Ball One – Bresnan or Finn? It must have been a tight call on Friday morning, but the Yorkie’s ability to bowl dry and score runs at 8 (not to mention his twelve Tests winning streak) swung it his way. As the West Indies’ seventh wicket stand climbed above 200, Strauss must have wondered about whether he had got that tight selection call right. In the end, Bres got both centurions, but you have to think that Finn’s greater pace and bounce might have done for Sammy long before he raised three figures. The South Africans, due in July to dispute possession of The Mace, will be happy to see the tall Middlesex man still on the sidelines – but that’s where Finn might be.
Ball Two – A sunny day, a full house and Trent Bridge looking an absolute picture. There’s warmth (at last this summer) for the crowd and warmth from them too, as they twice rose to express their appreciation of the two West Indian century-makers. For all the Twitter spats and political machinations that drive cricket’s news agenda off the field, there’s a generosity of spirit in a Test match crowd that one finds in fewer and fewer places these days. When the booze kicks in later, they can turn a little boorish, but there’s never any real nastiness and an underlying commitment to good cricket that pops up whenever there’s good cricket on show.
Ball Three – Come lunch, the outfield is host to half a dozen games of Kwik Cricket, with primary school kids having a lot of fun batting, bowling and fielding. There are some pretty ropey techniques on show, but it’s fair to say that the kids bowl fewer no balls than Kemar Roach. Quite why a man as talented as Roach oversteps as often as he does, is beyond my ken. It remains to be seen whether the life he offered Alastair Cook just prior to the interval, takes the game beyond our Kem.
Ball Four – There was a time when Pakistani umpires had a reputation for being amongst the least reliable in the world. Those days are, of course, long gone, partly as a result of Imran Khan’s lobbying for neutral umpires. Standing in the middle, as unobstrusively efficient as ever, are Asad Rauf and the incomparable Aleem Dar. At risk of inviting the dreaded commentator’s curse, have there ever been a pair of umpires as quietly effective as these two? Neither will be on the international cricket merry-go-round forever and when they do step off, one hopes that they will pass on their knowledge to those taking their places at the wicket and at square leg. Until then, we should enjoy watching craftsmen at work.
Ball Five – Possibly because we get to see batsmen for hours on end, descriptors can be acquired early and then stick. Certain words and phrases are as attached to certain batsmen as they are to their “skins”. “Bloody-minded concentration” – that’ll be Alastair Cook; “In the bubble” – Trott; “Flamboyant / Powerful” – KP; “Elegant / Graceful” – Bell; “Counter-attacking” – Prior. But what are their equivalents for Andrew Strauss? He’s not the most attractive of batsmen, though he’s hardly Shiv Chanderpaul; he’s not unreliable, but he’s not consistent either; he’s not overly defensive, but never launches an attack to “take the game away”. Perhaps it’s Strauss’ ineffable ordinariness (for an international cricketer) that is his greatest strength. In an age where every bowler has a plan for a batsman, can one plan for a batsman whom one can’t describe? He’s in England’s top ten Test runs scorers now, so maybe that’s description enough.
Ball Six – Is anything more infuriating than the inside edge for four (a “shot” played often by England today)? Whilst an outside edge might be caught in the slip cordon, there’s no field can be set for the inside edge off the pacemen. Moreover, an outside edge is often the result of a good ball and a bowler can take satisfaction from that and build on it. But the inside edge that runs to the boundary is almost always the result of an error on the part of the batsman – the bat coming down crooked, the gate being left open, the line being misread. That the batsman benefits from their misjudgement piles insult on injury.
You can follow me on Twitter @garynaylor999