Timid souls whose hand-to-eye co-ordination is so poor they might as well bat with Geoffrey Boycott’s proverbial stick of rhubarb had lost their patron saint. Jimmy Anderson was gone, but will not be forgotten so long as wannabe Bradmans sit in musty dressing rooms and dream impossible dreams.
The bowler referred to as the Burnley Lara, with something short of due deference, suspended disbelief as Test cricket disappeared, briefly, down a wormhole which swallowed Trent Bridge whole. A match that has veered from the sterile to the surreal did not get the signature achievement, a miraculous century from a No 11, it barely merited.
Logic suggests England will draw with India today, despite two late wickets last evening, and the neurotic nature of teams who carry the shared burden of mediocrity. The contest effectively ground to a halt when Anderson drove at a wide delivery from Mohammed Shami in the fourth over after lunch, and edged it low to second slip.
He was out for a career-best 81, and a sand-coloured pitch that is as threatening as a new-born kitten will do the rest. Wisden might have to find room for a new section critiquing the ECB’s business plan, which evidently prioritises short- term financial gain at the expense of the long-term welfare of the purest form of the game.
At this rate bowlers will become an endangered species, protected by a selective breeding programme in a compound alongside the ECB offices at the Nursery End at Lord’s. Batsmen, gorging on flat, inoffensive wickets, will grow as fat and self-indulgent as Maharajahs.
It is as well, in current circumstances, that cricket is celebrated as a shotgun marriage of artistry and accountancy. It romanticises accumulation, and allows the memory to lubricate dry statistics. When records set in the age of the abacus are broken in the era of micro-computers, it is an “I was there” moment.
Anderson had no time to savour his part in an unprecedented 198- run last-wicket stand with Joe Root, which could not have been more bizarre had he arrived at the ground on a golden carriage drawn by unicorns, instead of being at the wheel of his sponsored sports car.
He left, to prepare for the chore of opening the bowling in India’s second innings, with a solitary wave of his bat to a capacity crowd which had risen as one. Root, meanwhile, ensured he got best value for his unbeaten 154 by sauntering to the pavilion with studied insouciance.
Anderson, a thoroughbred expected to demonstrate a shire horse’s durability, took the new ball. Fate played a predictably callous trick. Matt Prior, giving his best impression of the Tin Man, dropped Murali Vijay off Anderson’s eighth delivery. His day duly went downhill.
Somewhere in the Last Saloon of everlasting life, the spirit of Hunter S Thompson took a slug of Cold Turkey and cracked a crooked smile. When the going got weird, the weird turned pro.
Anderson and Root are as odd a couple as there is in elite sport. For much of the time, their partnership was as staid as a tea dance. Root shepherded Anderson with the exaggerated care of a lollipop lady ushering a classroom of infants across the road. Anderson didn’t entirely appreciate the discretion. Like all ‘rabbits’, he doesn’t recognise the term. He works diligently at his batting, and is all too aware of the value of his runs, and their ability to drive a fielding team to distraction.
It was hot, and airless. The “We Are Imps” banner proclaiming the presence of Lincoln City fans hung limply over the lower tier of the Fox Road Stand. Tempers began to fray as Root ostentatiously refused a seemingly endless stream of singles, and suddenly it all kicked off.
The Yorkshire batsman reached his 150 with his fifteenth boundary, and slashed at the next ball. Ishant Sharma was convinced he had edged behind, reinforcing his view when the pair were up close and personal. Root pointed at the bowler and took the opportunity to remind him of his impotence before Anderson, the most unlikely of peacemakers, dragged him away.
Root might have the bland features of a boy band member, but his mentality is more suited to that of a thrash metal ogre who bites the heads off unfortunate doves. The Tyke could start a brawl in a phone box.
Sharma and Virat Kohli flounced around like Dowager Princesses, affronted by the smell of the great unwashed. One imagines it is only a matter of time before David Warner enrols in a boxercise class to prepare for next year’s Ashes series, and the return white-collar bout in a convenient Walkabout Bar.
Whether Alastair Cook will still be England captain then remains to be seen. He deserves to survive for his adaptability and indomitability in the face of fourth form, fifth-rate criticism from the likes of Shane Warne. Had he been as indolent and tactically inept as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, when India contrived to surrender a first-innings lead, he would have been run out of town, after giving saloon bar comedians enough material for a lifetime.
Cook will need to address the anomaly that he has scored one less run than Anderson this year, as a matter of urgency. Everyone loves a little romance, but that is ridiculous.
Chief executive Collier set to stand down in ECB reshuffle
English cricket bosses are poised to look for a new chief executive following reports that David Collier is to leave his role, writes Tom Collomosse.
Collier was at Trent Bridge for the First Investec Test between England and India but it is set to be his last in the job, which he took in 2004. The England and Wales Cricket Board may announce an interim replacement before assessing other candidates. Should the ECB look outside the organisation it is believed that Richard Gould, the chief executive of Surrey, would be considered.
Were they to make an internal appointment, Gordon Hollins or Steve Elworthy? would be candidates.
It is not clear why Collier is leaving, but The Independent on Sunday understands that he has not always had the full endorsement of the county game. During his decade at the helm, Collier oversaw the sale of television rights to Sky, which was criticised by many but gave the ECB much-needed funding.