Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Ashes: A First Test Round Up

The First Test - Cardiff, 8th July-12th July

England draw. It's some kind of miracle.

Unfortunately, I was playing cricket today, so I missed one of the greatest endings to a Test match. Don't you just hate that? When you're out, something good always happens! Never mind. At least it was exercise. But, I cannot describe the emotions I felt when I came off the field (I was out plumb LBW to a yorker that did actually crush my toe, pleasant times) and was told that James Anderson and Monty Panesar had snatched a draw from the jaws of a certain, soul-crushing defeat.

But they were not the only heroes. Take a bow Paul Collingwood. The man often forgotten, and the man that Sky Sports are very quick to say that he's the man that should be dropped if he gets out for a low score. Oh, that nudger and nurdler. What good can he do? How about batting for over 5 hours when every other England batsman leaves straight balls, gets out to the one decent ball Mitchell Johnson bowls or plays a silly shot, because clearly the scoring rate is important in a situation where you're trying to save the game.

The first day started alright, then England, being England, lost three wickets at regular intervals. Then this thing called a "partnership" came together between Pietersen and Collingwood. Then this happened:

If you've not seen this picture/the video of the dismissal, have you been living in a cave for the past few days?

And England did that thing they're so good at. Collapsing. From 228-4 we suddenly found ourselves 334-7. Albeit, that collapse is actually better than what we've become used to in recent times... So, a day that was looking so promising for England, suddenly had Australia almost in control.

Day Two began with the Aussies looking for early wickets. Thankfully, someone in England's lower order actually knew how to bat. Graeme Swann blasted 47 off 40 balls, and boosted England's total to 435 all out. Two spinners in the attack, Nathan Hauritz got 3 wickets, surely England could do something?

Of course not. Four out of the seven Australian batsmen got centuries (BLOODY PONTING!), as England's attack toiled away with no reward. Australia declared on 674-6, as soon as Haddin got out to Paul Collingwood, of all the bowlers. Well, he got one more wicket than Swann that game, anyway. Every front line England bowler goes for a century. Brilliant.
Australia are the clear favourites. England fans consider the rain dance, but then think maybe their team deserves to be humiliated. But then remember they're English and know that England will humiliate themselves anyway, with or without the help of rain. Two wickets fall (Bopara, looking nervous and like a puppy caught in the headlights gets out to a dodgy LBW decision) before tea on the fourth day, and then the heavens open. It is Wales after all.

So, to day 5. Many fans turn up at Sophia Gardens expecting to go home early and watch Sky Sports News and the yellow bar saying, "ENGLAND ARE RUBBISH - WE'RE SORRY WE GOT YOUR HOPES UP". It starts off looking likely. Pietersen, to go with his sweep shot that caused so much criticism that his ego must've been well and truly smashed (by Nasser Hussain, renowned for being a cruel bastard, obviously), leaves a clearly straight one from the guy who clearly should be a farmer, Ben Hilfenhaus. The Sky commentary team think that England can't do anything without Pietersen and are left conceding defeat completely. Strauss quickly follows. Doing what English people do best, hitting a four, then getting out. England are 46-4 and that little grey cloud that hovers over England fans returns.

10 overs later, England are five down. Hauritz, getting this thing called "spin" that eluded England's bowlers (well, he might not have got any, it's just England's way of batting on the fifth day. Make every opposition player look good) is taking the Michael. Flintoff and Broad come in, get double figures and depart. Graeme Swann appears, gets the second highest score of 31 and departs. Not one England player seems to be able to face over 100 balls. There's a thing called patience. It seems to have disappeared.

Step forward Paul Collingwood. The man battles to 74 off 245 balls. He is there for 344 minutes (out of the overall total of 414). Geoff Boycott would've been proud. It's exactly what England need, a man to hold up one end as the other batsmen/idiots hand their precious wickets away. Unfortunately, he cannot stay in and finish the job, when he is finally out to Peter Siddle's new ball bowling, the Cardiff crowd give him a well deserved standing ovation. But they're now completely resigned to defeat. Because Monty Panesar is coming out to "bat".Paul Collingwood walks off after his superb innings.

Every England fan in the ground fears the worst. The England balcony fear the worst. The champagne is on ice in the Aussies dressing room. Ricky Ponting is rubbing his hands with glee. Memories are rife of when the Windies tailenders defied England twice in the Test series. James Anderson, who Sky inform us with a blue, shiny graphic, has gone for ever not scoring a duck, attempts to keep the strike. But when The Montster's on, he surprises everyone. Ironic cheers are replaced with nails being chewed thoroughly. When Monty hits a four (a brilliant shot!), the cheers of surprise are a relief!

England take the lead. And if England are still in bat at 6:41pm, then it's a draw. Ten desperate minutes. Every dot ball is wildly celebrated, and then total silence covers the ground, as the bowler comes in for another try at usurping Anderson or Monty. The tension is huge. And at that moment, in the game I'm playing in, a wicket falls and I have to go out and bat. How I longed to be at Cardiff, or somewhere with a television!

And so, the big clock told me it was 6:41. And England. England, had drawn. England. Who had been thoroughly out played, had drawn. A complete batting collapse had eluded them. Clearly Paul Collingwood was not keen on being bowled out for 100 and having to suffer the complete media backlash (DROP EVERYONE! CALL UP AN IMAGINARY GUY WHO'S IN FORM!) that goes with being an England player.
Lord Anderson and Lord Monty walk off to a hero's reception.

Australia were left shell-shocked. England were left wondering whether if there was someone up there who loved them. Every single journalist in the land is left with a mind boggling jaw drop. England fans are delirious. A batting line-up, with backbone? What is this? But wait. Had it not been for Paul Collingwood, and the lower order, England would've been staring at an innings defeat. They should be 1-0 down. But they're not.

Momentum. It's England's. Isn't it Ricky?

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