Welcome to the Press Tent, we’ve consulted our all new crystal Duke ball and we know why you are here. It’s for the snark isn’t it?
There are obvious benefits to being named England captain five months before your first game. There’s plenty of time to come to terms with the role and what it will mean, a luxury afforded to few new skippers.
But there are downsides too. For Joe Root, one of those appears to be that the traditional brief “honeymoon period” before the press put the boot in seems to have been exhausted before his first toss of the coin.
As the Press Test went to, er, press, Root was in the process of buying himself a bit more time by wearing a mismatched jumper and shirt while plundering huge numbers of runs off weary Proteas at Lord’s, but in the week building up to his big day the headlines were not kind.
Paul Newman in the Daily Mail, by sheer coincidence an Essex man and huge Alastair Cook advocate, was the most vocal. He was in no doubt that Root was behind the selections of Hampshire’s Liam Dawson and autocorrect’s Gary Ballance. “Make no mistake,” he declares, “this is Root’s squad” before absolving the actual selectors of any and all blame that may flow from these “conservative” and “underwhelming selections.”
Newman then cannily shifts the goalposts to ensure there is no way Ballance can succeed this summer, by insisting “even if Ballance confounds the odds and succeeds against South Africa” he’ll probably still struggle in Australia this winter.
Yes, I’m afraid we’re back to the classic, infuriating English trait where anything and everything up to and including a series against South Africa – a team England have not beaten at home since 1998 – is treated as nothing more than a warm-up for the only thing that really matters, the Ashes.
“The clock is ticking towards the Ashes and England cannot afford to waste any time in the seven Tests that Root will have against South Africa and West Indies to settle into the role.” Or they could concentrate on beating South Africa and West Indies because it’s nice to win matches and series, isn’t it?
But the highlight is undoubtedly this gloriously laboured set-up for a punchline that really doesn’t come close to justifying the spadework that’s gone into it: “Perhaps aptly for a man whose colour blindness provides difficulties in seeing the pink ball, with three day-night Tests coming in the next nine months for England…” (it may help at this point to imagine Newman putting on some sunglasses) “…it looks like a short-sighted selection.”
But what of Conservative Joe’s predecessor? Yes, Alastair Cook is back among the England rank and file, no longer shackled by the captaincy. And it’s this new carefree Alastair Cook who “opened up” for the Times this week, answering all the big questions about his life and career. For the most part, it’s nothing more nor less than a hoary old official matchday programme feature dressed up as a glimpse of the man behind the runs, the once-proud Thunderer reduced to throwaway “funniest team-mate” tish and lightweight “favourite music” fipsy. But let’s look at some of the other highlights.
Ever wondered whether Alastair Cook watches Love Island? Well wonder no more. Does Alastair Cook watch Love Island? “No.”
What was Alastair Cook’s favourite food as a child? “I would eat anything except Brussels sprouts and swede.” Wait, there’s a twist that you won’t have seen coming. “I like swede now.”
Did Alastair Cook have posters of famous people on his walls. “No,” Alastair Cook did not have posters of famous people on his walls, clarifying further: “Just wallpaper.”
To be fair the interview does contain one genuinely revealing piece of information about the psyche of England’s all-time leading runscorer. Cook’s childhood cuddly toy was a brown bear named… Bear. “It never occurred to me to call him anything else.”
Best foot forward
“Our guys bowled well, besides the no-balls,” noted Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt after South Africa’s tour match against the England Lions in Worcester. “We got two wickets off no-balls which is a concern. It is something that we will need to correct going forward.”
With South Africa taking two more ‘wickets’ with no-balls on day one at Lord’s, and bowling a stack more called and uncalled no-balls throughout the day, may the Press Tent humbly contend that it might be something worth trying to correct going backwards instead?
The Australian pay dispute rumbles angrily, complicatedly, unerringly on. It’s tough to keep track if we’re honest, but help is at hand: this website tells you absolutely everything you need to know.
Catastrophic Misreading of the Signals of the Week
“ESPNcricinfo understands the incident occurred when Thakor was being shown round a new house by a pair of female estate agents. It is alleged he catastrophically misread the signals and was found in a bedroom in a state of undress. It is understood that CCTV footage of some of the event exists.”
Read of the Week
“England’s 2-1 win over South Africa was less a Test series, more a testosterone series; an unyielding arm-wrestle between two tough yet fragile sides with more in common than they would ever admit at the time” … “It’s surely possible to appreciate controversy and aggro without turning into Danny Dyer” … “Donald, who like most of the South Africans thought Cork’s talk:walk ratio left a lot to be desired…”