Stop the early mistakes and end this silly first Test jinx
Root’s team can rectify their shocking record in opening games by playing sensible session cricket
England can use as many excuses as they want for the past few series, but facts are facts. They lost the first Test to West Indies. They could have blamed preparation but it was the same for both sides, they just were not good enough in that opening game.
Go back to the South Africa series. You can blame illness if you want – and they did struggle with that – but they made some poor calls in the first Test, like the decision to bowl first at the toss.
Go back to New Zealand. They should quite easily have drawn that first game, but they had one of those collapses that cost them.
Then go back to the first Test of the Ashes against Australia at Edgbaston last year. They had a great chance in that first innings to really make the game safe with the bat. They did not – and then they got blown away on the last day.
So, England continually lose the first Test of a series. It has to stop because, against better teams, particularly away from home, it will not be so easy to come back.
You go 1-0 down in India, without a world-class spinner, and you do not come back. You go 1-0 down in Brisbane in a year’s time, and you are not coming back – history tells you that.
Compared to a Pakistan team who are rusty and have not had any competitive cricket, England have had three Test matches, lots of weeks of preparation and practice, and are used to the bubble. This is all new for Pakistan. England must play a disciplined, consistent game this week. If they do so they will win the Test match.
There is no blueprint for how you win the first Test of a series other than just to play good cricket. England have played good cricket only after going 1-0 down.
They played decent cricket in the second Test of the Ashes and in the second Test in New Zealand, they played very good cricket in the second Test in South Africa and very good cricket in the second Test against West Indies. There is no excuse. It is just another Test match.
When you suddenly start bigging up the first Test, saying you have got to win it, having lost the opener in the past four series, it probably goes too far. You have just got to play basic good, session cricket.
So, you win the first session, you win the second session – the real basics of the game at the highest level. You should not really have to tell a team that.
How you win a Test match is with simple disciplines: bowling for dots, bowling for consistency. And bat time and avoid a big cluster of wickets in either innings. If you do that, you generally at least draw a Test.
The only threat to England I see this week is if Pakistan bat first and get 300-plus – then the home side are under pressure. But even if England are batting second and have to follow 300 or 350, they should still be good enough to get at least parity on first innings.
That is where this England side have to improve. When they bat second they just have to hang in there, even when they have a big number to chase.
It is like ticking off the shortterm processes. Just tick it off. You know if you bat all day the
Silverwood has to pick his best bowling attack for the opening Test and then rotate the quicks
scoreboard will read something like 270. You have just got to bat the overs.
It is not rocket science. This is a Test series – and a first Test – against a team you should be beating, when you compare England’s preparation to Pakistan’s.
England will need to rotate their quicks later. But for the last Test against West Indies, Chris Silverwood said he was going to pick the best bowling attack. He has got to do the same again.
That is the hope for Pakistan – to avoid defeat here and then England rotate for the second Test. The two wickets against West Indies at Old Trafford were excellent. It is going to be a dry week – you could say that brings Pakistan back into the equation.
The thing about this England side is they have never failed to disappoint when you expect them to go on a decent run. We do see blips.
They are playing decent teams – not the best teams – at the moment. And they need to be dominating against them at home. If you cannot play your own conditions well, how can you expect to play well overseas?