Ok…people would have us think test cricket is so last century (if not, the one before), outdated, yet traditional and historic, and needs to be played in that way…or less like the crash, bang wallop of the shorter more ‘modern’ game.
But with the current headset/mindset stuck in the glory of the One Day World Cup win, there’s little hope of England regaining the Ashes this summer (would love to be proved wrong) from what I’ve witnessed today at Lord’s. Nothing seems to have been learnt from the drubbing at Edgbaston.
The brightest thing about today was Lord’s turning red – red ball, red clothes, red signs – everything to support the first Ruth Strauss Foundation Day supporting cancer research and pre- and post-event bereavement counselling – such valuable work and with £ 382,000 raised in one day, there’s money to start it off! Well done everyone but especially the Strauss family – an inspiration to all!
But when it came to the red ball, England decided that it was there to be hit – in one day mindset with poor shot selection, lack of application and patience. There was no ‘bat the ******s out of the game’; Roy aimed to hit every ball he faced (only three before edging a catch behind); Root batting just after 11 am – and not in the right mindset since he wants to/think he has to…bat at #4; Denly is still trying to find his feet in the Test arena but doesn’t instil confidence; Stokes and Buttler probably still ‘tired’ after the World Cup efforts (I’d be ‘tired’ on £ 700,000 pa for a central contract and being paid for doing something you love or would have as a hobby!).
Only Burns showed any signs of tenacity – taking a few blows on the body to boot – and scored a fine 50 before failing to go on and Bairstow who steadied the innings with Woakes when it looked like the wheels were coming off and scored a half century before falling to a one day ‘scoop’ when Leach (the night watchman par excellence in his last innings at Lord’s) looked more than capable of holding his own. But once the mind is set…it’s set. Hopefully there were red faces from embarrassment in the England dressing room!
The pitch looks good for batting (from afar) once the new ball has been seen off – so the quicks could be important here – and the Aussie’s were just that! Hazelwood (who didn’t make it to the team in the first test) teased and tormented England like a man possessed – they didn’t have a clue! Add Cummins to the mix and some spice and lively bounce from the Pavilion End, then England’s top order looked clueless. Siddle was not on his best but Lyon warmed up mesmerising as only he can!
The only blemishes for Australia were their missed catches and poor use of reviews but they would have taken England’s 258ao at the start of the day as a good day. Paine as ‘keeper had a day below par but I suspect (and I’ve said this time and again) ‘keepers seem to be half a pace too deep! I can see it, other spectators can see it and comment on it and even TV commentators can see it, so why can’t the coaches?
Australia’s response was controlled and measured – Warner fell early (he is due a century at Lord’s at some point) and the hype around Archer looked reasonable with his speed but he started at the wrong end – he should have been at the Pavilion End from his first over but I suppose there’s a pecking order and Broad is such a strong personality that he wasn’t going to let a youngster take centre stage.
Archer is photographers delight – power, muscles and hair to fly in every direction!
Overall, England’s batting is not good enough (yet) to take the series but I suppose that when the captain says it’s more important to score quick runs rather than more runs than the opposition, it looks like the strategy is wrong. It looks like the Ashes won’t be coming home any time soon!
What is equally worrying is the future of the test game – just look at the demographics today…largely pale, male and aged; and in school holidays, if 1% of the 30,000 were of school age, I’d be very surprised – so who’s going to be watching test cricket in 20 years? Will there be tests to watch? So…when it comes to marketing the pinnacle of the game we need to start with price – £ 100+ for a ticket today, takes it out of the reach of families (oh, sorry, Mr Graves…the Hundred next year will attract families); but Ashes clashes will always sell, so it’s a sellers market to price it as they like.
It’s only until the matches become so one sided that audiences stay away (it was very clear in Australia in 2017/18, that tickets for the last two tests went unsold (despite claims to the contrary) since the series was won by Perth and there’s no need to go and watch a team of weak Poms!). Patriotism bordering on jingoism will always sell – wherever you are!
Secondly…how about telling people that the Ashes are being played? Ok, so most, if not all tickets for all days for all matches have been sold…but how about telling the rest of the nation or city that it’s being staged and get behind the home side? In Australia every city had ‘Beat England’ banners everywhere (and I mean everywhere) but here in the UK…well, a few banners outside Lord’s was the best we can do!
So, it’s clear that the ECB’s next goal after emasculating the 50 over game and the County Championship has to be Tests! It will take longer but they will do it! And don’t get me started on over rates – it took both sides 6 hours 50 minutes to bowl the 90 overs they should have bowled in a normal day but today they should have bowled 98! I feel short changed (again) and fining players a percentage of their match fee (paid on top of their £ 700k or goodness knows what Aussie dollars) is not working – it’s just loose change! And docking points in the World Test Championship is just as toothless…but I said I wouldn’t get started! Apologies!
In conclusion a good day at Lord’s for Australia, the Strauss Foundation and an advert for everything red but on a personal note…I hadn’t had tickets in the Mound Stand for 20 years and watching from the top half of the Stand was like watching cricket in a tube station – people going in every direction all the time – no etiquette in only moving at the end of the over, not standing up mid-over, not caring about blocking your fellow spectators view – after all, some of us have come to watch test cricket before it dies and not look at the back of people’s backsides all the time!
Time for more red I think!