Ball One – If anything illustrates the difference between these two sides this summer, it was Rahul Dravid’s run out. Maybe Dravid is too tired at the end of a long summer; maybe he is too old to dive or even to stretch; or maybe he just wasn’t expecting it – but had he been fresher, younger or more alive to the danger, he would surely have got in. In contrast, Jimmy Anderson, in the middle of a fine opening spell, was right on the money, picking up the ball and throwing down the stumps like Jonty Rhodes. Has there ever been an opening bowler more dynamic inside the ring?
Ball Two – Parthiv Patel: what were you thinking? Hacking across the line might just work at Ahmedabad seeking to set 320, but on a cloudy day at The Oval with Jimmy Anderson swinging it round corners and 220 looking like a sensible score to set – well, should we decry such muddled thinking or pity it?
Ball Three – Setting a score is one thing – setting a tempo is another. MS Dhoni was determined not to let Jimmy Anderson just bowl and balanced risk and reward well to ensure that India scored boundaries in three of first four overs in which the captain was at the crease.
Ball Four – England’s attack is probably suited to all conditions these days, so accomplished is it, but if they could whistle up their ideal, they would probably want cloudy conditions with a bit of chill in the air and a tinge of green in the wicket. The dread phrase “right areas” looms and the discipline of England’s bowlers is such that those areas are hit as often as they would be by any attack in world cricket. Allied to fielding as drilled as any in the game – probably as drilled as any England side has ever been – that’s an oppressive environment is which to bat.
Ball Five – Love is blind – well, probably. After an underwhelming (at times, rather worse than that) summer as a captain, batsman and keeper, MS Dhoni’s fifty attracted roars of acclaim from fans flying the Indian flag. That’s decent support from supporters who have turned up in numbers – though it must be said that the fixture was sold out long before India’s (to date) winless summer had started.
Ball Six – It’s another strange paradox in a game full of them, that a spinner going through their variations is a joy to watch – wrong uns, doosras, quicker balls, flighted balls, sliders, zooters – Shane Warne had plenty, some even real. However, when a seamer goes through his variations, it just looks ugly – surely nobody could be turned on by the slow bouncer, the Steve Waughesque back of the hand slower ball, the round the wicket full ball wide of the off stump. Top of off stump please!