In our attempt to fight back and record a series draw in the ground breaking Trans-Channel Test series against England, we made three changes to the playing XI for our historic first Test match on French soil. Gabin Sauvage, Patrick Pierre and Mehdi Qadri were the unlucky trio to miss out with Youssef Rizvi, Paco Georges and Louis Martin the beneficiaries. As much as we would’ve liked to present the jettisoned personnel with another opportunity we felt that it was necessary to freshen things up and present England with opposition that they hadn’t become familiar with.
Captain Xavier Le Tallec won the toss and chose to bat. The decision to bat or bowl was in the balance but we felt trying to put runs on the board first up was the right thing to do.
Put runs on the board is exactly what opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier and Enzo Petit did. Having compiled 77 in the second innings in London the pair picked up where they had left off at Lords. Now In Brittany they constructed foundations of 49 for the first wicket. It required England’s leading wicket taker of all time James Anderson, rotated in at the expense of Stuart Broad, to make the breakthrough. The erstwhile Lancastrian found Chevalier’s (14) edge to present a slip catch to Rory Burns. Gilles Smith joined Petit and the latter soon reached his second-consecutive Test half-century. It was actually Petit’s (55) fourth fifty in five innings in First Class/Test cricket but on none of those occasions has he reached 60. He’s basically the French Mark Stoneman! Petit’s dismissal had an air of familiarity about it in that it came just two balls before a beverage break (An unhealthy habit that we’ve developed!) but at least both batsmen to fall had been ‘Got out’. In Petit’s case Jofra Archer was the bowler responsible. 86-2 were the numbers at rehydration respite.
Post thirst quenching Youssef Rizvi (5) didn’t last long on debut. To only his seventh delivery the right-hander played an audacious pull off Archer that resulted in him being caught by Stokes at slip. Smith (41) and Pitko (25) steadied the ship with a stand of 38 before both succumbed to first Test spin nemesis Dom Bess. Neither batsmen were out playing silly shots mind as the batting unit maintained their enhanced application and contribution that had been displayed in the second innings at Lords. When wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy joined Zidane Thomas at the crease the score was 152-5 but both combined defence and run-scoring finesse to lift us to a more than respectable 182-5 at lunch on day one. Whilst our players dined on soup de jour the Bretagne faithful soaked up the rays!
In the second session Thomas et Leroy continued their procession taking the partnership up to 68. Unfortunately the combo came to a halt in freak fashion! Archer got a delivery to strike Thomas in the undesirables and with the batsman losing his bearings he back heeled the pink orb onto his stumps. Cue more pink in the form of the zing bails and Thomas’ (40) knock as well as the partnership was over. It was such a sorry way for an excellent effort to be brought to its conclusion.
Soon after Thomas’ demise Leroy (38) tried to turn an Archer delivery to the leg-side but a leading edge was collected by a grateful Dominic Sibley scampering forward from mid-on. Paco Georges (0) then wafted first ball on debut and as a result of Buttler’s safe hands Archer had a five-wicket haul. Archer (6-60) didn’t stop there as Le Tallec (7) was suckered into a pull shot and 220-5 had become 244-9 in scenes all too reminiscent of the first Test.
Last men standing Alexandre Riviere (12) and debutant Louis Martin (9*) dragged the innings on past drinks before the former fell to Bess (3-20). The innings curtailed at 255. Having been 152-4 that was a hugely disappointing total but still there were contributions throughout the order providing innings for our batsmen to build upon in the future. We can take huge confidence from the way our batting unit saw off James Anderson (0-66) and Sam Curran (0-51).
In only the third over of England’s reply Riviere trapped Rory Burns LBW courtesy of a superb piece of deception. Riviere delivered a painfully slow yorker that had Burns all at see but DRS saved the Surrey left-hander by a matter of millimetres. Burns then pulled for four before being struck on the pad again. This time the finger didn’t go up but Le Tallec opted to review. Sadly for us it was not out once again. After all that drama we’d lost a review but England hadn’t lost Burns.
England had progressed to 32 when we did eventually make the breakthrough. In a repeat of the first innings of the first Test Sibley (16) was out caught Pitko off the bowling off Riviere. In truth it was not a shot that a batsman of Test calibre should be getting out playing, certainly not when opening the batting. England were 52-1 at tea when the lights came on.
In the first day’s final session Joe Denly had a reprieve on 11 when Leroy grassed an edge off Paco Georges. He failed to capitalise though, falling to the always in the action Pitko for 25. As with Sibley’s shot it simply wasn’t good enough and Riviere repaid the earlier favour by holding the catch. Not content with batting and catching well in this series, Pitko had promptly rocked up and commenced his spell with a wicket maiden!
Burns brought up back-to-back Trans-Channel tons and with his captain Root had lifted England to 177-2 at close, still 78 runs behind but with eight wickets in hand.
