Monday, 25 July 2011

A Day at the Test.

Early morning rise and off to the Test at Lords. Amazingly with the match in the balance and all three results still possible general admission tickets for the final day went on general sale at 8.30am this morning. It was too good an offer to miss.

By the time I'd got to St John's Wood the queue had already past the tube station and a real sense of excitement was in the air. England needed a further nine wickets, India needed to hold it together and if they managed to bat with a sense of purpose all day it was just possible that might overhaul England's 458 run lead. Also an opportunity, probably a final opportunity, to see the Indian middle order, who since the timely demise of the Australian superstars have grasped the mantle and propelled India into the number one test nation in the world. Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni. Names already assured a revered place in the pantheon of legend.

It took two hours to get into the ground and news quickly spread that thousands had been turned away. The police had even be called to quell the disappointment of those who'd missed the cut.

England looked...well very un-English! Confident, fit, encouraging, revelling in each others success, not dwelling on misfortune or searching for blame, just getting down to work. It's a long time since I've seen a team work like this. After a few tasty overs they got the huge reward of Dravid's wicket, nicked to the ever alert Matt Prior behind the stumps. A sense of possible, despite the formidable batting line up to come, swept across the stands.

Laxman came out and settled down to making some runs. Chances came and went and he stuck around to make 56 before a loose shot swallowed by Ian Bell at mid-wicket lifted us again.

Tails up and Tendulkar in but without the score moving on the overcautious Gambhir was trapped by Graham Swann and so the little master trooped off for lunch a lonely figure.

After lunch he just couldn't get going. England looked young and were everywhere. Runs dried up and the chance of an Indian victory disappeared. Now it was just a question of whether they could block out for a draw - but the bowlers were steaming in. Tremlett like a snarling bull. Broad dangerous every time he turned and Jimmy Anderson swinging the ball in all directions.

Unbelievably to gasps of disbelief captain Strauss put down an easy catch, but it only served to fire up the team and two balls later Anderson got the prize. Tendulkar trudged back to a standing ovation form a crowd many of whom would have secretly liked him to score his hundredth test hundred here. Unlikely he'll ever return to Lords.

No such sentimentality in the middle as India began to rebuild. The rest of the session was frustrating as the new partnership of Dhoni and Raina settled in. Tea was taken with England still needing five wickets.

It didn't take long for the show to get back on the road. Tremlett getting his reward for his tireless running and Dhoni departed to make way for the lower order. Harbhajan played a shot too many and went cheaply. Broad demolished Kumar's stumps and Raina edged to Prior ending his counter of 78 to give Anderson his fifth wicket in the innings. So here we were just an hour after the nervous worry of tea with Broad steaming in to trap Sharma leg before and record a wonderful, wonderful victory against the best team in the world.

Perhaps the times are changing. Perhaps England can become regular world beaters. It'll be giddy at the summit, but today was very impressive, not lucky, plucky, eccentric, bull dogged or qualified, just very, very impressive. Can it be happening?


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