|Your wallet in September?|
Grounds these days bid to the ECB to stage a Test Match and with Lord's guaranteed two games and The Oval guaranteed one, this presents a problem. With Trent Bridge, Headingley, Edgbaston, Old Trafford as the traditional venues all wanting a slice of the action, along with the newer venues such as Chester-le-Street and Cardiff muscling in, competition has never been greater. Chuck in The Rose Bowl and now Taunton who will be there soon for the one day stuff, and the ECB has the counties by the short and curlies with regards to how much they are charging. Now if you are a county having paid through the nose to get a Test match, you are going to want to maximise your revenue and therefore you will want the game to last for a minimum of four days, preferably five. Your groundsman, being a loyal employee or crapping himself from getting his P45 in the post, will produce a wicket accordingly.
So the days of blasting sides out in two and half days on green tops at Headingley or sporting tracks at Edgbaston are a thing of the past, and this has increased the odds on a draw.
|The Gnome...turgid tour to India in 81-82|
New drainage systems at the grounds have ensured that when the monsoons arrive then cricket is being played an hour or so later, but this has also dried the squares out and wickets have become akin to sub continental featherbeds. This also increases the chances of a draw. Ok they are far from the sort of stuff prepared over in India in 1981-82 on that turgid tour under Keith Fletcher, when they went 1-0 up early and then prepared some of the worst tracks ever, but what is currently being served up makes it seriously favourable for the batsman.
Then there are the tactics. Peter Moores hasn't exactly been a gambler in either of his stints as coach, whilst Alastair Cook's captaincy is so conservative that it wouldn't surprise me if he privatised the MCC on his next visit to Lord's and floated it on the Stock Exchange. MCC plc? Hmmmm. More close catch-erism than Thatcherism, please Chef? Duncan Fletcher meanwhile wasn't exactly known for his aggressive tactics when he was England coach, although Michael Vaughan and Matthew Maynard talked him into some positive declarations.
The 380 we set Sri Lanka on the last day at Lord's was way too many, and I can see both sides being 300 ahead going into the last day and batting on until lunch. Yes, we'll set you 400 in two sessions and if you don't go for it, we'll claim the moral high ground! No thanks, I'd rather lose a Test match attempting to win it if you don't mind.
|Keith or Duncan Fletcher?|
Throw in the fact that we haven't got a frontline spinner and India have more aficionados in the art of seam than an East End tailors. Moeen Ali is a fantastic bat as shown by his ton at Headingley, and an improving offie, but he is not going to pick you up six or seven wickets on the last day, especially as these boys can play spin. Saying that, Cook must have the confidence to use him properly as well. India meanwhile have just the six seamers as well as all rounder Stuart Binny, although one of those six does include Ishant Sharma. Or as he will be known by the end of the series, Ishant Good Enough.
They can bat too and under cloudless skies, our seam attack can toil against a decent line up. Remember South Africa a couple of years ago? Pujara looks like a class act, and Kohli has been known to score the odd run here and there. Dhoni and Binny if he plays, will bolster the middle order. England meanwhile will bat deep as they showed against Sri Lanka, picking players who may not be the best exponents of their respective fields in the country, but those who offer something with the bat and in the field. Bowling sides out on these wickets is not an easy task.
So all of the above gives me the sneaking suspicion that there might be the odd draw. Chuck in a bit of rain here and there, and it becomes more feasible. The bookies certainly think so. Stan James yesterday had a 0-0 stalemate at 250-1, whilst today the best you can get is 150-1 on Skybet. Hmmm. Ladbrokes meanwhile are offering a measly 66-1.
|Ishant Good Enough|
It has to be worth a fiver doesn't it? Or less than a price of a pint of Peroni (£5.15!!!! Ow Much?) as I paid the other day in a pub in Central London. My advice is get down to your local Turf Accountant or get on the hotline to your favourite illegal Indian bookie, providing he is not on the blower to Lou Vincent incandescent with rage, and stick a couple of quid on the 0-0.
You might be thanking us come September.