Time for a correction. “Regarding Mr Keegan’s assertions [12:56],” says Jake Santa Maria, “the figures he used for Perth were the figures for the whole of Australia. Perth has 9 deaths but alas no one is a winner in the rain.” Or in a pandemic. It seems that Phil Keegan’s point stands – he was also using the figures for Vietnam, not just Hanoi.
“I hope you’re right,” says the next email, “about Zak liking a pint of the proper stuff. They serve delicious Larkins Traditional at the Windmill, Weald – which I believe is owned by his dad Terry. Richard Davies, former Weald resident.” What I was actually driving at was that Zak looked the type to drink Champagne, in the Gower tradition. But no doubt he likes a pint too. His dad, by the way, is reported to have made a fortune as a futures trader – the financial equivalent of a Test selector.
Latest from the umps
They’re coming back on … at 1.15. What’s become of lunch is anyone’s guess.
An email from Rainy Weather, of all people. “Dear Test Cricket,” it goes, “2-0 to me today. Yours faithfully, R. Weather.” We may have reached peak OBO: even the rain is gloating.
“If there are to be marks for aesthetics,” says Niall Mullen, “which wins, a sumptuous cover drive, or a creamy one?” Ha. In my book, sumptuous comes second only to sublime, which leaves the cream not quite rising to the top.
Deprived of one international contest, we have another. “Regarding George Grundy’s assertion that his city of Perth is the most Covid-free city on earth,” says Phil Keegan. “A quick Google search revealed the following comparison between Perth and my adopted city of Hanoi.
“Perth: cases 24,602; deaths 485.
“Hanoi: cases 1,009; deaths 25.
“So much for ‘sodding Aussies always winning’.” Oof.
Noooo! It’s raining again
And off they go, after ten minutes, 14 balls, no runs, and a string of moral victories for the bowlers.
98th over: England 336-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 91) Rizwan is back in the groove now, pulling off a fabulous take as Crawley plays and misses again at Abbas. And then there’s a leading edge, which lands safely. After his day of mastery, Crawley is finally batting like the novice he is.
“To address Kim Thonger’s point on style bonuses for batsmen (semi seriously),” says Toby Sims, “I think it’s definitely valid (no offence to Sibley and Burns, they’ve got ‘ticker’, another great quality). Four runs off a bowler is always going to frustrate them, but when it’s a shooooottttttttt and you have to admire the sheer beauty (Mr I.R. Bell MBE springs to mind) does it do more psychological damage than ‘oh, it appears to have made it to the boundary’? Just a thought.”
97th over: England 336-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 91) “A much better over from Shaheen,” says Mike Atherton. very true: aiming at off stump, not way outside, and getting some swing back in. Wasim Akram, his fellow left-arm swinger, points out that he’s playing his 17th first-class match – which is two more than Naseem Shah.
It did pitch just on leg stump, but it was going over middle. Michael Gough’s reputation is intact, and so are Jos Buttler’s chances of a first Test century as a wicketkeeper.
Review! For lbw, Shaheen to Buttler
Pitched outside leg I think… Not given by the great Michael Gough.
96th over: England 336-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 91) Abbas has two balls of his over left, and Rizwan is standing up, as planned before the rain. The first ball is a beauty, beating Crawley’s prod, and also defeating Rizwan, who fumbles it. The other ball darts back and takes an inside edge into the inner thigh. Ouch.
The players are out there again, and we’ve only lost four overs. Play can continue until 7pm.
“Aesthetics and holisticity,” begins the next email. You what? “Cricket is the refined sport to support because we glory in the beauty of the game. The English openers are so UGLY it is an embarrassment and ruins my watching of the highlights. Foakes is very unfortunate. Buttler lacks a complete stumper’s technique. Selectors should come up with a solution that restores an aesthetic holisticity to highlights. Pompously yours, Alisdair Macdonald Gould, Paris.” Now that’s what I call a sign-off.
Back to the keepers. Amazingly, that Mac Millings XI turns out not to be the last word on the subject. “Regarding Simon Halpin’s comments (11:38),” says Nick Wiltsher, “good (or bad) keeping isn’t measured only by the number of drops or missed stumpings. Byes are part of it, but so is general tidiness: how often the ball is cleanly gloved behind the stumps rather than clanging off thumbs, how often throws from the deep are taken well, and so on. All this matters for the tone of the fielding, the condition of the ball, the sense that the machine is running smoothly. Especially so on long hot days in the field on the sub-continent (or in the UAE).
