There were two teams out there, but only one was trying to play cricket.
Nah. Not really. The furore surrounding whether Stuart Broad should have walked or not is entirely a media beat-up. Unlike the incident which inspired the above comment, no player has yet (as far as we can tell) seen fit to comment on Broad’s disinclination to stick his bat under his arm and wander off into the no doubt waiting arms of Andy Flower after he smacked the ball to first slip. As appalling a decision as it was (about the worst we can remember, although given our levels of gin consumption that’s not saying much), a batsman should never feel obliged to walk, whatever the circumstances. Steve Waugh never did, and he’s a bloody legend and is welcome to marry our sister any day.
The incident does, however, expose an uglier truth, one which we think Jonathan Agnew was hinting towards in his summation on TMS at the close of play. This is going to be an ugly Ashes. There has already been plenty of niggle, plenty of hostility and plenty of forthright aggression. After this it will probably just get worse. A lot of what goes on on the field is just pantomime stuff. Anyone who thinks Mitchell Starc is an arse because he pulls angry faces and gave Jonathan Trott a send off obviously doesn’t know the first thing about what he is like off the field, and is just being far too precious for their own good. Same for Graeme Swann’s celebration after Agar’s dismissal. The fact Swann subsequently ran over to congratulate the departing batsman shows where his real intentions lie.
But beneath all this play acting real hostility simmers. The English players are barely restraining their emotions over how appallingly they have performed in this Test so far, and the savaging their press will give them will only inflame matters. The Australians feel they haven’t been given the respect they, as tourists, deserve and Lehmann seems to think the best way to earn that respect is by bullying the hosts. Neither are great teams. This might be the Ashes but it’s not great cricket. Entertaining, yes, but far from world class. In their desperation to perform the players are starting to turn on each other, and after the Broad incident the cold war might turn hot.
Or then again it might not, as in Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke you have two of perhaps the finest captains you could ever find. At least as far as the spirit of the game is concerned.
As for the cricket, well, both teams showed they had taken the lessons learnt from recent tours of India to heart. England ground out a respectable lead in the face of the most sustained disciplined bowling an Australian attack has been able to deliver for years. Right now England are well in front, and if Bell can reach his century and push on to take the lead well over 300, the game will be theirs.
Or then again it might not. It would be breaking every record that Trent Bridge currently holds, but given what has occurred so far it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Australia go close to whatever target England ends up setting them.
But it would be a surprise too far to expect Cowan to contribute anything. The useless git.