Isn’t Test cricket absolutely great? I mean, if you have got the impression off me in the last few weeks that I have been a little frustrated by England in their performances against India then you would have been absolutely spot-on.
But, in the absence of two Test teams being absolutely brilliant against each other we have been treated to two Test teams who have been wonderfully inconsistent in many areas whilst being totally consistent in others meaning we have had a wonderful late summer of Test action.
England, somehow, won the 4th Test in Southampton despite yet another multitude of sins. And, once again, it was players not really considered good enough for the side on a regular basis that bailed them out of the swamp they were determined to hide in.
Did you know that right now Sam Curran has a better Test batting average than Joe Root who is allegedly one of the best batters in world cricket? Sure, if he is still able to say that in another ten Test matches then we have something very special on our hands but right now I am more interested in learning whether Sam would like to open the batting? He is already looking like a star and boy, have his runs been important in this series – as well as some prize wickets claimed with his left-arm swing.
And what about Moeen? Can someone please explain to me why exactly he was dropped in the first place? He is always likely to mess up with the bat but he is always likely to get some runs too and there is still no better spinner for me in England on English pitches – and let’s be honest, as Ali said himself, one bad tour of Australia does not make you a bad cricketer. Ali scored valuable lower-order runs in the first innings yet was moved to bat three in the second and, predictably, failed. Just keep him at seven for crying out loud, where he is successful. More importantly, he took 5-63 in the first and 4-71 in the second, spinning England to the series. Well bowled Moeen. And well bowled Sam Curran as it was rather fitting he got the last wicket.
Admittedly, this wasn’t just about Moeen and Sam (though it was, really). Joss Buttler batted with incredible maturity in the second innings considering he is still believed to be a T20 yokel who just slogs. His 69, supported by Curran, eeked England towards setting the Indian side a total that was never going to be easy in a 4th innings chase.
But of course, this wouldn’t be me talking cricket if I didn’t have a few moans. Can we please call time on the Keaton Jennings experiment now? Surely it is time to give Rory Burns a poke, seeing as he is about the only opening bat we haven’t had a look at? Also, get Ollie Pope back in the XI in the place of Jonny Bairstow for the last Test who was clearly having a sulk for not being allowed to keep wicket. If we are going to pick him as a ‘specialist bat’ then he needs to do better than 6 and 0. Actually, looking at the England top order in this series, he probably doesn’t have to do better than that to stay in the side.
Ben Stokes got starts in both innings, but I still feel he needs to be getting regular 50-100s to be thought of as a world-class all-rounder even if he is still decent with the ball and can catch better than most. And, if Ali can take nine wickets in a match then you have to question why Rashid ended up with none. Just admit it, Ed Smith, you got this one completely wrong – in England, anyway.
England have bought themselves the luxury of the 5th Test with nothing riding on it in terms of the outcome of the series. Could they be so bold as to make the changes that really need to be changed?
Over to you, Mr Smith and friends.