Testing Times

Ugh. I seem to have come down with a nasty bug, which started as the sorest of sore throats but has since broadened its ambitions. Not very nice, particularly since I’ve got a lot on my plate this week.

I have a feeling this may be a consequence of sitting in the rain for several hours on Saturday. The trip I mentioned in yesterday’s post was, in fact, to London SE11 in order to catch the Third Day’s play in the Fourth (and final) Test between England and India at The Oval. It’s been a long time since I was last there – about twenty years, in fact – and I’d almost forgotten the contrast between Kennington and St John’s Wood. Cricket at Lord’s is an altogether posher affair than at The Oval, you see. It’s also rather harder to get to from Paddington.

Anyway, I left Cardiff early and managed to meet up with an old pal (who still lives in South London and who got the tickets) in good time to get into the ground for the 11am start. It was quite sunny when proceedings opened with England resuming their first innings on 457-3 and looking to push on quickly. Within half an hour they lost the nightwatchman, James Anderson, quickly followed by Eoin Morgan. Bell and Bopara then put together a fine partnership until Ian Bell’s magnificent innings of 235 came to a close with England on 548-6. Matt Prior chipped in with 18 to take the score to 591-6 at lunch.

I reckoned England would probably want to score around 650 before declaring, but unfortunately the weather intervened and made this calculation irrelevant. It starting raining during the interval and didn’t really clear until about half past four. Play eventually resumed at 16.50, with time added on to make up for the disruption. Meanwhile, England declared – a wise decision, taken to ensure England would have enought time to bowl India out twice – so it was the tourists who came out to bat when play resumed.

In the first over, Sehwag hit two fours off Anderson and  was then out lbw, with India 8-1, which soon became 13-2 as Laxman departed, caught behind the wicket.  Tendulkar then arrived to the customary standing ovation and together with Dravid kept England’s fast bowlers at bay for a time.

But then, with the shadows lengthening, there followed one of the most fascinating hours of Test cricket I’ve ever seen. Graham Swann was introduced into the attack and immediately generated exceptional bounce and turn. He troubled both batsman until, with the score on 68, Tendulkar played a rash sweep shot which caught the top edge and dollied up a simple catch to James Anderson. In came the hapless Raina who looked all at sea. In fact he faced 29 balls without scoring a single run; he fell stumped, both literally and metaphorically. At 93-4 and with about 15 minutes to play, India sent in Sharma to play the role of nightwatchman.

At this stage England were smelling blood and had fielders around the bat like vultures waiting for the kill. I haven’t seen such attacking fields for an offspinner since watching old films of Jim Laker bowling at the Australians. Every ball looked dangerous.  Sharma didn’t survive long under the pressure. When he departed, for 1, that brought in the Indian captain Dhoni to partner the imperturbable Raul Dravid to the close at 103-5. India looked demoralised, England jubilant.

And with that I legged it back to Paddington and thence back home to Cardiff. A long day, good at both ends but with a damp patch in the middle.

POSTSCRIPT. India recovered well to score 300 all out  in their first innings, but that wasn’t enough to avoid the follow-on. They got a better start in the 2nd innings, but once again Tendulkar failed to get his 100th international century – just, this time; he was out for 91. Thereafter India collapsed hideously to 283 all out. England won by an innings and 8 runs, and completed a clean sweep. I wouldn’t have dared predict a 4-0 victory at the start of the series, but as it turned out England completely overwhelmed India.

And that’s the last Test cricket of this fascinating summer….

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10 Responses to “Testing Times”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I was in SE London that day and noted the band of rain. It’s another decisive victory, and if England get the better of South Africa next summer then there will be no doubt of their no.1 ranking. For me the focus now switches to Lancashire County Cricket Club, of all teams in all sports the one closest to my heart, and currently clear at the top of the county championship which they haven’t won outright since before the War.

    A friend used to live 5 minutes walk from the Oval – from whose flat I would regularly go to last days of Tests there – but moved away several years ago.

    Get well soon Peter.

    • telescoper Says:

      While delighted by England’s victory, part of me is sad that India – with the notable exception of the superb Raul Dravid – played so poorly. I’d have preferred it to have been more of a contest and, yes, I would have liked to see Tendulkar get that 100th 100…

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      It’s remarkable that India’s exceptional batting line-up crumbled and their morale did the same so soon after winning the World Cup. I think this is due to a combination of injury and lack of talent in the bowling department, placing the batting under pressure to compensate from the outset – which they were unable to do against fine England bowling.

      It’s a joy that most of the present England XI select themselves when fit.

      • telescoper Says:

        England are not short of good cricketers waiting in line in case of injury too. I wonder how long it will take Tremlett to force his way back into the side?

  2. telescoper Says:

    I know it’s not proper cricket, but I can’t resist mentioning that Glamorgan scored 328 for 4 off only 33 overs against Lancashire at Colwyn Bay on Sunday in the Clydesdale Bank 40 over game.
    That’s almost 10 an over. Glamorgan won the match by 69 runs.

  3. Simon Kemp Says:

    …I went back to Mexico a week ago, and so didn’t go to the Oval or Colwyn Bay this year, but did manage to watch or listen to a fair bit. Glamorgan have never before even reached the heights of 328 in a full 40 overs (or even when said league was 50 overs!). And I think I’ll miss Dravid more than Tendulkar when he retires, he’s more of a physicist’s cricketer somehow.

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    “And that’s the last Test cricket of this fascinating summer….”

    Not if Test means International. But it’s certainly the last first-class Test cricket of the summer.

    I wouldn’t have minded being at Colwyn Bay even though Lancs lost. We used to visit relatives of neighbours there when I was a child. Today there are some amazing batting records in 20, 40, and 50-over games. But I remember being awed when Worcestershire chased down something like 80 off 8 overs to win a 40-over Sunday league game vs Hants on TV in the late 1960s. Today that would be far from abnormal.

    • telescoper Says:

      I always assumed that in the context of cricket, “Test” applies only to international games that involve four innings…

      ..and Wikipedia seems to agree.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_cricket

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Hmm. ODIs were for a long time known as One-Day Tests, and in rugby Test = International.

      There isn’t a higher authority to appeal this one to; I suppose usage defines meaning, but it isn’t decisive.

      • telescoper Says:

        Curiously, Chambers says “Test Match – an international cricket match forming one of a series” which doesn’t seem right either, as there have certainly been one-off Test matches…

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