“Hello from Delhi Adam!” Amitabh Mukherjee is understandably excited. “Even as an indian supporter, I did not expect 81 all out! More like 150(par) or a bit more. But at 66/6 and the Axars devilish guile and accuracy it was ultra satisfying (given the 7 Indian wickets I sat through earlier in the day) This test has gotta be the epitome of immediate gratification test. Once every 2-3 years is fine.”
Lap it up, I say. Those are sessions to savour as a fan.
“It could be worse, England supporters.” Do tell, Phil Sawyer? “You could have just knocked an entire pint of coke off your table and all over your beige carpet.”
Yuk. An excuse to spill some red wine later. The damage is done. More from Phil before he deals with that. “A point of order in relation to Seer Sunshine’s email. Do soggy biscuits crumble? Dry biscuits crumble. Soggy biscuits plop sadly into your cup of tea.”
“Hi Adam.” Hi, Robin Hazlehurst. “Meanwhile New Zealand beat Australia this morning in a six-a-thon Twenty20, where more runs were scored in 40 overs than will be in this match in total. Obviously the conditions are entirely different, but one over from that match would change the complexion of this match entirely. That fine balance of a decent contest between bat and ball seems elusive.”
With Marcus Stoinis nearly saving the day. If you are interested in learning more about the Australian all-rounder, Geoff Lemon and I spoke to him last month about grief – not your normal interview.
“Adam, because I can’t be bothered to work it out for myself (the game will be over by then), how many times have England been all out for fewer than 200 runs?”
Simon Thomas, let’s go with this list. 23 times they have been out for 81 or lower, but this is their worst effort, ever, against India.
An alternative take on the conditions? Why not. “Afternoon, Adam.” Hello, Seer Sunshine. “I must say it’s been a bit shocking to watch both teams crumble like soggy biscuits. But I don’t think there’s any fault of the pitch here. An odd ball turning has made batsman on both sides toss their wickets away to straight balls. It’s just appalling batting technique. This pitch isn’t turning square, and I might just blow a blood vessel if someone calls this unplayable.”
As I say, this will be a debate that rages for weeks – if not years.
Adam Jensen on that same line and length: “What a test! I sincerely believe the pitch is not as bad as it is made out to be. Maybe batsmen have forgotten how to bat on turning tracks. So many batsmen have got out to straight balls and premeditated shots, not waiting to settle down and get used to the pitch. It’s a fascinating contest!”
Where I see a distinction to last week is that, as opposed to Chennai, this pitch wasn’t exploding on morning one. The wickets that hurt England most, especially early in the second innings when still in the red, were all about pressure and not a lot to do with the pitch. Which, of course, isn’t to diminish the degree of difficulty out there.
Paul Foley to finish on this topic for now. “I once had the privilege of playing cricket at Fenners and was amazed at how much easier batting was on the featherbed that is a first class wicket compared to normal village cricket strips. It strikes me that the scores in this game are rather like those in village cricket games up and down the country every summer. And let’s face it. Village cricket is not only exciting, it is the pinnacle of the game. And often a lot more more humorous and entertaining. They should televise that…”
My one game at Fenners? Lbw first ball playing around a straight one.
Alright, now let’s get through some of those emails. A lot (really, a lot) are about the pitch. I’ll try and capture the thrust of those through this note from Richard Williams. “What is the point of all this really? Is it really entertaining in any way? It’s a bloody pisstake is what it is and if this is what the cricketing Powers That Be have in mind when they are considering shortening Test cricket and making it more ‘accessible’ to others then count me out. What was a nicely set up test series has been completely ruined. I can’t even say I’d be enjoying it if this was England on top.”
My view isn’t as strident as this, but I’m sure this is where the conversation will be headed over the next couple of days.
“Is Kohli wearing a black t shirt?” asks Phil Spencer. “More suited to a pop and crisps league.”
I sure hope so. Anyone got a pic? I remember when Shane Warne did this during the 1999 World Cup and got in a fair bit of strife.
On team selection, Paul Harrison. “Are we in full omnishambles territory here, or is that just the benefit of hindsight?”
Another topic that will get the treatment on the ‘dead days’, as they’re known in the caper. I can see what England were thinking: playing to their strengths and hoping the pink ball would talk for them. But without runs on the board, plans don’t matter much.
“Hello Adam.” Hi, Adam Horridge. “I have some exams to sit at the end of next week for which I need to spend as many hours as possible revising this weekend. I’d just like to pre-emptively thank England for taking this into their strategic consideration during this test and ensuring I’ll be largely distraction free on Saturday and Sunday. It means a lot.”
I’m glad shambolic cricket can be of service. Best of luck!
DINNER: India 11-0
2nd over: India 11-0 (Rohit 6, Gill 1). Target 49. Root around the wicket and Rohit turns him around the corner. Gill’s turn and he’s off the mark to midwicket – no concerns for India. Back to Rohit and that’s four runs, down the legside beating the batsman and Foakes; a half-volley out of the footmarks. The wicketkeeper had no chance there, signalled leg byes. Alright, for real this time, that’s dinner.
1st over: India 5-0 (Rohit 5, Gill 0). Target 49. Leave, leave, beaten outside the off-stump. It looks good but the weapon is the straight one – when will we see it? Now a misfield at backward point, Anderson the culprit – usually so safe – Rohit is off the mark with a couple. And a full toss to finish, clipped all the way to the rope by Rohit, cut off by Archer who makes an absurd diving stop. And because they raced through that over, they’ll get another in before dinner. Anderson? Broad? Archer? Nup. Joe Root it will be.
