Just a little postscript to my blog post about the cricket at Cardiff. After Australia ran away to 674-6 and had England at 20-2 last night before the rain came down after the tea interval, it looked odds-on for an Australian victory. That impression was strengthened by the feeble batting of England’s leading batsmen this morning. The rain that had been forecast also failed to materialize, so England were staring at defeat with the score at 70-5 at one stage.
This afternoon one England batsman, Paul Collingwood, did show some mettle and the tailenders who had played brightly on Day 2 demonstrated much greater resilience than their teammates had this morning. Nevertheless, when Collingwood was out later on, it still looked like Australia would win. Eventually it came down to the last pair, the bowlers Monty Panesar and James Anderson, to cling on, bat out time and attempt to salvage an unlikely draw from almost certain defeat. Monty in particular defended like his soul depended on it and together the two tail-enders saw England to safety. Great stuff.
I absolutely love it when things like this happen. There’s something very “Dad’s Army” about bowlers having to save the day with the bat. Backs to the wall and all that. I have to admit I was completely gripped by the drama of the last hour or so of play and so nervous I was shaking as I watched. One mistake and the match would be lost. Runs didn’t matter, just survival. Fielders all around the bat. The crowd applauding every delivery that was kept out. Only cricket can produce that stomach-churning intensity. At the end of the time allocated for play, England were 252-9, just 13 runs ahead. Australia just hadn’t managed to get that last one out. The defiant rearguard action had held off everything that was thrown at them. England may have needed two innings to reach the score that Australia obtained in one, but that doesn’t matter. Match drawn.
If you want to know how a game can go on for five days and still end in a draw, this is how. And bloody marvellous it is too!
England have their work cut out to improve enough to compete over the rest of the five-match series for the Ashes, but at least this escape has denied the Australians the massive psychological boost the expected big victory would have given them. I know it’s a draw, but there’s no doubting which team will be happier tonight.
And I’m really happy that the First Ashes Test at Cardiff turned out to be such a memorable one!