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England v West Indies

The Sangakkara trait that helps Pope start his innings ‘busily’

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

An unbeaten 136-run stand between Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler left England in a dominant position at the end of day one in Manchester having earlier been put into bat by Jason Holder.

The pair had mustered just 127 runs at 18.14 between them going into the series finale and were both batting a position higher than usual following the omission of Zak Crawley in favour of an extra seam-bowling option. When Buttler joined Pope at the crease, England were teetering on 122-4 but the pair held firm until the close with Pope ending the day nine short of a first home Test hundred while Buttler registered his first Test half-century since last summer’s Ashes series.

A mark of Pope’s innings was his fluency at the crease. A combination of long boundaries and a slow outfield meant that boundaries were hard to come by, but the 22-year-old managed to keep the scoreboard ticking through his excellent strike rotation. Despite scoring fewer than half his runs in boundaries, Pope ended the day with a strike-rate of 64.08, comfortably the highest of any batsman on show.

At the close of play, Pope, who was regularly described as being “busy” at the crease by the Sky commentary team, explained that his desire to look for quick singles at the start of his innings was a tactic he’d seen his former Surrey teammate Kumar Sangakkara implement

“I think I’ve always been quite a busy player,” Pope explained to Sky. “If you can avoid facing maidens, if there are single opportunities and you do have that chance to get down to the other end, especially early on, it [the other end] is probably the best place to bat from.

“I was lucky enough to play with Sangakkara and the number of times he’d nick a single off the first ball of his innings to get off the mark and, not deliberately aiming for the gap, but just playing soft hands, dropping it by his feet and looking for it straight away. It’s a real good way of putting the bowler back under pressure, not just allowing him to bowl six balls at you.”

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