Top of the Global Test League… but for how long?
The Global Test League is here folks!
Unfortunately due to contractual issues neither Australia or Sri Lanka feature in the competition. There are eight teams (England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe) and each side will play each other home and away. That’s a total of fourteen matches per side to decide the best Test team on the globe.
As Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England team, it’s my responsibility to keep you up to date with how the side perform during the competition. So here it goes…
Liam Dawson (1-83 & 0-65) struck early in Zimbabwe’s first innings but was a juxtaposition of maidens and expensive overs from there on.
Our first match of the inaugural Global Test League was a home fixture against Zimbabwe at Old Trafford. Many observers rather disrespectfully suggested that the result was a formality. It turned out to be anything but!
James Anderson (3-107) didn’t immediately find his groove but came back in sensational style, at one point being on a hat-trick!
Zimbabwe won the toss and batted first. At 344-4 early on the second day, the visitors seemed destined for a huge score. James Anderson (3-107) had other ideas however as the Lancashire quick found another gear on his home ground. Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for just 38 runs to subside to 384 all out (Masakadza 106, Raza 88). A still decent total but not as imposing as they would have liked given their position before Anderson’s exploits.
In our first innings, we seemed guaranteed to claim a first innings lead when a 126-run partnership between Mark Stoneman (77) and James Vince (71) took us to 162-1. Both batsmen were naively run out though and there then followed what can only be described as kamikaze batting by the home side. 162-1 rapidly became 239 all out. A loss of nine wickets for just 77 runs. This included the fall of captain Joe Root for a golden duck. Part-time spinner Sean Williams (4-31) was the chief destroyer, backed-up by seamer Chris Mpofu (3-61).
Craig Ervine survived a clear glove behind as Zimbabwe set England a mammoth 471 to win the Test match.
Zimbabwe then maintained the pattern of the batting side laying a strong platform and had reached 167-1 before Dawid Malan (2-32) intervened. The part-time Middlesex spinner struck with his second delivery immediately after the interval and went onto claim a further wicket as well as effect a run out and take a catch. Malan’s success with the ball only served to highlight Liam Dawson’s lack of penetration. England then took regular wickets but not in clusters as the away side totalled 327 (Mire 90, Broad 3-75) second time around. Not wanting to be bitter, we were frustrated by some of the umpiring decisions during Zimbabwe’s second innings, not least the clear glove behind by Craig Ervine (See image above) that was given not out.
James Vince, having been run out for 71 in the first innings, posted a maiden Test hundred in the second.
Ultimately that left us needing to score a world record 471 to win the Test match. At various intervals including when positioned on 127-1, 221-3 and 375-6 we had high hopes of making history. James Vince (107) led the way with a maiden Test century at a little over a run-a-ball but the Hampshire man was dismissed not long after reaching his hundred.
Moeen Ali smashed the record for Test match cricket’s fastest ever half-century in a thrilling demonstration of clean hitting entertainment for the loyal but bedraggled England following.
Alongside Jonny Bairstow (71 from 45), Moeen Ali had the home crowd struggling to believe their eyes as we dared to pull off cricket’s greatest ever heist. The Worcestershire all-rounder clobbered 58 from just 17 deliveries. Though it was part-timer Sean Williams that dismissed Moeen, it was Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who held his nerve as we went on the attack in our quest for victory. In regards to field placements, the away side’s bold skipper didn’t panic in the face of Moeen and JB’s onslaught. Cremer would finish the innings with sensational figures of 7-105 and deservedly claim the Player of the Match award!
Our tail were soon back in the pavilion as Zimbabwe claimed a deserved victory, one that has sent shockwaves around the cricket world. The margin of defeat a mere 78 runs. We’re obviously disappointed to have lost but I’m proud of the team for sticking at it with the ball in each of Zimbabwe’s innings and restricting them to sub 400 totals on both occasions. I’m also proud of the boys for scoring nearly 400 on a worn and degrading pitch in the fourth innings of a Test match. It was our inept batting display in our first innings though that has cost us the match. Things won’t get any easier next up against India at Lords, as we go in pursuit of our first Global Test League points. Despite the loss we don’t anticipate wholesale changes to the side. A squad for that Test match will be named in due course with Toby Roland-Jones possibly coming into contention on his home ground.
Disclaimer: The simulation of other teams’ matches crashed when Australia featured and the on-disc Sri Lanka team has not yet been complimented with genuine players, hence their absence from the Global Test League. As the old adage goes: “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, or not as the case may be!