Posts Tagged ‘test’

England On The Back Foot

“I felt it was better to play him off the front foot.”

Those were the words of Nick Compton, who made 95 against Saeed Ajmal and his Worcestershire team-mates last July, when the Pakistani mystery man was turning his arm over for the Pears.

Eoin Morgan

Morgan goes back to a ball from Abdur Rehman and is bowled. Credit: Action Images / Paul Childs Livepic

Somerset racked up 591/9 before declaring and went on to win the game. Ajmal ended with five for 150 from his 51 overs.

“I stood on off-stump and looked to play very straight,” Compton added. “Ajmal’s not a big spinner of the ball and his main weapon is pace through the air, and I felt it was better to play him off the front foot. (He also used the sweep to great effect). The fact that he can skid it on and it might not bounce as much or go the other way, if you sit back I think you’re guessing and you haven’t got as much time to react.”

England might consider those words as they reflect on the wreckage of back-to-back defeats against an Ajmal-inspired Pakistan.

Granted – the pitch at New Road was a good deal flatter than those in Dubai, and particularly in Abu Dhabi. Granted – it was Abdur Rehman who caused the bulk of the damage this time around. Nevertheless the point still stands.

England were rooted on the back foot and seemed loathe to do anything that might be construed as a ‘lunge’ lest they incur the wrath of the traveling press. Gone were the days of Duncan Fletcher’s forward press, the Sky commentary team’s ’beloved’ sweep shot, or the advance down the pitch to meet the ball like a man. Instead we were greeted with the sight of one after another of England’s batsmen giving the impression of being perched on a shooting stick.

Ajmal and Rehman both bowl with relatively low arms, and, for spinners, relatively quickly. The pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not renowned for their excessive or uneven bounce. The situation cried out for sweep – even the reverse sweep. Instead the Englishmen were paralysed with fear.

When the Pakistanis batted they used the sweep, only sparingly admittedly, but they paid heed to the another of Compton’s well-reasoned points – play straight. Misbah-ul-Haq walloped Panesar over long-on on a couple of occasions, while over-pitched deliveries from both Swann and Panesar alike were drilled down the ground.

Maybe England need to re-think their method against spin. It shouldn’t be too hard. Their coach, Andy Flower, was one of the finest players of spin bowling around and I seem to remember he was rather partial to the odd sweep shot too

Are The Internet And TV To Blame For Dwindling Crowd Numbers?

Having seen the final part of today’s thrilling Test match play out on the internet and through Twitter, it is quite clear that Test cricket is not dying and is very much alive and well. It received a fanatical following through websites providing live text commentary and on Twitter, from which it is not difficult to see that claims of its untimely, and seemingly unwelcome, death are overestimated.

However, TV pictures of the ground, along with images posted on those very same text commentary streams and social media websites, appeared to suggest otherwise. The New Wanderers Stadium was deserted. All that could be seen was a militant army of grey plastic seats, upturned in their disgust at what was on offer and apparently painting an entirely different picture.

So which tells the truth about the health of the of the purest form of our summer game?

Well in my view the answer to this conundrum is simply that the way we view cricket is changing. Gone are the days when passionate fans would flock to watch matches and huddle under the umbrellas that would have been necessary in Johannesburg today. Instead, today’s fans dip in and out of the action, perhaps while at work, or on their smartphones while out and about, and soak up the action that way. These modern day fans are no less passionate, it is just that, unlike our predecessors, we are in the fortunate position of being able to follow the action in whatever way we choose.

This is where the similarities with English county cricket are startling. It has never had particularly big crowds and those that it did have have dwindled over the past decade or so. However, I would suggest that it has more fans than ever, especially if we are to believe the web traffic data that leading cricket websites routinely espouse. These show that the figures are steadily increasing year on year and prove those luddites that scoff of ‘one man and a dog’ every April to be palpably wrong.

Can the current lack of ground-going fans be altered?

Perhaps, if administrators were to make attending a Test match itself a more convenient and enjoyable experience (day/night cricket anyone?) then things would improve slightly, but it is unlikely to make too much of a difference as it is impossible to stand in the way of a market-led change that sees people power dictate how cricket is ‘consumed’ to an ever greater extent.

Will Tendulkar Score His 100th Century Against The West Indies?

Let us leave the spot-fixing trial to one side for a moment to focus on on-field matters as there is some good quality Test cricket both underway and coming up.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar - due to score his 100th international century? Picture: REUTERS / Action Images

The Pakistan-Sri Lanka battle has been fascinating while Zimbabwe are on the back foot against New Zealand but I want to turn your attention to India playing the West Indies, in which the first Test begins on Sunday in Delhi.

On the face of it, India should be plenty strong enough to win the three-match series and there is a strong chance that sometime in the next month Sachin Tendulkar will score an unprecedented 100th international century.

Yet, if you look at current form this is a meeting between a side that has lost its last four matches (India) against a team on a high, fresh from winning an overseas series for the first time in eight years and with an exciting young leg-spinner in their ranks (Devendra Bishoo).

India, meanwile, have rung the changes – out go Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina, in come Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin. One wonders whether probable Test debuts, Rahane and Kohli doubtless being touted as the next Tendulkars/Dravids/Sehwags and Tendulkar’s impending landmark could just distract the Indian side.

Make no doubt about it, in Kirk Edwards, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell, the West Indies have unearthed some fine batsmen who appear to have the temparement to match their skills and they will be stronger for including Adrian Barath in their side.

The perfect result for the neutrals is probably a 2-1 series win for either side with Tendulkar scoring his 100th century – probably earlier rather than later – but as both sides look to rebuild their sides it could offer several pointers for the future.

What Is The Future For Test Cricket?

As I watch pictures of Pakistan playing Sri Lanka – putting them to the sword to be honest – in Abu Dhabi in front of a sparse crowd, what does the future for Test cricket hold?

What does the future hold for Test cricket?

Sri Lanka and Australia played out an entertaining Test series recently, but the crowds didn't come. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA - Tags: SPORT CRICKET) Picture Supplied by Action Images

Even allowing free entry to the ground has not resulted in the masses pouring in and it is clear that only a select few Test series (England-Australia, India-Pakistan, for example) will fill stadia, which is a great shame for those of us who enjoy the battles that Test cricket provides.

Former Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has told the BBC in blunt terms that without playing more One-Day International and Twenty20 International cricket, the boards will simply run out of money and then there will be no more cricket at all.

Test cricket is the true test of a player’s range of skills but with the increasing dominance of the shorter forms of the game, will it still have a place in, say, ten years time? Will we only see an even more select band of nations (those who feel they can afford it) playing five-day cricket in the future?

And will coaching methods and programmes change, instead guiding players from an early age to follow the money and specialise in limited overs cricket rather than all-round technique?