The first day’s play between England and India at Lord’s contained some of the worst bowling, wicket-keeping and captaincy we’ve seen in Test cricket for some time. It was proof again that the English still haven’t recovered from last summer’s shellacking by the Aussies.
Alastair Cook at least did one thing right when he won the toss on a 1970s English greentop and inserted the opposition, but it was about the only thing he did right for the day. On a pitch which reeked of 140 all out at best, the Indians are in a position of strength at 9/290.
As an unabashed fan of Cook throughout most of his career, it almost seems cruel to say it, but he must surely be on borrowed time now. He was clueless in so many ways last night : his field placings were typically unimaginative and defensive, he over-bowled Anderson and Broad early in the day and paid the price when Indian recovered from 7/146 to its current position, and his leadership was totally devoid of authority.
Shane Warnie and the Sky TV boys have had enough by the sounds of it, and that doesn’t include the perennially outspoken Boycott. The likes of Hussien, Botham and Lloyd didn’t hold back, and it was no surprise to hear Warnie pointing out what Michael Clarke may have done in similar circumstances.
Of course it’s not all Cook’s fault – he only has two proper Test bowlers in his attack. Plunkett isn’t up to it, Stokes is a promising all-rounder with a sometimes misguided heart, and Ali is a batsman. When you are bowling on a raging seamer there’s more pressure than on a flat one, and it showed in all three last night.
The Australian hierachy must have loved what they saw last night, and one could only imagine how Ryan Harris would have bowled in those circumstances. As for Mitchell Johnson and the pain he endured in 2009, he must be salivating about twelve months hence.
It’s almost incongruous to think that this has happened to English cricket in such a short period of time. Before last winter’s Ashes series England were arguably the most well-organised team in world cricket.
Yet with the demise of such bowlers as Finn, Rankin, Dernbach and Panesaar, the misguided approach of the current group and the petulance of Anderson, one can only wonder what might happen to bowling coach David Saker if things don’t change drastically. He’s been outstanding for English cricket, but maybe it’s time to jump ship.
The demise of Pietersen, Trott and Swann has been a mortal blow for English cricket, and it certainly hasn’t helped Cooke’s cause. If Cooke scores a ton tonight it will be as remarkable as Tubby’s ton against all odds in 2001. But it won’t cure England’s problems. For Clarke and his troops, roll on 2015.