A lucky dip in my inbox brings an email from author Kamila Shamsie, award- winning author of Home Fire amongst others.
“This may be a good moment to suggest that anyone who hasn’t yet read Jonny Bairstow’s memoir ‘A Clear Blue Sky’ (co-written with Duncan Hamilton) might want to amend that. It was Wisden’s Book of the Year in 2018, chosen by…er…me.”
I’m so sorry not to have got back on the many emails and tweets sitting in my inbox. A lot of them can be summed up like this:
Root is talking to Ian Ward. He looks emotional, in a good way. He can’t always maintain eye contact. “The feeling in the dressing room at the moment is that whatever the target, we’ll take it down,” he says.
On YJB: “he looks like he’s got a real clarity about how he plays his cricket. There have been a number of times, he’s been in and out of the side, you can blame me for that if you like. It’s great fun seeing someone I’ve known since I was 12 years old make the most of his talent in this format.”
He says part of the reason he is on top of his game is coming to terms with getting out: “Its a game of failure batting and you’re not going to get it right every time.”
76.4 overs: England 378-3 (Root 142, Bairstow 114) Target 378 Too easy! Root levels the score with a beaut of a reverse-sweep and repeats the shot for the win. Bairstow gives Root a tap on the backside with his bat, Root throws his arm round his neck. Warriors both.
76th over: England 372-3 (Root 137, Bairstow 113) Target 378 Does Root want 150? He’d better not as YJB is seeing the ball like a balloon again: three successive fours off Siraj: crashed through point; pancaked over his head; zipped over midwicket.
75th over: England 357-3 (Root 136, Bairstow 100) Target 378 After three nervous prods, Jonny whistles a single off his boots and they sprint for the quickest single of the day, that sees the DRS called up to judge whether Root made his ground. He did and Jonny grins, in pure happiness, some of the repressed emotion seems to have drained away with his fourth hundred in five innings. His 12th Test hundred in all. Root gives him a huge hug and Edgbaston rises.
74th over: England 346-3 (Root 135, Bairstow 99) Target 378 The crowd roar for Jonny: Root takes a single down to third man, and Jonny picks up a single to point. Root eats more runs, including a sweet squarish cover drive for four, to bring the total needed down to 22. YJB to face Jadeja on 99.
73rd over: England 346-3 (Root 125, Bairstow 98) Target 378 Bairstow plays out
A maiden! Root now has to not score too many off Thakur.
the first five balls of Jadeja’s over.
72nd over: England 346-3 (Root 126, Bairstow 98) Target 378 Root gallops down the wicket and flays Thakur back over his head for four, a man supping from the cup of divine confidence. He then reverse-scoops with an aside of panache for four more. Joe, er, don’t forget Jonny at the other end. India throw in a wide and a no ball for good measure.
71st over: England 332-3 (Root 115, Bairstow 97) Target 378 Jadeja at last, and he makes trouble immediately, pitching into the rough and having Root in two minds.
70th over: England 331-3 (Root 114, Bairstow 97) Target 378 YJP thrashes Thakur through backward square with mighty sword, to sit a blow away from another hundred.
A suggestion from Tom on the fifth-day free-ticket bonanza. I can’t see a downside to it, though you might quibble the price. Is there one?
“Tickets cost £10 to nominated charity when booked online, at the gate as your QR code is scanned you get the option of a refund or to keep the donation in place? Still free to attend but there’s a cost to not attending.”
69th over: England 325-3 (Root 113, Bairstow 92) Target 378 Root motoring while Bairstow has become stranded. They take Drinks, I think, as we have a long ad break.
The OBO is in feisty mood with England rolling towards a win. Writes David Reynolds, with a flourish of his quill: “I’m sure we all remember 18 months or so ago in India when a series of heavily bowler-friendly wickets served up an unequal contest in favour of the bowler – every English pundit seemed to howl at the injustice of it, as well as the dullness of the resulting spectacle, in which wickets fall far too easily and quickly.
Now we have the reverse situation, in which test after test this summer serves up a dry, lifeless wicket, complemented by a dull, lifeless, quickly softening ball. The result is a situation in which batters can smack the ball around with impunity, knowing that there will almost be nothing by way of movement to surprise or unsettle them. And yet our press is beside itself with the raptures of how thrilling and exciting this is.
“But there is nothing exciting about this. It’s a completely unequal contest between bat and ball – the opposite of which is the essence of exciting cricket. Every single one of these fourth inning run-chases have been utterly tedious, Just batsmen smashing the ball around in pointless haste, with never the slightest danger of failing to reach the target.”
68th over: England 321-3 (Root 109, Bairstow 92) Target 378 Thakur comes on a restores some discipline, which is not the line I thought I’d be typing. Just a wide from it.
From Joe Plewes re the songs yesterday. “That tune is sung loads for all sorts in a completely non offensive/positive way at football and cricket too (Champions of Europe, we know what we are etc), and was a song very famously sung to Mitchell Johnson (in the end taken in pretty good faith by Johnson – sung loads at the cricket
“To conflate it with the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand incident is very very weird and no one singing it would think about that… there was one incident where the same tune was used by Chelsea fans, but it has also been used by other fans in a – you know what you are, you’re racist b****ds’ type way by other supporters. But it’s just a common football chant tune!
Honestly has no relevance to the he bowls to the left chant!”
Thank you for your email – football is not really my game as you’ve probably guessed, so I can’t really add anything to it. Good to have this discussion.
67th over: England 319-3 (Root 108, Bairstow 92) Target 378 And with a dab past the slips, Roots 28th hundred rolls by, his second in the fourth innings, his third of the summer, a ninth against India. He takes a hug from Bairstow, punches the air, pulls off his gloves, wiggles his little finger towards the dressing room, kisses the helmet. 15 bootiful fours. And a cover drive for the ages off Siraj to celebrate. A man relishing his own pomp, and so do we.
66th over: England 310-3 (Root 99, Bairstow 92) Target 378 Glorious by Root, down past the non-existent third man to the rope, four more from a half volley to rest on 98. He sprints a single, but can’t come back for the second. Bumrah curiously out of sorts.
65th over: England 301-3 (Root 90, Bairstow 92) Target 378 Is it wrong to wish for just a little bit of jeopardy with my coffee? Siraj engineers another ball change – I think, but I was distracted by the postman. Anyway, three from the over including a sumptuous square drive from Root.
No news yet on where to watch at Wimbledon, but if you’re in Sofia, you’re in luck. “The very nice nice people in Teos bar on Angel Kunchev Street have just put the cricket on for me,” taps Jason Smith. “Only person watching it, so anyone in Sofia looking for lunchtime drinking while watching the cricket for the next hour or so, this is the place to be.”
64th over: England 298-3 (Root 87, Bairstow 92) Target 378 A precious maiden from Bumrah, the first of the day and the first for 29 overs.
An email flies in, from Mike Waters: “I was at the ground yesterday, at the Hollies side of the Pavilion stand. I didn’t hear anything amiss but from the social media posts I have seen today the problem people identified so far were far away from me. It was a brilliant atmosphere all day where I sat.
“However the new “Siraj bowls shite” song did make me sit up when I heard it at first. Not so much for the lyrics which were quite funny apart from the bad language. The tune though is the infamous “ you know what you are” song that was frequently directed at black players around the time of the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand incident, and you would hope enough people knew better than to join in.”
Thank you. That wouldn’t have occurred to me.
63rd over: England 298-3 (Root 87, Bairstow 92) Target 378 Whatever India were planning this morning, I don’t think it was this. Shami gets the ball hooping, but wildly, four more byes fly past Pant to start the over. A super stop by Vihari at point saves four from Root, but Root tweaks his angle for the last ball and, bended of knee, flourishes four through the covers.
In the spirit of Bazball and Kimye, Dave Clark has a suggestion. “I name the present England pairing Bairoot? The second syllable is elongated of course.”
62nd over: England 288-3 (Root 82, Bairstow 91) Target 378 Jonny in the zone, a pitch-perfect four through mid-on. Bumrah struggling a bit with his line. Ooof, Jonny has a push but the gods are with England and it beats the bat.
61st over: England 282-3 (Root 82, Bairstow 85) Target 378 A leggy inswinger from Shami flies past the flying Pant to take the target under a hundred.
Fantastic news, this on New Zealand’s women:
60th over: England 277-3 (Root 82, Bairstow 84) Target 378 Now we get Bumrah, cranking in like a puppet with the new old ball. He’s a bit wayward by his standards, and then Root’s bottom edge flies past the wrong-footed Pant and down to the rope.
Thank you Phil West: “Hello Tanya! Hope the cricket today is brilliant – let’s face it, if either team wins it will go down in the “I was there” category.Regarding the percentage runs scored by Root and Bairstow: I started to work this out but the figures from the first two tests against NZ show something very interesting. Yes, 115 – 136 – 176 are all there but so are scores of 11 – 1 – 3 – and 8. Just from those games we have 37%. I think we would have all guessed more.”
59th over: England 271-3 (Root 77, Bairstow 83) Target 378 It’s Shami. This must be a plan, of sorts. After three balls, India appeal for a new pill. It doesn’t fit through the umpire’s nut crackers, so a new ball it is. As Nasser says, it’s a gamble for India: the old ball was reversing – the new one will be harder, but might do nothing. And with the very first delivery, the new ball gets hammered square for four by Bairstow. And the second. A final out-swinger saves Shami’s blushes.
“Dear England cricket team,” taps Robin Hazlehurst. “Please can we have Baz when you’ve finished with him. Before Saturday would be ideal. Thanks.The England rugby team.”
