Cricket 19: Down on the Delhi Deck!

Following our ground-breaking success in the mountains, we named an unchanged side for the second Test on a dust bowl in Delhi. We lost the toss and as was the case in Doon, were inserted to field first. India progressed rapidly to 43-0 but we really should’ve taken a wicket. Louis Martin, brimming with confidence after his second innings figures of 3-91 in the Himalayas, executed a ferocious short ball that Rohit Sharma couldn’t resist. The trap was set but Zidane Thomas, stationed at fine leg, neglected to commit to the catch. Thomas soon made amends however when he caught Sharma (20) dawdling out of his crease and effected an extremely cheeky run out. Cheteshawara Pujara, fresh from striking a century in the first Test, made 21 before edging spinner Mehdi Qadri to Gilles Smith at slip. Despite losing two wickets, India had clocked up 109 runs by lunch.

Just three deliveries after the interval, Qadri was it it again, ousting Indian skipper Virat Kohli (14) courtesy of a superb catch by Zvonimir Pitko at point. Qadri later appealed for LBW against Agarwal, on 78 at the time. We opted not to review but replays showed that Agarwal would’ve been given out had we’d done so. How costly would that be?

Not very! Suddenly Agarwal endured a torrid time against the turn of Qadri and Louis Petit but survived until drinks. In the second over post beverages, Le Tallec (1-31) rolled his arm over and the captain promptly castled Agarwal’s stumps. As in the first Test Agarwal (84) couldn’t reach three figures. India recovered though and by tea were 217-4 with Rahane passing fifty and the partnership with Vihari doing the same.

In the second over after tea and with his first ball of a new spell, Louis Petit accounted for Rahane’s (52) middle stump. He then did for Pant (5) courtesy of a throw from the boundary as the hosts just couldn’t kick their run out habit!

Ravi Jadeja (8) dug in alongside Vihari but then needlessly chased a wide delivery and feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy. Tactical genius Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Youssef Rizvi (1-8) immediately claimed Vihari (59) as his maiden Test victim.

In the penultimate over of the day Qadri (3-86) claimed the wicket of Ravi Ashwin (16), caught in the slips by Smith ala the Pujara dismissal. Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah survived until close with India upto 294-9.

Less than three overs were required on day two for the Indian innings to be curtailed. The astute Le Tallec took the new ball yet combined spin with pace and it paid off handsomely as Petit (3-57) had Sharma (13) caught by Pitko. India all out for 298 with all wickets bar run outs falling to spin.

In reply, Enzo Petit and Jean-Luc Chevalier compiled 74 for the first wicket before Petit (35) stepped too far across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs by Ashwin. Smith appeared to be caught at slip first ball but India neglected to review. At times unconvincing, he survived until drinks.

Chevalier brought up a second Test fifty then struck three boundaries before he misjudged a delivery from Ashwin. Despite the review confirming that the ball pitched and struck pad outside the line of off stump, Chevalier (62) had offered no shot so had to depart. It wasn’t long after Chevalier’s dismissal that Smith’s mixed bag of an innings came to an end. He was rather suckered into a trap, caught at leg slip off Jadeja for 23. Rizvi and Pitko took us to lunch on 141-3.

After the interval the pair progressed to 178-4 before Rizvi (13), like Chevalier, chose to leave a ball from Ashwin, only to look back in horror and see his stumps rearranged! Zidane Thomas then endured ten torturous deliveries before falling for single figures for the third time in the series. Thomas (4) was bowled through his legs by Jadeja (2-72). India then made a surprise bowling change bringing back the pace of Bumrah (2-68) and we promptly conceded yet another own goal. Pitko (45), who had batted so well, top edged an unnecessary pull shot onto his helmet and was caught by Pujara. Le Tallec (13) then produced a near identical dismissal only this time Rohit Sharma took the catch. 119-1 had become 216-7.

