Brian Viner: At open Birkdale omens blow hot for 'Grande Slam'

Thursday was one of the best days English cricket has enjoyed for some time; indeed, I can't recall Lord's hosting a more auspicious opening day of a Test series against another major cricketing power. Against Australia in 2005 it looked good for a while, as Ricky Ponting's team were dismissed for only 190, but by close of play England had been reduced to 91 for 7 and Glenn McGrath looked ominously as though he was going to retain the Ashes on his own.

At close of play on Thursday, England were 309 for 3, with Kevin Pietersen looking rampant on 104 not out and Ian Bell ably playing the Athos to his D'Artagnan. It was, moreover, the most significant of centuries by Pietersen, in his first Test match against the country he left as an 18-year-old (these are effectively "Pietersen's Ashes," as someone neatly put it on Sky Sports), its team skippered by his bête noire, Graeme Smith. His partnership with Bell also steered England away from the batting collapse that looked likely after three wickets had fallen in 13 balls.

It was, in other words, the newsiest of days at Lord's and, watching the BBC's News at Ten that evening, having missed much of the action, I looked forward to the report. But there wasn't one. There was a report about Aaron Cook, the 17-year-old representing Britain in taekwondo at the Olympic Games, but about the cricket not a squeak or a whisper. On the BBC's main evening news bulletin. Which says something alarming either about the BBC, or about cricket, or both. Besides, after all the stuff about dramatically rising road taxation, and British soldiers beating to death an Iraqi hotel receptionist, and the deaths of six young people in a head-on collision, we needed an uplifting story, although admittedly there was the hilarious latest on Max Mosley's bleeding bottom.

Whatever, is it because Test match pictures belong to Sky these days, and Channel Five has the terrestrial highlights, that BBC News pretends cricket does not exist? And if so, is it born of pique, or the arrogant belief that a sport no longer covered by the BBC is simply not worthy of coverage? I didn't notice Wimbledon slipping off the corporation's news radar, and I don't suppose next week's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale will, either. But a news agenda dictated by successful bidding for sporting rights is a news agenda not worth the back of the cigarette packet it's scribbled on.

There, I'm glad I've got that off my chest. Now, what about the Open Championship? I know that Mr Hey over there to my right is our betting expert, but I like the look, and the price, of the 10-1 favourite Sergio Garcia. Before the coming of Tiger Woods, favourites to win golf's major championships were usually generously priced, and it's rather pleasing to be spirited back to those distant days, albeit by Tiger's unfortunate indisposition.

Why Sergio? Well, rather like the Grand National, which unfolds a few miles down the road from Birkdale, the Open always yields a good story. And what a story it would be if Garcia, defeated in a play-off last year at Carnoustie, could complete a remarkable "Grande Slam" for Spain, following such stirring victories for his compatriots at Euro 2008 and on Centre Court. Not to mention that he seems to have hit a bit of timely form.

With Sergio, though, it all depends on whether his putter is blowing hot or cold, and when it blows cold, it's enough to make penguins freeze. Also, has he, like his pal Rafael Nadal, got the temperament to prevail on the biggest of stages? Except in the Ryder Cup, where he has team-mates to cuddle him, he hasn't shown it yet.

The portents, though, are firmly in place. This is already Spain's sporting summer, and also Birkdale is the place where another of Garcia's countrymen blazed on to the scene 32 years ago. His utterly unpronounceable name was Severiano Ballesteros, he was 19, and on the last hole of the final round he hit one of the most audacious chip shots any of us in the crowd had ever witnessed, bumping it between two bunkers to within four feet of the hole. Nervelessly, he then banged in the putt to finish tied for second, behind Johnny Miller, with the great Jack Nicklaus. Amid the Birkdale dunes, a star was born.

Garcia is a star already, of course, but still lacking the aura of a major champion. Birkdale would be a good place to acquire that, and he would be guaranteed a decent show on the News at Ten, which is more than can be said of England's cricketers, whatever they might achieve, in the second Test at Headingley, on the same day.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor