Ball One (10.30am) – Walking past the expensive real estate of St John’s Wood, past the early queuers, all summer dresses and picnic baskets, past the old boys, egg and tomato ties and folding chairs, catching glimpses of the greensward through gaps in the perimeter wall, I wondered if there were any other place I’d rather be – but I didn’t wonder for long. MCC has its critics, but it’s a progressive club these days, on the right side of cricket’s many arguments. Its ground is its ornament, a work of art and, yes, the only place to be today.
Ball Two (11.10am) – Stuart Broad is as sweet a timer of a cricket ball as anyone in the England XI, but at Number 8, with Matt Prior 75* at the other end, should he be blocking a few and playing for his partner? Of course, that’s not the way of the modern game, but there’s a time for circumspection as well as finding a shot for every ball.
Ball Three (12.30pm) – Should Steven Finn be batting with Chris Tremlett? With just four men in the attack and 452 up already, why risk injury for the sake of another 15 runs? Okay, Lakmal and Fernando are not Lillee and Thomson, but there’s always a chance of jamming a digit against the bat – the smart move would be to avoid even that slim possibility.
Ball Four (2.30pm) – Cook drops Paranavitana, one of a number of relatively straightforward slip catches to go down on a day perfect for seeing the ball from edge to hand. At Lord’s, things are never quite as simple as they look, with the slope requiring as much adjustment to fielding as to batting and bowling. But professionals, especially those as experienced as Cook and Jayawardene, should be able to cope.
Ball Five – (3.20pm) I don’t have access to the stats to prove this point – maybe they don’t exist – but rocking back to a spinner must be more risky than coming forward. Although playing back often produces runs from horizontal bat strokes, it opens up the LBW and bowled – two modes of dismissal much more likely than the bat-pad or stumping.
Ball Six (3.40pm) – The Lankans have scored 101 runs in a session at almost four an over. Not uncommon these days, but unheard of in Test cricket only a generation ago. It was in the 90s when Brian Lara and Stephen Waugh were credited with raising the expectations of batsmen with regard to strike rates. And both men did it for a reason – not, as in the past in a headlong chase of a fifth day target (as Gordon Greenidge did at this ground in 1984) but to open up time in the game for bowlers to take twenty wickets. The value of such an approach was driven home to England fans in the famous Oval Test vs Sri Lanka in 1998, when Sanath Jayasuriya’s 213 from 278 balls opened up a match in which England had scored 400 and plenty in the first innings. Will history repeat itself, with Dilshan in Jayasuriya’s role? Well, the Lankans will need someone in Muralitharan’s role (54.2 – 27 – 65 – 9!!!) and that is not going to happen.