Marwan Leroy and Louis Petit seemed to be rebuilding with a partnership of 38 but Petit (10) was caught and bowled by Ishant Sharma (1-83). Leroy (38) was then caught at short leg off Ashwin as the collapse continued then terminated when Martin was LBW first ball. It was another five-wicket haul for Ashwin (5-29) as we slumped from 74-0 and 178-3 to 262 all out, still 36 shy of parity. Nearly all our batsmen made a start but poor selection (Or non-selection!) cost us a first innings lead.

Back with ball in hand, in eight overs before tea we were sloppy but also unlucky, edges going to the boundary rather than to hand. Thomas started to work Sharma over however and in a great example of bowling in tandem, Louis Martin lured Sharma (16) into a leading edge. The ever reliable Pitko lunged forward from gully to execute the catch. India 38-1, effectively 74-1 at tea on only the second day.

A period of frustration ensued as the hosts comfortably kicked onto 99-1. Captain Le Tallec brought himself into the attack though and Agarwal soon succumbed. Need I tell you who held the catch at short leg? For Agarwal (36) it was another contribution in the series without progressing to make a really sizeable score. Leader Le Tallec didn’t stop there as he soon accounted for his opposing number Kohli (11). There are no prizes for guessing correctly who took the catch!

India increased their lead but immediately after bringing up a half-century Pujara (51) was caught behind off Qadri. Not long after that, at 148-4 and the lead 184, day two drew to a close.

Rahane and Vihari built on their foundations to lay a fifty partnership before a change of bowling helped oust Rahane. As Thomas appealed for LBW against Vihari, the pair scampered through for a risky single. Rahane (40) appeared to have made his ground but his bat actually bounced off the ground just at the moment that Magic touch Le Tallec broke the bails. It was a well needed stroke of fortune just two deliveries before beverages.

Post thirst quenching Vihari upped the tempo alongside the aggressive Pant. At lunch on day three India had ascended to 269-5 with the lead ballooning to 305.

Finally, after the partnership had surpassed a hundred, Qadri ousted Vihari (91), caught behind by Leroy. Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Perit had Pant (65) caught by Pitko, his fourth catch of the innings. At that point India were 325-7. Both batsmen had batted extremely well and put their team firmly in control. Jadeja and Ashwin then went about doing the same and lifted the score to 384-7 at tea on day three. By the time the next drinks break came around India were upto 440-7 courtesy of another century partnership. Our captain and bowling unit simply had no answer to Jadeja’s and Ashwin’s efforts.

Eventually Martin found an edge… that went through the slips for four to bring up the 150 partnership! At the close of play on the third day India, having been 207-5, were 498-7, the lead upto a monstrous 534. Jadeja would sleep on 99 not out, Ashwin not far behind on 80.

Two balls into day four and Jadeja nicked behind but the ball didn’t carry to Leroy. Next ball he brought up his ton but soon fell to Le Tallec for 101. Ashwin (112*) also recorded a century while Martin ousted Sharma (1) with a superb caught and bowled. Thomas then terminated the innings when he dismissed Bumrah (3), courtesy of a second catch of the morning for Leroy. Our bowling figures made for grim reading but we had at least performed well to curtail… the tail. Le Tallec (3-103), Martin (2-105), Qadri (2-100) and Petit (1-105) all brought up centuries of their own. Thomas (1-88) wasn’t far behind. India finished 537 all out meaning that we needed 573 to win. We had just under two days to bat and of course a draw would seal a first ever series win. Should we attempt to bat time for a stoic and epic draw or try to achieve the highest run chase in Test history… in only our fourth Test?

Fourteen overs into the fourth innings of the match, messrs Petit and Chevalier had chalked up 57-0, the latter having overturned an LBW decision in the first over. Five sessions remained, 516 runs were required.

As is so often the case, the resumption prompted a wicket. Chevalier, having shown such discipline, played an unnecessary pull shot off Bumrah and was caught behind by Pant. Having batted for in excess of an hour, departing for just 21 was a waste. To the very next delivery Petit (36) was bowled by Jadeja’s first and our solid foundations suddenly didn’t seem so solid!