58th over: England 263-3 (Root 77, Bairstow 75) Target 378 The lights are on at Edgbaston, and just one slip awaits Siraj. His first is a snorter that just passes Root’s nostrils. The second comes back and raps Root on the pads. He picks up a single, then Bairstow a couple from a misfield by Pujara in the covers.
Right, here we go!
If England chase down this target, it will be the eighth largest in Test history.
“A poor benighted England cricket fan here in the wilds of Connemara. God, I’m nervous…I’m sure I can hear the ghost of Hobart sniggering behind the sofa – or it might just be the uproar of butterflies in my stomach.
“Any chance you or the OBO Hive Mind could oblige with the TMS overseas link?
“Thanks to all OBO staff for the wonderful job you all do. I shall be glued.”
Flattery Bill, it gets you everywhere. Here is the overseas link.
“Rather unlikely I suspect but would you, or any of the other wonderful OBO types, know of anywhere at AELTC that is showing the cricket? I appear to have come to the wrong sports venue by mistake.”
Craig, I’m sure someone can come to your assistance.
“Do we know what percentage of England runs have come from these two in the four Tests this year?” asks Michael Scott.
Michael, I don’t have those stats to hand, but in eight Test innings this year, Joe Root is averaging 100.6, Jonny Bairstow 95.33. Crazy numbers.
“Gutted to report I am giving a zoom lecture between 10.30 and 12.30 this morning! On an unrelated note, I think it’s time that Root and Bairstow knuckled down like proper test batman and aim to add about 20 for no wicket before lunch, and then take up the chase in the second session.”
Pete, that would be against the Bazball code and the curse would live on for generations.
This is a very good point by Smylers – though I think people were “encouraged” to give to the Bob Willis Fund when enrolling for tickets for Edgbaston – don’t know if that will make a difference.
“Not specifically addressed at you, but it’d be nice if the media showed some balance rather than universally praising 5th-day free tickets. Being free, people snap them up quickly without really thinking through whether they will be attending, the tickets ‘sell’ out within a couple of hours, and social media is full of both people who realise they won’t be using their tickets and those who missed out. (And the T&Cs prevent transferring them.)
“At Headingley last week the ground was only half-full, yet there were fans without tickets being turned away at the gates. Surely better to have a nominal fee, say £5 for adults (children free), all going to charity? The organisers can still get the publicity boost of really cheap tickets and the charity fundraising, but people are less likely to unthinkingly grab tickets they won’t use, and the stands will be fuller of people who actually can go. For most, the cost of attending (transport, parking, food, time off work) is such that a fiver on the tickets wouldn’t be the deciding factor anyway.”
Weather from our man on the spot:
Butcher and Hussain think Jadeja was bowling at the wrong end yesterday – the rough would work better for him at the pavilion end. 23 overs till the new ball.
“Hello Tanya, I hope you’re keeping well.” Hello Tim Sanders, lovely to hear from you.
“That picture of Joe and Jonny walking off yesterday reminds me of the Bouldermobile in The Wacky Races. Rock and Gravel would hit themselves on the head with their clubs to make it go faster.
Probably it’s just me…”
Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher are talking about the pitch – basically it is good.
Sky are asking what Baz-ball is. And answering their own question with lots of big hitting and “POW” graphics. If Bazball had been in my class at school, I’d have found him incredibly irritating, but carried a secret crush.
Jimmy has been rolled out to talk to Ian Ward. “We were up against it [yesterday], had seven wickets to get, but we had that belief that we’d go out there and really challenge it. Ben had the strength of mind to say how we had to go about it and it paid off. The ball wasn’t doing much so the short stuff was the way to go.”
On Root and Bairstow: “They’re scarily good. We know Joe’s quality and Jonny is just having an amazing year. I’ve watched their shots as a bowler and just thought – what could you do?”
Love this picture. Henry VIII and Lancelot (without the bad bits).
This is in the bag, right? England to swagger out this morning at Edgbaston in their posing pouches, blowing the sawdust from their hands, ready to knock the top off another crazy chase: just 119 needed to draw the series started last year and notch up another record.
It seems so wrong to write that. With old England, familiar England, collapse was always waiting in the wings: take your pick from 10 for 56 at Hobart to finish off The Ashes, all out 120 at Lord’s against India last year, or many more. But though Bazball seems to offer huge potential for folding like a whirly-gig washing line, to date it hasn’t happened, with successful chases of 279, 299 and 296 against New Zealand. And Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root are batting like golden gods. It all rests on what Bumrah can conjure up in the first overs of the day.
Edgbaston will be stuffed full – following the examples of Trent Bridge and Headingley in offering free tickets on the fifth day – for the last instalment of Test cricket till the first Test against South Africa on August 17. But there was some sobering news last night, as allegations of racist abuse of Indian supporters in the stands came to light. The ECB and Edgbaston announced immediate investigations, but its alleged brazenness and the inability of the stewards to stop it, is intensely depressing.