On The Front Foot: Trent Bridge is actually 2,000th Test – and the Rest is not history


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The Independent Online

It has been widely publicised that the Test match in progress at Lord's is the 2,000th. Poppycock, of course. The occasion has been wonderful and Lord's has been characteristically grand even when it has been tipping down, but it has not been the extra-special event we have been led to believe by the International Cricket Council.

This is either Test match No 1,999 – with the 2,000th at Trent Bridge next week – or it is No 2,005. The ICC are having it both ways at present. Included in their list of Tests is the high-class exhibition between Australia and the Rest of the World in late 2005. Those were the days when Australia were cocks of the walk (remember them), and though it was slightly inconvenient that they had just lost the 2005 Ashes to England, the ICC in their infinite wisdom decided the match should have official status. The whole idea of Test matches is that they should be between teams representing countries. However, the ICC made the judgement and that was that. But they have steadfastly refused to recognise the five matches between England and the Rest of the World in 1970 as official Tests. They were extremely entertaining and skilful encounters, arranged after the cancellation of South Africa's tour that summer. For years they were recorded in Wisden as official Tests, but then the ICC decreed they were not. And that, too, was that. The greatest individual casualty was the Glamorgan opening batsman Alan Jones. He played for England in the first of the five matches, at Lord's, making 5 and 0, and was never picked again. He was alone in that regard. All others who appeared also played in matches deemed official. There is not the remotest chance of the ICC changing their mind about 1970 (unless India ask them), though those matches have more right to proper recognition since they formed a genuine series, rather than a one-off jamboree. If they were to be counted, the 2,000th match would have been the First Test between England and Sri Lanka, at Cardiff and forgettable in every aspect except its climax. Trent Bridge next week, it is.

Duncan not ducking issues

A few strange things have been happening since Duncan Fletcher's arrival as coach of India. He has a well-known wariness of the press, whom he views as a mischievous influence at best. In his time as England coach he performed his media duties reluctantly and when he was batting consultant to South Africa he made it a condition of employment that he had no dealings with the press at all. It was generally assumed that the approach of a reporter this summer, whether from England or India, would see him turn on his heel. Not so. He gave a perfectly engaging and engaged press briefing in Taunton and after the first day of the First Test he virtually bounded into another. Then there is the matter of India's bowlers. When Fletcher was England coach he was an adherent of speed for its own sake. Skilful bowlers who were a bit slow were given short shrift. Yet in the First Test, India paraded Praveen Kumar, a skilful manipulator but distinctly on the slow side. It will be intriguing to see how his career progresses.

Trott sets a strong pace

Jonathan Trott has a Test average of 63. In the history of the game, of those to have played more than 20 Tests, only Donald Bradman has higher. This is slightly misleading since Trott, admirable though he is, has scope to decline. At the same stage in their Test careers, after 35 innings, seven players had scored more runs than Trott and seven had a higher average. But of England players, none had scored more runs and only Denis Compton had a better average.

Long Rhodes ahead for Sachin

Sachin Tendular seems to have been around a long time. But at 21 years and eight months his international career is only the 11th most enduring of all time. He will have to play on for another nine years if he is to overtake Wilfred Rhodes, who played for England between 1899 and 1930. At this rate, he may well do so.