65th over: Pakistan 162-4 (Shan 57, Rizwan 5) These two have done well to stick in there, and Ian Ward says “it will get better”, but actually, why will it? Not long after lunch, the new ball will be due, and there’ll be two freshish bowlers to enjoy it. Maiden.
64th over: Pakistan 162-4 (Shan 57, Rizwan 5) Here’s Jofra! One loosener, and then eek, one bang on the seam that’s still not that sharp, but bounces over Rizwan’s bat. There’s plenty out there for the bowlers, and already I can’t wait to see Pakistan’s. Two off the over, the second of them scrambled as Pope wangs at the stumps. Talking of whom, I was lying in bed last night thinking about watching him bat – insert gag here, extra points for use of “by the barest of margins” – and wondered who else so obviously has it, even when they fail or they’re out of form. There aren’t many.
63rd over: Pakistan 160-4 (Shan 56, Rizwan 4) Root has gone for the dry approach – he’s not crowding the batsmen with catchers, but making it hard for them to get down the other end. I’d expect to see Archer replace Anderson next over too, which will intensify the necessity to get off strike. One off the over.
“Five years ago today, says Tim Joyce. “04W24W0W04100000W40000110W020000401000W000000000101000011W0011200010040040000W1W30000000000000400000000000001004W.”
How glorious is it that that means something? What a sport! Does anyone else try and manipulate conversation in the early evening, so that when someone asks the time and it’s 8.15, you can say “Stuart Broad”? Never mind trying to sneak in “by the barest of margins” into every possible conversation. Mrs Harris is, of course, a huge fan.
“As a cricketer living in Aigburth,” tweets Jamie Bowman, “my theory has always been that weather simply gathers speed over the Irish Sea and blows over Liverpool before dumping it in Manchester.”
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62nd over: Pakistan 159-4 (Shan 55, Rizwan 4) Anderson gets one more, and following a dot, Shan absolutely clatters him through cover for four. Anderson is coming at him from around, but he needs to be straighter than that to cause problems. I think he might manage it. Drinks.
“This is probably well well known and I’m exposing my cultural ignorance here,” says Oliver Bevan, “but I’m curious as to why some of the Pakistani players are referred to by their first name and other’s by their surname? ie Shan Masood refereed to as Shan and Mohammad Rizwan referred to as Rizwan.”
I’m just doing what Sky are doing, but I’m certain there’s a cultural explanation, elements of which seem obvious but which I’m not going to attempt because I’m out of my element.
61st over: Pakistan 154-4 (Shan 50, Rizwan 4) Here comes Woakes, and immediately Masood chucks arms at his loosener, except it’s not a loosener at all, full of length and swinging away from the bat. But then, after three more dots, two twos to Rizwan, getting him off the mark and the score moving after 41 balls without.
Bloody hell, we love our isobars here. I don’t even know where to begin, so here’s a selection:
John Starbuck: “The Pennines play a part, certainly. It’s well known that driving along the M62 you can, at times, encounter a wall of fog built up by the clouds low enough to impact on the high ground. Incidentally, I don’t know what they do, but in Huddersfield we get Manchester’s weather when they’ve finished with it, and it’s fairly well-worn.”
Steve Hudson: “It us indeed the Penines that cause Manchester to be so wet. The air blowing from the sea over Liverpool is comparatively warm and wet. As it approaches Manchester it is forced to rise, which cools it. Cooler air holds less water vapour and the excess is shed as rain.
One solution they should consider is building a mountain range over Warrington, which would cause rainfall before it gets to Old Trafford. Win/win as they say: more Test cricket, less Warrington.”
Will C: “As someone who grew up by the Mersey and could see Moel Famau from the bottom of my road…Liverpool is protected by the Clywd mountains so the rain from the south west tends to get caught there or go straight over the top and land on Manchester.Very fond memories of watching Lancashire play at Aigburth too, they certainly should have played there more.”
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60th over: Pakistan 150-4 (Shan 50, Rizwan 0) Six maidens in a row. As I said, I’d definitely have started with these two.
