It was all doom and gloom earlier in the week. The storm clouds over Hobart, plus a decidedly dicey forecast for Sydney, put England in a bind: there was a real danger we’d turn up at Brisbane without any meaningful match practice whatsoever. Undercooked? If Alastair Cook’s team were a steak, it would’ve been blue; a very rare occurrence for a team that’s normally well prepared.
Food puns aside, it’s a bloody good thing the rain in Sydney wasn’t as bad as first feared. England’s match against the Invitational XI couldn’t have gone better. Every single batsman who needed time in the middle got exactly that. Even Jonny Bairstow.
The bowlers also had a through workout. Broad took wickets, which was essential, and Finn and Rankin had a useful bowl-out too.
It will be interesting to see who England pick as the third seamer in Brisbane. The smart money is on Tremlett – according to Michael Clarke – but who knows.
There are rumours that the Terminator has lost that crucial yard of pace. Will he be replaced by the Rankin TX, a younger model with similar attributes? The TX looked mightly impressive in the ODI series last summer, although reports he can turn himself into liquid metal and pass through solid walls are somewhat overstated.
We’ll talk more about the first test in the coming days, but for now I’m feeling a lot more optimistic. I still think England will be up against it at Brisbane – it’s such a fortress for Australia, their bowlers will come at us hard, and we traditionally start series slowly – but if we escape with a draw I think Aussie heads will drop. Perth excepted, our recent record at the other test venues isn’t too bad.
Before I sign off, I should probably mention events in Mumbai today. It was all a bit surreal really. The crowd went absolutely nuts (with plenty of delirious adoration), and Sachin gave an extremely emotional farewell speech.
In my very humble opinion, the little master should have retired a couple of years ago, when he was still at the peak of his powers. I found the endless wait for his one hundredth hundred a little tedious in the end, and I although I admire Sachin tremendously, it’s always a little sad seeing genius on the wane.
Having said that, however, Tendulkar’s retirement leaves an enormous hole in international cricket (not just Indian cricket). As well as being a superb batsman, he’s an amazing ambassador. Sometimes I think his personality and temperament is even more remarkable than his batting: how can a mortal man remain so modest and composed in the face of such over-the-top adoration? It blows my mind to be honest.
Basically, Tendulkar was an absolute legend. His speech today encapsulated the little fella: composed, humble and unforgettable. Enjoy your retirement mate. I think you’ve earned it.