August 12, 2014

India's thesaurus-meltingly bad showing

The idiotically compressed schedule seems to be affecting India's batsmen more than either side's bowlers

It wasn't only records Stuart Broad broke at Old Trafford © Getty Images

I saw very little of the Old Trafford Test match, due to a curiously scheduled wedding (there must surely be some European Union law prohibiting EU citizens from scheduling any formal ceremonies during Test matches), and travel to and preparation for my Edinburgh Festival show. That said, Old Trafford saw very little of the Old Trafford Test - 195.1 overs, the shortest completed Test in Manchester since 1888, India's second-shortest finished Test match, after the Hamilton Test against New Zealand in 2002-03, and England's third-fastest home win against a top-eight Test nation since the First World War.

I am, therefore, even less qualified than normal to comment on what happened, and what did not happen, in the Test. From the scorecard, it looks as if: (a) England bowled superbly and batted well enough; (b) MS Dhoni might be regretting not offering Alastair Cook a best-of-three contest after accidentally winning the toss on the first morning; and (c) India's batting was thesaurus-meltingly bad. Some lofty reputations are taking such a battering they may well be served with chips and mushy peas by the end of the tour. It seems that the idiotically compressed schedule is affecting India's out-of-form batsmen more than either side's overworked bowlers. With minimal time and no cricket in which to iron out their technical kinks (some of which are so pronounced they could perform a passable "Waterloo Sunset")*, and/or reconstruct their cracked confidence, India's top order, like England's in Australia, appears unable to arrest its descent into almost Bangladeshian unproductivity.

England's recovery has been impressive and heartening. However, analysis of the quality of a boxer's recovery from a knockdown is generally best suspended whilst his opponent is busy punching himself repeatedly in the face.

Instead, here are some stats:

India: (a) were bowled out in under 50 overs in both innings for only the fourth time in their history;
(b) posted the second-lowest total ever at the fall of the fourth wicket of a Test match (their match-opening 8 for 4 beaten only by England's 2 for 4 on day one in Johannesburg in 1999-2000;
(c) registered, in the first innings, the equal second-lowest number of runs ever recorded by a top four in a Test match - four. Only Australia's top four in that 1888 Old Trafford Test had fared worse - they bagged four ducks. The top fours of England, versus Australia at the MCG in 1903-04, and of West Indies, also in Melbourne, in 1981-82, were also out for a total of 4 runs between them (both anti-assisted by nightwatchmen being out for nought). The previous worst collective score by a top four in the opening innings of a Test was 7, also by West Indies, against New Zealand, in Barbados in 1971-72.

Stuart Broad: (a) Broke a sequence of nine consecutive Tests in which he had taken either three or four wickets, dating back to Adelaide in December.
(b) Took his eighth Test six-for. He is the fourth Englishman to do so (after SF Barnes, Derek Underwood and Ian Botham), the first pacer to do so since Glenn McGrath, and the 22nd bowler in all; Rangana Herath became the 23rd, three days later. Not too many rubbish trundlers in this list of eight-time six-wicket-haul baggers:
(c) Became the 12th bowler to take 6 for 50 or fewer in at least four innings. The last five to achieve this distinction would make a useful if unnecessary five-prong attack: Richard Hadlee, Curtly Ambrose, McGrath, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan

*That is the first Kinks pun in the six-year history of the Confectionery Stall. You may legitimately complain about, but please also acknowledge my restraint. I like '60s music, I like puns. Six years is a long time

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer