Jubilant if slightly deaf

When my brother picked some front row seats on the shortest boundary this morning, I will admit to wishing I had brought a helmet rather than a baseball cap. Thanks to a prime bowling wicket courtesy of Steve Rouse, the only six of the day fell some ten metres to our left, so I’m still physically intact.

Mentally, I am a little more delicate. Confession time; I am a terrible one for nerves. Attending the last day of Edgbaston’s Ashes Test just about killed me, so today was not exactly a calming experience.

England’s bowling performance was exemplary. If Stuart Broad seems expensive at just above four an over, it is a reflection on how well the attack performed as a whole. Strauss’ bowling changes largely worked well. Fielding, again, was of a high standard. Where the team simply must improve is reducing wide deliveries. When a ‘keeper stands up, some byes and leg-byes are to be expected. However, there is no excuse for extras scoring higher than all but one of Pakistan’s batsmen.

Whilst the nature of England’s response could be blamed on the wicket, they seemed to show few problems in the first powerplay period. Andrew Strauss once again showed his fluency and with a brief cameo from Joyce, England bettered Pakistan’s meagre boundary count after eight overs. The game was set up for a victory chase on cruise control. But a one-day game at Edgbaston would not be complete without an attempt by the home side to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It took the much-maligned Sajid Mahmood to hit the vital tail-end runs, after Bell’s premature loss sparked the mid-innings collapse in front of an expectant Warwickshire crowd. The only English batsman to receive a louder reception was Kevin Pietersen, though this was largely based on Pakistani jeering. Much of Pietersen’s time in the field was spent on the boundary in front of a lively Eric Hollies stand, and after tempting the lime-green members of the crowd with a lazy chicken flap in the early part of the day, his every action got a rather vocal response.

The atmosphere an Edgbaston crowd can generate at an international match is always something special, but until today I had never experienced the sheer electricity a sub-continental one-dayer brings to a place. I gather that some Sky viewers complained about the noise being generated by the horns, but the sound coming through my earpiece was nothing compared to the ground itself – and I was the opposite end to the bulk of the Pakistani support, where it must have been amplified tenfold. When a Pakistani fielder so much as stuck an arm up in appeal, the whole ground seemed to stand and scream at the top of their lungs. If the cheers after Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger left my ears ringing last year, the crowd response here was something else. The whole thing was awe-inspiring. To think that the horns were supposedly being refused entry.

So, England have avoiding losing a series for the first time since last July. Can they win a meaningful match abroad? The ICC Champions Trophy is just around the corner, so who knows?

Live discussion: England v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Edgbaston

So then, the series is alive (sort of). It’s 2-1 to Pakistan and England at least have a chance to level it. It’s also Paul Collingwood’s 100th one-dayer today. Anyway, leave your thoughts and comments below. I think Emma is at the game so will no doubt provide some musings later.

One last look

For the first time this one-day series, or any in recent memory, we can expect an unchanged line-up from England. Something to be celebrated!

As well as providing Collingwood with his 100th ODI cap, tomorrow will also be the last England game before their Ashes squad, and Ashes captain, are announced next week. Strauss will certainly want a win to push his credentials. Test and one-day captaincy are certainly very different, but if Strauss responds with another captain’s innings tomorrow, it will help prove his ability to lead in a form where he had not until recently been a certain selection. But, of course, I wouldn’t like to tempt fate.

England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 4th day

Yesterday was one of those days where you wonder why you ever started to enjoy cricket. You sit there, all day, waiting for news and watching endless replays of Edgbaston 2005 (which is surely the new Headingley 81). Play finally got underway at 16.50, which was a damn good effort from Steve Rouse and the Edgbaston groundsmen. And Sri Lanka batted very resiliantly, as they have done in their second innings so far this tour. By no means are they out of it yet. Weather permitting, the fourth day promising to be fascinating.

England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 2nd day

I’m not suggesting my blog is a reliable indicator to the feelings of the nation, but the lack of traffic and comments during the past two Tests suggests something. I don’t know what exactly, other than does anyone really care? Well I do. Hence this post. So get watching, get talking, get writing, get chatting.

