Those of you unfortunate enough to follow me on twitter (@matthewlinley) will know that I spent yesterday at the @homeofcricket aka Lords. After a recent Cricinfo article which had me opening the bowling for Surrey with Chris Lewis I was hopeful of turning my arm over but @greateranglia and Stuart Broad were to get in the way. Signal problems outside Chelmsford prevented my clandestine meeting with Andrew Strauss at the Nursery ground and then Stuart Broad finished off the Windies before I could say boo at the pavillion gate. Debutant Gabriel seemed to be more intent on carrying on Flowers slip catching practice than helping Chanderpaul to a century.
Last week the Windies could only look on as @surreycricket’s Dernbach helped James Taylor to a Lions ton – in this game Edwards and Gabriel couln’t resist the angelic devil that is Broad leaving Shivnarine high and dry. To be honest it was something of an omen. The West Indies weren’t bad (in fact at times they were quite good) but they lacked any sense of urgency or consistancy. By contrast England were simply attritional. Prepared to slug it out when the bowlers were on top (after both the lunch and tea sessions the WIndies successfully dried up the runs) they simply waited for the opportunity knowing it would come.
The WIndies lack of urgency showed itself in many ways – the painfully slow over rate, some very village fielding right from the start (Edwards fielding with his boot, the if at first you don’t succeed fail, fail and fail again attempt to save a Strauss drive) and just a general feeling that patience and concentration weren’t what you’d expect from an international side. Arguably the quickest sprint we saw in the field all day was before play started when one @philtufnell was late for an interview with Tony Cozier in the middle and had to hot foot it from the Nursery End. He then spent most of the interview catching his breath much to the apparent amusement of Alec Stewart.
Meanwhile the English batsman just got on with the job in hand. To the sound of champagne corks popping (a different sort of crowd in Lords to Headingley’s Western Terrace) and the occasional shout of ‘dont be scared of the ball Andrew’ they simply ground the West Indies down. When wickets fell it was always something of a surprise. Cook playing an expansive cut to a ball to close to him chopped on (26), Trott edging behind off skipper Sammy (58) and Pieterson (32) offering a sharp keepers catch after an entertining cameo.
Strauss wasn’t at his best early on. Amongst the sumptious cover drives there were hints of hesitancy and a lack of timing alongside the occasional wild yahoo. But he just kept going increaasingly beginning to find his feet reaching 50 with a typical paddle to leg off 97 balls. His second 50 just seemed to progress quietly. As he moved into the nineties you could sense the anticipation. The bars emptied, the stands filled. A Barath mis field (right in front of us – much to the crowds amusements) and a solid square cut edged him closer – but then the play and misses crept back in too. On 95 a big flash outside the off sent a routine chance to the nonchalent Chanderpaul who equally as nonchalently put it down. I doubt either heard the call of no ball. Moments later he saw his partner for the last 3 hours or so edge an equally big drive to the more reliable hands of Ramdin and the ensuing huge ovation for the arrival of Pietersen. But then with a huge audible yelp – a wide ball gave him the space to square cut and reach his nineteenth test 100. To a man (and woman) the crowd rose. Nobody wanted to sit down (except perhaps the loud mouth bore behind us) – Straus could hardly contain his joy. It was a truly magical moment in the closest thing your going to get to the Cathedral of cricket.
So England closed some 16 runs ahead with the opportunity to really pile on the pressure today and Strauss can pack away his demons for a while.
Not a bad day to make your debut (as a spectator) at Lords!