Ryan Sidebottom was in a frightful lather at Trent Bridge yesterday. When Gareth Hopkins, New Zealand's diminutive wicketkeeper, turned the ball late and neatly off his legs and took a single to fine leg, Sidebottom looked at him as if he had said something unforgivably rude about the England bowler's mother.
He was not impressed by Jamie How either. The New Zealand opener has scored modestly but consistently throughout the series, sometimes, admit-tedly, off the edge of his bat. Having directed a number of surly looks in How's direction, Sidebottom found another edge and the ball flew directly into the cupped hands of Alastair Cook at third slip. Sidebottom then behaved as though it was his duty to inform poor How that his presence was no longer required with what looked from the boundary edge like a stream of vitriol.
Sidebottom, normally a decent, good-natured fellow, was hard to interpret yesterday. When he took his first wicket – it was New Zealand's seventh – he celebrated like a man who had just won a big lottery prize. Everyone else in the ground was feeling sorry for Jimmy Anderson, whose hopes of taking all 10 wickets had been shattered.
Stuart Broad was not a trouble-free zone either. He has had a remarkable series batting atNo 8, but he is a bowling all-rounder and he had taken only five wickets in five innings at the start of New Zealand's second innings, and two of those were tail-enders in the first innings. A disappointing haul for a player of such promise.
Broad took Aaron Redmond's wicket after the openers had put on 33, of which Redmond, a pathetic figure in an insecure batting order, had contributed two runs. Not much for Broad to boast about there. Shortly after, however, he was convinced he had the significant wicket of Brendon McCullum, caught by the keeper, Tim Ambrose.
Broad went down the wicket to embrace the slip fielders and turned, looking stunned, when umpire Darrell Hair failed to raise his finger. Broad was sufficiently disenchanted by the decision to persuade Hair to walk towards him and deliver what looked like a sharp rebuke as he handed Broad his cap. The bowler looked both confused and disconsolate, though he did manage a smile a few overs later when Ross Taylor – no less important than McCullum – played across a straight delivery and was lbw.
These incidents were part of an exciting day's play. Two hours spent huddling under umbrellas and, when the rain ceased and the light improved, waiting for the umpires to allow play to start, were spent productively speculating about the chances of Anderson taking all 10 wickets or at least equalling Devon Malcolm's record nine-wicket haul for England against South Africa at The Oval in 1994.
Anderson bowled the second over of the day and the boom-erang outswing was intact from the day before. In his second over, an edge fell just short of Paul Collingwood at second slip. Trouble was that his direction was less accurate than it had been when he took the first six wickets to fall.
Runs were coming in extras rather than off the bat. Anderson bowled 6.3 overs for only one run, though he finally got the wicket of Hopkins, which left him with figures of 7 for 43 off 21.3 overs. It was a fine performance, though the speculators were disappointed.
The story of this Test ought to be drummed home to Mr I S Bindra, the Indian administrator who is to become chief advisor to the ICC. He worries that Test cricket is not exciting enough. The point is that in England players manufacture their own excitement, and sell-out crowds like yesterday's in Nottingham generate theirs.
Beer is one ingredient – fancy dress is another. Trent Bridge does not rival Edgbaston for the variety and ingenuity of the dressing up, but yesterday there were doctors and nurses, crusaders, beekeepers and a cow, complete with a plastic udder. This contributes to the excitement of an English series, though Mr Bindra might well wonder how it could be exported to nations where a bizarre sense of humour is less pronounced.