Riviere and Martin failed to make a breakthrough early on day two but captain Le Tallec needed less than three overs to send Burns packing. Again Pitko was the catcher and again, as was the case in the first Test, Burns (139) rather threw the chance of a gargantuan score away. Le Tallec’s spin had made the breakthrough and then it was the turn of pace in the form of Paco Georges. The tall express left-armer angled one past Joe Root’s blade to send the illuminated stumps flying in all directions. The wicket of Root (48) was a prize maiden Test scalp for Georges (1-106) as England stuttered from 226-2 to 235-4 bang on beverages.
Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope steadied the visitors with a stand of 51 (A lead of 31) before Thomas became the fifth bowler in the innings to claim a wicket. The right-arm slinger trapped Stokes (25) LBW and though there was a hint of leg-side about it Stokes opted not to review thus becoming Thomas’ belated first Test victim. Shortly after that the session concluded, a session in which we’d claimed a more than respectable 3-113.
The new ball had the desired effect with our opening duo both getting among the wickets. In his first over with the new pink cherry Louis Martin had Ollie Pope (51) nonchalantly caught by his captain. For Martin, who’d kept things tight up to that point, it was a fully deserved first Test wicket to join Pitko (1-16) and Thomas as christened wicket takers on the second day. As for Pope, like in the first Test he got to fifty but got out, a little like our own Enzo Petit! Riviere (2-123) then had an out of sorts Curran (3) feather an edge to Leroy but our gloveman was slow to react to a nick off Buttler soon after. Martin (2-86) wasn’t to be denied though as Bess (2) perished next ball with Le Tallec snaffling another catch at about fourth slip, this time courtesy of an excellent dive to his left. England had crashed from 332-5 to 357-8 but Buttler and Archer weren’t to be easily removed. Despite both being beaten occasionally the pair batted superbly to lift the score to 397-8. With one session left in the day and the floodlights switched on, the visitors held the aces to the tune of 142 runs.
Sadly the day’s final session was a torturous one for our players as Buttler and Archer took their partnership all the way to 137. The excellent Archer (58) eventually edged to Leroy off Thomas (2-76) but Anderson (10*) reached the close alongside Buttler with England on 517-9.
Our captain Le Tallec (2-77) did at least knock over Buttler’s (138) stumps in only the second over on day three to dismiss England for 524. To have bowled out an established Test nation is something that we should be proud off but we required 269 to avoid an innings defeat.
Chevalier and Petit continued their trend of producing solid starts by compiling 42 for the first wicket in the second innings on the third day. The breakthrough for England came when Petit (27) was caught and bowled by Curran having presented a leading edge to the Surrey left-armer. Gilles Smith (1) was emphatically bowled by Archer resulting in debutant Youssef Rizvi joining Chevalier at the wicket. Having scored only 5 in the first innings it would be an understatement to say that Rizvi looked all at sea early in his innings. To his credit though he somehow survived and soon grew in confidence to display some strong stroke play. By beverages the pair had hauled us from 43-2 to 99-2 with an encouraging half-century stand.
Resuming after rehydration it took only two deliveries of spin to bring our progress to an abrupt halt. Rizvi (32) was comprehensively beaten and bowled by Bess (Bodes well for the tour of India!) before Pitko (5) was a little unlucky to nick behind via his pad off Curran’s (2-44) left-arm seam. Zidane Thomas (15) attacked Bess (2-17) but was only at the crease for a fun time not a long time. Despite using a review he fell LBW to the Somerset off-spinner. A promising position of 109-2 had become a disappointing 139-5 but Leroy dug in alongside Chevalier who brought up a maiden Test fifty in the over before the interval. 156-5, 133 in arrears the details at 4pm.
Our knight in shining armour Chevalier (51) was gutted to be caught at mid-on when uppishly toe-ending a full delivery from Anderson. Then in a horrible sense of deja vu, Leroy was bowled through his legs by Archer. Thomas had suffered a similar fate in the first innings and this time it was Leroy (9), who’d applied himself maturely for 42 minutes, who saw the ball (Or didn’t!) deflect off the bat, go in between his legs and clip high on the stumps.
Le Tallec (1) was LBW to Anderson (2-34) despite a review. Our captain’s batting efforts in our maiden series read 0, 1, 7 and 1 which is a great shame provided how well he bowled, fielded and led the side. Alexandre Riviere (3) was then outrageously caught and bowled by star man Archer (4-25) to put us in peril at 167-9. Paco Georges (6) resisted temptation for a while but gave into playing a big shot and was phenomenally pouched by Buttler. Having been 42-0 and 109-2 a total of just 172 was disappointing but wasn’t the result of a series of awful shots. We succumbed by an innings and 97 and 2-0 in the series. In general though I think that we can be hugely proud of our efforts against an established and professional Test side in our first two Tests. There’s a lot to build on.
Look out for news on our future series soon!