England are at their lowest ebb since ‘99
Well, flipping Norah, that was pretty awful wasn't it?
At least during the winter there was the excuse of being away from home against a demonstrably better opposition. India are decent enough but for England to have lost so comprehensively on a tailor-made Lord's pitch is genuinely grim. It has not felt so depressing to be an England fan since the defeat to New Zealand in 1999 that left us at the bottom of the world cricket ladder.
Quite where things go from here is anyone's guess. The captain looks shot; the keeper's form is desperate (and has seen him bow out); the bowlers can't break key lower-order partnerships; the chap who stood up to Mitchell Johnson and scored a thrilling ton from number six in Perth can't get off nought.
Joe Root's despairing drop of his bat when he holed out against the bowling of Ishant Sharma and the final indignity of Anderson's run out (by Jadeja of all people) told those still watching yesterday afternoon all they needed to know about how low things had fallen.
Can England take heart from India’s renewal?
To give India their dues, they played a collectively brilliant game at Lord's. And to a certain degree, the ability on show - and the obvious sense of team unity - might at least give England heart that, after a difficult period of transition, renewal is possible.
On the other hand, to look at the class oozing from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, and to remember the brilliance of Kohli and Dhoni, neither of whom has really fired in the series so far, is to wonder whether England have the same potential in their current ranks.
In MS Dhoni especially is personfied that extra something which India have over England just now: a feeling of certainty. It isn't that he gets every call right or that there aren't times when the game gets ahead of him. But throughout it all he carries a calmness, a rightness, that Alastair Cook cannot emulate at the moment. That said, the England skipper is nothing if not tough, which is why he has – so far at least – avoided the chop.
To watch the perfect cover-drive is to be embraced by summer
One bright moment amidst the general gloom was a glorious back-foot on-drive by Gary Ballance during his first innings century.
Ballance certainly seems to have the pugnacity to bat at number three, which is lucky given the frequency with which he arrives at the crease within the first few overs. He also has a technique which enables the classiest of shots.
It is one of the great pleasures of life to discuss which, of all the shots in the book, is the most enjoyable - to watch and to play. When spectating it has to be a down-on-one-knee extra-cover drive, or perhaps a dainty late cut. But when playing? The thrill of hitting a straight six is hard to beat.
Derbyshire’s surge will come too late but they can return to the top next year
Last week's decision to focus on the minnows of Leicestershire and Derbyshire has clearly started to pay dividends. Derbyshire’s victory this morning over Glamorgan saw them leap to the heady heights of fifth in division two of the county championship.
It has generally been a tough return to the second tier for Derbyshire, having had a very mixed season in division one 2013. But the club is well led by Wayne Madsen and has the evergreen Shiv Chanderpaul to rely on for every situation. There are also a raft of players who have been given a second chance after their experiences at previous clubs did not quite work out and who have repaid Derbyshire’s faith in them handsomely.
Wes Durston, Tony Palladino, David Wainwright and Mark Footitt (among others) all began their careers away from Peakland but since coming to Derby they have genuinely prospered. While Derbyshire are not going to complete the double yo-yo this year by returning to division one, there is the strength to put up a sustained challenge in 2015.