Today's cricket was a lot less interesting and a lot more exhilarating
than yesterday's. The good thing about that was that there was plenty
of reason to clap the hands, which was approximately the only way of
keeping warm on a bitter day. Blithering idiots like Martin-Jenkins
could twitter on the radio about how it was a pleasantly warm
afternoon as they sat there in an enclosed, heated commentary box, and
drivel on about how the Pavilion wasn't full because there were few
people sitting outside, but those of us wearing overcoats in a howling
gale on the top of the Warner Stand were under no such impression
about the temperature, and a visit to the Pavilion in search of warmth
confirmed that it was packed with Members huddling against the cold.
The first 70 minutes were amongst the most exhilarating I've spent at
a cricket ground. 14.2 overs, 102 runs and five wickets are amazing
enough statistics for Test cricket, but the manner of the events was
Flintoff finished off the light-interrupted over from last night, off
which Oram played a solid shot which got him to the other end. Just in
time to face a Harmison unrecognisable from the previous day. He tore
in, and had Oram caught behind in his first over. Who would be next?
Chris Cairns emerged. My wife had little experience of Cairns,
amounting only to his stint at #11 with Astle a couple of years ago.
Jane and I informed her that Cairns was capable of being just as
dangerous as Astle, and we could well be in for some fun in the next
And, oh, what fun it was! Bish! Over extra cover! Bash! Over
mid-wicket! Bosh! Over backward point! 10 fours and four sixes (taking
him past IVAR's record career total) were the core of 82 glorious runs
off 47 balls - and he had to slow down a bit to farm the strike when
he'd run out of partners. No bowler could tame him while he wielded
his 3-and-bit pound cudgel as if it were a tennis racket. It wasn't
mere hitting, either; there were almost delicate sliced lobs to far
parts of the court (though he wasn't desperately concerned that they
fell "in") among the smashes.
It ended in the grand manner. Flintoff was summoned as next victim,
and Cairns looked his first ball over. The next one disappeared into
the crowd, as did the next, and the fourth ball of the over left the
bat as if to repeat the dose, but he'd hit it into the wind, it held
up, and Harmison was able to pouch the sort of catch which often gets
dropped in these cirumstances with relative aplomb.
Meanwhile, Harmison had got back into the destructive mode of his
Caribean series. His fastest ball of the morning was measured at 91.6
mph, well up on yesterday's 88-89 mph efforts, and the non-Cairns
batsmen were clearly rattled. Most spectacularly Vettori, who
bottom-edged one which started to roll towards the stumps. Finally
locating it, he frantically attemtped to divert it, succceding only in
helping it to clunk into the base of the stumps, but the bails merely
bounced in the groove. The next ball was faster, and Vettori now
demonstrated how he should have done it the previous time by
bottom-edging it directly into his stumps very hard indeed.
Cairns's efforts thus propelled New Zealand to 386, which is a good
enough number, but it remained to be seen how good it was on this
Trescothick and Strauss came out to face 10 overs before lunch. They
played carefully, clearly with the main intention of staying until
lunch and then assessing what to do. Martin got Strauss to edge one
rather nervously towards secomnd slip, but he had got enough bat on it
for it not to carry. Otherwise, though, 80 mph bowlers on a slow pitch
seemed not to be all that much of a threat.
A view clearly shared in the England dressing room over lunch, as the
afternoon session consisted of Trescothick and Strauss skipping along
at 4 an over as the seamers rotated, with an interlude from Vettori to
try and change the pace to no avail. By the time the drinks came out,
it had become apparent that we were simply going to have to wait for a
wicket until a batsman got tired enough to make a mistake because this
paceless attack was without venom on a placid pitch.
Trescothick nearly always looks pretty good against 82 mph bowling on
a slow pitch, and today was not one of the exceptions. He runs it down
to third man, spanks it through extra cover, and works it off his legs
and sweeps the spinner. As today's added bonus, he had the job both as
senior player and captain to help Strauss keep his concentration up in
his first Test innings.
Which was immensely important. For the most part, Strauss looked
composed and entirely at home. In many ways, he should have been,
since the bowling attack was very similar to the type of bowling he
faces week in, week out in county cricket, and it was his home ground.
But he had never before played in front of a packed house - and the
ground was about 90% full - and it was a Test match. Every hour or so,
through which he had played with complete assurance, he would play a
couple of very loose shots, though luckily he didn't usually connect,
and Trescothick would have to walk down to him and have a few words to
settle him down again.
Trescothick fell when Oram and Cairns had started a useful bowling
partnership. Cairns was nippy, up around the 85 mph mark, and bowling
aggressively while Oram plugged away on a Shaun Pollock sort of line,
reeling off maidens. Trescothick finally chased one he probably
shouldn't have and edged it to McCullum.
Strauss was on 89 at the time, and it took him an age to reach his
hundred. He was clearly feeling the pressure, and Fleming set fields
which challenged and frustrated him while Cairns and Oram starved him
of opportunities to score - not by bowling well wide, but with
excellent length and good line. He started lashing out, and was
fortunate that an intended off drive squeezed past the stumps for a
four to fine leg, which took him to 95. On 98, there were two
excellent cuts which were superbly fielded, and then, at last, he got
one through the field to become the first England player since John
Hampshire to make a century on Test debut at Lord's, an achievement
last recorded by Saurav Ganguly, and also the first since Hampshire to
score a debut ton in the first innings.
Strauss is an orthodox batsman. He drives well in the V, he cuts, he
pulls, he can sweep. He shapes tidily, and plays most of his shots
crisply and cleanly. One of the NZers on the radio comms was reminded
of Langer, but I don't really see that: I think Strauss is somewhat
more upright. He is good to watch, worth seeing but not worth making a
big effort to go and see.
He'd just clocked up his fifth hour at the crease and had reached 112
when Vettori came back on. He played rather ineffectually at one and
was gratefully caught by Richardson at forward short leg, which
brought Hoggard out as nigh***chman accompanying Butcher who ended on
England are now 140 behind with 8 wickets left and three days to go.
They will obviously hope to bat all day tomorrow and on into Sunday
morning and get themselves a lead of 250 or so. There is little
obvious reason why this should be beyond them, given what we have seen
in this match so far.
There will be much more speculation for the moment about what the
England management are going to do with their nice new problem, that
of deciding which of their seven Test centurions to leave out when
Vaughan returns, probably for the next match. Since it's at
Headingley, the easy way out is to drop Giles and pack the batting,
but they may not be able to avoid making a decision at Trent Bridge.
Which will no doubt wonderfully concentrate the mind of Mr Hussain in