“I’ve seen both Buttler and Bairstow keep, and I don’t think either are at all tidy in this sense. Bairstow in particular is ragged. I’ve not seen Foakes keep live, but by all accounts he is clearly a superior keeper to both, and no countback of drops will prove otherwise. I would be delighted if Buttler has cracked Test batting– if he can import his genius from the white-ball game, he can be stellar, and should be guaranteed a place in the team. But that doesn’t diminish the case for a better keeper, especially when spinners are doing a lot of the bowling. Given the promise and records of so many England batters at the moment, including Foakes does mean there are too many batters for not enough spots, but that is an excellent problem to have.”
Keiran Betteley has been watching Joe Root’s speech to the troops, and it’s not the words that have caught his interest. “Slightly disappointed that they’re all on the continental lager beer,” he says, “with not a single guy refreshing themselves with an honest pint of English ale, or someone indulging their inner @davidgower616 sipping a Condrieu or a Montrachet.” Crawley looks as if he might have that in him, by the time he makes his third tour of Australia.
“G’day Tim,” says George Grundy, “greetings from Perth, Western Australia, the most Covid-free city on earth.” Sodding Aussies, always winning. “Can you explain to me the bit where they’ve been off for ages, the weather gets better and some goose says ‘I know, let’s have lunch now’. These are modern sportsmen, they’re probably downing bananas and protein shakes all over the place. If the weather is good and the covers are off, let’s play cricket.” Did you just call Nasser Hussain some goose?
Here’s Kim Thonger. “My business partner (a gritty Yorkshireman) and I ( a Somerset yokel) held an impromptu board meeting just now, much of which was devoted to this thorny question. For an opener, is an elegant batting technique more important than a strong mind? We have decided it is, and furthermore should like to suggest Test cricket takes a leaf out of the ice-dancing playbook so that as well as runs, a batsman should be awarded points for style at the end of each innings. Crawley would do very well out of this. Sibley and Burns, not so much.”
“While it rains,” says Paul Stubbs, “I have recently taken up umpiring again and was surprised to lose a bet with my son — according to laws of cricket, you can be stumped off a wide … a dismissal that actually counts as a wicket to the bowler. It seems weird to me, as what is to stop the bowler and wicketkeeper, especially in a one-day game, agreeing ahead of time to bowl down the leg side … and getting a batsman out from what would, otherwise, be an illegal ball? I am puzzled to know if I am right and whether anyone can recall this happening.” You are right, I believe, and yes it is a bad rule, blatantly contradicting itself.
What we need, in this lull, is a jokey XI. Cometh the rain, cometh Mac Millings. “I think we must surely have taken the Buttler debate as far as it can go,” he says, briskly. “But just in case, would you please allow me to kill it off, once and for all, with my all-time Jos Buttler XI?”
Sir Len Button (c)
Ben Foakes †
So Jos doesn’t make it into his own XI?
Play will resume, but not yet
Breaking news! “A 12:40 restart,” says Ian Ward on Sky, “assuming there’s no more rain. And lunch at 2.” So that’s flexibility of a sort, but I suspect it won’t be enough to placate Chris Evans.
“So,” says Chris Evans, “is it inspection at 12:10, play at 12:30, lunch at 1? Or is there any chance they take lunch now, start at 12:30 and play through until tea?” Dammit, man, are you expecting common sense? As I type that, Nasser Hussain says it too: “Take lunch now!”
Ever wondered what a Test captain says to his team at the end of the day? In a move that would have given the administrators of the past acute palpitations, the ECB has put Joe Root’s speech from last night on Twitter.
Here’s Ian Copestake, the OBO’s favourite meteorologist. “A shame,” he says, “the newly trumpeted flexibility regarding light conditions did not extend to responding to the prospect of rain in the morning by making an early start. It would just be nice in these days of incompetence to see evidence of actual competence.” Fair point – the new approach doesn’t seem to extend to forward thinking.
“Re Sir Richard Woods’ contribution,” says Janet Stevens, following up from 11:27. “When Crawley reached his 150 and was sitting on 153, I noticed that his partnership with Buttler was at that point also worth 153.” The satisfying chimes of arithmetic: half the reason children fall for cricket, or don’t.
