Henry Blofeld: Ashley, an apology: you aren't really a wheelie bin

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Ashley Giles has been a much-maligned cricketer. As a left-arm spinner he may not stand comparison with some of the greats of the past such as those fabled and wily Yorkshiremen George Hirst, Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity. As a fighter and contributor of important bits and pieces with both bat and ball in an era of seam bowling, however, no one has fought harder for England's cause over the last few years.

Ashley Giles has been a much-maligned cricketer. As a left-arm spinner he may not stand comparison with some of the greats of the past such as those fabled and wily Yorkshiremen George Hirst, Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity. As a fighter and contributor of important bits and pieces with both bat and ball in an era of seam bowling, however, no one has fought harder for England's cause over the last few years.

Until now, he had only had the chance to come into his own as a bowler on the turning pitches of the sub-continent. His three five-wicket hauls before this one at Lord's have come at Faisalabad, Ahmedabad and Kandy.

These last few days at Lord's he found himself bowling on a pitch that was tailor-made for a spinner and instead of being given a few overs to rest the seamers and to see if anything might happen, he suddenly found himself playing the lead role in England's attack.

How well he did it too, taking 9 for 210 in the match, his best figures in 37 Tests. I have personal congratulations and apologies to offer because for a season or two in the Test Match Special box I have jocularly and, I hope, amiably referred to Giles as "the wheelie bin".

Giles not unreasonably felt that this was a trifle mean-spirited. In this match he may not quite have made the leap from wheelie bin to Hedley Verity status but he has certainly left wheelie-binnery far behind.

Giles has unquestionably proved his great value as a bowler and as a lower-order batsman. He has also worked extremely hard at his fielding and, though not a natural candidate for the hundred yards sprint, he has turned himself into a highly efficient fielder with an excellent arm.

In this match he did England proud and it was absolutely right that he should have been made the man of the match. He would hardly have anticipated the honour before the game began when a number of people were saying that England would be silly not to play four seamers.

There is an innate ebullience and compelling cheerfulness about all that Giles does. He is obviously a great team man and the England dressing-room would be a poorer place without him. His good humour is almost always in evidence and with his rolling gait as he comes in to bowl there is just a touch of the Falstaff about him.

As a bowler one sometimes wishes that he would be prepared to give the ball rather more air than he does in an attempt to wrongfoot the batsman. This pitch gave him some help and he turned the ball a fair way, but it was a surface on which an essential virtue for a finger spinner was patience. Giles showed that he had this in abundance as he plugged away for over after over from the Nursery End.

My abiding memory will be of the ball he held back a fraction to Brian Lara, who chased unavailingly down the pitch and played away from his body when he found he could not get to the pitch of it. It went through him and knocked back his middle stump. It took just a moment for Giles to realise what he had done and then he set off into the covers twirling his arms like a human Catherine wheel. Jubilation was never so joyfully enacted or deserved.

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