Ball One – There’s nothing worse than the media complaining about their facilities – after all, we don’t pay (nor queue) to come in and the food and drink is very palatable. At The Oval, however, there is a drawback – it’s very hard to see from the Press Box. Quite how this state of affairs came about is a mystery, as The Oval is otherwise very well appointed, especially for members.
Ball Two – Shane Watson’s pre-series jibe that England’s balance wasn’t quite right was hardly McGrathian in its confidence, but it did carry a bit of a sting. He was obviously eyeing the opportunity that would arise if one of England’ s frontline bowlers had an off-day (or was lined up by a batsman) and a sixth bowler was required. Most limited overs sides have options – Watson himself is often a sixth bowler for Australia – but nobody in England’s batting unit lends themselves to fiddling though four or five overs for 20 or so. Except Ravi Bopara, who found a length that meant the ball was never quite there to hit, and a line that kept the batsmen honest. It was another example of Ravi’s potential – a strange word to use of a man who has played international cricket for five years.
Ball Three – Though it’s hard to judge a pitch until both sides have had a bat, Australia have been content to knock the ball around for much of the first 38 overs of their innings. It’s a strangely unAustralian forbearance, somewhat old-fashioned in its approach of holding on to wickets in readiness for a late thrash. It could also be read as a tribute to the strength of England’s bowling and to Eoin Morgan’s template-setting innings on Friday at Lord’s.
Ball Four – Have you ever met anyone over the age of about 12 who says that they like the music at the cricket? There’s a full house here, it’s England vs Australia and the game is evenly balanced as Australia approach the end of their innings. If that’s not enough for spectators to feel a sense of excitement, they’re watching the wrong game.
Ball Five – What to do about Mitchell Johnson? Not so long ago, he was World Cricketer of the Year and was amongst the most feared pacemen in the game. Now he suffers the cruel songs and crueller cheers of England fans every time he comes on to bowl. The threat is still there, but he’s like a spinner who has lost his stock delivery – there’s just not enough between the wicket-taking balls and the four balls.
Ball Six – The sightscreen at the pavilion end has two levels – a large black screen and a square tarpaulin that hangs down the scaffolding erected for the television cameras. Inexplicably, between these two components, are seats for about a dozen spectators. Whether moving or not, it was inevitable that these spectators would catch the batsmen’s eye and provoke hold-ups in play. With plenty of seats available on the top level, the stewards should have moved them.
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