With apologies to Rudyard Kipling, if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same, then your name is Daryl Mitchell.
That is the only reasonable conclusion to come to about Mitchell’s reaction to a day on which he made his highest first-class score and dropped two catches at first slip late in the day.
The highest first-class score was primarily a triumph of course. But missing out on a maiden double-hundred by just ten runs may have soured the taste a touch perhaps?
Not a bit.
“To be honest, a double-hundred personally doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, it was just nice to contribute to a score that can help win us a Test match,” he said. “Anything over a hundred’s pretty good, so I was just trying to do a good job for the team, and it’s always good fun batting with [Trent] Boulty at the end there, he always provides a bit of entertainment.”
We’ll get to that entertainment but, first, the two dropped chances – surely they would have stung a bit. Alex Lees was on 12 when Mitchell shelled a fairly regulation edge off Tim Southee. Towards the end of play, he then dropped Ollie Pope – then on 41 – off the bowling of Boult.
England could’ve ended the day three down, with less than 90 on the board, and a massive deficit to think about overnight. Nope.
“I think that’s the nature of the game, anyone who’s played cricket has dropped a catch in their life,” he reasoned. “For me, I can’t control what happens now but it’s just concentrating on the next one and taking the next one.
“It’s just the game of cricket. The first one I probably catch nine times out of 10, and the second one’s a reaction catch that either sticks or it doesn’t. For me, I’ve trained to play Test cricket and play five days and do this job, so it’s just the nature of the game that we play.
“We created some chances tonight which is really promising heading into tomorrow. If we can keep building pressure, keep backing up spells and keep asking questions of the English batters around that off stump, we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to take ten wickets this innings and hopefully another ten the next. For us it’s exciting, we’re looking forward to it, and we know if we can do the right thing for long enough we’ll get the rewards.”
That level-headedness held Mitchell in good stead through another day of near flawless batting. A fast outfield and a good pitch has helped, but for two Tests in a row England have struggled to work out ways to not just get him out, but to keep his scoring rate in check: his 311 runs in the series so far have come at a strike-rate a touch under 56.
They tried today, testing his patience in the morning with a conventional off-stump line. Later in the afternoon they tried bowling short to him, though there’s been enough evidence to suggest that neither will it dismiss him often, nor will it stop him scoring.
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“It’s the nature of Test cricket, there’s always little moments you’ve got to keep trying to get through and whether it’s trying to cash in to put pressure on them or absorbing them bowling good spells and trying to dry the run rate up,” he said.
“But that’s the wonders of Test cricket, and that’s why we love the game, it’s the little games within a game. It was cool to get through a couple of those moments and do a job, and nice for us to get a big total on the board that allows us to be aggressive with the ball.”
The innings ended with the Boult sub-plot. The talk at that point was of the lower-order keeping Mitchell company to get him to his double. But, it turns out, a far more significant milestone was at stake: Boult began his innings today with 607 Test runs at No. 11, needing 17 to go past Muthiah Muralidaran as the most prolific No.11 in Test history.
Four impeccable boundaries brought Boult level before Mitchell chased and edged a wide one, to not only miss his double but to leave Boult level. It was a record Boult was very much aware of when he went out. And it turns out, so too was Mitchell
“I’ve spent the last two months with Trent at the IPL and I reckon he’s mentioned it every day, that he wants that record.
“I think it’s an amazing achievement. Even though he probably carries on, I think he’s a really good batsman and I love the energy he brings, it’s awesome fun batting with him. But it’s something we definitely discussed over many a coffee at the IPL for the last two months. Maybe he’ll go for the No. 10 record now, who knows?”