Bopara and Broad enthrall Manchester

Why am I writing a piece for The Corridor when I’ve got a site of my own? Because I’m still ridiculously overexcited about England’s run-chase yesterday, that’s why.

I went to the fourth one-day international at Old Trafford yesterday and having been pretty comprehensively wowed by Stuart Broad’s and Ravi Bopara’s fightback, I made a point of watching the highlights on Channel 5. As is so often the case, the truncated version didn’t give the full effect. England were down and out. Wickets had fallen fairly regularly all day and with even more haste during England’s run chase. England had scored 114 when the seventh wicket fell, but that seventh wicket had been Paul Collingwood who’d scored the bulk of England’s total. The crowd knew that the game was up, so they did what they always do at times like this: Mexican waves, beer snakes and general merriment. In short, anything but watching the cricket.

So having lost seven wickets inside 24 overs, England then lost none in the next 24. The performance of Broad and Bopara was so impressive that drunk England fans, at the end of the day, when they’d been drinking for the longest, actually put down their beer snakes and watched the cricket in near-silence.

I’ve never seen a crowd do that before.

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 5th day

A much improved West Indian performance and suddenly it’s 154 runs or 5 wickets. However, with the last 4 of those real tailenders, Ramdin and Chanderpaul really need to dig in to secure any hope of keeping the series alive until Durham.

Follow the cricket once it starts on Cricinfo and leave your comments below. Though if you have a spare tenner, that’s all you need to get in.

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 4th day

Yesterday might have been Darren Sammy’s day, but you can’t help but feel that England’s present lead is unassailable. Will Monty Panesar take his turn, or will today break the record for most extras ‘scored’ in a match? Follow the action on Cricinfo and leave your comments below.

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 2nd day

England were complacent with the bat yesterday, and now rely on Ian Bell to marshal the tail for a good score. Will Steve Harmison reproduce his destructive form from last year? Or will the West Indies overcome their inexperience and demonstrate some steadfastness on the most bowler-friendly wicket of the series so far? Follow the action at Cricinfo and leave your comments below.

Right. So, is anyone else a bit bored?

Was anyone else bored by large parts of today? I was, and looking at the scorecard I have absolutely no reason to be anything other than full of adrenaline. Instead, I just feel “eh” and I don’t know why.

It wasn’t without incident. The period of play when Fidel Edwards steamed in, supported by Jerome Taylor at the other end, was West Indies’ most captivating of the series. Seven wickets, nearly 300 runs and yet I was left with a feeling that nothing memorable happened.

Perhaps it was that no England batsman “went on” to a hundred. Maybe it was West Indies’ laughably awful fielding. It could even just be a form of professional detraction from the emotions of watching your country play. But I’m unsettled by it and think it has more to do with knowing that, in spite of West Indies’ improved display, tomorrow England ought to blow them away. It is utterly depressing seeing West Indies in this state; watching Corey Collymore trundle in like a baying donkey. He was frighteningly quick a few years ago but stress fractures and other nasty injuries have taken their toll. Edwards was severely sharp but, as one “staff” member of the Windies party told me, they cannot risk him bowling more than five overs at a time.

As an England fan, I thought they were distinctly poor today. West Indies did put the ball in better areas (a phrase which, someone recently told me, is absolute nonsense: you can’t put a ball in more than one area at a time! Ah the pedantry of journalism) but England looked distracted and, well, a bit bored too.

Clearly I am talking a load of nonsense. Thoughts welcome.

England fight back, and some thoughts on coaches

To the audible relief of South Australian cricket administrators, England provided some much needed resistance on day four, and saved them the prospect of half-empty stands for the Second Test starting on Friday.

England were set an insane target, worked out by Ricky Ponting on the formula of multiplying my overdraft times the speed of light, or some such nonsense, and let his bowlers loose, while retiring to the massage table. He would have dined well as England lost two early wickets, and with Cook playing a range of loose shots, promise of more to come.

However, Pieterson and Collingwood provided stout resistance and some fiery entertainment for another large crowd, stated as being 37,000.

Yet England will surely lose, and they deserve to lose- while there was some magnificent batsmanship today, there was also some shameful episodes. Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, Flintoff and Pieterson were all guilty of some dreadful shot selection at various points in the day, treating an Ashes Test as little more then a knockabout in the park.

Pieterson’s innings was an instructive example. There was some lovely drives, all through the V, yet there were also some grotesque cross-bat swipes. None of these have cost him his wicket (as yet), but what happens if rain comes about three PM tomorrow and England have been bowled out at 2.35?

If England had batted with a slightly more applied approach, they might well have been three wickets down tonight, not five. That’s a big difference.

****

What do readers think about Andrew Flintoff’s dismissal? Shane Warne gave him an ugly serve on his way, and Justin Langer was smiling in delight even before he took the catch; the arrogance of it will grate on English sensibilities.

