11th over: England 25-0 (Burns 12, Sibley 12) Bumrah returns at Ishant’s end and Sibley flashes at his first delivery, playing it into the ground and through Kohli’s dive at one; they run one. Burns then plays down into the off side and sets off, having to dive at the other end to make his single, before Bumrah is too straight to Burns and is duly turned away for three; on the fence, Nadeem treads on the ball to stop the boundary and does well to escape with mild ankle-knack.
“Perhaps Burns is just going with the flow?” says John Starbuck. “‘Let it grow’ is my motto too, as my wife is not a trained hairdresser and wears hers long, so I’m doing the same. Takes me back to student days in the late 1960s.”
I read that in Toni Braxton’s voice but yes, I too have a lockdown barnet going on; what one of my best men termed a “jewfro recede”.
10th over: England 20-0 (Burns 11, Sibley 8) Burns glances two away through midwicket, getting all the way forward then all the way back; he’s looking pretty relaxed out there, as you might if you’d spent the last bit tending to a newborn. On which point:
“Serious question,” begins Alice Schofield. “Do we think having the cricket on will help with feeding/settling newborn twins?”
Oh my days! Mazal tov! And mazal tov to young Rory and Dominic! It gets easier, I promise, though I’m not quite sure how it works with two.
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9th over: England 18-0 (Burns 9, Sibley 8) Sibley is in no hurry whatsoever, seeing away a couple of dots before Ishant tries a bouncer – he won’t mind seeing that and ducks underneath it easily enough, then turns one away to backward square. This pitch is flatter than Stanley, and bowling across Sibley is not the way to wring something out of it, I don’t think; he’ll fiddle to leg all
millennium if you let him.
“Morning Daniel!” hollers Felix White; morning Felix! “I did not mean to be awake so early, but a child was thirsty and here we are. Busy day ahead and I need to be well rested so I’ll definitely just go straight back to sleep. Maybe just one more over…”
I am familiar with the genre. The child knew you had a higher calling, so contacted your conscience and he we are.
“I don’t know if one can listen to the BBC cricket social thing, but TalkSport (for better or for worse) is available here,” says Martin Whitman. “They make you create an account.” Of course they do.
8th over: England 16-0 (Burns 8, Sibley 7) Yeah, there it is; Ravi Ashwin, whose teammates might like him more than Tim Paine’s do, comes into the attack and Burns nudges for one, then Sibley makes room and uses the pace to carve away behind square on the off side for the first boundary of the series. He’s learnt a lot about facing spin these last few weeks, and turns a single to short leg, megging Shubman Gill; I do hope he called it.
7th over: England 10-0 (Burns 7, Sibley 2) Sharma is speeding up, but Sibley sees off another maiden in typical – noch classical – style. I think we’ll soon see spin because nothing’s happening for the quicks and Kohli won’t want these two entrenching.
“Your five Key Questions had me reflexively channeling my inner Ian Dury for ‘reasons to be cheerful (part 3)’,” says Brian Withington. “A welcome tonic indeed, as I’d just had the BBC News channel on in the background whilst working on a fiendishly complex spreadsheet. One of the truly sobering reports from the NHS frontline that engenders compassion, gratitude and despair in varying measures, and should be compulsory viewing for every Covid-sceptic in the nation.
As for the OBO nation, stay safe and let’s hopefully savour a cricket series for the ages. We all know cricket isn’t really that important in the wider scheme of things, but then hasn’t that always been part of its compelling siren charm?”
I really don’t know what I’d have done without cricket – and other sport – in lockdown, not just in terms of the entertainment it’s supplied where otherwise there’d be none, but how it’s given my brain things about which to think when lying in bed and other such times.
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6th over: England 10-0 (Burns 7, Sibley 2) England will be pleased with this start and Burns, whose hair is still hanging out of his helmet, plays out a maiden. Nick Knight reckons he’s used his time away to close close off his stance a little – I’m surprised he found the time, what with all the hair-growing – oh yeah and parenting – but he’s looking calm out there.
5th over: England 10-0 (Burns 7, Sibley 2) Ishant bursts in again, but after three dots he oversteps. He’s something of a rhythm bowler – I remember being at Lord’s in 2014 to see his 7-74 – and also his spell to Ricky Ponting at the WACA in 2008. And his final delivery here is a beauty, the wrist rolling down the ball to straighten it past Sibley’s outside edge. That’s the delivery of the morning so far, Sibley doing well to get out of its way.
“Morning Daniel,” says John Culkin; morning John. “Having forced myself awake at this unholy hour to watch the first ball, I feel I have to let someone know about it. My plan to watch while tucked in bed was immediately scuppered by wifey, so I’m in the lounge, freezing and excited. Game on!”
My wife was equally delighted when I informed her when the alarm would be rousing her which made me think about one that works via touch not sound, somehow squeezing whichever part of you you fixed it to, like a thumb-screw or something.
