There are new notices all over the Pavilion telling Members that the
use of mobile phones anywhere in the Pavilion (including the concourse
and balconies) is *strictly* forbidden, which helped to keep the noise
down a bit, so it was a mild shock to hear someone blethering into one
on the bus home. But what he was saying was about right: "It was an
interesting day rather than an exhilarating one." And if the rest of
the series is of this quality, we're in for a tough series with the
result entirely unpredictable from this point.
For most of the day, it reminded me of heavyweight boxing: these teams
are awfully big - Graham Thorpe is a reasonably ordinary-sized bloke,
but amongst this lot, he looks more like Harry Pilling. And the two
teams spent several hours slugging at each other winning a round here,
losing a round there, with no real advantage being gained either way,
until a little flurry at the end.
The sun was bright as I arrived, and it was pleasantly warm. It seemed
only appropriate that the middle doors and windows of the Long Room
were wearing sunglasses. That's what it looked like from inside behind
the new contravision sightscreen which looks white enough from the
middle, judging by the TV coverage. There will apparently be "other
arrangements" when there is a white ball in use.
It was a day on which to bat, and Fleming did. Hoggard opened up from
the Pavilion End, and Harmison from the Nursery, each with two overs
of complete tripe which got clattered around for 26. They got some
control back after that, but New Zealand were off and motoring and
kept the score chugging along at a good rate until the drinks
Not that England were without encouragement: the sponsors had arranged
free entry for hundreds of schoolkids, who formed a large block in the
Mound Stand, with treble voices piping "England! England!" as a sort
of Barmy Cadet Force. (Since the trips are arranged through the
schools and are supervised by teachers, they all get back on the bus
at tea-time, leaving the ch***efforts to the Army, who basically
hadn't turned up or had gone to sleep by then.)
Neither Harmison nor Hoggard had really made either batsman play when
they didn't feel like getting a boundary, and Flintoff and Jones took
over. Scoring ground to a halt. H&H had basically been pitching it
short and wondering what would happen, but F&J adopted the plan of
bowling back of a length outside off in a disciplined and accurate
way, and after four consecutive maidens Fleming was frustrated enough
to chase a wider one from Jones and give a hard catch above Strauss's
head at backward point.
Astle arrived and was obviously keen to get on with it, but had little
idea of where the ball was. He got runs because he sometimes made
contact and the ball ended up going where there wasn't a fielder, but
neither he nor the bowler could have had much idea why.
80/1 at lunch was a good-looking score, but England seemed to be right
back in it.
So after lunch, the events of the first session were repeated, though
this time it was Astle playing positively - now scoring his runs by
*deciding* to hit the ball where there weren't any fielders and
carrying out his intentions - while Hoggard and Harmison served up
obligingly unintelligent bowling, and the score rattled along to 150
in no time flat, sometimes known as "an hour or so".
Time for F&J to put a stop to the nonsense, which they did, Flintoff
striking first by getting one to leave Astle and edge a catch to Jones
the Mitt, and Jones the Ball doing the same for Styris very shortly
afterwards, thus delighting the many people who haven't backed Hussain
in the HHTC. Given what else Jones the Mitt did behind the stumps,
this was really rather surprising. Adam Gilchrist's dubious claims to
be regarded as a Test-class wicketkeeper will certainly be enhanced if
this kind of rubbish is considered acceptable. For keeping of this
standard, we require centuries as payback for keeping Read out, not
pretty 30s and 40s.
Macmillan came and hung around for a bit, looking most uncomfortable,
and then went in to tea.
He came out again after tea and still looked uncomfortable, even
though H&H were back on. The difference was that they had switched
ends, and both looked immediately more effective. There were a number
of maidens, and a couple of runs, and then Hoggard trapped Macmillan
plumb lbw and it was 174/4.
Oram's name had been first out of the hat for the middle order place,
and he started to look very convincing very quickly. Off the last ball
off one Harmison over, and the first ball of his next one, he simply
leaned into straight drives which whistled past the stumps into the
Pavilion fence. Even so, scoring was still difficult, and it had
become exceedingly grey overhead. 180-odd/4 looked like being about
230 by the close, which would not have represented any great profit
for winning the toss. But England were also falling behind the rate,
and the new ball was approaching, so it was time to wheel on El Rey de
Oram must have thought it was his birthday. One doesn't expect much of
Giles, but he didn't live up to even those expectations. Oram just
belted him all over the place and grabbed the momentum for New
Eventually, the new ball arrived, taken first by Flintoff and
Harmison. Although Flintoff had been the second-best bowler on show to
Jones the Ball, who was mostly in the good-to-very-good range today,
Jones is known not to like the shiny cherry, so Fred had to do it.
Suddenly, there was an appeal, Harmison was delighted, and a bloke
called Richardson walked back to the Pavilion. A lot of people
clapped, although I couldn't quite work out why. He'd been willing
enough to run up and down while the other blokes batted, but the
applause seemed rather excessive to me.
Oram was definitely Man Of The Day, being the first player to take the
game and shake it roughly by the throat and give his side an
However, this is a pitch which has been feeling listless for some time
and it could well be completely dead by the middle of Saturday. I
think it's going to be difficult for anyone to take wickets on this
surface, as it seems pretty unlikely to break up and give feeble
spinners like Giles and the Vettori of the last couple of years the
massive assistance they would need to trouble a halfway decent
batsman. Though it is possible that the underduck ball will be a
potent weapon, if any of the pacers know how to bowl it.