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When discussing the fine art of commentating, the legendary cricket commentator Richie Benaud famously said the key was “to never insult the viewer by telling them what they can already see”. Can someone please tell the modern cricketing pundits?!

During Day 4 of England’s enthralling first test against India in Chennai, at a crucial point in the match, just after tea, with England pushing on to try and give themselves a big 2nd innings lead, they suddenly started doing something unusual. So unusual that it left everyone, including the TV and radio commentators and various ex-pros, baffled. It was ‘strange’, ‘peculiar’, ‘bizarre’, ‘mind-boggling’.

Well, yes, we could all see that it was (insert your own adjective here). Following Ollie Pope’s dismissal going for yet another extravagant reverse sweep to cover, the new batsman Dom Bess and incumbent Jos Buttler inexplicably transformed into defensive rabbits, padding everything. Had England got a touch of the afternoon sun and accidentally sent out the wrong Dom?! Was it, in fact, opener Dom Sibley we were watching again, obdurately refusing to offer a shot? And admittedly, the sight of Jos Buttler, England’s most destructive white ball specialist, dramatically morphing into Geoffrey Boycott’s secret love-child would have discombobulated even the most astute analyst…for a while.

Surely once everyone had recovered, it was time to figure out exactly what was going on and try to analyse why. Isn’t that what the experts are paid to do? Instead, unhelpfully, we were offered a plethora of critical judgement while stating the bleeding obvious. The TV commentators called the action ‘tepid’, whilst the BBC’s live feed lamented the lack of ‘intent’. Shane Warne accused England of playing ‘cautious and timid cricket’, and fellow Aussie Tom Moody gleefully tweeted that India would be ‘happy to watch England bat here!’ For Phil Tufnell, it was a ‘little mess’.

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Former England captain, Michael Vaughan, thought England had got ‘confused about the way they wanted to play…I don’t know what they had for tea but something’s affected them.’ Fellow BBC TMS Social commentator Jonathan Agnew (pictured with Phil Tufnell above) agreed: “They’ve just lost their way, haven’t they…they must have been spooked”, and co-commentator Daniel Norcross concurred: ‘It does smack a bit of fear, doesn’t it?’. Kevin Pietersen just wanted the whole thing to end: ‘D E C L A R E’.

Unsurprisingly, the criticism was echoed on social media by armchair England fans who expressed anger and frustration at England’s apparent lack of intensity, their ‘negative’ tactics, and bemoaned Joe Root’s ‘conservative’ captaincy. The unanimous view was that England should have stopped faffing around and declared earlier. With no pundit offering them any enlightenment, why would they think otherwise?

Had the pundits actually done their job, they might have informed the viewer/listener that England were simply changing tactics from attack to defence. Plan A wasn’t working so they had deployed Plan B. Why? To protect their wicket, obviously. England had now lost 6 wickets playing aggressively and were down to their last two proper batsmen in Buttler and Bess, so had gone into conservation mode. But why had England changed their tactics so abruptly at this juncture since they were already 371 runs ahead? Again the obvious answer was that England clearly wanted to get past the magic 400. By changing tactics and going defensive, Buttler and Bess were able to add a precious 35 extra runs, taking England past the 400 lead.

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Once both players reverted to attack, they fell within 2 runs of each other and England accumulated only 13 further runs after Buttler was out. Joe Root (pictured above) subsequently confirmed that the bruhaha was simply England’s 2nd innings not going to plan, in his post-match interview: “The idea was to get a lead of 400 and then speed up, but it didn’t materialise like that…” He didn’t elucidate further, but then he didn’t have to. It was obvious what had occurred, but apparently not to those who were paid to understand cricket.

In fact, once England passed 400, it all became even more perplexing for them. England carried on batting instead of declaring. Cue lots of shots of the England balcony with everyone sat looking inexplicably relaxed as though they were enjoying a summer barbecue, while bemused, bewildered and concerned TV commentators evinced astonishment at their seemingly insouciant nonchalance. Cue baffled questions. Where was the urgency? Cue standard descriptions of what the players were doing. Yes, yes, we could all see that Rooty was having a nice cuppa, and Jofra was leisurely stretching, and Stokesy was busily munching on a protein bar, but WHY? Where was the analysis?

Could it be that the England batsmen weren’t merely playing to a target but also stalling for time? That would have explained why England didn’t declare once they went 400 ahead but sat chilling on their balcony and allowed their innings to bat out. They clearly wanted to give India only a limited number of overs in the evening to chase a 400 plus total. Now why might this be? Could it be that giving an aggressive, attacking team such as India a greater amount of time in which to chase down a lesser total wasn’t such a wise idea? Could it be that given the inexperience and inconsistency of the England spinners the team might have needed the safely margin of a large lead to compensate? Could it possibly be that England, rather than being confused or timid or scared, were actually being quite clever?

Rather than creating a self-inflicting trap of being forced to choose between attacking the wicket or defending runs by declaring earlier and setting a lower total, England would instead be able to trap India between the two stools of chasing runs but haemorrhaging wickets for a win and playing safe but only being able to draw.

As it transpired, England judged it perfectly. After picking up a wicket in the remaining 13 overs of the fourth day, they would go on to win comprehensively on the final day by a whopping 227 runs and with a whole session and a half to spare. So much for early declarations! Maybe, just maybe, Joe Root and the England team knew what they were doing all along. If only the pundits had been quite so good at their own jobs, then we might have known it too.

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Perhaps if Richie Benaud had been alive and commentating, there would have been less declaration-controversy and more sagacious explanation to enlighten the viewer/listener and enhance their understanding of the game. But in this era of click-bait soundbites and reactive tweeting, the job of cricketing punditry appears to be more about hyping up the action, taking pot-shots at the team and its captain, and provoking a reaction, rather than providing any kind of erudite analysis and insight into the nuances of the game. England and Joe Root deserve better after such a brilliant and emphatic away win, and so do cricket fans.