Cricket has a funny habit of delivering an anti-climax. Yesterday marked the start of the 2,000th test match in history – a landmark moment, and an opportunity for cricket lovers across the globe to reflect on and celebrate the heritage of our glorious game. The venue was Lord’s, and the two finest sides were lining up to embark on a crucial and eagerly-anticipated series. And what did we get when play began? A slow, cold and grey day of attritional cricket, disrupted by rain. In a way, perfectly fitting.
Why does it take so long to resume play after the rain stops? They never seem in much of a hurry to get on with it. Why do the umpires, say, have an inspection at 2.10 and then declare that play will start at 2.40 – instead of straight away? If it takes 10 groundstaff and three machines half an hour to get ready, why can’t we have 40 staff and twelve machines?
One of the big talking points in this series is the absence of Hawkeye for LBW reviews. The Full Toss is a broad church on the issue of UDRS, and personally, as a cricket follower, I prefer it this way. When the umpire says it’s out, it’s out. Just as it is in every other form of the game. Hawkeye might make cricket fairer, but it doesn’t make it better.
As for the actual cricket, we are ahead on points after the first day, thanks in part to a little luck and some error-strewn Indian fielding. Andrew Strauss had done all the hard work before, or so it seemed to me, gifting away his wicket. He now seems to be locked into one of those cycles of batmanship which means that – whatever happens and however hard he tries – Strauss just cannot find a way to make a score.
You feel the Indian bowlers will get sharper as the series progresses, but on yesterday’s evidence, we should be able to make big scores against them. The most striking feature of the visitors’ attack, by a distance, is Ishant Sharma’s hair. He appears to have drawn his inspiration from a cross between Morticia Adams and latter-day Michael Jackson – but whatever the origins, it really is a magnificent sight in full-flow.
And today? Could there be a more opportune occasion for Kevin Pietersen’s first century in England for three years? Come on KP – we’re rooting for you.