Cricket: Pitching up for a broken record

Man on a mission: James Anderson lunges for the crease as he and Joe Root struck up a tenth-wicket partnership that brought a milestone of 198 runs. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty
Man on a mission: James Anderson lunges for the crease as he and Joe Root struck up a tenth-wicket partnership that brought a milestone of 198 runs. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty
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Dire. There is no other word for it. The 22 players did the best they could with the ingredients they were given, but the past four days have been a hollow impression of real Test cricket.

The issue was the pitch and, quite frankly, Trent Bridge should have a couple of years off the list after this match. It was so bland that neither seamers nor spinners extracted any joy from it. Nor really did the batsmen as innings were grafted rather than flourished.

The problem is the ECB demanding such huge sums from counties for hosting international matches that the imperative is not the cricket but the fact it lasts the full five days. The players refer to these as “chief executive pitches” because they keep the bean counters happy, but actually they are a disgrace to the game.

When the most interesting and noteworthy events in four days Test cricket are two tenth-wicket partnerships then a serious review must be undertaken.

Bless Mohammed Shami and James Anderson, the two No.11s in this match, but seriously question why they have mustered a combined 132 runs for only once out. That is an average of 132 between them. Neither of them would consider themselves anything more than an occasional hindrance with willow in hand and yet in this match they have made Sir Donald Bradman look mediocre.

The pitch offered little bounce and lacked pace so that too frequently the ball made its way to the wicketkeeper resembling the progress of an asthmatic sloth. Bounce once past the batsman, then again before reaching the keeper who incidentally was standing four yards closer than usual for a match of this standard. Is that acceptable? No, and therefore the venue should have a hiatus or the ECB admit culpability and start charging grounds more appropriately.

The pressure is now on the remaining venues to actually produce a pitch worthy of a proper game. Lord’s, which hosts the second Test starting on Thursday, is already under pressure after its bland offering for the Sri Lanka match in June. Following that are The Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford. Both have undertaken expensive redevelopment in recent years and will need to make as much moolah from their match as possible. The Ageas bowl bean counters will also have the memory of the million-pound loss on a Test match in 2011.

The bowlers on both sides knew they were in for an exhausting series as the schedule was for 25 days of Test cricket in 42 days. Consider that some of those spare days will be travel or training and preparation and it means the bowlers are being flogged like disposable workhorses. Now they will know that the authorities need every moment of those 25 days to be used.

They should be paid double, or triple as decisions made by men in suits are potentially shortening their careers.

There will need to be some careful thinking by England today. India are likely to bat the entire day, which means a big workload for the England bowlers, which is not ideal for the second Test starting on Thursday. Lose that toss and field again for another 130 overs and the England seam attack will be going nowhere other than the nearest physiotherapy clinic. There, at least, Anderson will be able to recount his highest ever score.

Not long ago he was in tears in a post-match interview after his batting had failed to save a match.

Well, now he can smile as his 81 and record breaking tenth-wicket 198 partnership with Joe Root saved England from a probable defeat.

It probably saved both Cook and coach Peter Moores as well. He was helped by the excellent Root, who was utterly calm at the crease if not always in conversation with the opposition, and MS Dhoni, who proved himself an even worse captain than Cook. He had one plan and that was to give Root easy singles with the field back and attack Anderson with bouncers and a cordon of close catchers.

As the partnership ticked off milestones, there was a hope that the plan would change, but Dhoni persisted. Root reached 100, then Anderson 50 and then Root 150 until finally after 53 overs they were separated, by which time they had become the highest tenth-wicket partnership for England and ensured that the most improbable of leads had been earned.

As expected, it did not last long once India batted again as both Murali Vijai and Cheteshwar Pujara added half centuries but perished soon after.

All that remains is extended batting practice and the conservation of energy of England’s prime bowlers ahead of the second Test.

Those that have a ticket for today would be better served going down their local club to watch a competitive game and spending their hard earned in that clubhouse and bar.