Defending India’s death bowling, Gaikwad reasoned that it’s tough on the bowlers in such unfavourable conditions.
Australia won by two wickets at Edgbaston to go one up in the Ashes, which implied a humdinger, rabbits rising to what once used to be called the occasion. In the age of Twenty20 and the sort of quasi-martial phraseology it has got us used to, it will probably be called “giving it back”, reflecting a raw combative disposition to be appreciated for its own sake. Importantly, though, it was only England’s third defeat of the Bazball regime, which meant that you couldn’t really dip your pain in acid and write disdainfully of Brendon McCullum, the coach who preaches hyper-aggressive Test cricket or Ben Stokes, the captain who made himself conspicuous with his rash first-day declaration. He of course said the match wouldn’t have been half as exciting as it turned out to be on its fifth day but for his bold move. The argument didn’t seem to have swung public sentiment but that hardly mattered. When Sachin Tendulkar, at a difficult moment when his exit was implicitly asked for by people he did not know, Viv Richards reportedly told him not to worry about what those who had not played half as much cricket as him said. Besides, even after the defeat, Stokes wasn’t ripped into, never mind the inter-team bantering. It was not as if losing an Ashes Test didn’t hurt England but from the hopelessness of the Joe Root era to the serial success of the new age, with McCullum and Stokes mostly delivering on their promise it was like waking up in the morning sunshine, buds blooming. England would have been seen the glass more as half-full rather than half-empty.
But the question is if England will be stoic, draining the cup to its bitter dregs and not breathing a critical word, should Stokes’ gung-ho gang let it be 0-2 at Lord’s? Geoff Boycott says no. Some crucial elements in their performance at Edgbaston have already drawn regretful attention. If Bazball defines their second-innings batting, it had better not; they must find a wicketkeeper who does not foozle it as many times as the incumbent did; if they will miss Moeen Ali, an off-spinner as an attacking option will have to be put in. Australia, rich in left-handed batting resources, have seldom been at their best taking off-spinners on, which was just one reason Ravichandran Ashwin shouldn’t really have been kept off by India in the World Test Championship final. England may have thought at least a little more of their pace combination in the run-up to the second Test ~ and the Ashes schedule is questionably congested ~ but, good as they are, they need to pull level now or the Australians are sure to try and press their advantage. They won’t mind being “boring,” as the crowd said, if they get farther ahead. Edgbaston, unlike what McCullum said, was not about poor luck.