4th over: India 13-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 10) Rohit and Rahul, the unsung heroes of this series in many ways, have made a pretty assured start. The Oval pitch looks really slow, which helps. As Mike Atherton says on Sky, things have changed since Devon Malcolm scared the living daylights out of Michael Slater in 1993 and the entire South African team in 1994.
“I’m back in Istanbul after attending my son’s wedding in Cambridge,” says Robert Lewis. “Getting back to Blighty involved 10 days in Bulgaria, six Covid tests and a hell of a lot of jumping through hoops. And my son married an Aussie, so they are moving to Melbourne. Josh has got tickets for two of the Ashes Tests (if they ever go ahead), and he promises to teach the Aussies how to play cricket properly.”
Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Josh!
3rd over: India 9-0 (Rohit 1, Rahul 8) A half volley from Anderson is pinged sweetly through the covers for four by Rahul. After a short delay because of a bald fella in the batsman’s eyeline, Rahul edges another boundary along the floor. Anderson doesn’t look entirely happy, but then I suppose this is a weekday. And he still manages to slip a good delivery past Rahul’s outside edge.
“Greetings, Rob, from outside the Oval where entering the ground has so far taken 25+ minutes,” says Tom King. “Having experienced the same at Lords, but not at Headingley, I do wonder why it is that London grounds can’t get this right. On the upside, I saw Ashley Giles queuing up for a bit just now, so it’s not just the plebs.”
That’s no way to treat the King of Spain, honk.
2nd over: India 1-0 (Rohit 1, Rahul 0) Chris Woakes is back but Ollie Robinson has dibs on the new ball after his performance in the last two Tests. Rohit Sharma, who has got a start in every innings in this series, deals with most of Robinson’s first over comfortably but is beaten by the last ball, a good outswinger.
1st over: India 1-0 (Rohit 1, Rahul 0) Three slips and a gully for Anderson, who starts with some gentle outswing to Rohit Sharma. The fourth ball, an inducker, is shovelled round the corner for the first run of the match. There’s enough movement to encourage England, although the early signs are that the pitch is on the slow side.
The players are ready, the crowd are ready and the word on the street is that you were born ready.Let’s follow some Test cricket.
Since you asked, here are Ashwin and Jadeja’s stats in Tests outside India:
Ashwin 1220 runs at 25.95, 127 wickets at 30.55
Jadeja 912 runs at 30.40, 66 wickets at 34.46
And in the four frontiers (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia)
Ashwin 757 runs at 22.26, 67 wkts at 38.38
Jadeja 730 runs at 29.20 44 wkts at 37.97
I’d still have picked Ashwin.
“Anyone who knows Manchester can have a fair stab at what’s going to happen at Old Trafford next week,” says Paul Boldrin. “The Met Office think they know, anyway. I’m pretending this is the last Test, then if I don’t spend next week playing the rainfall radar backwards and forwards it will be a nice surprise. At least we should get a full five days in here, quality of batting permitting.”
County Championship It’s the final day of the latest round of County Championship fixtures, and Geoff Lemon is keeping ‘em peeled.
Two changes for India: Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav replace Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, who both have niggles. Virat Kohli looked thrilled when the first follow-up question was about Ravichandran Ashwin’s absence. He said Jadeja was preferred because England have a number of left-handers and India like the match-ups. I know.
England have won the toss and will bowl first
And why not? Virat Kohli says he would have bowled first as well.
My hunch is that India will make one change: Shardul Thakur for Ishant Sharma. We’ll find out in the next few minutes.
Right here, right now, Joe Root is the best batsman in the world
The weather also reduces Ravichandran Ashwin’s chances of playing, as Virat Kohli will want four seamers if India bowl first. In short, nobody knows anything.
It’s overcast at the Oval, so whoever wins the toss will have a tricky decision. Actually, that’s a load of nonsense – they’ll have already made the decision in the expectation of winning the toss. Ach, you know what I mean.
Early team news
It looks like England will make two changes from Headingley. Ollie Pope comes in for Jos Buttler, who is about to become a father for the second time, with Jonny Bairstow taking over as wicketkeeper. And the lesser spotted Chris Woakes, who has missed the last 11 Tests for all sorts of reasons, will replace the out-of-form Sam Curran.
No news yet on the India team, though there are rumours that Virat Kohli has been seen swallowing some pride while having a chat with Ravichandran Ashwin.
Morning. There is a robust body of research, only some of it imaginary, that confirms the character-building qualities of Test cricket. Watching it, never mind playing it, promotes fairness, patience, wisdom, generosity of spirit and an unashamed appreciation of statistical minutiae. It also has hidden health benefits. Take this series between England and India, which is stealthily guiding millions of people towards a life of mindfulness.
In a series with so many unlikely twists, living in the present is the only way to stop your brain from overheating. Don’t look back and certainly don’t look forward. On Tuesday I tried to put the series so far in some kind of context and work out what might happen next. The next thing I remember is waking up in bed, being fed grapes and Lucozade by Mother Cricket while uttering the same, sorry sentence: “Why are they setting funky fields to a man who averages 4 in Test cricket?”
England’s meltdown at Lord’s has gone now, but so has their Headingley melt-up. All that matters is that it’s 1-1 with two to play. None of us have the foggiest what is going to happen at the Oval in the next five days, never mind at Old Trafford next week. Anyone who says otherwise is either a gnave or a descendant of Biff Tannen.
I realise this isn’t a sentence you hear too often, particularly at the rarefied altitude of Guardian Towers, but the people I really feel for are the bookmakers. How do you begin to price this game up? Well, at the moment, they have England as slight favourites. This may have changed by midday. But that’s in the future, and the future is none of our concern.