The Light Roller: England's renaissance is a work in progress

Diary of a cricket obsessive

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The Independent Online

So far, so good - but how will England accommodate Stokes and more spin?

England's new dawn finally shone bright under floodlit skies yesterday evening at Lord's. In the end there was no magic moment that could force a win but there was a sense of unity about the team which had been notable by its absence in Australia. And this was no illusion in the aftermath of victory but a tangible asset in the pursuit of a positive outcome.

Quite aside from serving as a reminder of test cricket's unparalleled capacity to surprise and thrill, the match showed that England do have some quality in their ranks. Anderson has still got the X factor; Jordan is developing it; Root and Prior have got over their traumatic winters; Ali and Ballance both have serious batting potential; Bell has the grace of Gower - and the same habit of getting out just when it looks like he will be in forever.

Plunkett and Robson did enough to stick around for Headingly but didn't look completely convincing. Cook needs runs and wins, though his peculiar field setting to Sangakkara yesterday was a sign perhaps of a more imaginative approach to captaincy.

Still, there are issues beyond the short-term. An interesting feature of Saturday was the appearance on the boundary rope of Simon Kerrigan. England will be desperate for him to prove he has what it takes to be given a second chance. The simple fact is that world-class spinners who bat in the top six are as rare as a vampire's steak. If Ali can pull it off, good for him, but it is inevitable that England will need a specialist spinner at some point.

It is also, surely, inconceivable that Ben Stokes will be on the sidelines for long: and he will presumably bat at six. In short, the chances of the current line up being in place throughout the summer seem slim.


Crowd mis-behaviour takes many forms

Lord's crowds are pretty respectable things. Mexican waves start under the media box and end by the time they reach the Mound Stand. Snakes of plastic beer glasses are more adder than anaconda.

But, as I discovered on Saturday, fan fury is manifested in many ways. There I was at five in the afternoon, having spent a pleasant day in the lower Edrich stand (much better than I had feared), when the chap in front of me turned and said: 'May I ask you a personal question?'

Somewhat surprised I replied that of course he could, so he continued: 'Right, well I'd like to know what exactly it is that makes you think that kicking the back of my chair isn't going to piss me off?'

As it goes, I don't think I had kicked his chair - indeed, there was a bag between my feet and his seat. If I had done, I certainly hadn't realised the fact.  Plus of course we'd been sitting there for some six hours by then. But in any event, it is nice to know that passive aggression is alive and well among the outwardly polite visitors to cricket's HQ.


Other lessons from Lord's


Some things I learned during this test match:

1. Moeen Ali's beard is just as outstanding from 100 yards as it is in a TV close-up.

2. The Lord's bicentary celebrations extend to a beer having been brewed for the occasion. It is very bitter and quite metallic. Stick to the Pedigree.

3. Liam Plunkett may be big lad who bowls at 90mph but he still skips into his delivery stride like a joyous schoolboy.

4. My father's idea of a bowl of something healthy from the supermarket salad bar is enough potato, pasta, rice, cous-cous and chicken to feed three people.