“Monsieur Smyth,” says Robert Wilson. “Normally, you’re a solid and redoubtable rain-break scribe, a friend to punchline and digression. You quip and quibble, you dip deftly archivewards and produce rabbits and Aces, you merrily concede the absurdity of such a sport (and writing about it too). Your washed-out OBOs are triumphant protests against inconsequence and ennui. But I feel a certain ragged stress in you in this game, a flaw in the diamond of your sunny burble. Has this match/summer/year broken your butterfly upon a wheel? I say go straight to the comfort blanket. It might help us too. If you felt the need to stick your thumb in your mouth and do a couple of dreamy evocations of Martin McCague or Robin Smith, we’d be here for you.”
The perception on you! I have felt quite tired during this game, which might be related to an inability to remember the last day off. But tomorrow is free and I plan to do absolutely nothing except, erm, watch cricket.
“Not related to his dismissal today, but I think Burns won’t be opener come the Ashes,” says Andrew Hurley. “He has had extraordinary luck since he’s in the team (Ashes last year for example) and I’m not convinced by him, at all. I think he’s a chancer.”
I wouldn’t be particularly surprised either way. Experience suggests that at least one of the top three will fall by the wayside in the next 12 months, and you could make a case for any of them. Burns and Sibley have an admirable temperament, but it’s not the greatest time to have an imperfect technique. In many ways Crawley looks the best, though we don’t yet know whether he is as ruthless as the other two, Sibley in particular.
The Bob Willis Trophy
There’s plenty of cricket going on elsewhere, and Tanya is keeping several eyes on it.
Bad light stops play
Ach. It’s going to pour down any minute, too, so I suspect that will be it before lunch.
5th over: England 7-1 (Sibley 2, Crawley 5) Sibley has two first-innings ducks already this summer. They’re an occupation hazard for an opener, but three in five Tests isn’t a great look and he’ll be relieved to get off the mark with a work to leg for two. That was the least uncomfortable so far, with Sibley able to leave a few deliveries outside off.
4th over: England 5-1 (Sibley 0, Crawley 5) Crawley is beaten by a jaffa that straightens and flicks the back leg on its way through to Rizwan. After that he starts to walk at Abbas, in an attempt to minimise the LBW threat, and gets a couple more runs with a clip to leg. Good, proactive batting.
“Well I’ll say one thing about this England side, it’s rarely boring watching us play,” weeps Guy Hornsby. “The collapse is ALWAYS on. But you have to bowl well, and I’m not sure I enjoy watching any side bowl more than Pakistan. For the Test cricket purist, they’re leather and willow catnip.”
3rd over: England 3-1 (Sibley 0, Crawley 3) The lights are on, and bad light might save England from a very unpleasant examination. Crawley softens his hands sufficiently to ensure an edge fall off Afridi short of third slip, and then gets the first runs of the innings with a work to leg for three. His reward is to keep the strike for Mohammad Abbas’s next over.
“Morning Rob,” says Brian Withington. “Having deleted a draft email that riffed on how Pakistan had not scored quite enough to enforce a follow on, I am now officially having second thoughts …”
Well, England were 27 for nine against New Zealand in similiar conditions a couple of years ago, so never say never.
2nd over: England 0-1 (Sibley 0, Crawley 0) Mohammad Abbas’s first ball kicks nastily to hit Sibley in the ribs. Batting looks fiendishly difficult here, particularly in the first 15-20 balls. A majestic over from Abbas includes consecutive deliveries that beat the outside edge and a strangled shout for LBW. IS IT COWARDLY TO PRAY FOR 36 HOURS OF THUNDERSTORMS.
1st over: England 0-1 (Sibley 0, Crawley 0) A superb first over from Afridi, who has got the ball swinging beautifully back into the right-hander.
Crawley is not out UltraEdge suggests Crawley got a slight inside edge, so we didn’t even get to ball tracking.
0.5 overs: England 0-1 (Sibley 0, Crawley 0) England could be rolled for under 50 here. Crawley survives a huge LBW shout first ball; I reckon it was swinging past leg stump – but Azhar Ali has reviewed.
WICKET! England 0-1 (Burns c Shafiq b Afridi 0)
Rory Burns has gone fourth ball for nought! He was lucky to last that long. Having edged Afridi’s first delivery just short of Shafiq at second slip, he nicked another terrific outswinger three balls later. This one carried nicely to Shafiq, who grabbed it with not inconsiderable glee.
The players are back on the field. Shaheen Shah Afridi will open the bowling to Rory Burns, and I know whose shoes I’d rather be in.
WICKET! Pakistan 236 all out (Rizwan c Crawley b Broad 72)
All over. Rizwan tries to turn Broad to leg and gets a big leading edge that loops to Crawley in the covers. That was a fine innings from Rizwan, 72 from 139 balls, and he helped Pakistan add 60 for the last two wickets. I say ‘helped’; he scored 48 of them.
91st over: Pakistan 236-9 (Rizwan 72, Naseem 1) Rizwan continues to wage war on fresh air. He gets hold of one later in the over, slapping Anderson through backward point for four. A single off the last delivery allows him to keep strike. This is becoming a little irksome for England.
90th over: Pakistan 231-9 (Rizwan 67, Naseem 1) Naseem survives a full over from Broad, aided by the fact most of the deliveries were off target.
“I had expected the game to start at 7.30am to make up for lost time and with the introduction of ‘Breakfast’ at 10.30am,” says Ian Copestake. “But no, you’re right, why change what isn’t broke, eh Pep?”
89th over: Pakistan 231-9 (Rizwan 67, Naseem 1) Rizwan charges Anderson again. This time he connects with the ball, slicing it high over gully for four. That aside it was a terrific over from Anderson, including two beautiful deliveries that beat the outside edge. Mohammad Abbas must be salivating at the prospect of bowling on this. I think that’s still allowed.
88th over: Pakistan 225-9 (Rizwan 61, Naseem 1) Stuart Broad will open up at the other end. He’s eyeing another cheap wicket to continue his spectacular form this summer: 25 wickets at 12.88 so far. Since the start of last summer, in fact, he has 73 wickets at 19.87. Rizwan misses another murderous heave before taking a leg bye to give Naseem one ball to survive. He does.
In other news, thanks to Peter Haining for dutifully sending in the TMS link.
87th over: Pakistan 224-9 (Rizwan 61, Naseem 1) Mohammad Rizwan is here for a good time, not a long time. He charges Anderson’s first ball and misses, and is beaten again two balls later. The pitch has been sweating under the covers and Pakistan want to get bowling as soon as possible.
Rizwan calls Naseem Shah through for a very dodgy single off the penultimate delivery, and he is well short of his ground when Crawley’s throw misses the stumps.
The start has been delayed. Not by rain, but because they forgot to put sawdust down. Oh, cricket.
Some people are on the pitch. They think play’s about to start. It is now!
I think we’re going to start at 11am, you know. It’s probably worth a reminder of the match situation: Pakistan are 223 for nine, a decent score in these conditions, with Mohammad Rizwan unbeaten on 60.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, it’s a bit late now for it to stop raining. We’ll probably get a result if there are two uninterrupted days, as 196 overs is a lot on this pitch. But it’s going to rain again at some stage – 11:00:04 if I’ve read the forecast correctly – so there’s no almost no chance of a positive result. Thanks for nothing, “higher power”.
Hello. We’re in serious danger of getting some cricket this morning. Moving images on Sky Sports News suggest a suspiciously dry Ageas Bowl, with no covers on and people scurrying around in anticipation of an 11am start. Time will tell but for the time being, it’s on!