While I remember, during day 2 of the first West Indies Test, we were compiling an OBO playlist, with particular focus on Dom Sibley – or Sibley Dom Dom as I now know him. Please accept my earnest apologies for failing to note this, then.
59th over: Pakistan 150-4 (Shan 50, Rizwan 0) England have been so, so good this morning. Not devastating, but devastatingly competent.
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That was a good ball, jagging back at the batsman, but he did just enough to impart an edge.
58th over: Pakistan 150-4 (Shan 50, Shadab 0) What’s ludicrous about this carry-on is that Woakes and Archer will be on in a bit, and when they need a little sit-down, Broad and Anderson will be back. It’s a bit different from the days of Bicknell, McCague, Ilott, Caddick, Gooch and Thorpe (yes, I was at Headingley in 1993, yes I did miss one of just three wickets to fall on day 1 because I sneaking a 14-year-old’s snout and pint)>
“It’s also the case that we tend to think of bowling pairs as the most successful,” says John Starbuck with regard to an earlier discussion, “whereas it’s rare to do the same these days about batsmen, unless they are a really good opening pair. Cricket has also been defined as the supreme team game (cannot recall the source) because you need a full set of fielders to make it work properly, some of whom may never even touch the ball.”
If you’ll excuse me a namedrop, KP told me that how much he loved batting with Collingwood and Bell because of how difficult they made it for bowlers, who’d have to vary line and length depending on who was on strike.
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57th over: Pakistan 150-4 (Shan 50, Rizwan 0) “I was always taught at school that with the prevailing winds coming from the west,” says Jerry Knight, |the clouds pick up moisture from the Atlantic and as they are pushed up by the Pennines, they cool causing raindrops to form.”
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WICKET! Asad Shafiq c Stokes b Broad 7 (Pakistan 150-4)
THESE BOYS! THESE ABSOLUTE BOYS! The dryness works, Shafiq following one that straightens off a length and magnetises his bat into guiding a catch to Stokes at two. Pakistan are in all sorts now.
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57th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 7) For those interested, John Higgins, the Broad of the baize, has just despatched a 147. Meanwhile, the Broad of the ball has just sent down four more dots…
“Was DK Morrison better than Steve Elworthy?” asks Darrien Bold. “I remember him as a real disappointment, whose spell with the Red Rose saw him dropped on the morning of 1996 B&H Final. Good decision for me Clive, not in the same class as Digger Martin, Chapple or Ian Austin, whose 4-21 off 9.3 overs clinched the trophy.”
I suppose people expected slightly, but not all that much more more from Morrison.
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56th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 7) Anderson flows in again, then relocates sweat from brow to ball, in the course of disbursing another maiden.
“Weird isn’t it,” says @9cricketpod on Twitter. “The Manc weather predominantly comes from Liverpool but Wythenshawe is certainly wetter than Wavertree, West Derby and Wallessey – is it the Pennine proximity that prompts the precipitation on the city of the Bee?”
I absolutely love my certainty that someone in our massive with know the answer.
55th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 7) Branderson have been god this morning – funny that. I find it extremely taxing to get my swede around what these absolute freaks of nature have done, are doing and will do – together. Emotionally, it’s very hard to process without the old eyeballs enjoying a sweat. Maiden.
“If Lancashire had played more matches at Liverpool instead of Old Trafford,” reckons Gary Naylor, “that team would have won two or three pennants – as history has shown. Manchester and cricket were not made for each other.”
I struggle with that, because there are few better places to watch cricket, anywhere in the world, than OT.
54th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 7) One of the many things I love about Anderson and Broad is how well and how quickly they squanty down the best way to bowl on a particular pitch – something that only a master can manage, because only a master has so many variations at their disposal. As such, Anderson spirits one off the seam and past Shafiq’s outside edge, then he shoves and runs to get down the other end.