Smith (11) seemed to be defending resolutely but inside edged off Jadeja into the gloves of Pant. 58-0 had become 77-3. After some boundaries from Pitko, Rizvi defended a delivery from Jadeja only to see the ball bounce up off his boot and be caught at short leg. The wheels had come off and we were 86-4. Zidane Thomas, yet to make double figures in the series, arrived at the crease. 15 balls later, he hadn’t even made single figures and was bowled by Ashwin for a duck! 110-5!

First innings hero Iceman Pitko fell Rizvi style, defending a Jadeja delivery only to see the ball ricochet off his footwear and be snapped up a short leg. Like Rizvi, Pitko (43) will wish he’d just smacked the ball for 6 rather than defend. Le Tallec, who had tactically performed well at times, couldn’t lead by example with the bat. The captain nicked a needless cut shot to Pant off the rampant Jadeja (5-56) having made only 10. Gloveman Marwan Leroy, who had performed well behind the stumps, dug deep to do the same in front of them. He and Louis Petit reached tea on day four with the score 174-7, just 399 required for victory.

Leroy and Petit batted on sensibly and the former passed fifty for the first time at Test level. With the partnership blossoming at 77 and the crowd getting behind them, Leroy (61) nicked behind off Ashwin (3-24) when defending a shortish delivery. After an excellent display behind the stumps the young wicketkeeper had applied himself admirably and cemented his place as the team’s number one wicketkeeper batsman. Petit (43) soon fell in almost identical fashion. Qadri (6) then top edged a pull of Bumrah (2-88) next ball to gift Pant a sixth catch of the innings. The margin of defeat was a whopping 330 runs but there were still many positives gained as we recorded a 1-1 series draw away from home and in alien conditions against an established test nation. Onto Australia…

Cricket Captain 2018: Statistical Highlights… and Lowlights!

Five full years into my tenure as Coach/Selector of the England cricket team, here’s a round-up of the highs and lows that we’ve experienced as a collective thus far…

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Yes that does say 43 all out against Pakistan at Edgbaston! That’s an England all-time low and a slap in the face for our decision to bat exclusively (And optimistically) for a draw. The sweet success of 806 against Sri Lanka in Kandy seems a long time ago.

Joe Root’s 292 against India in Nottingham, came after he’d been dismissed for 230 twice during my tenure and in the same innings that James Vince briefly (Very briefly) held the record when making 246.

Leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson’s 7-82 against New Zealand, also at Edgbaston, are the best individual bowling figures in an innings while Stuart Broad’s 11-98 against West Indies in Jamaica in 2019 remain our best match analysis.

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The year before the 43 all out debacle, 436 against the same opponents in Leeds, had been a none too shabby effort in a One-Day International. In truth, our limited overs batting has regressed since then. As in the Tests, it’s former captain Joe Root who leads the way with a rare double ton (214) in the fifty over format, indeed it was in that innings of 436 against Pakistan in front of a packed and vibrant Headingley crowd.

Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed astonishing figures of 6-14 against Australia in the infancy of his international career but lost his way a little in ODIs. He is however averaging sub 30 in the Test format and has become a valuable option in the longer format. He’s no slouch with the bat either.

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Errrr, yeah, 41 all out against South Africa in a T20I. Like I said, highs and lows. Never an easy place to bat is Cape Town!

Alex Hales 124 against arch-enemy Australia in Bristol has been the best batting output in the format whilst the often economical Tom Curran’s 5-26 against West Indies in Delhi at the World Cup is our best individual bowling analysis.

It’d be great to post 1000 runs in a Test innings but with the need for declarations this can often only be feasible in a dead rubber. 500 in a ODI and 250 in T20Is would also be welcome. It’d also be great to see an individual batsman reach a triple ton in a Test match but should they approach Sir Len Hutton’s 364 then I might have to declare!