with England, as per, found themselves around 40 odd for three or four. Sound familiar? Exactly. Pakistan, without needing to do anything as extravagant as scoring a ton, managed to knock up a healthy lead – a lead that looked like it might have been enough to win the game as England crashed to six down in the second innings, still trailing by 60.
Enter Joss Buttler and 20-year-old Dom Bess. Buttler needed a decent knock to prove his recall was nothing other than insane and Dom Bess was called up to bowl the opposition out with his spin, despite having never taken a first-class wicket away from Taunton. It turns out he might be able to bat a bit and what England really need is another spinner who is actually a batsman. Buttler and Bess put on 125 late on Saturday to give the game a chance of making Sunday worthwhile.
The new ball was all Pakistan needed in the first hour of Sunday morning to leave themselves a target of 64 to win, neither Buttler or Bess adding much to their overnight score. 25 minutes on a flat pitch. Mohammad Abbas finished with the best bowling figures by a Pakistani quick at Lords and my word, he’s had some decent predecessors. Buttler had said Bess was ‘batting like Root’ in his second innings 50. The problem was he was also bowling like Root as Pakistan knocked off the runs easily enough. The image of Joe Root, captain, fielding at silly point and short leg on his knees is an enduring image, one that tells us everything about his time as captain so far. How I cannot wait to see what India do to us.
The immediate answer in the eyes of the new selector? Drop Mark Stoneman and give Keaton Jennings another go at the top of the order. Will it work? We will know in a few days time.
Steven Smith has finally had his punishment for leading the ball-tampering scandal decided. He has to go and play cricket in Canada. I’d send some of the England team out there too.