“Interesting review there,” says Anthony Hulse, “as they just discussed on the TV it was far from clear whether there was an inside edge or not. It does make me think that there is something missing in the DRS protocol, which is the on-field umpire giving the reason for a decision, particularly with LBW. In this instance, if the on-field decision was “he’s not hit it, but I think it’s too high”, then in the absence of clear evidence for an inside edge the on-field call on that part of the decision should stand, and then ball tracking can potentially overturn the actual reason for the decision. In Rugby the TV official and the on-field official discuss decisions that get referred and then come to a joint decision, and it feels like overall decision-making in cricket would be better if there was a role for the on-field umpire in a review where the TV evidence is not conclusive, rather than just handing it all over to the guy in the truck.”
I can see that. Ultimately, I can’t get too het-up about officials getting stuff right or wrong, especially when it’s marginal, but anything that gets us more Michael Gough is a good thing.
53rd over: Pakistan 149-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 6) Athers points out that Anderson is looking for movement off the seam, rather than through the air, evidenced by fingers further apart than usual. Maiden from Broad.
“Good morning, Daniel,” says James Debens. “One of my favourite nicknames in cricket is ‘Fast Eddie’ Hemmings, after the Paul Newman character in The Hustler (OTTOMH, 1961) and The Color (sic) of Money (OTTOMH, 1986). Which other nicknames are in circulation? RA Smith is The Judge; O. Pope is The Attack Hamster, for instance.”
On RA Smith, I must first refer you to his majestic work with RA Smyth. I have a relatioship with him myself too, because I was able to enjoy his 167 not out on account of my suspension from school for setting the floor of the science lab on fire.
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52nd over: Pakistan 149-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 6) Shafiq gets off the mark with two to fine leg, then glides four through cover point. He’s away.
“Cycling has the same ‘individual within a team’ vibe going,” says Garry Naylor, “and the superhuman stuff. “Neither sport has a great record when it comes to players retiring, that unique dynamic not available elsewhere in life. Some get a little lost when it’s taken away. And worse.”
Yes, and I’m not sure it’s peculiar to those sports either. How can you replace the buzz of the greatest buzzes known to mankind?
51st over: Pakistan 143-3 (Shan 50, Shafiq 0) I’ve got a confession to make: I didn’t think that took the edge, I thought the bat brushed the pad, but I bottled it after being convinced by the umpire. However, Mikey thinks that’s what happened, and has he ever been wrong about anything? Well then. Anyhow, Shan turns two through midwicket, then brings up a good, solid fifty with a cut for two more to point; well batted sir.
“Babar is the best batsman I’ve seen from his country; same with Smith and Williamson,” says Digvijay Yadav. “Not sure that’s the case with Kohli and Root. “Also, am I correct in that when Wasim was at Lancs, Patrick Patterson was the second overseas pro one of the years?”
Ultimately, Root isn’t in the class of those with whom he was first bracketed, which isn’t a diss – he’s brilliant – but we’ve got be honest: they’ve left him. If you offered me an Australian, I’m still having Ponting, but I’m not sure I’d go Sachin over Virat, especially if I had to watch. Patterson, known as the fastest bowler in the world at the time, was at Lancs before Wasim, and the less that’s said about the latter’s replacement with DK Morrison, the summer Pakistan toured England, the better.
Shan got an edge on that, but still: England are right into this.
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51st over: Pakistan 139-3 (Shan 46, Shafiq 0) I have lost count of how many times Jimmy Anderson has made a moron out of me. Not difficult, granted BUT EXCUSE ME WHILE I INTERRUPT MYSELF! Broad raps Masood on the pad and though the umpire says not out, England review! Phew!
WICKET! Babar Azam c Root b Anderson 69 (Pakistan 139-3)
AND THERE IT IS! THE FIRST OVER IS CRUCIAL! Anderson has been great from ball one this morning, and he tempts Babar to slash at one full of length, which sends the ball directly to Root at one. It turns out that Jimmy Anderson is quite good at cricket.
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50th over: Pakistan 139-2 (Shan 46, Babar 69) Anderson bins his own end for the Brian Statham and is on the money right away, some away movement beating Babar’s outside edge.
