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 Iâ€™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 Edgbastonâ€™s Ashes Test just about killed me, so today was not exactly a calming experience.
Englandâ€™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 â€˜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 Pakistanâ€™s batsmen.
Whilst the nature of Englandâ€™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 Pakistanâ€™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 Bellâ€™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 Pietersenâ€™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 â€“ 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?