Posts Tagged ‘lords’
England’s inconsistency in test matches over the last six months is taking on a mesmeric quality. Their form now has a sort of rhythm, a thumping techno beat of alternate triumph and disaster or near disaster. If we trace the story back to Chester-le-Street in May and we scratch from the record the moist non-event that was the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston, then a pleasing pattern can be spied:
2nd test vs West Indies, Chester-le-Street: Win
1st test vs Australia, Cardiff: Near defeat
2nd test vs Australia, Lords: Win
4th test vs Australia, Headingley: Defeat
5th test vs Australia, Oval: Win
1st test vs South Africa, Centurion: Near defeat
2nd test vs South Africa, Durban: Win
3rd test vs South Africa, Cape Town: Near defeat
All of which means that it’s a fallacy to suggest that you never know what to expect from this England side. You know exactly what to expect, just reverse the performance from the previous game. Happily the formula dictates that we should have nothing to fear at the Wanderers and a series-clinching victory should be facile.
It’s Chittagong in early spring that we should be worried about.
It feels like ages since we polished off the Aussies at Lords. A lot has happened since then. Mainly that Kevin Pietersen has gone and got himself fucked.
Now we have Ian Bell and he’s stepping in to Pietersen’s shoes at no.4. Which is a problem because Bell has pixie feet and those shoes clearly won’t fit him.
And he doesn’t go out with somebody from Liberty X. In fact I don’t think that there’s anyone from the current crop of popstrels that falls into his league. Joan Armatrading maybe. One of those twins from Bewitched possibly. Toyah Wilcox at a push.
And he’s shorter. And there isn’t an Ian Bell Zone on Cricinfo. And he won’t get up the Australians’ noses like Pietersen. He’ll do the exact opposite. He’ll come out of their noses.
Oh yes and he isn’t as good as KP.
To be fair there isn’t really anyone else. And he did bat at No.4 during 2005 series. Although he did average 17.10 over those five games. Bugger.
All this angst is probably moot. For Edgbaston at least. Because the outfield currently resembles a peat bog and that represents a danger to the players. Particularly Bell who is only tiny and might get sucked under the level of the grass.
So I am lending my full-hearted backing to the passionate indifference towards Ian Bell that has been led up in the higher strata of the blogosphere by King Cricket – truly a movement worth fighting for.
Even at the very end there were visions of hell. What if Ben Hilfenhaus was magically imbued with the talents of Don Bradman or Steve Waugh or Monty Panesar and he and Mitchell Johnson could guide their team to green-gold heaven? It could happen.
But it didn’t. For the first time since 1934 they beat the Australians at Lords. Just to put that into some sort of chronological perspective Tom Watson wasn’t even born then. And he’s well old.
I couldn’t contain my excitement and abandoned the covert operation that I had mounted to follow the final morning in the office. It was probably the squeaking after the Haddin wicket that alerted my colleagues that my mind was wafting up the Jubilee Line towards St. Johns Wood. The odd punch up to the ceiling raised suspicion. And nothing says you’re not concentrating on your work than flouncing towards the middle of the room, spreading your arms wide like Flintoff and announcing that you are very, very happy.
To be fair I was very happy. Not really because we have broken the curse. But because we were so awful at Cardiff, I genuinely couldn’t see England winning anywhere in this series, let alone Lords. I know that a similar pattern emerged in 2005, but that was a different team.
Except Flintoff. Only the sixth man to find his name on both honours boards at Lords, he deserves his own special honours board for being awesome at the Ashes. Or an OBE for services to fucking on the Aussies. And for the most tear-jerking display of earnest hugging I’ve ever witnessed.
I can only hope that he can put himself back together again for Edgbaston and the rest of the series. Because with the ongoing fitness concerns over Kevin Pietersen, this could be something of a Pyrrhic victory. I’d be very satisfied if summer finished tomorrow and a freak monsoon season set in for a couple of months. Sorry, my pessimism is chronic. Even as the open-top bus crawled along Whitehall last time round I could only think that we were riling up the Australians.
To be fair, I was right.
I knew that Ashes fever had reached London this morning when I minced out of Oxford Circus to be immediately offered a SkySports promotional miniature bat, one of those that cricket fans collect autographs on. Slightly optimistic given that my work is a good 30-minute walk from Lords and the chances of any of the cricketing glitterati wandering aimlessly down Baker St towards the West End were slim. Although I did see Lords Taverners legend John Kettley outside my office once.
