What took place here yesterday was of similar hue to the alien life forms that once appeared on Star Trek. It was cricket, but not as we know it. Men wearing white were bowling to other men dressed similarly who were holding bats, but that was as close as it came to the genuine article. The proceedings were uncompetitive and farcical by turns.
There had been some speculation beforehand that this match would be deemed first-class, which would be perfectly acceptable but only if all matches involving South Harting Sunday Occasionals are immediately given similar status. There were still wonderful moments but their bearing on the first Test which begins next week can have been only minimal.
In this sort of standard a hundred tells you as much as a duck. Except, of course, that all batsmen would much prefer the former. Andrew Strauss duly reached three figures with the minimum of fuss, from 116 balls, which included a steepling straight six, an un-Strauss-like shot saying something about the lollipop bowling on offer. Upon hitting his 12th four to reach 103, Strauss immediately turned for the pavilion, retired out.
There was time for Ian Bell to get in and then get out for 49, which has been his raison d'être for a little while, and his annoyance at driving to mid-on was rightly palpable. It may not have mattered but it is a defect of which Bell, to judge from his gesture of annoyance, is well aware.
On the way, he managed to help run out Matt Prior in circumstances wholly befitting an exhibition match. Prior hit the ball hard to cover, set off for a run and as both he and Bell watched the ball they collided. Prior, who could have done with more batting, picked himself up but could not make his ground. He might not have known whether to laugh or cry, so he laughed.
Stuart Broad holed out for a handsome 36, but not before some experienced judges suggested that he could one day end up with a higher Test batting average than Bell. This is a punt from left field perhaps and Bell, in any case, is waiting to see if his Test career will be extended in the first Test starting next week.
Much of the talk in the England dressing room as they extended their lead to 444 at lunch on the final day was probably about their participation in the Indian Premier League. Broad, to his credit, has decided not to throw his hat into an extremely well-endowed ring. Given the sums on offer he might well have turned down £150,000 for three weeks' work. It is the sort of sacrifice that deserves to be remembered come the Ashes.
Although the IPL books do not close until tomorrow, ready in time for the players' auction on 6 February, the other England players on the West Indies tour who may be available are the big two, Andrew Flintoff – his side strain not as bad as first feared it was confirmed yesterday – and Kevin Pietersen; Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom and Monty Panesar. Others from outside the squad are Samit Patel, Ravi Bopara, Robert Key, James Foster and most surprisingly of all Darren Gough, who announced his retirement from cricket last summer. All should be warned.
There are an estimated 16 places for overseas players in the IPL, with 40 to 50 likely to feature at auction. Most of England's will not be near the top of the list. There seems to have been some rapprochement between England and India, prompted by England's return to play Test matches after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in December. The country's boards yesterday formalised a four-year cycle of tours, which should prompt dancing in the streets near Lord's if not in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, England did little more than go through the motions in the field and though Stephen Harmison ran in harder than in the first innings the irrelevance was paramount.
Much had been made by England of playing 11 men in the match, rather than playing fast and loose with the sport's laws by giving their entire squad a game. Instead St Kitts & Nevis did so by introducing four reserves on the final day. The wonder was that the crowd, still perfectly happy, were not invited to have a bash.Reuse content