England are flat

Weird day. England ruined Sri Lanka, and realistically ought to have dismissed them for no more than 90. That they reached 141 had little to do with their ability and more to do with England’s indifference. They appear flat, mildly complacent and are lacking the arse-kicking Michael Vaughan would provde them. Wonderful cricketer though Andrew Flintoff is, and as well as he captained today, he is not Vaughan and England are missing him. He’s so inexperienced that I feel guilty even hinting annoyance at his inability to post a short-leg, or his reactionary leadership. But we can only report on what we see…

As for Monty, well, I’m afraid Parmeson Tony is on borrowed ground. I found it all very amusing initially, but his dropped catch today prevented England from bowling Sri Lanka out for under 100. Now, as it happens, it ought not to matter too greatly. But as my editor, Andrew Miller, pointed out, if Monty can drop a sitter at the most patriotically English ground, what in the name of colourful turbans will he be like at Brisbane in November? This isn’t an attack against him in any way. He seems like the most stand-up sort of chap you could ask for, and is the most talented left-arm spinner we’ve had since Phil Tufnell. But sadly his fielding is just not up to scratch and on current form could easily cost England a Test against better countries than Sri Lanka. Sorry Monty.

Him aside, England just don’t seem to be on their game. Take Andrew Strauss. He can’t catch a cold, and even when batting he doesn’t look as assured or composed as he so often is. His run out today, albeit not without Alastair Cook’s help, rather demonstrates a player struggling to start the summer.

So it’s all a bit weird, frankly. The highlight was watching Liam Plunkett bowl, who bowled much fuller and is quicker through the air that I first thought. Very impressive indeed. Tomorrow, with Pietersen looking in absolute prime form, could be carnage for Sri Lanka

England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 1st day

Well, the weather forecast (as of 20.00 Wednesday) is okay for Thursday in Birmingham…but it’s looking cruddy for Friday and the bank holiday weekend. Sanath Jayasuriya will miss out. If you must(!), you may depart these shores to briefly check on the scorecard, but hurry back and enter into some intelligent discourse among yourselves. Chat, in other words.


Jones: ‘You’ll see a vast improvement’

Dear oh dear, what have you done, Geraint? In an interview with the BBC, he promises a better England fielding performance. Now then, arguably an improvement on Lord’s wouldn’t be too difficult – but it’s rather stupid to make such bold claims, isn’t it?

“This Test will be a lot different. We’ll still practice the same amount and we’ll be looking to take everything and you’ll see a vast improvement.”

England awry but it’s ok

Andrew Miller provides his thoughts on tomorrow’s Test at Edgbaston in another Cricinfo Audio interview…here.

Cricket books and DVDs coming soon

I confess to not reading a great deal of cricket books. The last, and best, was Rain Men by Marcus Berkmann (thoughts on this here) which, according to Amazon, is now called Rain Men: The Madness of Cricket, which is perfectly apt.

Now the Ashes are safely back home (!), there are a flurry of books and DVDs coming out in their/our honour, all of which I suggest you pre-order from Amazon – and you can do that via me, to give me some extra money, by clicking on the links below!

Calling the Shots: The Captain\'s Story

First up is Michael Vaughan’s Calling the Shots which promises a rare insight into the mind of a captain. Not only that, but the mind of an English Ashes-winning captain – a must-read, therefore. Release-date November 7 2005, £11.39

Ashes Diary

Next is an Ashes Diary by The England Cricket Team. It could just be a load of photos, but is likely to make interesting reading. Release-date September 29, 2005, £10.79

Ashes 2005: The Full Story of the Test Series

I’ve mentioned Gideon Haigh before, and his latest book ought to be well worth reading. Ashes 2005: The Full Story of the Test Series. He’s one of the better cricket writers in the world at the moment, writes for The Guardian and almost everyone else. Release-date October 20, 2005, £6.99 (bargain, that one)

The Ashes - England V Australia 2005

Perhaps most excitingly of all, a three-set DVD of the entire Test Series! The Ashes – England v Australia 2005. It’s Amazon’s top-selling DVD at the moment. Get this NOW! Release-date October 17, 2005, £14.99

Morning Everyone: A Sportswriter\'s Life

As mentioned in January, Simon Hughes’ new book arrives on our shelves in October. His previous ones have been excellent, and this one should be equally entertaining. Morning Everyone: A Sportswriter’s Life. Release-date, October 20, 2005, £10.19

The Greatest Test

This one is available now; The Greatest Test, highlights of the Edgbaston nail-biter. You know you want it. £9.99

What a load of Ashes goodness there is – enough to keep you going for months. Enjoy!