NASSER HUSSAIN: Bravo on the early starts… now up the over-rates!

NASSER HUSSAIN: Bravo on the early starts… but cricket must ensure we never see a repeat of those stoppages that blighted the second Test between England and Pakistan

  • The final Test between England and Pakistan will see a shift in starting times 
  • Day’s play will start at 10.30am in the event of bad weather to ensure action 
  • England could have taken the easy option, but it is good they have agreed to this 

The switch to 10.30am starts for the final Test in the event of bad weather is a good move. But we must make sure this is a watershed moment for the game and that more is done to ensure we never again see the type of stoppages that blighted the last game.

I would have gone further and added another half-hour at the end of the day but that will only happen if there is bad weather during that day’s play itself.

But it is good England have agreed to this change mid-series because, at 1-0 up, they could have taken the easy option, left things as they were and come off for bad light whenever possible to take the draw and win the series.

The second Test between England and Pakistan was blighted by stoppages for bad light

Everything needs to be looked at to ensure there is as much play as possible on every day of Test cricket and that includes improving the poor over-rates that seem to have become an accepted part of the modern game.

For instance, our statistician at Sky, Benedict Bermange, tells me that over the last five years of Test cricket in England, more than 14 whole days play have been lost through sides failing to bowl their required rate of 15 overs an hour. That’s astonishing.

Equally astonishing is that, in that time, only two captains have been fined for slow over-rates in Tests in England — and both came from Pakistan. There was Sarfaraz Ahmed at Lord’s two years ago and, before him, Misbah-ul-Haq at the Oval in 2016 but apart from them no captain has paid for the consistent failure to get a full day’s play.

While Friday’s third Test is a chance to start putting that right, it is also an opportunity for England to complete a satisfying first Test year under Chris Silverwood and Joe Root by beating Pakistan to add to victories over South Africa and West Indies.

On Wednesday in these pages I made my views clear on the team England should pick but what I would say is if they are going to pick Dom Bess then he has to bowl. Otherwise they are effectively going into the Test a player short.

I would not go down the five-seamer route because I have never seen what a fifth seamer could do that four others could not so if England do leave out their spinner I would have preferred them to pick an extra batsman. But they have denied themselves that option by picking a squad of 14 without that extra bat in the absence of Dan Lawrence.

As it stands, if the side England picked was good enough a week ago for the second Test I can’t see why it shouldn’t be good enough for this game, even though I would have initially gone a different way by picking Jofra Archer or Mark Wood ahead of Sam Curran.

What we have learned from the two Tests played at the Ageas Bowl so far this summer is that overhead conditions are very important. It was gloomy and hard work when Ben Stokes elected to bat in the first Test against West Indies and then last week it was extremely hazardous when Mohammad Abbas was bowling in cloudy conditions.

Zak Crawley’s half-century was an encouraging sign for England during the second Test

So, with what looks like a fresh pitch for this game having been under covers and slightly under-prepared, whoever wins the toss will face a tricky decision. I would look up rather than down and bat if it is sunny this morning but if the lights are on I’d bowl.

We did not learn much from the second Test but I was encouraged on that last afternoon by the tempo of Zak Crawley’s half-century.

He got it spot-on and that’s important when he follows Rory Burns and Dom Sibley because Crawley is looking to score all the time. England were going nowhere with Joe Denly following the openers.

Crawley has three Test 50s now, two of them at the Ageas Bowl, so he has to ask himself why he is averaging 30 in first-class cricket. He is getting himself in in Test cricket but now he has to convert and go on to big scores.

The Kent batsman is something of an anomaly in that the majority of people coming into Test cricket from the county game are happier on the front foot, whereas he is more comfortable on the back. That should stand him in good stead against all the fast bowling he will face but it means he again faces a challenge against Abbas this week.

What I would really like to see in this game is Root go out and get a big hundred because that would do wonders for his confidence with the bat. For now, he goes into the final Test of this unique summer with another series win within his grasp.

It would be great to see Joe Root get a big score to boost his confidence with the bat 

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