What we need, in this lull, is a jokey XI. Cometh the rain, cometh Mac Millings. “I think we must surely have taken the Buttler debate as far as it can go,” he says, briskly. “But just in case, would you please allow me to kill it off, once and for all, with my all-time Jos Buttler XI?”
Sir Len Button (c)
Ben Foakes †
So Jos doesn’t make it into his own XI?
at 7.22am EDT
Play will resume, but not yet
Breaking news! “A 12:40 restart,” says Ian Ward on Sky, “assuming there’s no more rain. And lunch at 2.” So that’s flexibility of a sort, but I suspect it won’t be enough to placate Chris Evans.
“So,” says Chris Evans, “is it inspection at 12:10, play at 12:30, lunch at 1? Or is there any chance they take lunch now, start at 12:30 and play through until tea?” Dammit, man, are you expecting common sense? As I type that, Nasser Hussain says it too: “Take lunch now!”
Here’s Ian Copestake, the OBO’s favourite meteorologist. “A shame,” he says, “the newly trumpeted flexibility regarding light conditions did not extend to responding to the prospect of rain in the morning by making an early start. It would just be nice in these days of incompetence to see evidence of actual competence.” Fair point – the new approach doesn’t seem to extend to forward thinking.
“Re Sir Richard Woods’ contribution,” says Janet Stevens, following up from 11:27. “When Crawley reached his 150 and was sitting on 153, I noticed that his partnership with Buttler was at that point also worth 153.” The satisfying chimes of arithmetic: half the reason children fall for cricket, or don’t.
“Thanks for the great coverage,” says Phil Keegan. Still a pleasure. “It has been raining constantly in Hanoi for weeks now if that is any consolation. In respect of playing two wickies in your team, is there anything to stop a team from alternating them during a match, let alone between matches? Is this expressly outlawed or would it just be against the spirit?” Not outlawed as far as I know, or even against the spirit – just against convention, which is a powerful force in cricket. And it would wreak havoc with Stats Guru.
at 7.04am EDT
“Re armchair selection,” says David Wall, picking up from 10:51, “is it really a good idea to drop one of the openers and move Crawley there to make room for Foakes? Finally someone seems to show an aptitude for what has been a troublesome no. 3 slot and you think he should be moved to a different position in the very next match (or perhaps you’re just predicting what the selectors will do)? Just like the Spitfire, only in England.” Ha. Maybe you’re right, but (a) Crawley did show aptitude as an opener too, and (b) Buttler has never made a Test stumping, so if he’s going to keep for long hot days in Sri Lanka, India or UAE, he will need to put in a lot of work with Bruce French. On past form, he’ll have the appetite, and there is a gap in the calendar, after the IPL.
There’s some blue in the sky now, but the shower was a heavy one and the men in shorts with brooms are shipping great big puddles off the covers. All the umpires can offer us is another inspection at 12.10. If there was a crowd in, they might be tempted to boo.
Here’s Tony White, in “southest” France. Not sure if that means south-east, south-west or most south. “Since it seems there may be some ruminating about the respective qualities of messrs Buttler and Foakes,” he muses, “would it not be possible to play them both and alternate them, one taking the gloves for each innings? Is this illegal, heresy? Enjoy your day, I’ll be lapping up the goods.” I seem to remember Scyld Berry, the elder of our tribe, making the same suggestion when Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were both in the XI. Wicketkeepers do tend to make ten runs fewer when they’re knackered from keeping. But captains like to be consistent and have the same hub at the centre of the fielding side. Besides keeping wicket and mounting rescue missions, Buttler has a third role in this team, as Joe Root’s left-hand man.
“People,” says Simon Harpin, “seem to ignore that before a couple of shaky Tests this summer Buttler hadn’t dropped anything for yonks. And although Rizwan looks sharper, Buttler well outperformed Dowrich. I’m trusting the selectors – must be a reason Foakes isn’t making it in.
“Also, can we do a straw poll of how many readers have actually seen the players in the flesh they say should be picked rather than looking up their scores online…?” That is an outrageous suggestion.
Here’s John Starbuck, who has a bone to pick with Zak Crawley. “Having been able to watch Crawley batting a long time on the Beeb highlights, I wonder why he doesn’t use a bat with a longer handle? He suffers for his height, with a crouch in his stance and a crunch in his shoulders, likely to give him spinal problems in later life. Also on stances, your picture in today’s paper of Sibley getting out shows Dom imitating Charlie Chaplin’s famous pose.”
Ha. But never mind the comedy stances, I just love the fact that you’ve got the print edition. Dear Guardian reader, the best thing you can do for us right now is to buy the paper. You will settle into it, as Tom Wolfe said about the Sunday New York Times, as if it was a hot bath. And the subscription deal is a steal. There’s something very satisfying about those little vouchers with your name on.
An email from Sir Richard. Hadlee? No, Woods. “Living in China as I do,” he says, “I only get to enjoy about half the day’s play before I sleep. Of course I catch up with the OBO overs I have missed when I awake. When Crawley got to his century it was pointed out that he was the 171st player to score a century for England and that it had taken him 171 balls. Then I saw his score at stumps. This is one of the many reasons why I love cricket.” You’ll never guess what Crawley’s on now.
