I got into London late last night, still jetlagged as heck after a couple of days on the continent and not at my best, but very much looking forward to a busy couple of days to catch up with some friends and have some fun with my family. Today I got to do something I’ve not done in about 15 years and enjoy a full day of cricket at the storied Lord’s ground in London with dad. That it turned out to be a very compelling day of cricket really was a bonus.
Lords, Day 2 of the Fourth test against Pakistan
It’s a long time since dad’s been to a cricket game, he taught me to appreciate the game and as much fun as the 20/20 and limited overs versions are there is nothing like a test match series. The way the game twists and turns over the five days makes it such a unique sporting experience.
I remember sitting down with dad in ’80 (I think) watching England from Australia over Christmas at the end of the year. I don’t recall the score, but England probably got absolutely hammered. He spent days explaining and sharing the game with me. Two years later when England was hosting Australia, a series that is now known as “Botham’s Ashes”, I sat and watched a significant part of the series with dad. I can’t claim to have watched the whole of the famous Edgebaston test, but I did understand the significance of what was going on when we were watching it.
The Ian Botham and Bob Willis England come back against the Australians at Edgebaston is well recorded, but looking back, sitting with dad and understanding the significance of that innings and the game makes it even more special. Up untill then England had been outclassed by what history has shown to be a very good Australian side, but somehow they came back and won the game that turned the series around.
This illustrates one of the things that makes sport so special for many. It brings people together in a shared cause. While we celebrate the individual and team performances, it’s who we share those special moments with that make it so important. That many years later these performances remind us of some very special shared memories.
Cricket is the one sport that dad is willing to give England his support in. Elsewhere it’s as it should be, support Scotland first and whoever England is playing second. When it comes to cricket it’s very much England, this might have something to do with Scotland hardly impressive recent cricket history, but none the less it’s notable enough to mention.
Dad talked about growing up in Greenock and regularly watching Greenock Cricket Club, one of Scotlands more successful and important club teams. It’s not a hugely popular game in Scotland, and Greenock CC has a beautiful little ground and attracted some high profile cricketers to take part in it’s games.
A little background on today, it was the final Test in a four-game series between England and Pakistan, England were leading the serried 2-1 but got absolutely spanked at the last game at the Oval.
England needed not to loose to secure the series win over Pakistan. Friday was the second day and England were in deep, deep trouble, which makes the events of the day so surprising and one of those moments one watches sports for.
England started the day on 13/1 with most of the first day having been lost to rain. We arrived about an hour into play, dad is not as sprightly as he was, but wanted to go and we took it rather slowly this morning getting to the St Johns Wood.
We stopped at the bar to grab a sandwich and first pint of the day before heading to our seats. The TV in the Long Bar said England were on 47/5, a mid order batting collapse that was impressive as it was quick, even by England’s lofty standards.
The last three batsmen, the heart of England’s order, had contributed the grand total of zero runs. Dad commented about this being a day we should see a lot of wickets fall, and that England were going to have to work themselves out of this one to have a chance of winning.
Jonathon Trott and Mark Prior were at the crease when we got to our seats, Trott was on 31 and Prior was on 10. It looked like a lively wicket as both batsmen had moments of living dangerously; Prior especially did not look comfortable and was out shortly after lunch for 22. Graham Swann continued the trend and added nothing to the scoreboard. This made the score 102/7 and it was looking good for Pakistan.
Trott slowly put together a half century and Stuart Broad now partnered him in the middle. Broad played some very questionable strokes, but got away with it.
Trott against Aamir
The scoreboard slowly advanced and the England pair started to look a little more comfortable and certainly had a little luck on their side. The wicket seemed to calm down as the day warmed up and the frustration of not finishing England off clearly showed as the Pakistani bowlers sent down the occasional bouncer.
Trott looked comfortable out there, he played some good defensive cricket and punished the poor bowling and mistakes when they came his way.
Stuart Broad rode his luck and had his finest batting performance of his long test career, but as good as Broad was he was overshadowed by the determined and very controlled strokeplay of Jonathon Trott.
Today we saw some great cricket with both the bat and ball. The 18 year old Pakistani bowler Aamer took 6 of the seven England wickets that fell for 73 runs.
At 102/7 before the tea interval England looked out of it. It seemed only a matter of time before some very impressive bowling dispatched the rest tail end of the order. At the same time the England bowlers must have been looking forward to a chance to bowl on this wicket, they needed a decent run total to give them a chance, and they did not have that.
Trott made his century not long after tea, he had been at the crease for almost five hours at this point building what turned out to be a great innings. He ended the day with a magnificent 149 not out, it’s one of the best test innings I’ve certainly ever seen and showed exactly what makes test cricket so fascinating.
Stuart Broad ended the day on 112 not out, he survived some good bowling on what looked like an interesting wicket. He certainly had some luck on his side with a couple of calls that went his way and batting errors that he got away with, but it was once again a very impressive innings when it was most needed.
The seventh wicket stand put on 244 runs by the end of play giving England a total of 346/7. A total that should be enough to ensure the game is not lost and the series against Pakistan won. However this is England, and I’ve seen them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory from better positions than this in the past.
This was a great day of cricket that had everything that makes test cricket so special. There were two centuries scored, that together should be a series securing partnership from England. In the field there was an 18-year-old bowler in only his sixth game for his country taking six wickets with some very tight bowling.
All this shared with dad in the wonderful atmosphere of a series deciding test match, at the most storied and traditional home of the game. Sport, of any kind, really does not get much better than this.