Correction! There is going to be one over before dinner!
Jack Leach to bowl it. Here we go.
I thought India would be asked to face an over before the long break, but not to be. “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that England can defend this,” declares Andrew Strauss on telly. Umm. Meanwhile, I’ll come to your scathing emails through the interval.
Blimey. 30.4 overs is all it took, England banking their lowest score of all time against India in a Test Match. The spinners were superb, Axar (5/32) and Ashwin (4/48) never giving the visitors a chance to breathe, let alone settle. In the end, Sundar (1/1) was given the chance to finish the job, and did so within four deliveries.
ENGLAND ALL-OUT 81! WICKET! Anderson c Pant b Sundar 0.
Anderson doesn’t think he’s hit his attempted reverse sweep but they are out of reviews and out of time. India require 49 to win.
30th over: England 80-9 (Broad 0, Anderson 0) Cook and Strauss on Channel 4 have one thing on their minds: the pitch. Can Jimmy get through a couple of deliveries from Ashwin? Ooooh, the first spins sharply away from the left-hander’s straight blade, beating both the bat and the gloves of Pant, taken by the diving Rahane. Yikes.
Some brilliant stats work from Tom Bowtell. “Axar is breathing down the neck of Charles Marriott to claim the best Test bowling average of anyone with more than 10 wickets.” So close!
WICKET! Leach c Rahane b Ashwin 9 (England 80-9)
Sucked in perfectly and Ashwin loves it. Wider and flighted, Leach can’t help himself and the edge lands safely with Rahane at slip.
29th over: England 80-8 (Leach 9, Broad 0) The internet tells me that Axar’s is now the best match analysis in a day-night Test, overtaking the 10/62 Pat Cummins took against Sri Lanka at Brisbane in January 2019. Broad won’t give him a 12th here though, despite loading up for a big sweep to finish the over. No contact, no concern.
WICKET! Foakes lbw b Axar 8 (England 80-8)
The third umpire takes his time after the criticism last night, and fair enough too. As it was through the Root review earlier, this is well handled by the man upstairs allowing him to conclude, on this occasion, that there is no inside edge. From there, it’s a formality: Axar has his fifth wicket.
IS FOAKES AXAR’S FIFTH? It looks very out. He reviews anyway.
28th over: England 79-7 (Foakes 8, Leach 8) Extraordinary to think that Ashwin has reached 400 before Lyon, who was 30-odd ahead of his rival after the Sydney Test last year when he hit 390.
“Hello again Adam.” Hi, Andrew Cosgrove. “I don’t know about your optimism about this lasting until stumps, they’ll be lucky to last as long as the cocktail break right now.”
With half an hour until the long break – I don’t think they’ll make it, especially as the umpires will extend the session at nine down.
27th over: England 77-7 (Foakes 7, Leach 7) Axar strives for a fifth. If he can get it, that’ll make three five-fors in four innings to start his Test career – there can’t be many bowlers who have achieved that. There are a couple of singles – Leach to midwicket after coming down the track, then Foakes in the same direction – before the tweaker gets one to really rip back at the left-hander to finish.
“I still remain bewildered why they don’t bat out of the crease,” adds Adrian Goldman. “If the ball doesn’t pitch, the pitch doesn’t enter the equation. Yes, the wicketkeeper is standing up – but these guys have good enough eyes that they should be able to hit or pad anything that’s close to the line of the stumps. Bowled sufficiently wide, just make a dive for the crease. If you look at Root’s non-dismissal for LBW, he was nowhere hear the pitch of the ball. Comparing English batsman to the Indians, the Indians make much firmer and longer steps forward – this difference could be obviated by the English being further forward to begin with.”
The Pujara approach, turning the dance into a formidable form of defence.
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26th over: England 76-7 (Foakes 6, Leach 6) Ashwin over the wicket to Foakes with men around the bat, who are very excited when a ball pops up on the legside but doesn’t go to hand. He’s defending soundly enough by the end of the over. At times like these, batsmen have the right to be a little bit selfish – get yourself a red inker, Ben.
“Lots of talk about the test lasting for two days or may be three,” writes Kumar Pushparaj. “Can we shift the discussion to modern players technique of playing spin? I have grew up watching the cricketers of 90s and I hold that they were far better at playing spin than the current lot.”
And in this case, not lateral spin but guile. This reminds me of the way Australia capitulated to Sri Lanka time and again in 2016. Herath and co weren’t turning it around corners, they were doing the visiting batsmen on the inside edge with arm balls.
25th over: England 75-7 (Foakes 6, Leach 6) Jack Leach, that’ll do! He jumps down at his opposing number Axar and launches him over long on for SIX! The lead is 42. I’ll do my best to come to your emails soon but it’s hard graft with wickets falling and spinners in tandem!
24th over: England 68-7 (Foakes 5, Leach 0) The Indian champion is the second fastest bowler to 400 scalps, behind only Murali. He’s reached the mark in just 77 Tests at an average of 25 and there have been a staggering 29 bags of five along the way – just one behind Jimmy Anderson in half the matches played. He’s every chance of picking up his 30th by the time this England nightmare is over.