1. WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION
For some people, the idea of leaving school at the age of 14 without qualifications doesn’t matter so much. Gangsters, for instance. Or professional sportsmen, particularly those at the top level. So it was that Stuart Broad, having last night used Twitter to try and generate some walk-up ticket sales for Trent Bridge – not an easy sell given that, at that start of play, West Indies were only 3 runs ahead with 3 left in the shed – this morning sent this message to his 294,012 followers (of which, some quick research tells us, 147,876 are impressionable under-16s): “Exams are no excuse. Come to Trent Bridge in the sunshine, watch the cricket, revision in one hand, Pimms/beer in the other #perfect”.
So, not only is he playing down the importance of education, he’s also encouraging under-age drinking. #Scandalous.
By some unfathomable coincidence, Broad’s Nottinghamshire teammate, Graeme Swann, tweeted to his much more robust following of 379,775: “make sure you all come down to Trent Bridge tomorrow. Day 4 promises to be a corker and we love a full house”. Notts’ marketing department will be delighted these two did this off their own bats.
2. EASY GAME UP HERE (OR, LOOK IN THE BOOK)
Despite having a fringe that a caricaturist would require a ruler to draw, Marlon Samuels’ contribution was very well rounded: 2 for 14 first dig, the only wicket in the second, 117 and 76 not out. Along the way, however, he received a few snipes for not moving his feet enough when driving (much like my Grandma on her Sunday jaunt to the Peak District), judgements seemingly based on Pathé News footage of Len Hutton’s cover drive.
Let me dispel a myth. There is no such thing as technical perfection; no way you can get everything ‘right’. There is only risk management, concealing your weaknesses. You elaborate a method that has its pros and its cons, a method that may vary in step with the transformation of the conditions (overhead and underfoot), the situation, the attack, your own vibe. Sometimes these technical quirks and adjustments become sedimented into habit, into a technique.
Yes, Samuels often drives with feet together, especially against the quicker bowlers, but he also manages to leave the ball this way, too – an elaborate leave, it has to be said, one that occasionally takes him two pitches down the square to the offside, like a latter day Courtney Walsh. In these conditions, once the lacquer had come off the new ball, it seemed evident that the major danger to the batsman was straight bowling thudded into the wicket on an in-between length (hence the six lbws). Therefore, not lunging forward (there is also the bouncer to think about, remember) on a wicket that was not really seaming seemed a fairly sensible approach to the game, especially in a post-DRS universe in which the Stride Defence is no longer what it used to be.
3. ROACH CLIP
West Indies world-class players can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the hand of a man who lost three fingers in an unfortunate incident with a jig-saw. Beyond the cancrine nudgery of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, consensus in the press box is that two of the new players possess the potential, the raw talent, to join that shortest of lists: Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach. However, both men’s potential might fail to be realized because of the immense burden of continually having to rectify the shortcomings of their teammates. Bravo would certainly benefit from not coming out against the new conker every game, while Roach would serve his team better if others were punching the holes and he was rested and ready to bowl flat-out when the knockout blow needed to be delivered. He also struck the best two cover drives of the game, but that’s another story…
4. ENGLAND’S STRENGTH IN DEPTH (PART 1)
Where England Lions managed to see off West Indies by 10 wickets in the East Midlands (Northampton), the big boys only managed a nine-wicket win. At times, England were stretched, but they look in pretty fine fettle, having answered a couple lingering questions over the team’s make-up. After an indifferent opening day, Bresnan’s ultimately commanding contribution to the game (8 for 141 and 39 not out) probably cemented his spot – even though Strauss was coy about possible rotation – just as had the skipper at Lord’s, leaving only the number 6 position as an uncovered base.
Johnny Bairstow had pushed himself to the front of the queue with early-season runs, but now must convince the hierarchy that his discomfort against Roach’s bouncers was a one-off moment in the headlights, and that the carrot-topped one’s carrot eating doesn’t mean he’s a rabbit, in either a cricketing sense or a tortuous metaphorical headlight-averse sense, headlights of course being Kemar’s bouncers. Phew!
5. ENGLAND’S STRENGTH IN DEPTH (PART 2)
With the aforementioned Lions game having thrown forward yet another cricketer of promise in the form of Joe Root (a chat-up line in parts of Dudley), it has occurred to Spin that, with Australia here for a brief limited-overs exercise in cynical workhorse-flogging series, England could rest their whole team and put out an ‘A’ Team. Better still, make it a triangular tournament, with two Englands and an Australia, pay back for the 1994-5 Benson and Hedges Series Down Under in which the hosts thought their second string were needed to provide more competitive cricket. They were right, of course, but it would be gratifying to think that England and their cubs could do the same.
6. STRAUSS AND COOK
During the fourth innings chase, England’s openers completed 5000 Test runs in tandem, scarcely breaking sweat (literally in Cook’s case) in chalking off the 108 runs required. Some of those have been made with Cook at first drop, but this pair of southpaws have made over 4500 runs together as openers (according to Malcolm Ashton, anyway), moving them past Atapattu and Jayasuriya into third, with only the Langer-Hayden and Greenidge-Haynes duos above them. It’s not always pretty, but it’s a pretty decent effort, that, and well deserved for a couple of honest fellows.