Close: Fourth Test, day one, The Oval
Match score: England 75-0 (Strauss 38*, Cook 34*)
It’s building up to be a warm one at The Oval, a proper day for cricket after the unseasonal gloom of yesterday and there is a more buoyant, expectant atmosphere.
It should be a day for England to press on and confirm their superiority. Things can change quickly with a couple of wickets, of course, but this Indian side seem to have neither the skills or the desire to turn back the tide.
As Simon Barnes articulates in The Times this morning, there has been a bit of hand-wringing about how one-sided this series has been. His point is that we all need to get over it and revel in England’s new-found supremacy, however alien that may feel to long-suffering crickophiles.
This is not a dichotomy that the England players recognise. When Ben Goldsmith, brother of Zac and producer of Fire in Babylon, tweeted something about the lack of contest, he was swiftly rebuked by Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad.
When Jonathan Agnew tried to ask Pietersen if he had been surprised about India’s poor performance, he too was given short shrift. “As cricket lovers we like to see a contest,” was the gist of Aggers’s point. KP replied, “As cricket lovers you should be enjoying England’s performances”, before launching into a detailed assessment of England’s strengths.
What does seem unhealthy but inevitable because the media narrative must be constantly moving is the debate about how long England will remain at No.1. Let’s just enjoy the moment. Injuries could change the face of this team at a stroke. And in any case South Africa could overtake England before they play again.
The shake-down continues in Australia where after decades of the Poms aping the Aussies, now the reverse is true. A full-time national selector is to be appointed and the coach and captain is to be co-opted on to the selection panel. That the captain was not a selector was always one of the distinctive cornerstones of Australian policy. The point being that he was not compromised in personal dealings with players whom he might have to drop.
Andrew Strauss is not officially a selector but it seems pretty clear that the captain, assuming he is not prone to personal favouritism, should have the team on the field that he wants.
Much of what the Aussies are doing, like so many of the investigations and reports that England have had over the years, is a public-relations exercise. Trust, stability and consistency are the watchwords when it comes to rebuilding a struggling team.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John