6th over: England 21-1 (Cook 17, Root 0) Cook nails another cover drive, but this one goes straight to a fielder along the floor. Obviously this is ludicrous fate-tempting, but he does look relatively assured so far – or at least is trying to make himself look relatively assured.
A quiz question for you: has anyone else done this…?
5th over: England 21-1 (Cook 17, Root 0) Amir inconsistent so far: two fours in a row, one from a stinking leg-stump half-volley that Cook flicks to the boundary with his eyes shut, one from a better ball just outside off that Cook half edges, half guides to third man. All runs scored in boundaries so far…until they try an absolutely ludicrous single that nearly runs out Root before he faced a ball. Babar Azam swept in from cover, flung at the stumps while on the move but it missed: had it hit, Root was shy of his ground by two or three yards.
4th over: England 12-1 (Cook 8, Root 0) And here’s England’s new No.3…
WICKET! Stoneman b Abbas 4 – England 12-1
Lovely bowling by Abbas, who looks like he was grown in a lab by scientists trying to produce the perfect bowler for early-season English seamers. Two beat Stoneman’s outside edge, then one just gets through the opener and takes out off stump: not sure it really swung that much, but the last few balls had set him up.
3rd over: England 12-0 (Cook 8, Stoneman 4) Amir starts his second over somewhat wildly, the first ball very nearly an offside wide, the follow-up an over-compensation which Cook neatly clips to the fine leg fence. Better stuff next up though, beating Cook’s edge with the classic old half-a-bat shaper. The last ball of the over is a pretty juicy half-volley, which brings us the unusual sight of Cook launching into a glorious cover-drive, for another boundary. Good news for both there: Cook hit that brilliantly, but Amir will want him driving, looking for those edges.
2nd over: England 4-0 (Cook 0, Stoneman 4) Mohammad Abbas takes the ball from the Nursery End, and Stoneman leaves his first ball which dips in and takes him on the thigh. The next is pitched up, and Stoneman leans on it, sending the ball scooting out to the point fence. It’s a shortish boundary, but the surface doesn’t seem to have suffered hugely from the overnight rain.
Here’s a riff-starter from the venerable Steve Pye…
1st over: England 0-0 (Cook 0, Stoneman 0) Cook plays out a maiden first up, jabbing at a couple and Amir beats him once past the outside edge. Speaking of Cook, here’s Matt Potter: “Cook equals the most successive test matches today with 153, just an incredible record, testament just as much to his durability as well as his ability. Wouldn’t a Cook special daddy 100 be an appropriate way to start the summer? Still can’t believe some people want him out of the side.”
For those abroad wondering about the YouTube link for TMS, it’s here. Although you’ll obviously want to listen to them, and read us…
And we are away. The players are out, Mohammad Amir has the ball from the Pavillion End, and he’ll open up to Alastair Cook. These are glorious times.
Something interesting to note before he trots out with the gloves, which is Sarfraz Ahmed’s keeping. In short, he’s not really been any good of late, dropping things right left and centre. Indeed, according to stats cribbed shamelessly from Cricinfo, he’s basically missing one in six catches or stumping chances. All eyes on him, not least because he isn’t really scoring runs either.
Some England-related concerns. “Have England seen what has gone on in county cricket this season?” notes David Brown. “Very brave decision to bat first as if anyone can swing the ball it will be Pakistan.” While Mesnil Man notes that “with neither Moeen, nor Woakes, that tail looks long…”
England might not always be the best at cricket, but they are usually the best at fretting about cricket.
Some pre-match reading:
Vic Marks lines up the debut of Dom Bess and the return of Joseph Buttler…
Words from Jos Buttler, on said return…
From last weekend, here’s Azhar Ali, who reckons Pakistan’s bowlers can do some damage to the England line-up…
On Gary Naylor, Neil McLean writes: “Has anyone met Gary? I’m beginning to suspect it’s a shadow organisation, similar to SPECTRE, plotting the domination of the world through cricket. 1000’s of n’er do wells operating under the name Gary Naylor.”
I have never met the great man, but I am assured he is one single, living breathing organism, with no connection to the implausibly well-funded evil underworld.
We mentioned Dan Lucas earlier: there’s going to be a cricket match in his memory in London in July, organised by his remarkable partner Elizabeth – details here:
Joe Root explained that, while the bowling conditions look good, the pitch is dry, so that’s why he elected to bat. Which, of course, is fair enough. Sarfraz said he would’ve bowled, which of course is fair enough. Opinions!
Cook, Stoneman, Root (c), Malan, Bairstow (wk), Stokes, Buttler, Bess, Broad, Wood, Anderson.
Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas.
England have won the toss…
…and will bat. Interesting. I would’ve bowled, for what it’s worth. Which is not too much.
“Morning Nick, Morning everybody,” traditionally greets Richard Williams. “It doesn’t get better than sending that first email of the OBO season….. and they say test cricket is dying. Forget what happened in the winter, it’s a bright blue sunny 23 degrees here in Berlin, and I could not be more in the cricketing mood. May I be first to ask for the obligatory Overseas TMS link for those of us who want to double down on their cricket commentary.”
I believe the link pops up as they go on air, but will keep an eye out.
“Seeing as he loved a test against Pakistan,” writes Simon Thomas, “actually – seeing as he loved a Test Match, a fond and warm minute of applause in memory of our much missed Guardian OBO friend, Dan Lucas.”
Damn right, Simon. A bit over a year ago we lost Dan, which is mad. He is indeed much missed.
Sounds like Mark Wood has got the nod for the last bowling spot, picked over Chris Woakes. A slight surprise given the overcast, muggy conditions perhaps? Not that Woakes is a prodigious hooper, but he certainly swings it more than Wood. Meanwhile, appropriately enough, ours and Somerset’s own Victor Marks is on the outfield to hand Dom Bess his England cap.
Here he is! The summer can truly begin.
Bob O‘Hara has been on, asking about the surest sign that the summer is here: “Morning! Has Gary Naylor emailed you yet?”
Actually, you know what…no. We’ll start to worry if play starts and he hasn’t been in touch.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the finest hour of English sport that isn’t sport is the hour before the first Test match of the summer. The contented anticipation, combined with the innocence of thought that this is the series or summer could be different to all of the others, is wonderful.
This summer is perhaps a more prominent example than most, with England easing into new eras: a new selector with promises of revolutionary (or at least new) thought, a new spinner, a new No.7 (which doesn’t sound especially dramatic, but it is a bit different when it’s Jos Buttler). There are still big doubts over parts of the batting line-up that we’ve doubted for some time, and still there is the looming prospect of having to find a reliable new set as the inevitability of time creeps up on Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.
It’s perhaps appropriate that England face Pakistan, rarely the best team in the world but frequently the most interesting, and unpredictable. That they’re in something of a transitional phase, with untried bowlers and fresh young batsman, makes it all the more interesting. Their win over Ireland was more comfortable than it looked for a while, but other recent results have been patchy.
In short, it should be a brilliant series. Now we just have to trust the weather to sort itself bloody well out: London is currently weighed down by drizzle. Stick with us though, it’s going to be great.
Toss: 10.30 am BST.