Sunday, May 29, 2005

First Test: Satisfactory conclusion


Well, a few days at Lord's in the blazing heat has left Oscar with a bright red face (despite cramming his Jermyn Street sunhat over his forehead and slathering factor 40 over exposed areas - I should have booked the lower tier, I'll know better next time). Never mind, the good news is that England beat Bangladesh by an innings and 261 runs.

Exactly how it should have been, of course. One hardly expected any other result, so the key thing is to look beyond the result and ask what it means in terms of England's prospects for the rest of the summer. You can't draw too many conclusions from one match, but I took some heart from a few things. Trescothick's batting was largely sublime, and I thought he was unlucky to have been caught behind only 6 runs short of a double ton. I guess we can excuse a lapse of concentration after all that time, especially since it was unseasonably hot. Michael Vaughan scored another century, and what a relief it must be for him to have started his third summer as captain with a good score on the board (although he was out edging to the keeper yet again). And Ian Bell looked completely at home and assured in the team, extending his Test average to 135.00 (although that's after only two innings, with one not out).

As for the bowling, Simon Jones looks to have arrived back in true style. His bowling was fast (regularly hitting 87-88mph), aggressive, accurate, consistent and exactly what the Aussies won't want to have coming at them during July to September. After a dreadful start, Hoggard (who needs to keep one eye on his foot going over the crease, although preferably not while he's actually delivering the ball) returned to the steady, strong, reliable form that has kept him in the side for some years now. Jones and Hoggard's performances look even better considering they were bowling into the wind.

Inevitably, there were disappointments. Although he made 69, I thought Strauss looked nervy at times, surprisingly uncomfortable on his home ground. Too often he let the pace slow to a trickle, and perhaps could have opened up a little more. The weight of expectation, perhaps? Another hundred-on-debut-against too much to hope for, it seems. Harmison's anything-goes appeal on his hat-trick ball (despite not knowing what he was appealing for) was the higlight of the third day; but, although he was regularly pacy and played a lot of chin music, was short of what we know he's capable of. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see him bowling with at least some menace, and he will feel relieved to have taken some wickets. Freddie's bowling was OK, but again short of expectations - and I'm worried about the way he's walking. His left foot looked... well, odd. Perhaps it's good that he didn't have to bat, because I'm worried what running between the wickets might have done to him. And the absence of Giles (who has also been ruled out for Chester-le-Street) exposed the gaping lack of talent in the England spin department - thank God we were spared the embarrassment of watching Batty bowl.

It's almost impossible to talk about Bangladesh without sounding patronising, but their third day 50-partnership was an indication of what they could be capable of, if only they had a bit more discipline and luck.

But this really was a men-against-boys contest, as will be the Second Test.

The atmosphere throughout was fun for myself, an infrequent visitor to the home of cricket, but I could have done without people of all ages (and, for some reason, always in proximity to me) pretending to be the Barmy Army, when they lacked the latter's wit, assertion, or ability to hold their beer. Most annoying were the three sixteen-year-olds behind me on the second day, who rolled up their programmes to form makeshift megaphones, then shouted every childish rude word they could think of in silly voices. Grow up, you bastards, or fuck off to Old Trafford where the locals will make mincemeat of you.

Actually, I could also have done without the two toffs (and their wives) who sat in front of me for the grand total of ninety minutes during the second day, then disappeared. £30 per seat for ninety minutes, and all they did was discuss who was head boy at their children's school and (I think, I was trying to tune out their conversation) something about a windsurfing holiday.

Middle class bores in front of me, and middle class yobboes behind me. Perfectly frightful, my dear.


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