Perhaps I’m jaded and cynical but watching England today conjured memories of a bygone era. A near-silent crowd; glum expressions from the fielders; bowling of such inadequacy that it makes you cringe. This was the bad old England and it was bad old viewing.
In blaming England’s performance I am not doing Pakistan a disservice. They batted magnificently well given the circumstances, that much cannot be denied. But they were allowed to. Never were their stumps threatened, were they put under pressure or ever gave the impression of batting in a Test match. It was the most forgettable bowling display, led – or rather not – by Steve Harmison.
A colleague once called him the new Andrew Caddick, a notion which six months ago I scoffed at. If I’m honest, I agreed with him but was reticent to truly believe it. Now, though, the evidence is too damning to ignore. 2004, his rise to the top of the world rankings, was his career highlight. It is very unlikely he will ever reach such a peak again. What astonishes me, and no doubt you too, is the cavernous gap in quality or effectiveness he can show between one Test and the next; will he be Jekyll or Hyde? Indeed, hiding is something he would dearly have loved to do today. Like Harmison, Caddick could be utterly devastating one minute and a club-trundler the next. The difference in performance – be it per session, month, Test or whatever – is so stark as to be incomprehensible. How can someone so naturally talented, so rich in assets be so utterly ineffective so regularly?
What went wrong, then, for England? Complacency? Ashes fever? Not only was the bowling embarrassingly short and wide, but the fielding no better than slapdash. I’m away for a few days and quite honestly I’m quite glad not to be watching every ball of the remaining three days. Your thoughts on today’s performance, if you have any, can be posted below.