Close-up view of a master class

Second Test: Blossoming of a partnership one of the positives to emerge from a wet weekend in Nottingham

Some runs at Trent Bridge. Some runs, at last, they were apparently whispering in some quarters. It was mildly surprising to go into bat in the Second Test with the suggestions ringing in my ears that I was under pressure to get runs or - possibly - else.

Some runs at Trent Bridge. Some runs, at last, they were apparently whispering in some quarters. It was mildly surprising to go into bat in the Second Test with the suggestions ringing in my ears that I was under pressure to get runs or - possibly - else.

It was only my second Test innings of what could be unconvincingly called a summer in the new era of central contracts and continuity. Maybe, I thought, the second was a tad early to be under imminent threat of the guillotine.

Thus, I was pretty relieved not to receive before I had scored the ball from Neil Johnson which eventually got me out for 56. It was not a delivery which entered the realms of the unplayable but I was playing as fluently and confidently as I have all season and went forward expecting the ball to bounce at a certain height. It did not and readjustment was not possible.

It hit somewhere near the splice and provided a comfortable catch to gully. I was disappointed to get out, but I would have been far more unimpressed had I played a poor shot and been caught in the covers.

I thought that Mike Atherton and I made strides as an opening partnership, and stayed around long enough to get to know a little more how we wish to conduct affairs.

I see Atherton as very much the senior partner: he has had 12 of them before me in Tests but we are learning how and when to take singles together and rotate the strike. How important that will be against West Indies.

I like to have a little chat in the middle between overs, to talk about that ball, that shot, but I am finding out that Athers is not an especially talkative bloke. He is concentrating hard on his job: it is up to him how he wants to proceed. Not least, of course, at Trent Bridge, a ground which he has virtually made his own.

Overall, I was as pleased with my form as the runs. I have been working hard on staying stiller at the crease, always important and perhaps more so against the medium-paced seamers that make up most of Zimbabwe's attack. It is only a fraction perhaps, but I had been moving a little too much.

The long stoppages in play, which we have experienced in Nottingham, are as annoying for the players as they must be for the spectators. There is nothing you can do but be prepared for when play starts. It happens to tennis players all the time, who are constantly in the dressing-room waiting for one match to finish so they can begin.

There was a chance to catch up on some benefit business - the first big event of my benefit year is at Wormsley, John Paul Getty's own ground, on Tuesday - and Darren Gough was doing likewise. Gough's benefit year is not until 2001 but he is putting in the groundwork now. To that end he has adopted the nickname Rhino.

Now, not many people know that he is called Rhino. In fact, he has rarely been called Rhino but when somebody suggested that his bowling action reminded them of a Rhino - bustling in, muscular, strong - he took to it. Thus, he is Rhino to himself now and has had a logo designed for his benefit year. It shows a Rhino splitting the stumps asunder.

A word about the Zimbabweans before, in a Test sense, our attentions turn to West Indies. This has been a tough time for the youngest of the Test nations. They have been caught slightly unawares by English pitches.

Accustomed at home to something lower and slower they have been here when the pitches are seaming hugely at a faster pace than they have come across and they have not been able to adjust to it.

It was these conditions of which they wished to take advantage when they won the toss on Thursday and asked England to bat. But they did not do so.

It is hard for them, and when we passed 50 and they had still not taken a wicket it got harder for them. It is immensely difficult to sustain your enthusiasm in those conditions. But they stuck at it somehow and were rewarded with two late wickets.

As for sympathy for them, however, there can be none. Nasser Hussain, the captain, emphasised before the match started that we had to finish the job. See the opening and push the door open.

Zimbabwe are a team who have striven perhaps to be greater than the sum of their parts, but England have been on the receiving end from them in the past. The lost day may not be too significant in preventing a possible result because Test matches these days seem so rarely to last five days.

That is down to pitches, yet again, and with this climate there is not much prospect of their getting much better for a few weeks yet.

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