To the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – where England hope to seal a two-nil series victory and avoid coming home with only a draw.
As I began to write this post, the visitors were 31-1, and Alastair Cook had been batting quite fluently. Will this finally be his day? He must score a century in this match. There are no ifs, buts, or caveats. Yes, he’s ratched up a string of reasonable scores during his last few innings, as his supporters never stop telling us. But such talk only reminds us of English cricket’s congenital lack of ambition and tolerance of mediocrity.
Cook’s job is to make major, match-winning scores on a regular basis. It’s been two years since he did that – with the possible exception of his 95 at the Rose Bowl last summer – and he ran out of excuses months ago. Only a century, and nothing less, will give Cook not only the authority and mandate to continue as captain, but the confidence to approach the New Zealand series with positive expectation. The Kiwi bowlers, on early season English pitches, will pose him all kinds of questions.
Jonathan Trott was dismissed third ball, and barring a significant second-innings score, this will be his last test – and the end of a strange, sad, three-match coda to a fine international career. He has been miscast in this series, and I feel sorry for him.
Now, you may have noticed that apart from a brief appearance when Paul Downton was sacked (oh, what joy it was to be alive that day), I have been virtually absent from this site for more than two months. For which, I must offer my profuse apologies, not only to you, but to poor old James, who’s had to write the whole blog on his own since the middle of February. What a fine job he’s done, and thanks both to him, and to all of you, for the thousands of comments and contributions which make The Full Toss what it is.
I’m now back in the room. But boy, did I pick a bad time to be away – missing the World Cup disaster and all manner of political shenanigans, some of which I may return to after this test, although please bear with me, as I’m still feeling rather out of the loop, and I have much to catch up on, for fear of repetition.
There was no very exotic reason for my disappearance – I was simply very, very busy with a long work project, which is now almost finished. I did, however, find time to run the London Marathon last Sunday, and several of you have already been incredibly generous and sponsored me. I ran in aid of Sands, the stillbirth and neo-natal death charity, and Cardiac Risk in the Young. If you’d like to sponsor me too – and I’ll be very touched – my fundraising page is still open, here.
Since beginning this post, Ballance and Bell have both perished to leave England wobbling slightly, at 47-3. This could be an interesting session. We invite all your comments and thoughts on today’s play, below – and many thanks.