The Wonderful Game

Just crept inside out of the sweltering heat to post a quick item for posterity about the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, which has just ended in a victory for England by just 14 runs. I missed the first two days of the match, and most of the third, on my travels, apart from the odd update on the internet; it seems that Germans aren’t all that interest in cricket, for some reason. Yesterday I followed the action on the radio. Gripping stuff. Of course as an Englishman I’m delighted with the victory, but the Australians showed incredible pluck in this match, recovering from 117-9 in the first innings to post 280 thanks to an amazing knock of 98 from No. 11, the nineteen-year old Ashton Agar. England began their second innings in a state of shock after Agar’s onslaught and were 11-2 at one point, but gradually clawed their way into it. Ian Bell’s century and a determined contribution from Stuart Broad took them to a total of 375, a lead of 310. I always felt that a target of 300 in the last innings would be beyond Australia, and so it proved – but only just. They fought gallantly to 296 before Haddin was given out on an umpire review. Throughout the match the initiative ebbed and flowed. No quarter was asked and none given. It was magnificent.

It wasn’t quite as close as the famous Edgbaston Ashes Test in 2005, which England won by just two runs, but it certainly had my stomach tingling, nerves churning, and metaphors mixing as the plot twisted one way then another. I couldn’t even eat my lunch. No wickets at all in the first hour, then two in quick succession, then the dramatic fightback, snuffed out by the final twist of a “not out” overturned by the third umpire.

You can say what you like about the DRS system, but it certainly adds an extra element of tension to the proceedings. The world seems to stand still as we wait for the third umpire to ponder the decision with the use of replays, hawkeye, hotspot, snickometer and the rest. One crucial factor in this Test was that Alastair Cook used his reviews much more intelligently than Michael Clarke.

I would say, though, that I think this was a game England should have won much more easily. The hapless Finn  fell apart when Agar had a go at him and contributed very little to the rest of the match. With only four bowlers to start with, England can’t afford to have anyone underperform. I strongly suspect Finn will not figure in the next match, but I remain uncomfortable with the policy of picking only four bowlers. If only England had a proper all-rounder. Still, at least they’ve got Jimmy Anderson, who bowled magnificently and took ten wickets in the match.

Anyway, there are four more Tests in this series and if they’re all like this one was it will be like 2005 all over again. Except that series began with a defeat for England.

Test Cricket is the best game in the world. Discuss.

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19 Responses to “The Wonderful Game”

  1. Four more tests in England this Summer, then five down under over the winter. Not sure I can take it if they’re all like this. A really great test match with drama from the get-go and momentum swings all the while. I think only the Edgbaston match in 2005 can match it in recent years. I was lucky enough to go on Thursday (first Ashes day I’ve been to), got to see Agar’s knock and the drama around the Trott dismissal. Fantastic atmosphere and banter between the Aussie and English fans was fun as well.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Discuss? No doubt about it!

    I always suspected that Finn’s frequent hitting of the stumps in his follow-through was a nervous thing, and his meltdown makes me think I was right. We are not short of replacements but I hope he works it out.

    Wish Agar had got either 98 fewer or 2 more in 1st innings…

    In this Test the men ultimately defeated the boys. Australia’s inexperienced team are either not going to be cowed, and learn from it and come back stronger, or crumble through inexperience. Time alone will tell which, but they are not going to stay the same. Lords will be crucial. I also suspect that the sacking of Mickey Arthur was to facilitate the selection of the players, some of them better than men in Aus’ team at Trent Bridge, who rebelled against him.

    • telescoper Says:

      Finn always struck me as having a rather fragile temperament. Any bowler can have an off-day of course, but this was much more than that.

      Anyway, my money’s on Bresnan for the next Test, but still think the attack is very limited if the ball doesn’t swing.

      I was a bit surprised that Swann didn’t have more success on the Trent Bridge wicket: it looked very dry and crumbly with big footmarks on the last day. You would have thought he’d be in his element, but the ball turned only slowly and he didn’t really threaten.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I have been increasingly disappointed in Bresnan but I learned that he has been carrying a longterm injury which he says is now fixed through an operation. Let’s see. He bats better than Onions.

      • Dave Carter Says:

        This sort of happened with Finn in Perth in 2010, after which he was left out for a bit and Tremlett and Bresnan were the other seamers (Broad was out injured). But Tremlett has been injured, though taking wickets for Surrey recently, and Bresnan I don’t think has ever bowled as well again as he did in those last two Ashes tests in 2010/11. Is either of them fit enough and in form enough to take Finn’s place? Onions in my view is too similar to Anderson and not as consistent (never thought I would be typing that when watching Anderson early in his career). My money would be on England being unchanged.

        I do hope that after this test people will get off Ian Bell’s back. That was a superb, match winning innings.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Would it be revealing to make available not only a batsman’s average but also his standard deviation?

      • telescoper Says:

        If the scores follow a Poisson distribution, then the mean and the variance will be the same. But I suspect they don’t.

  3. is cricket a sport? 13 interchangeable, out of shape men standing around for 5 days?

  4. Mike Scott Says:

    ‘Test cricket is the best game in the world’ …..
    You obviously understand what life is about …. far more so than the dissenters who have left comments to the contrary ….. the problem is that they just don’t understand it !
    I watched the whole thing …. it was riveting !

  5. Dave Carter Says:

    One other thing which struck me was that the Australian batting was, in their own terms, ordinary. And even now, with a few phone calls, judicious wheedling, and first class air fares, they could go into the third test at least with a middle order of Ponting, Clarke and both Husseys.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Yes, at least we know that England CAN bat; they mostly threw away good starts. Apart from Clarke, Aus have yet to prove that, and they have now lost 5 Tests in a row. (That last word has an intentional double meaning.)

  6. Navneeth Says:

    A small correction: UDRS doesn’t get to use Snicko.

    Oh, and a wonderful match to watch, no doubt.

  7. Roger Luther Says:

    A masterful summary of an enthralling match. I have two questions abiout it: i) why did it start on a Wednesday – test matches ALWAYS start on Thursdays ii) why are the next Ashes immediatelty after this summers’- usually there is a two year gap between playing here and there. Any answers welcome

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      (i) To leave a longer gap than just 2 days between this and the next Test, which starts tomorrow.

      (ii) Because the ICC are crazy. I see no reason to disrupt the 4-year cycle, but they do.

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