What a day. What four days we have witnessed. I suppose relatively, I’m quite new to cricket; I first started following in the winter of 1993, and the addiction was immediate. Despite that, this Test is without doubt the best I have witnessed. The level of skill on show, the atmosphere, the showmanship – indeed, the sportsmanship – has been breathtaking. And England, up until Warne and Lee defied their bowlers, have dictated this game from the outset. As Richie said, this was “one of the most thrilling games there has ever been.” Even those who hate the English cricket team would have been in awe of what we all saw.
Of course, at the start of the day’s play it all looked far too easy for England; with but two wickets to fall, Australia and her fans were only expecting a miracle. How close they came! Shane Warne, who with ten wickets in the match had already reminded everyone why he’s irritatingly brilliant and omnipresent, batted superbly. His knock of 42 came from just 59 balls – indeed, the speed of his innings was perhaps crucial to Australia’s eventual chance of victory. Had they scratched, poked and prodded, England would have knocked them over. They didn’t. Warne and Brett Lee, who remained undefeated on 43, gave an English nation the jitters. I left home and drove…I just had to get out, away from the TV, it was too much to withstand. Suffice to say when I heard on the radio that England had won, I drove at breakneck speeds to get home!
A word on Lee. There are some cricketers who naturally warm themselves to the opposing fans, with their brilliance on the field, or something eccentric in their character. For whatever reason, I don’t think Lee has done this to English fans. Until now, that is. His innings today was absolutely extraordinary. Once Warne had trod on his stumps – an embarassing, and hilarious way to end a brilliant knock – Lee was left with Kasprowicz. Peppered by Harmison and, in particular, Flintoff, he defied them right ’til the end. Receiving damaging, sometimes sickening blows to his body and hands, he still didn’t give in – and I for one found that quite brilliant to watch. When the Australian batsmen (Warne, Lee) walked out to bat this morning, they were inevitably booed and jeered in a theatrical style; it was a gladatorial atmosphere, and the players matched it with a gladatorial performance, from both sides.
The photo above was, for me, the moment of the day. England had won a famous victory, and Lee had been left stranded. Bouncing Lee mercilessly, Flintoff acknowledged his opponent’s misery and it was a moment of true sportsmanship…all the more rare in a world where arrogance is king, and football reigns supreme. Just fantastic.
The Australian’s (and maybe the English) media will no doubt make a lot of England nearly losing the game, from a seemingly impenetrable position, but let them. I have no doubt Australia will be smarting, and not just from losing the game today, but from being outplayed for the majority of the match. Peter English, an Australian and an excellent writer, said in his column on Cricinfo:
Australia have consistently requested more challenges during their long reign and finally got their wish. Perhaps after this Test they will change their minds. England have questioned, pestered and hurt their tormentors and are two wickets from levelling an already classic series.
And that, for me as an Englishman, is the most thrilling aspect of this Test. Rarely, and not in my lifetime or that I can remember, has an English side bounced back from an Australia drubbing, such as we witnessed at Lord’s. Yet they did bounce back in this Test. It’s one-all with three to play, and this series has already contained enough thrills and spills (Jones and KP…!) to fill an entire tour. Breathlessly, we march on to Manchester. Who will go two-up, and will McGrath be back?
Newspaper and blog round-up.
Darryl thinks England really shouldn’t have let Australia get so close, but concedes Flintoff’s brilliance.
Stu reckons both teams have batting troubles, and Australia is more likely to sort theirs out.
Rick can’t beleive it, but concedes Flintoff’s brilliance.
Jagadish’s silence is deafening.
A casual cricket fan got excited. Nick thinks it’s all far too tense. BrokenEnglish thinks greatness beckons. Even a Kiwi enjoyed it! Free Beer, an Aussie, reckons the commentators went OTT. This bloke’s over the moon for the “beautiful game”. Hammy says it was a ripper, and also reminds us of the 1993 “ripper” between Aus and WI.