Virat wants runs on the board and doesn’t see much grass on the pitch. His team are unchanged because he wants the extra seamer in English conditions, expecting Ravi Jadeja to play a more significant role with the ball.
“Isn’t aggression overrated and unnecessarily deified?” asks Krishnamoorthy V? “Determination to win is ok, but do you have to display such toxic behaviour? If sports persons are role models, I shudder to think about the impact on the kids watching. A calm Bjorn Borg any day over a raging McEnroe.”
It’s a matter of taste, I guess. I enjoy the needle, love McEnroe, and “as a father myself” I don’t rely on sportsfolk to raise my daughter or show her how to behave. There’s a line, of course, but provided it’s not crossed we can enjoy all of what we have – Borg and McEnroe.
Nasser notes that at Headingley, the pitch tends to get better for batting, and the average length of wicket-taking deliveries is much fuller than elsewhere. He says it’s a bowling morning, but if the sun comes out, he’d bat. It’s got the length of a commercial break to achieve that.
Email! “Going back to 1989,” says Ian Forth, “there were injuries which resulted in England (6th test vs Australia) fielding a bowling attack of Small, Igglesden, Pringle, Capel and Cook.”
Goodness me, that was a long summer. Six Tests! I remember running home from school to see Taylor’s ton on day one in the Headingley gloaming and it didn’t get much better thereafter. Capel was the first of the new Bothams – he wasn’t the last.
The one that always sticks with me is Headingley 93, mainly because I was there, and international sport is nothing if not about ME. England’s attack then was McCague, Ilott, Caddick and Bicknell – with spells from Gooch and Thorpe – so who was getting picked if that lot were unavailable?
Athers is talking us through the way that India decimated England at Lord’s. From Bumrah’s 10-ball over to India, to the words exchanged in the Long Room, that resulted in the barrage of bouncers on the final morning, India – and Kohli in particular – absolutely rinsed them. What he does so brilliantly is play on the edge without losing his composure, maintaining a rolling boil with effortless cool. England need to respond to that, but ultimately, you can have all the mouth in the world, but if you can’t back it up it doesn’t really matter.
Ah, Warney has arrived, and already he’s inserted a “bloody” into his monologue. He’s loving India’s intensity, and wants England to do the same. Problem is, that’s hard to achieve when you’re 1-2.
The actual cricket, then: India are better than England, we know that, but it’s been a while since they’ve been better in English conditions. It’s not that long ago we were talking about England’s second-string attack being among their best ever, and I can’t stop laughing when I wonder who they’d have picked in the 90s, were they missing the equivalents of Stokes, Woakes, Broad, Stone, Wood and Archer. Even so, though, the principal differences have been top-order batting and mentality – every time India have needed something, someone has delivered. That’s the mark of a great team, and though I don’t think India are quite that yet, if they carry on as they are, it won’t be long. In the meantime, though, they’ll continue doing what they’re doing while England need to find something different. This is going to be a serious row.
Morning everyone. It’s already been a brilliant summer of cricket, and we’re set for more of the same over the next five days, then again over two more sets of five days. But we can’t begin this Test – this Headingley Test – pontificating about our excitement, unless that feeling is available to everyone, and that is palpably not the case.
Azeem Rafiq will not be watching what we’ll be watching. As a boy, he would get up at 4am to make sure he didn’t miss anything, and his dedication to and talent the game earned him a contract with Yorkshire. There, he was racially abused as a matter of course, and since raising the alarm has seen his pain diminished yet not the report that his allegations prompted.
“Let’s be brutally honest,” he told the OBO’s Tanya Aldred earlier in the week. “However much I fight this, am I ever going to get an opportunity within the game? Probably not. Am I ever going to get a job within the game? Probably not. These are real-life consequences.”
Everything – all the joy, all the beauty, all the needle, all the love – that we see over the next few days must be filtered through that prism. The point of this series is to find out which of England and India is the better team, but the point of cricket and the point of sport is to make the world a better place. So let’s undertake to make that happen by being better ourselves, and undertake to read, watch or listen to one relevant thing over the course of this match, then recommend it to one other person. For a truly brilliant summer of cricket, we need more than decent bat and ball behaviour.