Of course I was excited today. Not only was it the morning of the Lords Test against Australia, but also the first round of the Open golf championship up on the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry. I am normally more enthusiastic about this tournament but it has been relegated by the Ashes to the status of a diverting sideshow. I reckon that is because if Geoff Ogilvy or Adam Scott or some other plucky Australian finds their name etched onto the side of the Claret Jug I will stand and applaud and say ‘jolly well played cobber’.
If the name of Ricky Ponting is inscribed onto the little brown urn I will think that is wrong on several levels, but mostly because England have been vanquished again in the series. That particular fear subsided briefly this morning as the England openers set about the Australian bowling with eye-popping ferocity. Mitchell Johnson looked as if he was going to walk away there and then with the Jason Gillespie award for being surprisingly shit.
But as I suspected at lunch the English batsmen found new and novel ways to invite Australia back in the game. I wondered whether Paul Collingwood was worried about being typecast as a nuggetty cricketer after his performance in Cardiff as he pranced negligently down the wicket and back to the pavilion against Michael Clarke, a bowling temp.
Andrew Strauss will be proud of himself but frustrated by his colleagues as they missed an opportunity to put Australia out of the game. He might also be hounded by the terrifying thought that 500 might not be enough on this pitch against these baggy green batters.
The course of this game will be massively influenced by the weather and probably dictated the pace at which the match moved forward today. Perhaps Strauss and Ponting should consult John Kettley for some advice. I know where he is. He’s outside my office.
England vs Holland was always going to be a classic. If we were playing football. We weren’t expecting similar entertainment in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship.
But they’ll be dancing in the streets of Amsterdam tonight after a splendid performance by the Dutch cricketers squeezed out England, hurtling through for the two runs they needed off the last ball of the game.
England started well having been inserted, but for the last nine overs of their innings looked as if they were batting with those little plastic bats you can buy in petrol stations. Not a single six was smote during the entire 20 overs as the middle order carelessly nurdled away the advantage that Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara had accrued in the earlier overs. England thought they had more than enough with a smug total of 162.
And if England had fielded properly then the Dutch may have fallen short. But they contrived to assemble an embarrassing gallery of missed opportunities, which culminated spectacularly in the final over when Stuart Broad must have broken some kind of record by flunking three run-out chances and dropping a catch.
England do employ a fielding coach. His name is Richard Halsall. I am not sure what the ECB are paying him, but on the evidence of this display, it’s too much. He must have been tempted to throw himself off the dressing room balcony. Maybe one of the members could have caught him to show him how it’s done.
Not too many complaints can be made about England’s frontline seamers, but Adil Rashid looked out of his depth among the puddles – he is only fourteen years old, bless him – and in hindsight seems like an optimistic replacement for Andrew Flintoff. The selection debate for this tournament and this game will continue. Even ‘Too Nice’ Nick Knight was bashing his fists against the glass facade of the Lords Media Centre. The dissections will abound in the newspapers tomorrow – with more eloquence than this blog could ever muster.
So I will end with the heartiest of congratulations to the Dutch. They bowled well, fielded well and ultimately batted well. I think that is what is called total cricket.
Sirian Botham must be in a permanent state of wonderment at the state of modern cricket. Every commentary stint features at least one ‘I find it a bit strange’ or ‘I’m sorry but’ or some other utterance of bewilderment at proceedings. So when Andrew Strauss opted to fling the new ball to Graeme Swann during the First Test against the West Indians at Lords, the ‘what the fuck’ scratching of the Beefy head was virtually audible from the back of the box. And sure enough, ten minutes later he’d flounced down to microphone to vent his feelings.
Strauss is beginning to endear himself to me with his frequent onfield displays of human frailty: in the Caribbean we had confusion, caution, childish amusement. And back in England, we now have pride. I don’t blame him. He has wintered wafting away the criticism of conservative captaincy following defensive declarations, particularly in Antigua.
The decision to open up with the spinner is the cricketing equivalent of an accountant rocking up at a party wearing pink PVC trousers. Misguided. It probably served only to blow more air into Swann’s ever-inflating ego. In fairness, Swann can, well, swan about as much as he pleases giving it the big ‘I am’: we will need all the self-belief we can lay our hands on to beat the Australians.
And it’s mean of me to criticise Strauss for a two-over experimental section of what was otherwise a well-conceived victory. An honourable mention should go to Tim Bresnan, who contributed virtually nothing to the win but seems like a jolly chap: good in the clubhouse probably. One wouldn’t blame him for feeling a tiny bit crestfallen – he must look at Graham Onions like a boy on his first day at school views a fellow new starter who has gained instant playground kudos for being very good at skateboarding. Or whatever the kids are doing these days.