Ben Stokes wants “fast, flat wickets” for the Ashes, which makes me wonder if it might be smarter to chase this summer.
The fourth afternoon of the WTC final was the best time to bat, and it took India quite a few bad shots to really go wrong in a long chase of 444 runs at The Oval. Aside from that, there weren’t that many monsters in the pitch.
Both Rohit Sharma and Pat Cummins wanted to bowl first, which at first seemed to be because of the green-colored pitch in front of them and the dark sky above them. However, after the game, both managers admitted that they had also thought about batting last. In the last nine Tests played in England, six of them ended with a winning run chase. Last summer, there was the Jonny Bairstow factor, but in this “Bazball” age, Test cricket in England has also gotten better pitches.
Rohit, who also believes in a good style of batting no matter the format, said that India wanted to bat first because they thought the pitch would get better as the game went on.
“…One reason we thought it might be good to bat last was that we didn’t think the pitch would change too much. Rohit said that after India lost the WTC final to Australia by 209 runs, things would only get better. “But, yeah, it’s clear that we didn’t do a lot of the things we talked about, like how we want to bowl or bat. That’s probably why we were so far behind all four days of the game.”
Cummins, on the other hand, said that the “stigma” of bowling first and not getting the other team out is going away as run chases become more popular in this format.
“I think you should always ask yourself if it’s easier to bat in the first or fourth innings. “Most of the decision comes down to that,” Cummins said. “I think both teams thought there was probably a better chance of getting 10 wickets on the first day than in the fourth test. What happened would have made it different? I don’t know, to be honest. You keep asking yourself that as the main question. In your situations, there are costs. On the first day, there’s not much between the teams, and you feel like you’ll take 10 wickets. You just go for it. I don’t think bowling first and not getting them out of the game is as bad as it used to be.
“This one (toss) was a little harder because there hasn’t been a Test match in June. The greens have always been a bit… a couple of months later in the summer.”
Even when India was trying to get 444, they looked good for a while. Then Virat Kohli hit a bad shot, which led to a crash. Did Australia have any worries? “I wouldn’t say that I’m worried,” said Cummins. “We had four 430 odd marked on the board. We felt satisfied with that. I think the time of the new ball was always going to be the one to watch out for. The rock-hard ball can bounce a little bit around the field. I think that getting wickets all the time made us feel like we were in charge. We saw the pitch this morning and thought it still had a little something for us quick bowlers.
Last year, when India came to England for a rescheduled Test match in Birmingham, Ben Stokes won the toss and said, “I want to chase.” This is not a word you hear in Test cricket very often, if at all. England did pull off a successful fourth-innings chase, and by doing so, they set a pattern that could be used for the rest of the summer. It sets the stage well for the next few weeks of the Ashes.