“Thanks for the great coverage,” says Phil Keegan. Still a pleasure. “It has been raining constantly in Hanoi for weeks now if that is any consolation. In respect of playing two wickies in your team, is there anything to stop a team from alternating them during a match, let alone between matches? Is this expressly outlawed or would it just be against the spirit?” Not outlawed as far as I know, or even against the spirit – just against convention, which is a powerful force in cricket. And it would wreak havoc with Stats Guru.
“Re armchair selection,” says David Wall, picking up from 10:51, “is it really a good idea to drop one of the openers and move Crawley there to make room for Foakes? Finally someone seems to show an aptitude for what has been a troublesome no. 3 slot and you think he should be moved to a different position in the very next match (or perhaps you’re just predicting what the selectors will do)? Just like the Spitfire, only in England.” Ha. Maybe you’re right, but (a) Crawley did show aptitude as an opener too, and (b) Buttler has never made a Test stumping, so if he’s going to keep for long hot days in Sri Lanka, India or UAE, he will need to put in a lot of work with Bruce French. On past form, he’ll have the appetite, and there is a gap in the calendar, after the IPL.
There’s some blue in the sky now, but the shower was a heavy one and the men in shorts with brooms are shipping great big puddles off the covers. All the umpires can offer us is another inspection at 12.10. If there was a crowd in, they might be tempted to boo.
Here’s Tony White, in “southest” France. Not sure if that means south-east, south-west or most south. “Since it seems there may be some ruminating about the respective qualities of messrs Buttler and Foakes,” he muses, “would it not be possible to play them both and alternate them, one taking the gloves for each innings? Is this illegal, heresy? Enjoy your day, I’ll be lapping up the goods.” I seem to remember Scyld Berry, the elder of our tribe, making the same suggestion when Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were both in the XI. Wicketkeepers do tend to make ten runs fewer when they’re knackered from keeping. But captains like to be consistent and have the same hub at the centre of the fielding side. Besides keeping wicket and mounting rescue missions, Buttler has a third role in this team, as Joe Root’s left-hand man.
“People,” says Simon Harpin, “seem to ignore that before a couple of shaky Tests this summer Buttler hadn’t dropped anything for yonks. And although Rizwan looks sharper, Buttler well outperformed Dowrich. I’m trusting the selectors – must be a reason Foakes isn’t making it in.
“Also, can we do a straw poll of how many readers have actually seen the players in the flesh they say should be picked rather than looking up their scores online…?” That is an outrageous suggestion.
Here’s John Starbuck, who has a bone to pick with Zak Crawley. “Having been able to watch Crawley batting a long time on the Beeb highlights, I wonder why he doesn’t use a bat with a longer handle? He suffers for his height, with a crouch in his stance and a crunch in his shoulders, likely to give him spinal problems in later life. Also on stances, your picture in today’s paper of Sibley getting out shows Dom imitating Charlie Chaplin’s famous pose.”
Ha. But never mind the comedy stances, I just love the fact that you’ve got the print edition. Dear Guardian reader, the best thing you can do for us right now is to buy the paper. You will settle into it, as Tom Wolfe said about the Sunday New York Times, as if it was a hot bath. And the subscription deal is a steal. There’s something very satisfying about those little vouchers with your name on.
An email from Sir Richard. Hadlee? No, Woods. “Living in China as I do,” he says, “I only get to enjoy about half the day’s play before I sleep. Of course I catch up with the OBO overs I have missed when I awake. When Crawley got to his century it was pointed out that he was the 171st player to score a century for England and that it had taken him 171 balls. Then I saw his score at stumps. This is one of the many reasons why I love cricket.” You’ll never guess what Crawley’s on now.
Rain stops play
Mid-96th over: England 336-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 91) Facing Abbas, Buttler actually has to use his bat more than once in an over. He takes another single, playing very straight and getting a thick inside edge to the inswinger. Mohammad Rizwan, who may be the best wicketkeeper in the world now Sarah Taylor has retired, sends for a helmet, but before he can stand up to the stumps, they’re off for rain. It’s been a magnificently uneventful 25 minutes.
95th over: England 335-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 90) Back to Shaheen giving Buttler balls to leave. At last, there’s one on the stumps, which Buttler tucks, a little uneasily, for a single. He’s into the 90s for only the second time in his Test career, and the first while keeping wicket.
