An absolutely stunning test victory for England yesterday; they are really starting to look like a fine all-round side and even when they’re in trouble (as they most definitely were on the opening day), the current squad seems to have acquired the ability to find a way out of trouble. They bat all the way down to no.10 – even Jimmy Anderson is no mug and in English conditions, the bowling attack is as good as anything in the world at the moment.
Having mentioned the lower order batsman, I heard a great quote from Phil Tufnell last night... he was a genuine rabbit with the bat, yet with Alan Mullally and Devon Malcolm in the side, he was once elevated to the giddy heights of no.9. “I wanted to bat eleven,” quipped the slow left-armer, “because I hated walking off on my own!”
Back to the second test and I wonder whether in years to come the stunning all-round performance of Stuart Broad will be overshadowed by the Ian Bell “run out”... which, let’s face it, was so farcical it could have been played out on a village green rather than in a test match arena.
The simple fact is that Bell was at fault and had it been any delivery but the last one before tea, he would have been dismissed. Yes the fielding looked awkward and Kumar’s reaction (as well as the cheers from the crowd) suggested a boundary, but that still can’t exonerate Bell, whose momentary (but total) loss of concentration was in stark contrast to an outstanding knock.
I don’t blame the Indians for removing the bails, or“appealing”... after all it wasn’t their fault Bell decided to stroll off for a cup of tea and a bun. But it is to their collective credit that MS Dhoni reinstated the Warwickshire batsman because, as Rahul Dravid said: “it [the run out decision] just didn’t feel right”.
So the “spirit of the game” remains intact and England march on with a 2-0 series lead. I really home Messrs Gambhir, Sehwag and Khan are fit for the third test... because that will make it the truest “test” of England’s progress.
Before I close, I would like to go back to 2002 for a personal memory also concerning the “spirit of the game”. Chester le Street were playing Blaydon... we were in a whole heap of trouble, but we reached 137 all out thanks mainly to Alan Bell (61*) but also in part to a last-wicket stand of 25, of which I contributed 11 (8 of which were edged boundaries down to a vacant third man... yes, even in club cricket!).
I received a fair amount of none-too-pleasant “verbals” for my enduring lack of ability with the bat... all water of a duck’s back if you’ll pardon the pun. Anyway, the main culprit, a bloke called Steve Reay strolled out at no.3 with Blaydon well in command. I was bowling at the time (well I was the skipper!) and the first couple of deliveries drifted nicely past his outside edge...
In the spirit of friendly rivalry, I ambled down the pitch and commented that “at least we left our worst player til last...”
And he went berserk! Effing and blinding, making offensive gestures behind the backs of the ineffective umpires and even offering me outside!
I’d never seen or heard anything quite like it...
Anyway, after the furore died down, the game continued; I had him dropped by the ‘keeper almost straight away, but he when edged to slip in my next over and had to walk disconsolately from the field... I simply grinned at him...
Incredibly, Blaydon collapsed from 130-6 to 134 all out; one of the victims being claimed by current Northants quickie Luke Evans and the final wicket coming courtesy of a shambolic run out. We had a bit of an on-field celebration before heading for the pavilion.
I shook hands with their skipper, but as for Reay... well he was last seen, coffin in hand, trudging towards the exit...
Don’t you just love a happy ending!
All my own work... almost.