It was sports fan in sweet shop Sunday today with a plethora of sport to leave this bleary eyed fan (who had, of course, stayed up till some ridiculous hour to watch Adam Peaty’s 100m breaststroke semi-final) in a tizzy about what to watch. It was time for every electronic implement on hand to be switched on – the TV, the internet, the phone and the radio (God knows what my electricity bill will be – probably about the same as reigning Olympic champion gymnast Kohei Uchimura’s mobile phone bill after a stint on Pokeman Go!). Since the only terrestrial coverage available was for the Olympics, that left TMS on the radio for the cricket and the internet for United’s Charity (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Community now) Shield against Leicester.
Priority sport of the day was cricket as it promised the enticing prospect of an England Test win in the series against Pakistan at Edgbaston. And the not so enticing prospect of more social media implosion as, once again, captain Alastair Cook’s seemingly cautious tactics came under fire. It was Declare-Gate Part II as Cook decided not to declare when everyone else thought he should declare for the second Test in a row, sending sensitive social media persons into fainting fits that would have made consumptive Victorian heroines proud. England had a 311 overnight lead going into the final day, so of course cue the predictable clamour for Cook to declare and give England the full day to get Pakistan out. Frankly, there was more chance of Random Towers hosting the next Olympics than Cooky not sending his boys out for a bit of morning batting practice. As it was, England gave it 4 overs, which yielded a healthy 31 runs, to set Pakistan 343 runs to win, or more likely, England had 84 overs in which to bowl them out.
Was it ever really in doubt? Erm, well yes, as this is England we are talking about, and this has been a very topsy turvy Test match. With only 1 Pakistani wicket gone before lunch, the draw looked inevitable. But either Pakistan had a very heavy lunch, or they were rather keen to get back in to watch the Olympics, because they had a very biscuity, flaky, crumbly (no this is not a chocolate advert) session where they managed to lose 4 wickets for 1 run. How very handy for England for the opposition to be helpfully doing their version of the English collapse (TM). England though have been very unEngland-like in this Test match, dragging themselves back into contention with some dogged performances from the whole team and turning a 103 run deficit after the first innings into a potential Test match wining lead.
By tea, Pakistan were 7 down, and they would probably have preferred to stay in and console themselves with extra cake rather than face the inevitable. Two more wickets and surely it was game over. But wasn’t it all just too easy, too uncomplicated? Were the crowd really getting their money’s worth here? I mean, this was England. Where was the tension? There were still nails left unchewed. Ah, how about a last gasp, last-wicket 50 partnership? Overs running out? Less than 14 left. Yep, that was better. Now there was a furrow of the brow. A crinkle of concern. Nah, Moeen was having none of it. A DIY job on Sohail and it was a job done on Pakistan. A 141 run win for England and a deserved MOTM award for Moeen.
Once again, Cook was doubted, and once again Cook showed he knows what he’s doing. As this blogger wrote after the last Test, maybe Cook should just be left alone to get on with captaining England because, right now, he’s doing rather a good job of it.