Strauss and Cook's hard graft lifts the gloom
Saturday 17 May 2008
There was a distinct absence of dancing in the streets when Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook were reinstated as England's opening batsmen. Good players, sound individual Test records but as a first-wicket partnership they had been notably inauspicious. On the list of English double acts they were mixing with Cannon and Ball not Morecambe and Wise.
However, when Michael Vaughan decided it was better for him and the side that he moved again to No 3 the deal was sealed. Strauss and Cook were reborn, strutting their stuff together again. Their past misdemeanours were forgotten on the grounds that Vaughan preferred No 3 and Strauss liked opening.
It seemed an argument with an extremely tenuous base, not least because Strauss had made 177 last time out at No 3 and that Vaughan and Cook had done significantly as an opening pair better than Cook and Strauss. So, they had it all to do when they strode out in the early afternoon murk here yesterday. Given the prevailing conditions and the record they were the Gloomy Twosome more than the Sunshine Boys.
The smart money was on an early wicket. This was the duo who had averaged a mere 35.22 for the first wicket and more tellingly had contributed a mere 11.67 per cent of England's total runs (to give it some perspective Strauss and Marcus Trescothick of recent vintage supplied 16 per cent). And the ball had begun to swing round corners. Whichever measurement you used, it was not a batting day.
But the restored duo defied the scepticism with some brio. True, they flirted with the slip cordon at times in the early overs but who wouldn't. Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Jack and Herbert of that ilk, England's most successful opening partnership might have been edging the odd one.
Neither man had been in the most persuasive of early season form, though Strauss had had more moments than Cook. They had been building for this, were pretty composed though it was surprising that they looked so assertive. Maybe New Zealand might have pitched it up more but both batsmen seemed aware of the precise whereabouts of their off stump, not always the case.
These were merely the green shoots of recovery, of course, and though it was heartening from England's viewpoint that they had reach an unbroken 68 it was hardly a reason yet for told you so's.
It was the least satisfactory of cricketing days, irritating and frustrating for spectators, officials and players. There were five stoppages for bad light but this was nobody's fault. The gloom coincided with the announcement of the Marylebone Cricket Club masterplan. When this is executed it will make Lord's a grand ground fitter still for the 21st century and it happens to include floodlights. But they would not have helped on days like yesterday.
Shot of the day
*Left-handed batsmen tend either to look elegant or awkward and Daniel Vettori, the Kiwi captain, falls into the latter group. Despite this, he transfers his weight into the shot exquisitely and is a sweet timer of a cricket ball. An extra cover drive off the bowling of James Anderson highlighted this beautifully.
Ball of the day
*Batsmen do not face many high-quality left-arm seamers and when they do they are caused innumerable problems by them. Often there is very little they can do against the swinging ball and that was the case for the New Zealand tail-ender Kyle Mills, who was bowled by a magnificent inswinger from Ryan Sidebottom.
Moment of the day
*Sidebottom's dismissal of Mills was surrounded by four strong lbw shouts in the same over. Three were correctly given not out; the other was close. When Sidebottom took his sweater from the umpire Steve Bucknor at the end of the over they shared a wry smile. Both knew the bowler deserved more.
Play is expected to be interrupted by intermittent showers. The temperature will be a cool 14C.
An improvement in conditions should bring a full day's play. The sun may even reappear.
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