94th over: England 334-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 89) A play-and-miss! By Crawley against Abbas, the only bowler England treated with respect yesterday. That one went like a leg break.
“Thank you for great coverage of the Test series,” says George Barrow. Our pleasure. “The England team has better balance now in terms of make-up, but it’s hard to see us winning much abroad without a quality spinner. Maybe this is harsh on Leach and Bess who are early in their Test careers but are there any others on the circuit who could break through?” Good question. Most of the wickets taken by spin in county cricket seem to go to Simon Harmer. But Leach may well be the real deal. And don’t forget Moeen, who is mercurial but incisive, even against expert players of spin.
93rd over: England 334-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 89) Runs! Buttler gets a short one from Shaheen and guides it crisply past cover for two. Then it’s back to the boring stuff, too wide to bother with.
92nd over: England 332-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 87) Mohammad Abbas will be on the stumps, says Warne – whereupon Abbas’s first two balls are also easy leaves. Finally, the ninth ball of the day demands a stroke. Crawley plays a forward defensive. And another, and a third. He is as classical as Burns and Sibley are eccentric – though he does thick-edge the last ball, short of gully, to show that he’s human.
“When will Liam Livingstone get his chance?” wonders Stephen Herzenberg. “Hits the ball harder than Stokes and potentially an excellent spinner. Bit of a head case – needs the challenge of Test cricket to mature a little and bat a bit more responsibly.” I’d love to see him get a go, but there’s a bit of a waiting list now.
91st over: England 332-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 87) Shaheen bowls four balls in a row wide of Buttler’s off stump. And then two that are slightly less wide, but still easily left. Either Pakistan have decided to bore their way to a wicket, or Shaheen’s radar is off – scrambled by the Spitfire.
It’s Shaheen Shah Afridi to start things off, which is a shrewd show of faith from Azhar Ali. He manages not to open with a no-ball, but instead comes close to a wide.
More importantly, the players are out there. Here come Zak Crawley and Jos Buttler, who have added 205 already. What price an early wicket?
There’s something in the air at the Rose Bowl. It’s the “Thank You NHS” Spitfire. Only in England.
Armchair selection alert
In case anyone thought Buttler had silenced all the muttering about his place, here’s the first email of the day. “Maybe,” says Charles Marshall, “Buttler’s form with the bat makes it easier to pick Foakes? While the former is batting like this, the team would be strengthened with both of them in it. And Foakes is no mug with the bat himself, so Pope wouldn’t be a big loss.”
Hang on! Yes, Ben Foakes probably should come in to keep to the spinners this winter, but are you sure you want to sacrifice Pope? He plays spin beautifully, when he remembers not to go back to Yasir Shah’s flipper. I’d have thought it would be Burns or Sibley who would make way, with Crawley opening as he did last winter, followed by Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Foakes, two quicks (hot competition for those slots) and two spinners (not quite so hot).
Morning everyone. Were we dreaming? Did the covers really stay off all day long? Did the Pakistan bowlers dish up the full 90 overs? Did England’s batsmen turn a collapse into a cakewalk?
All this and more. A 22-year-old Englishman made a Test hundred that oozed class and confidence. When did that last happen? In another era altogether – back in January 2020. It was Ollie Pope, with 135 not out, at Port Elizabeth.
Like Zak Crawley, Pope had announced himself with a couple of Test fifties before delivering the big one. Pope hasn’t reached three figures since, although he has made a sparkling 90. There’s a case for saying that Crawley might be better off not turning this daddy hundred of his into a double. His mentor, Rob Key, did that with his first Test century, and never made another. A milestone is not a million miles from a millstone.
Your second Test century is less trumpeted than your first, but more telling. Just ask Jos Buttler, who needs 13 more runs this morning to secure his second, in his 47th Test. He has found himself a clear role in whites, at last, as England’s salvage specialist. This is the third time in a month that he has come in at 120-odd for four, or worse, and calmly steered the ship away from the rocks.
Pakistan won the first half of the day but lost the second, heavily. It would be so good for the series if they could bounce back this morning. As no overs have yet been lost, play will start at 11am, weather permitting. According to the Met Office, there’s a 30-per-cent chance of rain in the first hour, rising to 40 in the second, but the rest of the day is looking dry. As is the pitch, which has had Shane Warne licking his lips, and Dom Bess thinking that he may even get a bowl.