Alastair Cook has every right to feel aggrieved.
England’s fourth innings collapse from 100 for no loss to 164 all out against Bangladesh was dramatic. However, it is hardly deserving of the kind of mud-slinging which journalists and former English cricketers have been indulging in for the past few days.
Let’s look at just a couple of these rants.
“England didn’t just lose to Bangladesh. They lost ten wickets in a session to lose to Bangladesh in a museum-quality display of poor batting that should be hidden from the sick, the elderly, the pregnant or those with heart conditions. It was a Halloween horror so gruesome that Quentin Tarantino would censor it for being gratuitously grim”, said George Dobell in his Cricinfo report.
“In terms of cricketing disaster, this is right at the top of the tree,” former English bowler Bob Willis told Sky Sports.
At 100 for no loss, England needed another 173 to win the Test and appeared to be comfortably heading there. That’s about 17 runs per wicket left to get if my schoolboy maths serves me well.
So let’s look at the list of the most dramatic collapses with up to 20 runs per wicket left to win in the fourth innings, and see where this fits.
England appears seven times out of the top 20 on that list, including that collapse over the weekend. And four out of seven times, that collapse was more dramatic than what happened at Mirpur.
At Lord’s in 1888 England went from 29/0 to 62 all out, chasing 124.
At Port of Spain in 1994 they went from 0/0 to 44 all out, chasing 111.
At the Oval in 1882 they went from 15/0 to 77 all out chasing 85.
At Wellington in 1978 they went from 2/0 to 64 all out, chasing 137. It’s worth noting too, that big Bob Willis scored three of those 64 runs, so he probably should not have forgotten that collapse.
Every major Test nation is guilty of such a collapse at one point in time in their long cricketing history.
Australia appears four times in this top 20 list, South Africa appears thrice, New Zealand and Pakistan twice each, and India and Zimbabwe once each.
So yes, it’s not a Halloween horror story, and not even England’s worst performance in such a situation, by far.
What is worrying about this collapse however, is the timing.
It comes just before England start a long, five-Test series in India against a spin attack that is far more potent than Bangladesh can dream of, a batting line-up that most countries in the world envy, and pitches which will take spin, especially when England comes to town.
As Cook candidly admitted at the post-match interview in Mirpur, when teams come to England, the pitches suit the local players, so it’s only fair to expect that when they visit the sub-continent, pitches will suit the local players.
I wrote in a tongue-in-cheek article on The Roar a few weeks ago, Joe Root should be afraid of Ravi Ashwin when he visits.
With Ashwin, Amit Mishra, and Ravindra Jadeja – who all have their tails up after the New Zealand series – there are clearly more long-term problems Cook and the boys have to worry about than a mere batting collapse.
They should be afraid. Very afraid.