England Feel The Bite Of The Doberman
One of the more endearing things about cricket is its habitual descent into chaos. So when Matt Prior’s back went spastic during a warm-up game of football before the start of play, the ensuing shambles was not only entertaining but entirely expected. It’s an anomaly of test matches that when a wicket-keeper injures himself the contingency plans are much easier executed by the touring side than the home team. Hence when Brad Haddin cracked his finger last week the gloves were immediately tossed to an eager Graham Manou. But when Andrew Strauss watched as Prior was helped off, the alarms bells began to echo those in the England hotel last night.
Paul Collingwood took to the outfield and rehearsed his role as Prior’s understudy. He has stepped up before after all. And he enjoyed himself. He was laughing. But we were playing the West Indies at home which these days can be pretty hilarious. This is different. And then a call was put through to Timmy Ambrose down at Edgbaston. That’s quite a long way away. And the traffic can be murder on the motorway. And Headingley can be difficult to find and the parking isn’t great.
Thank the Lordy then that Prior saw the light and pulled through. And even better it seemed when Strauss won the toss and chose to bat to allow Prior to hobble off towards the nearest masseuse. But just as he was settling in to something deep and aromatic the call came to pad up and join the fray.
I can’t really remember a worse day for England since Kingston and Jerome Taylor. Which wasn’t that long ago actually but you try and forget these things. The Aussies bowled well, particularly Stuart Clark. Clark is by a distance my favourite current Australian cricketer: it’s mainly the dopey grin he wears when he takes a wicket – reminiscent of a large benign Doberman who’s just fetched a Frisbee for his master. It strikes me as vaguely appalling that he is also estate agent, because in my experience they are all evil. Maybe he’s one of the nice ones. The nice one.
I can’t really think what Clark did to be rewarded with Gatorade-dispensing duties for the first part of this summer. Maybe he sold Ricky Ponting a house that turned out to be rubbish.
Ponting had great fun pushing down on the knife that his bowlers had thrust into England’s chest. It’s almost a truism now to say that the jeering the accompanies his walk to the crease is moronic. Apart from anything else it just encourages the man. You could almost see it written on his face as he wheeled around for one of those trademark pulls to hit Graham Onions’ first ball for six. Boo that ladies and gentlemen. Boo that.