Rain stops play
Mid-96th over: England 336-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 91) Facing Abbas, Buttler actually has to use his bat more than once in an over. He takes another single, playing very straight and getting a thick inside edge to the inswinger. Mohammad Rizwan, who may be the best wicketkeeper in the world now Sarah Taylor has retired, sends for a helmet, but before he can stand up to the stumps, they’re off for rain. It’s been a magnificently uneventful 25 minutes.
94th over: England 334-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 89) A play-and-miss! By Crawley against Abbas, the only bowler England treated with respect yesterday. That one went like a leg break.
“Thank you for great coverage of the Test series,” says George Barrow. Our pleasure. “The England team has better balance now in terms of make-up, but it’s hard to see us winning much abroad without a quality spinner. Maybe this is harsh on Leach and Bess who are early in their Test careers but are there any others on the circuit who could break through?” Good question. Most of the wickets taken by spin in county cricket seem to go to Simon Harmer. But Leach may well be the real deal. And don’t forget Moeen, who is mercurial but incisive, even against expert players of spin.
93rd over: England 334-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 89) Runs! Buttler gets a short one from Shaheen and guides it crisply past cover for two. Then it’s back to the boring stuff, too wide to bother with.
92nd over: England 332-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 87) Mohammad Abbas will be on the stumps, says Warne – whereupon Abbas’s first two balls are also easy leaves. Finally, the ninth ball of the day demands a stroke. Crawley plays a forward defensive. And another, and a third. He is as classical as Burns and Sibley are eccentric – though he does thick-edge the last ball, short of gully, to show that he’s human.
“When will Liam Livingstone get his chance?” wonders Stephen Herzenberg. “Hits the ball harder than Stokes and potentially an excellent spinner. Bit of a head case – needs the challenge of Test cricket to mature a little and bat a bit more responsibly.” I’d love to see him get a go, but there’s a bit of a waiting list now.
91st over: England 332-4 (Crawley 171, Buttler 87) Shaheen bowls four balls in a row wide of Buttler’s off stump. And then two that are slightly less wide, but still easily left. Either Pakistan have decided to bore their way to a wicket, or Shaheen’s radar is off – scrambled by the Spitfire.
It’s Shaheen Shah Afridi to start things off, which is a shrewd show of faith from Azhar Ali. He manages not to open with a no-ball, but instead comes close to a wide.
at 6.02am EDT
More importantly, the players are out there. Here come Zak Crawley and Jos Buttler, who have added 205 already. What price an early wicket?
at 6.10am EDT
There’s something in the air at the Rose Bowl. It’s the “Thank You NHS” Spitfire. Only in England.
Armchair selection alert
In case anyone thought Buttler had silenced all the muttering about his place, here’s the first email of the day. “Maybe,” says Charles Marshall, “Buttler’s form with the bat makes it easier to pick Foakes? While the former is batting like this, the team would be strengthened with both of them in it. And Foakes is no mug with the bat himself, so Pope wouldn’t be a big loss.”
Hang on! Yes, Ben Foakes probably should come in to keep to the spinners this winter, but are you sure you want to sacrifice Pope? He plays spin beautifully, when he remembers not to go back to Yasir Shah’s flipper. I’d have thought it would be Burns or Sibley who would make way, with Crawley opening as he did last winter, followed by Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Foakes, two quicks (hot competition for those slots) and two spinners (not quite so hot).
at 5.57am EDT
Morning everyone. Were we dreaming? Did the covers really stay off all day long? Did the Pakistan bowlers dish up the full 90 overs? Did England’s batsmen turn a collapse into a cakewalk?
All this and more. A 22-year-old Englishman made a Test hundred that oozed class and confidence. When did that last happen? In another era altogether – back in January 2020. It was Ollie Pope, with 135 not out, at Port Elizabeth.
Like Zak Crawley, Pope had announced himself with a couple of Test fifties before delivering the big one. Pope hasn’t reached three figures since, although he has made a sparkling 90. There’s a case for saying that Crawley might be better off not turning this daddy hundred of his into a double. His mentor, Rob Key, did that with his first Test century, and never made another. A milestone is not a million miles from a millstone.
Your second Test century is less trumpeted than your first, but more telling. Just ask Jos Buttler, who needs 13 more runs this morning to secure his second, in his 47th Test. He has found himself a clear role in whites, at last, as England’s salvage specialist. This is the third time in a month that he has come in at 120-odd for four, or worse, and calmly steered the ship away from the rocks.
Pakistan won the first half of the day but lost the second, heavily. It would be so good for the series if they could bounce back this morning. As no overs have yet been lost, play will start at 11am, weather permitting. According to the Met Office, there’s a 30-per-cent chance of rain in the first hour, rising to 40 in the second, but the rest of the day is looking dry. As is the pitch, which has had Shane Warne licking his lips, and Dom Bess thinking that he may even get a bowl.
at 5.40am EDT