Casual observations from the Lord's Test

Blog Opinion

The obvious conclusion from a game in which England had the final five balls to take the last Sri Lankan wicket was that the pitch was way, way, way too flat and is precisely the sort of thing that is going to 'kill' Test cricket.

The obvious conclusion from a game in which England had the final five balls to take the last Sri Lankan wicket was that the pitch was way, way, way too flat and is precisely the sort of thing that is going to 'kill' Test cricket.

The paradox is that there's a grain of truth in that – at least, inasmuch as the contest between bat and ball was too far in favour of the batsmen.

Perhaps the less obvious conclusion is that the pace at which the modern game skips along means we might soon see the advent of four-day Test cricket, maybe even day-night, with a 105-over daily obligation.

If it's a bore draw, better it's done in four days, right? Adapt or die, fellow humans. Adapt or die. After all, given that the only folk who rock up on a Monday are work-shy reprobates (be they poor or wealthy) who probably should be euthanised, you'd be helping cricket. Probably.

The nail-biting conclusion was of course considerably spiced up by that bane of modern cricketing justice, and all-round underminer of umpires' divinely conferred authority, DRS. Not only was the big schnicky on to Nuwan Pradeep's front radiator that Paul Reiffel missed – and had he done so in India, against India, it might not have been the only rifle in the news – just about as significant as significant gets, Rangana Herath's dismissal was a veritable Radio 4 Debate of a moment.

Let me end the debate now: Herath was clearly out. His left glove might well have been off the bat handle, but it was covering his hand (as it should have been), which was attached to his arm, which was attached to his trunk, which was attached to his other arm, which was attached to his other hand, which was inside a glove that was on the bat handle. Out. All day long.

Even so, the portly wee scampering twirler is to be congratulated for (a) injecting excitement into an otherwise turgidly dull game; (b) helping soothe over frayed relations between the two sides; and (c) showing that it takes all shapes and sizes to make up the game.

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On the subject of the Lord's pitch, when are they going to sort out that bloody slope? FIFA wouldn't allow it.

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Still on the subject of the pitch, Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews told Channel 5's MCJ Nicholas on Day One that it was 'an easy decision' to bowl first. Really?

This isn't the knowledge that England made 575 for 9 retrofitted over that decision. It's partly to do with what 'Chef' Cook said when he was schmoozerviewed by MCJ a few minutes later: "It's a bit green but also very dry and we think it'll go up and down, probably spin a bit." Now, Sri Lanka's best bowler, the one who has won them Test matches, is Herath, so why wouldn't you want to give him the best chance to win you the game?

Try this slightly scurrilous theory: the two senior batsmen – one of whom was, at the time, yet to make a Test 100 at Lord's – took a look at the green tinge and, worried about finding themselves out there in the first half-hour, may have suggested to the skipper, more or less vociferously, that it could be an idea to have a chuck first. This is not to insinuate anything consciously selfish, only that there might be a subconscious tug in two directions given it was their last chance at the Home of Cricket.

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The clash between Mathews and Buttler preceding the Test series wasn't only remarkable for the protagonists having the wrong number of Ft's in their surnames. It once again brought the 'spirit of cricket' into view – well, not into view because it's either non-existent or immaterial (in a literal sense) – and it's only a surprise that there wasn't a veritable Mankad orgy.

Surely (surely!) Broady was tempted to cement his place as Test cricket's shittest shit bloke by Mankadding Eranga in the final over?

[NB: On the spirit of the game, it is not a contradiction to state that the only thing that should be taken into consideration are the Laws of the game, but also that there is such a thing as the spirit of cricket (you could call it respect, cordiality, whatever). This was precisely what those warnings that Senanayake gave were: good form (old chap).]

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Without wishing to heap extra pressure on Moeen Ali – not that the way he skipped down the pitch to Herath's first delivery in the second innings suggests he feels the pressure too greatly – the whole 'delicate balance of British multiculturalism' (Hitchens) is resting on his slim shoulders. Reckless shoulders, given the way he wafted IRRESPONSIBLY at his second ball in the second innings.

Call me naive, but I'd like to think Ali's languid square-driving – strokeplay very much in the mould of Saeed Anwar (although I'm sure Moeen's pad in Worcester doesn't house its own nightclub, as did Anwar's mansion in Lahore in the pre-devout days) – would be enough to purge the British far-right of their Islamophobia, just as the equally impressively be-bearded Hashim Amla has nipped any apartheid nostalgia in the bud in his homeland.

Of course, the not-quite-ready-to-bowl-spin-in-Tests (S Ajmal, June 2013) Moeen was fast-tracked because the ECB, responsible for the running of cricket in a country of idiots withdrawing into purple and yellow caves, couldn't stomach the potential ramifications of him being given the #666 shirt (he is #662, Jordan #663, Robson #664).

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The ECB's media arm tried to suppress news that the baby-faced MotM Joe Root has strong Marxist-Leninist sympathies, with people close to the strike-rotating ex-opener believing he might be a secret backer of Yorkshire separatist movement. "The rumours," said someone with an aggressive smile and dead eyes, "began with a casual remark that he would like to name his firstborn son Che." Che Root. Che Rubik.

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Cook's private press conference after the game (attended by this correspondent and The Upstanding Family's man in Essex) divulged how tempted he was to bat on and allow Root to past the coveted 1200 runs in Test cricket milestone, because of the long-term gains.

"In the end," he said, "I was so pleased we didn't, because you saw how much we needed those overs at the back end to winkle out the seventh, eighth and ninth wickets". There followed a long pause, during which the The Upstanding Family's correspondent had a mindwank (it was written all over his face), while I mulled over the obvious follow-up question: bouncer, bouncer…

However, the silence was broken by Cook: "On Ballance / balance, I think it was the right decision." Not sure of spelling, although there's one 'l' of a difference.

<b>Scott Oliver</b>

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