Ball One – I’m not quite sure what exactly constitutes a new ball pitch, but this is surely one. Batting seems much, much more difficult early on than later, when the older ball has not swung and, hence, not gone further off the seam. England would do well to treat the innings as a Test Match for the first ten overs, an ODI for the next thirty overs and a T20 for the last ten. Not really the done thing in these days of maxing out powerplay overs, but it may well be the best route to 235.
Ball Two – Most England batsmen tend to begin their international careers with a wide array of shots in Limited Overs Cricket catching the eye with eye-catching performances – KP, Eoin Morgan, even Andrew Strauss got their starts in that way. On entering the unforgiving environment of Test Cricket, shots are reined in, techniques are tightened and strike rates drop. England captain, Alastair Cook is making the reverse trip. Parachuted (almost literally) into Test Cricket at Nagpur in 2006, he is loosening his game, expanding his range of shots and becoming an ODI player before our very eyes. And he’s making a decent fist of it.
Ball Three – With rain around just as the match becomes a match (ie twenty overs are bowled), the Duckworth-Lewis par score at the end of the over becomes critical. It’s dangerous to become too fixated on it, but if you’re ahead, it’s a good idea to block a few and not lose a wicket trying to hit a boundary. Finding a loose shoelace isn’t a bad move either.
Ball Four – Rain sends the players from the middle, but when will we see them return? In short, it’s once it stops raining and the outfield is safe, but who knows when the cut off is for getting the game started again.
Ball Five – Ian Bell resumes England’s innings with tyro Ben Stokes with the target a tricky one of just under a run a ball. Bell has been a thorn in India’s side throughout the tour and must draw on that confidence to shepherd his relatively inexperienced team-mates home. And as I write that, Bell finds a way of getting run out as dozily as he did before being recalled at Trent Bridge in the Test. Will Bell ever look like a leader of men?
Ball Six – Graeme Swann is listed at Number Nine and has passed fifty 56 times in his professional career. He has, however, not held a bat in anger since July. The protection that central contracts offers bowlers is very obviously a good thing, but bowlers bat so infrequently these days that it’s tough to expect much from them. Especially if those same bowlers regularly win Test matches by an innings.