On the first day, there was a lot of rain and bad light, so I read
Allan Lamb's autobiography, briefly pausing to watch a bit of cricket,
in which Saggers's first ball in a Test in England got rid of Barnacle
Bill, but nothing much else happened.
The Football Stand has had a coat of paint, and even looks quite smart
in Oxford blue with yellow piping. And where the offices, formerly the
new pavilion (but then the old pavilion when it was turned into
offices), were there is now an electronic scoreboard and the Northeast
Stand, which The Times's correspondent likened to the viewing gallery
at a municipal swimming pool. It's not as bad as that, but the fact
that its deck is actually straight and horizontal just makes it look a
bit out of kilter with this wonky ground. I watched from ground level
for a bit today, and it's quite striking that the only flat bit is the
square - otherwise it's up hill and down dale all over the place.
There were some misfields in the slips because of very awkward
bounces, and I can see how that happened very easily.
But one of the good things about the new stands on both north and west
sides of the ground is that underneath them there are copious catering
facilities (which has dramatically reduced what used to be hour-long
bar queues) and plenty of shelter - it used to be really miserable
when it rained at Headingley 20 years ago unless you were entitled and
physically able to cram into one of the members' bars, because the
north and west stands aren't covered (and can never be because of
planning restrictions). It's still not a great ground, but it's at
least reached roughly acceptable spectator standards now.
It's usually been worth putting up with the discomfort because
Headingely usually produces very interesting cricket, and this match
may well yet do so, but today was pretty dull for most of two
Papps and Fleming batted carefully, adding 161 in about four hours at
a bit less than three an over. They speeded up a bit when Hoggard was
on, and there was a bit of a flurry about three-quarters of an hour
before lunch when England had a collective fit of panicky fumbling in
the field for no obvious reason, but otherwise it was patience.
It was Saggers who gave the most trouble, and I don't think it's
coincidental that he didn't play in the West Indies. The others seemed
not quite to understand that these were not West Indian batsmen who
will flash away at short balls but New Zealanders who will simply
leave them. And there is no point in setting six slips and gullies to
Harmison if he isn't going to bowl anything of drivable length. The
way WI play, they'd have been four down by lunchtime, but neither
Fleming nor Papps were interested in any of that nonsense.
What they were interested in was playing tip and run. England's
bowlers refused to bowl bad balls, so there was precious little
opportunity to punish them, and Papps and Fleming pushed singles heere
and there, some of them being no more than taps which went ten yards
from the bat. There were a few runout scares, but only one was a
chance - and it wasn't taken.
It was monotonous. Giles came on, and was tidy, and that was
So the West Stand made its own entertainment. They warmed up with a
couple of conventional Mexican waves. These did not go as planned. The
first started near the north end of the West Stand and travelled south
in conventional fashion, and then it was the Football Stand's turn. A
few kids at the far end of it got up, but that was it. Stopped.
Presumably those in the Football Stand hadn't woken up from their
lunchtime snooze and weren't alert to their resposnisbilities in the
matter of waving, and so a second wave was essayed. Same result.
There can be some good in hostility suites. I watched at least a dozen
Tests from the bar in the Football Stand (we Members have been
banished to the East Stand and you have to have a Football Stand
ticket to get into that bar nowadays), and the crowd out in front of
us usually consisted of the corporate mob on the first three days. Now
that the corporates have also been banished to the East Stand (they
have another flight of stairs to go up to reach the peanut gallery
above the one I'm in), the Football Stand appears to be full of
A reassessment led to multiple waves with added paper scattering
confined to the West Stand. Except that it wasn't. With a string west
wind blowing, the shredded newspaper turned Headingley into one of
those snowscenes in little jars. Which disrupted play, and the PA
pleaded with them to stop.
Which they did. And came up with a star turn not seen before at this
venue: the slo-mo wave. The usual stand-up-"Woooargh!"-sit-down takes
about 3-4 seconds, whereas the slo-mo version takes about 20. I think
they should adopt this style permanently - it's actually a rather
pleasing effect, it isn't very noisy because they have to concentrate
on it rather than shout a lot, and I suspect it's a lot less
distracting for the players, too.
It was obvious that England were just waiting for the new ball, and
then, the over before it was due, Flintoff bowled a full length yorker
and had Papps plumb for 86. New Zealand were now 202/2. Papps's
innings had been dull but worthy, and the West Stand generously gave
him a stander. And so to tea.
After tea, things improved for England. Vaughan took a fine catch at
mid-off to get Fleming three short of his ton, and in the next over
Boutcher took a phenomenal one in the gully to get Astle for 2, and
New Zealand to 215/4 and the momentum taking England's way. After
nervous starts, Styris and Oram put a reasonably cheerful partnership
together until Harmison returned and had Styris caught behind, one of
Jones's few good moments behind the stumps. A little later, Oram was
taken very well by Thorpe to give Freddy another wicket, and 293-6 was
still pretty even. But then McCullum and Cairns had a late evening
party and pushed the score to 351-6 and NZ to a distinct though not
yet by any means decisive advantage.
Tomorrow promises to be much more interesting. It had better be.