Day one of the Lord’s Test saw England bowl out Australia. A nation, and blogger, rejoices. “The Ashes are coming home” wasn’t quite the cry, but similar sentiments were uttered. The following three days saw the media crucify as many English players as possible: Jones, Giles and Vaughan were attacked scathingly, and English cricket was, apparently, back on the rocks. What a load of toddle.
I refused to be downbeat yesterday, and today I felt England proved to themselves, and us, that they are second in the world for a reason. The pitch was admittedly flat – much flatter than even Steve Rouse thought, and certainly flatter than Ricky Ponting realised it was. Would Australia have scored so freely had they batted? More than likely, but Ponting asked England to bat – perhaps laying down a challenge – and England responded with brute force and a care-free attitude to delight the partisan Edgbaston crowd.
It all started with Trescothick, who ought to receive the plaudits tomorrow morning but who might miss out to the Pietersen and Flintoff show. Trescothick was magnificent, timing the ball as well as he has since last summer and, combining with Strauss, quickly disregarded Ponting’s decision to field. With the news that Glenn McGrath, such a force against English cricket in the past decade, wouldn’t play, England’s attitude to batting was one of utter jubilation.
Yet, still, none of England’s top six went on to score a hundred - which is a definate sore point. Frankly, England should tonight only be six wickets in the red, not eleven. And don’t blame Pietersen for his mode of dismissal – what else could he do? Batting with eight, nine, ten and eleven, he had no other choice but to “go big” and to go early. His innings of 71 was, again, astonishing – his third fifty in as many international innings. The calibre of his shot-making was breathtaking, so much so that Lee and Gillespie both smiled and shook their heads in a manner which said “Well, if you’re gonna play stupid shots, what the hell am I supposed to do?” He is special.
So, onto day two – day TWO! Australia will, I don’t doubt, attack this target with great vigour and continue the same unabashed ferocity that England produced today. Rodney Hogg, talking to the BBC tonight, made the call for tomorrow: Hoggard is the key, and I agree wholeheartedly. Harmison and Flintoff are neck and throat bowlers, and this pitch could suit Hoggard perfectly. Sadly for his fans, we are never sure exactly how Hoggie will bowl; conditions can be perfect, and he can bowl like a drain at times. It is up to him to show Harmison, Flintoff and Jones the correct length to bowl tomorrow – and this is also a public call to Geraint Jones to a) get up closer so that you’re taking the ball at a decent level, and so it’s not dipping on you, b) bring your slips up too, so the balls don’t die on them and c) don’t drop any. No pressure, then.
Well done England. Well done for showing some guts, some fight, some talent and skill. Bravo, cheers, and good on you for keeping this series alive.