|Packing them in at the AEGEAS Bowl|
India were fresh off a victory at Lord's but their selection panel got this one horrendously wrong. I think Ashwin must have pissed in Dhoni's kit at some point, as they yet again omitted their best spinner. They brought in Rohit Sharma and the big unit, Pankaj Singh for the injured Ishant Sharma and confined Stuart, to the DustBinny. England also rang the changes. Buttler came in for Prior, Woakes and Jordan for Plunkett and Stokes. Doris Stokes couldn't have foreseen what would happen over the next five days, let alone Ben.
The game started on a Sunday. I don't know whether this was a cause, or if there is a lack of demand for the poor brand of cricket that England have played recently, but the people of Southampton seemed to arrive in fancy dress as a lot of empty seats. No doubt, the training ground of the local football team is just as sparsely populated after the mass exodus from the football club. However, partisan and loyal were the Hampshire crowd and warmly got behind the out of form England skipper.
Cook got 95 before getting out in a way that even Charles Saatchi couldn't strangle more. Ballance continued his sublime form, before Bell played the type of innings that we know he is all capable of. His cover driving was immense, and on his day he is one of the most beautiful batsmen to watch in the world. This was his day. Rumours that Liverpool bid £15 million for Ballance and Bell after they both did the business in Southampton are unconfirmed though. Pankaj toiled in the heat, although was unlucky, Kumar bowled well but the spinners for India could only be described in a similar way to how Usain Bolt allegedly described the Commonwealth Games. A bit shit, really.
Most of the talk was about Moeen Ali's wristbands. One had 'Save Gaza' and the other had 'Free Palestine'. It was a great way to bring light to a humanitarian cause by Ali, even though the ICC made him remove them for the rest of the match. He proudly wore a shirt with Help for Heroes the next day, on the centenary of the start of World War One. India were already facing trench warfare thanks to their selectors. As for Ali, we cane our sportsmen for being thick as two short planks, and when one does use his brain and bring light to a justifiable cause with the nefarious bombing by Israel, he gets lambasted for it.
|The ICC don't sanction these pages, Moeen!|
Jos came in, got dropped, got a result in one that looked like it carried to slip and India were calling for DRS. A sparkling 85, full of power and reverse sweeps were the mainstay. Captain Cook had the luxury of declaring on 567-7.
India batted and faced a pumped up, bearded Jimmy back to his best. Whether it is the fact that he could be on for a long holiday subject to the ICC disciplinary panel for his shove at Trent Bridge on Jadeja, I don't know but he looked refreshed and up for it. Some of the shots from the Indian batsmen were shockingly shite. Rahane skying a long hop to the substitute Steve Terry, and Sharma chipping one to mid off. At Test level, you get runs of low scores; that is part of the game. Not to go on however, once you get a start and convert into a big one is criminal and all of them got in, and then got out. As for Anderson, The Rifles may have told us that 'Jimmy was a local boy, he lines them up and he puts them down' but whether he plays up in Lancashire remains to be seen.
India were bowled out for 330 with the Burnley Express picking up 5-53. Cautious Cook didn't follow on but when England batted, Robson nicked off, Ballance got his second rough one of the match and Cook finished up with 70 not out. A very good Test wicket was showing signs of deteriorating as much as Southampton singer Craig David's musical career. Mirroring the soul singer, it started promisingly offering glimpses of something new before crumbling up, offering indifference before disappearing into a puff of dust. India need to look at their Bo Selectas meanwhile, after leaving out Ashwin. In the land of Jane Austen, they didn't show any Sense or Sensibility.
|The Beard that's Revered...|
So having declared for the second time, 444 ahead, India capitulated. Moeen Ali picked up six wickets, thanks to getting on the board with a fantastic catch at slip to dismiss Murali Vijay. It almost caused him to don a Free Jordan wristband. Only Rahane, not for the first time this series showed any application, as they were shot out for a meagre 178. Ali picked up 6-63 to become the Beard that's Revered. Cook showed faith in him for the first time this summer, and it was great to see an English spinner doing the business. I have caned the tactics in these pages this summer, rightly so at times, but this was spot on and decent cricket to watch too.
So both sides head to Old Trafford for the fourth Test, where surely the first rain break of this Pataudi Trophy series must be on the cards? Poised at 1-1, this could be anyone's series and is set up beautifully. The afore mentioned Mr David may have crooned about Seven Days, but this was five days that all Englishmen desperately needed.