“A friend of mine often says that one of the problems with cricket is the extent to which one person can carry a team,” says Joe Alder. “It means it doesn’t have the cooperative, greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts achievements you get in, say, football (Leicester) or rugby (Japan). People like Azam, Kohli, Smith make it seem like this really is the case (at least with batting).
I think actually though this is one of the things that make cricket so great. No other sport allows for quite such superhuman acts of technique and will. Maybe it’s the mix of individual and team dynamics?
What is the OBO’s collective wisdom on this matter?”
That cricket is an individual sport played by teams is cliche, but it’s true. And it’s not, in my opinion, right to say that you don’t get the co-operative element. Look at how Shane Warne bowled with Glenn McGrath for example, or how much trouble the different physiques and techniques of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood caused for bowlers.
“Talking of batting freaks,” emails Ben Nichols, “Keith Daniels of Cranham Cricket Club hit a century last week. This is notable because he has now hit a century in seven different decades. Not bad!”
That is fantastic, I love stuff like that.
“Babar Batfreak!” says Matthew Jones. “That made me laugh. Are we allowed nicknames in 2020 though? I hope so.”
I think we can manage.
The 1990 Nat West final was a particular brute – poor old Northants lost the toss, it’s September so Lanky stick them in, and five DeFreitas wickets later, they’re 39-5.
Wasim is on Sky talking about Lanky in the 80s and 90s. What a team they were; in one-day stuff especially, but but for the Manchester rain, they would’ve won the Britannic in 1987, actually the year before Wasim arrived. But the hitting they had lower down the order was spectacular – nearly every bowler could blacksmith it miles, whether Watkinson, Austin, Foley, DeFreitas, Hayhurst, Chapple, Martin, Allott – even Flat Jack. Marvellous.
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“There seem to be a few batting freaks around at the moment,” emails Ian Copestake. “(Well, Smith) but unlike the parenthesised one Babar actually appears to be supremely watchable and not a batting car crash drawing spectators to view in fascination and horror at how something so tick-filled can produce runs. Enjoy!”
What I love about Babar – and Smith, and Kohli – is that he seems unaffected by pressure or hype. He knows what’s expected of him because he expects it of himself because how can he not, so just turns up and gets it did.
“Be interesting to see who Root goes with first up,” tweets Manvir Singh. “Woakes looked the most likely vs Babar and is probably England’s best bowler in England when the ball gets old.”
As per the below, I’m almost certain it’ll be the alte kackers, but I’d probably go with Broad and Archer.
I guess another possibility for England is to bowl dry. But my sense is that they’ll go after attacking lines from the off, because if they let these two just bat, things will get very difficult indeed – even before we recall that they’re a batsman light, and respond badly to scoreboard pressure.
I wonder whether England will go at the batsmen this morning. We’ve got to assume that Joe Root will start with Anderson and Broad, but after that, I’d not be surprised to see Archer send down his special brand of teeth-seekers, nor to see Stokes bully his carcass into the same. Whoever wins this session will be set up for the series, which is to say that, in my educated opinion, “the first hour is crucial”.
The feeling of watching someone be good at something is an intense one, and underpins the enduring popularity of elite sport. But the feeling of watching someone be really good at something – someone making that something into an expression of their personality, an extension of their self, an elevation of their soul – underpins the enduring popularity of being alive, its own kind of morality that is somehow both calming and exhilarating, moving and amusing, mortifying and affirming.
To watch Babar Azam bat is to experience all this and more, and how England handle that could well decide this Test match and this series. If they can dismiss him this morning, they will be set; if they cannot, they will find themselves in major trouble.
But they have plenty of scope to impose themselves. Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson bowled very nicely in yesterday’s first session, while Jofra Archer looked extremely grooved and Chris Woakes extremely handsome. As such, yerman – and his pal– can expect a thorough examination over the next couple of hours. And should England fail, they will at least get to enjoy the thrill of watching Babar Batfreak do his thing.
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