But it is an arrogance reflective of an Australian team that knows the value of their wickets, and the absolute folly of Flintoff’s shot. I don’t recall Ricky Ponting playing such an agricultural heave during his defensive masterpiece at Old Trafford last year. Duncan Fletcher may or may not remind his charges of that innings between now and the morning.

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Speaking of coaches, I came across this article on my web-meanderings this evening, asking about the worth of overseas coaches. Given the kvetching about Duncan Fletcher that I’ve read in British media outlets the last few days, I wondered about the role of the coach.

It seems to me that for a coach to be a benefit, rather then a hindrance, there needs to be an absolute understanding between the coach and his captain. In many first class teams, it seems to be the increasing trend that the coach is the top banana and the captain merely his on-field lieutenant, rather in the way a football manager operates. That may work, but there does need to be a clear line driven, and both sides working in tandem.

It’s never been the Australian way. Would you fancy being the coach telling Steve Waugh how he was to arrange his batting order? John Buchanan always knew his place in Waugh’s order of things.

I’m not sure about the inner workings of England’s team, but Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher certainly were working on the same wavelength. It may well be that the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew Flintoff isn’t quite so attune.

Panesar perplexes Pakistan


AFP

Today was memorable. England won, yes, and Steve Harmison took 11 of the 19 wickets to fall (there was a run-out in Pakistan’s first innings) – but the most notable aspect of the win was Monty Panesar’s performance. He bowled quite superbly – the best by an England spinner that I have seen (which isn’t saying much, frankly).

Ashley Giles, I’m afraid your time is up. Even if fit, I simply cannot see England dropping Panesar. He is a metronome, like all good spinners, landing it on a sixpence whenever he so chooses. Some of his deliveries (I lost count, but in the region of eight or nine) turned ala a wrist spinner and ala Shane Warne. Monty is a left-arm finger spinner for crying out loud. What is he doing spinning it a foot? Not even Danish Kaneria, the second best legspinner in world cricket, could turn it that much.

Time to have a beer to celebrate England’s win. I’ll post more thoughts tomorrow and, in the meantime, offer your own below.

England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day

Third day from Old Trafford. Get talkin’

England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 2nd day

The second day from Old Trafford. A fabulous day for England yesterday, who bowled Pakistan out for a paltry 119 before racing (relatively speaking) to 168 for 2. This Test is moving at great pace and in no way will there be a draw – which is always a very splendid thing. A disappointing lack of comments by you ‘orrible lot yesterday. Come on – this is high summer between two very talented sides!

Anyway. About 10-and-a-half hours to go, so chat away. I better crash and get 40 winks.

Get chatting!

Cricinfo
Live scorecard and commentary
Photos
Bulletin

Thoughts: Eng v Pak, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day

Too knackered to offer anything of substance. However, don’t underestimate the importance of yesterday’s performance by England. The draw at Lord’s was deserved for both teams. Yesterday, England raised their game by several notches – largely thanks to Steve Harmison who bowled a quite magnificent spell. I can’t help but feel irritated, though, that our leading fast bowler can’t produce such spells on a more regular basis. He is the most natural, ridiculously gifted fast bowler England has had since…I don’t know when. He was unplayable yesterday, and even made Lord’s double centurion Mohammad Yousuf look a bit silly…jumping around like a cat on hot coals.

Well played England. Well captained Andrew Strauss. It might be a 24-hour bright-spot quickly forgotten by this time tomorrow but, at the very least, there was an intent shown by the bowlers, and latterly England’s batsmen, which vindicated Strauss’s rallying cry yesterday in which he longed for his side to rekindle the passion shown last summer.

I feel it’s important not to forget Monty Panesar’s role yesterday either. He bowled brilliantly. As a notable cricket journalist commented to me this evening, he is still “only” a left-arm spinner and thus not a matchwinner. I see more in Panesar than I saw in Phil Tufnell (incidentally Strauss, off the record, believes Tuffers was the greatest spinner he ever faced…in terms of raw natural ability). He is more attacking than Daniel Vettori, who perhaps receives more credit than he is due but who nevertheless holds the mantle of the world’s best left-arm-spinner!

Panesar has something special. Few young bowlers have an action so well oiled and natural, so lacking in awkwardness. It’s fluid and fluent, so natural and so untouched by the evil bowling coaches. This fact alone has already helped him in his brief career; instead, unlike Liam Plunkett, of worrying about how the ball is “coming out”, he simply concentrates on his line. Natch, this is how all the best bowlers perform, but it’s not necessarily an art you are born with. It is, though, for Panesar (seemingly).

When he bowls in the second innings he might get carted for 100 from 18 overs and you’ll all call me a twat. But more likely is that he’ll contain Pakistan and out-think some of the best players of spin. Not bad for a left-armer from Luton.