Robinson took aim at South Africa with his intimidating and methodical style after an eight-month absence from Test cricket.
Before the start of the second Test’s first day of play, the fast bowlers for England chalked out their run-ups using an ECB high performance tape measure, and Ollie Robinson almost forgot to take it seriously.
An impulsive first attempt resulted in a little catastrophe when the tape’s end flew up in the wind. At one point, Robinson appeared to be about to leave without thinking. Did he even know the exact length of his run-up in millimetres, a convenient thing that causes him to roll up to the crease like a cross-channel ferry relaxing into dock? Why didn’t he simply gallop across it a few times and let his headgear fall?
Except that this was undoubtedly novel. This was Robinson 2.0, the reboot, a 6’5″ pale Sussex seamer who had his edges filed down, muscles toned, and body forced through the central contract professionalism mould.
Eight months, nine games, and three opponents have passed since Robinson last participated in a Test. Since then, there has been worry and the impression that a mystery needs to be solved. What the heck is this monster, with its daddish walk, flawless wrist, world-class nip, and those entropy-spells where the arm comes over slowly and the movement turns like a yawn?
In Tests, Robinson is 22 when he takes his wickets. After tea, Robinson becomes worn out. During a real Ashes Test match, the bowling coach “shamed” Robinson for being unfit.
Sport can be brutal and incredibly stupid when it comes to these kinds of things. Robinson bowled more over than any other Australian seamer and finished with 25 wickets, although he battled to maintain his intensity and occasionally lost steam when he wanted to scream at the sun.
He finds nagging accuracy to be the easiest thing to do. This has possibly been more challenging due to physical habits and the modern athlete’s obsession with self control. It did feel a little odd to take such a public, punishing view of his problems adapting for a team that talks a lot about mental health and embracing faults.
After the Ashes tour, Robinson temporarily quit bowling. This was only his second first-class game since the middle of May, even with the odd scheduling. It was difficult to avoid thinking of it as a test of his own dedication as well as how England had handled this slightly awkward talent. The 28-year-old seam bowler, who alternately resembles a ready-made world-class seam bowler and a man being dragged from a Medway clubhouse while holding a scotch egg in one hand and a towel around his waist while mumbling that he left his spikes in his mother’s car, is a bit awkward.
In the end, South Africa was dismissed for 151 by England’s bowlers, making it a successful day for both Robinson and the team. Ben Stokes had a great day on the field as well. He took some who-writes-your-scripts wickets, rotated his bowlers effectively, and handled Robinson in a way that was consistent with his own expertise.
Robinson bowled beautifully for little pay after taking the new ball, and the skipper gave him a warm arm in the field after some public encouragement during the build-up. Rustiness and annoying no-balls were present. However, he immediately reached 86 mph, bowled with a crisp, nip upright wobbling seam, and repeatedly juggled the ball beyond the edge of the two left-handed openers.
He appeared to be sprinting more forcefully. His first eight twenty-four balls either sped by or veered off to the side. Dean Elgar, who was as flinty and gnarly as ever (his name is essentially an anagram of “gnarled”) but generally appeared scratchy, drove through midoff on his first genuinely loose one.
Robinson had Elgar hooked at the short leg, but he overstepped at that precise moment. The quickest stint he has ever bowled for England was his opening one. The effect it had on Broad, whose career is driven by mild irritation and imagined slights, and whose main attitude is justified, was perhaps the best part.
For the first time, Broad replaced Robinson as first change, but he grabbed the day by the horns, bowling full and at the stumps, collecting three for 37 from 11 crucial overs, and leaving with a poised, victorious stride. With 25 wickets at an average of 11, Broad has been a phenomenon on this field recently, during the Headband Years. He required that spell, though.
At Kagiso Rabada, there was some resistance and a little too much short stuff. Anrich Nortje was trapped on the crease by Robinson’s first delivery after tea, giving him his lone wicket. Ollie Robinson probably had three or four because he was heavier and possibly slower. He might have been receiving too much nip or bowling too rapidly. However, this was a solid and genuinely encouraging return. Robinson arrives late on the Test scene in the late days of the Test stage, making him somewhat of a throwback. However, it was significant that England brought him home safely and that this team displayed some graciousness and flexibility; in a way, this was a sort of vindication on both sides.