Henry Blofeld: Over-confidence trips century trio

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The Independent Online

One of the beauties of cricket is that it is a great leveller and as a game it loves nothing more than to cock a snook at logic. In the Test which ended at Lord's on Monday, Andrew Strauss, Robert Key and Michael Vaughan made four hundreds between them. Now, a few days later, the three of them found themselves batting against a West Indian attack that was steadier, but on a pitch which was even flatter than Lord's had been at the start.

When Brian Lara lost the toss he could have been forgiven for seeing in his mind's eye an even bigger England total than their 568 at Lord's. As it happened, these three century- makers from Lord's all failed to get as far as 30. Was it good bowling, over-confidence or just one of those things?

Although the West Indies' bowling was more disciplined than at Lord's, none of the three can claim that they were dismissed by an unplayable ball. Strauss drove at a wide one without any discernible footwork and was caught behind; Key played a forcing stroke off the back foot with his bat some way from his body and was caught at first slip; Vaughan then drove at a ball which was not quite far enough up and played with his bat some way in front of his pad and was caught and bowled.

No, they were not good balls. Over-confidence is not always easy to pinpoint, but none of these three batsmen will have come to the crease yesterday with their nerves ajangle and their hearts pounding for fear of what awaited them. All three began well, too. Strauss was soon driving through the covers, Key ran the ball to third man, pulled and drove through the covers while Vaughan was soon playing the ball effortlessly away off his legs to the midwicket boundary and then driving inimitably and handsomely through the covers.

They were all batting as though they had their sights set on another century, and then suddenly they perished, playing bad shots. It is impossible to put one's hand on one's heart and say that these strokes were solely the product of over-confidence, but it surely had a part to play in their dismissals. Then again, these things have a maddening or a happy way of happening (depending on which side of the fence you are sitting).

All three batsmen will have been infuriated not only by the fact of their early dismissals, but also by the manner. No professional who is worth his salt will be anything other than embarrassed when he lets himself down like this when performing on his own chosen stage.

This is exactly what Strauss, Key and Vaughan did and they will not have enjoyed the experience, but, for all that, this is part of the romantic tapestry of cricket and it helps to make it the great and, at times, unfathomable game that it is.