4th over: England 9-0 (Burns 7, Sibley 2) Sibley bunts into the off side and they run one, then Burns squeezes two away to square leg. There’s not loads out there for the quicks, a statement I immediately regret making given James Anderson has yet to bowl on it. But I love watching Bumrah, and we see a slowmo version of him coming in and flinging into his prance, arms dead straight; it’s beautiful.
3rd over: England 6-0 (Burns 5, Sibley 1) Watching a replay, Pant got a hand to that – it was a chance alright, and missing it puts him under pressure, not just behind the stumps but when he bats. Burns, who timed that stroke just played it too finely, then times another, and they run three down to midwicket; he looks in nick for someone who’s not played in a while, and he’s someone you’d expect to take time to feel his way back, given a technique with lots of moving parts. Had Crawley been fit and Bairstow been out here, I wonder if he’d have played – likewise Sibley, who shoves to cover and nabs his first run.
2nd over: England 2-0 (Burns 2, Sibley 0) Well, let’s see what Bumrah, incredibly playing his first home Test, makes of it. His first ball, coming from wide of the crease, slants across Burns, who hair is long, poking right out of his helmet, and Burns turns it behind … but Pant, diving right, can’t get a hand to it! I think that just about carried, but it would’ve been an unbelievable catch, and that’s not really why Pant is in this side. While all this is going on, they run one, which is all that comes from the over.
1st over: England 1-0 (Burns 1, Sibley 0) Ishant begins from around to the left-handed and returning Burns, his second delivery flicked into the leg side for one; there is not much in this track at all.
“Using your infinite reach across the far reaches of the galaxy,” supplicates Archisman, “would it be possible to find a link to the BBC audio commentary (at least) for someone in the USA lamenting the decision not to select Moeen but nevertheless excited?”
I was a little surprised his missed out too, but I understand why Root was loyal to Leach and, most particularly Bess; in Sri Lanka, both turned up when he needed them and both should be used to conditions
Email! “Get your point about England desperately wanting to bat first,” says Digvijay Yadav, “but sometimes it’s not the worst for the touring team in India to bowl first up. There’s a new batch of balls that are harder and have a more pronounced seam. There’s some grass on this wicket and some moisture. Plus the Chepauk is a belter to bat on days 2 and 3. So I don’t think England would have been distraught if they’d been asked to field first.”
I don’t think they’ll have wanted to bat last, and I’m sure they’ll think this is the best way to smash into the series; lose the toss, and if India bat well they’d be in trouble however well they bowled.
In Sri Lanka, Joe Root scored 45 percent of England’s runs. He’ll probably need to maintain that form if England are to win in this series, but his mates will need to chip in more solidly. Jonny Bairstow, who was also good in that series, is forcibly rested, but Ben Stokes returns, which is an decent swap.
On the teams, India pick Washington Sundar as their fifth bowler, while England’s side is more or less picked for them; Zak Crawley is injured, so Dan Lawrence bats three and Ollie Pope comes back in at six. Dom Bess keeps his spot ahead of Moeen Ali, and it’s Jimmy Anderson not Stuart Broad.
Root tells us that h thinks the pitch will deteriorate, so he wants to get runs up front and control the match that way; Kohli would also have batted.
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Joe Root is playing his 100th Test; “I think he’s England’s greatest-ever batsman,” says … Alastair Cook. They call that magnanimity. He also notes that Root wasn’t a natural captain, but he’s become very good at it.
England: 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Rory Burns, 3 Dan Lawrence, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Ollie Pope, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Dom Bess, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson.
India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
England win the toss and will bat!
That will please them greatly. Their best chance of making an impression is to put runs on the board, thereby putting India under pressure and avoiding batting last.
Yes! Yes! Yes! No doubt we could carry on in that vein for the next eight hours, but it is affirming to enumerate as well as to emote, so let us bask in the knowledge that 20 of the next 32 days will be elevated by the series that stands before us – which comes to an end on the 8th of March, the day the UK is hoping to emerge from its latest lockdown and let us say amen.
Traditionally, a tour of Australia is considered cricket’s most demanding challenge – especially for England teams and especially since Channel 4’s Ashes of 2005. But as things stand, there can be no argument whatsoever that a tour of India is really where it’s at, and the mere thought of what we’re about to see is enough to introduce frisson to strides.
India’s recent win Down Under is not only the greatest sporting triumph of the coronera but one of the greatest cricketing triumphs of all-time. So they will swagger into this next endeavour with the confidence of a team which feels invincible, the exultance of players who have their revered captain back, and the joy of human beings back at home. The mix is potent.
But it is not omnipotent. England have won four series in a row, five away Tests in a row, and look better and more settled than for quite some time. Moreover – and yes, I know how stupid this is going to sound – it might even that be that they’re more settled into conditions than hosts who’ve spent two months dealing with fripperies like pace and bounce. Or, alternatively, it absolutely might not even be.
Ultimately, we know what’s likely to happen here – England’s lack of matchwinning spinners is likely to cost them and, more generally speaking, this tour feels just too early for a developing side. But given a fair wind with toss and form, they have too many matchwinners to write off completely – and if any of that lot turn up we’re in for a classic.
Play: 9.30am local, 4am GMT
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