It was a comical period of play when three catches went down off James Anderson’s bowling in the space of 10 deliveries, as he bristled on four wickets in the innings and the prolonging of his climb to 600 Test wickets. But England spinner Dom Bess has blamed the evening gloom for the errors and has questioned the wisdom of playing in what he felt was sub-par light.
They were largely simple: Rory Burns missing an edge to his left off Azhar Ali, Zak Crawley fluffing one low to him off Mohammad Abbas at fourth and Stuart Broad shelling a dolly at mid on. And while they did not cost Anderson his 29th five-wicket haul – picked up for 56 runs when Naseem Shah was caught by Dom Sibley at second slip – and Pakistan were dismissed for 273 giving up a lead of 310, Bess felt the drops along with a few other occasions showed just how dark it was in the middle of the Ageas Bowl.
“It’s no excuse but it was really dark out there,” said Bess. “I was stood at square leg, and Azhar Ali pulled one off Jofra (Archer) and I did not see it. If that goes near someone or like is hit straight at me, I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to be doing”
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This match has seen greater leniency from umpires to play on, with confirmation before the start of this third Test that play could begin at 10:30am in to make up for delays after the second Test was ruined by bad light and rain. While there was a wider appreciation that more needs to be done to solicit more play, especially in these times when so much money and effort has been put towards getting fixtures on this summer, Bess is wary of it going too far.
“I guess playing in those conditions we got to be really switched on with it and actually we got to start thinking I think a little bit about the player’s well-being because you’ve got a number 10, 11 there having to face up to someone like Jofra as well in those conditions – it is seriously dangerous.
“I don’t know what it looks like on TV, it might look a little bit brighter, but certainly out here it was gloomy. With the brand new pill which is obviously shiny as well, it is hard. I don’t think it is any excuse for dropping this catches. No one means to do it. But also you’ve got to take into account being out there and what it was like.”
“Obviously we all want to be playing cricket we all want to get cricket on but I think as well there’s got to be a little bit more common sense in terms of players’ well-being. You take Abbas, the number 11 in terms of that, you don’t want to see them getting hit or anything like that, in terms of it being real dangerous.”
Not all the drops were totally costly, as Broad followed his error with a shy at the stumps which ran out Abbas. But there was a sense from the cordon, just as there was when Broad himself was arrowing in on 500 Test wickets against West Indies last month, that they might have let Anderson down.
However, Bess admits he lost track of Anderson’s tally, only remembering he would be somewhere near 600 when he had picked top his fourth of the innings this morning, when Asad Shafiq edged to Joe Root at first slip.
Nevertheless, he appreciates the scale of an achievement that should be forthcoming on Monday.
“He’s the GOAT (greatest of all time) isn’t he? The GOAT of bowling and England’s greatest. Myself, Sibbers, Popey (Ollie Pope) and Crawley have all grown up watching him play and I guess it’s phenomenal to stand there at point watching him nick people off and hit people on the shins.
“To watch him take as many poles as he does and do it so consistently. I guess there was chat about potential retirement and then he comes back and absolutely tears it up. That just shows how good he is.”