The ovation received by Alastair Cook on Sunday after his 95 must have given him great heart. English Test match crowds are friendly places and the voluble appreciation of his gutsy, if imperfect, innings was indicative of the goodwill for him among fans.
Even the most grudging supporter would struggle to argue that Cook seems anything other than a thoroughly decent chap. Yet even if Cook gets more big scores during the rest of the summer, he has to face the additional imperative of leading England to victories.
The Ageas Bowl may have risen as one to salute his batting performance at the weekend but it will count for little if the Test series is won by India.
Every debutant needs a lucky break
It is the range of variables that makes cricket such a wonderful sport to watch and so frustrating to play – especially without DRS in place.
Cook was reprieved by Ravindra Jadeja’s horrible drop. Ian Bell should have been out for a blob but got the benefit of the umpire’s doubt over India’s rip-roaring lbw shout.
The margin between success and failure has been epitomised by the experiences of the debutants Jos Buttler and Pankaj Singh. The former, probably caught legitimately on nought and dropped on 23, eventually left the crease as the confirmed successor to Matt Prior.
Poor Pankaj, who has something of the Martin Bicknell about his bowling, should have had both Cook and Bell as victims to his name. Yet it was not to be and, with Ishant Sharma likely to return for the next Test, will he get another chance to make his mark?
Jimmy is beginning to look the part, but is he really back in the swing of things?
Having batted like Brian Lara at Trent Bridge, Jimmy Anderson appears to be on a mission to barnet like Beckham, with his increasingly close-cropped back and sides and neat side-parting up top. It is to be hoped that he will not be following the footballing fad for tattoos, which surely have no place on a cricket field, despite the best efforts of Jade Dernbach.
But putting to one side his new-found batting prowess and dinky hairdo, Anderson has not hit the heights consistently this summer. There have been better signs in Southampton and his terrific opening spell late on the second day deserved more than a solitary wicket.
The selectors seem content to shuffle England’s change bowlers (and may carry on doing so if Chris Jordan continues to ping down wides). But it was only six years ago that they were bold enough to drop the new-ball pairing of Hoggard and Harmison in New Zealand. Anderson and Broad were the beneficiaries then. They need to prove they are still the men for the long haul.
The Royal London Cup is not as anachronistic as it may sound
The back-to-back nature of the current Test series makes the cricket calendar seem even more cramped than usual. The County Championship is heading into its final quarter and the T20 Blast group stage is almost over: both competitions have generated reasonable interest.
In this context, the sudden appearance of the Royal London Cup on Saturday felt a little surreptitious. It isn’t helped by the fact that it sounds like an annual hit-off between a couple of amateur teams from the capital, in which the winning aristocrat picks up a trophy and a crate of swan pâté from the Queen.
Yet for as long as one-day internationals remain on the agenda, a domestic 50-over competition makes sense. Whether the group format is logical for anyone other than commercial directors is another matter.