Two nights ago the garden was full of the tchirrips, the tchichirrips and the occasional panicky tseeps of the house martins. Hundreds were flying high in the sky engaged in their ceaseless trawling for insects. Last night there was only silence. The final gathering and departure has taken place. The nests under the eaves are now empty.
Last night, the 2010 cricket season came to an end and the final flock of overseas cricketers packed their kit and prepared to migrate to their winter homes. Their English and Irish cousins will be following soon. The squad for this winter’s tour of Australia will be announced at 2.30 pm today.
Before they left we were treated to another wonderful innings from Morgan, who at the Rose Bowl last night, despite loosing the strike for much of the batting power play, moved with a comforting inevitability from the 80’s to his ‘hundred’ in the final two overs of England’s innings.
He had arrived at the crease with England in some danger at 106 – 4 when Bell was out to the last ball of the 26th over. So, Morgan scored 107 out of 150 runs in 101 balls of the remaining 24 overs.
With his hands gripped at the very bottom of his Kookaburra bat he whipped the ball to all parts of the ground in an innings that included eight fours, one six and every shot in the modern game. One can now talk of England’s limited overs cricket as BM and AM: ‘Before Morgan’ and ‘After Morgan’.
Some batsmen are not only good themselves, but they make batting at the other end easier. Morgan is one such player. He neutralises pressure like a mop of Flash in the advert carves through grease. Only two further wickets fell while he was at the crease.
There followed a further treat; ten wonderful and extraordinary overs from Graeme Swann. The wicket was turning quickly, so, he would have been expected to cause trouble, but actually the real damage, the real threat, came in the air. He was gaining prodigious and very late drift.
The left handed Fawad Alam, who has looked like a novice against spin this summer, was beaten in the air when Swann, bowling around the wicket to him, made the ball drift like the trajectory of a French curve to pitch just out side leg stump from where it gripped, turned and hit the top of off stump.
Mohammed Yousef provided a greater challenge and drew from the bowler an even better response. This wonderful batsman had been going about his business with great calm, stroking the ball with apparent ease, scoring singles at will wherever he wished; until he met Swann.
It was obvious that Yousef was intent on not getting out to Swann, a mark of considerable respect. He played as late as he could and ‘with the spin’ but was beaten through the air when he was lured into over reaching and extending his bat to a ball which drifted even further and later than he had predicted. Landing far beyond him, it turned quickly and sharply on its way through the gap that the stretch had opened up between the right hander’s bat and pad to strike the off stump.
This was a very special ball indeed and it then brought Shahid Afridi to the wicket. The Pakistan captain, in a very Afridi way, decided that he could break the laws of physics (and of batting) by premeditating a cut against the best advice in cricket. Inevitably the ball cannoned off the underside of his bat onto the wickets.
That England’s admirable captain and Man of the Series, Andrew Strauss, made sure he had one of the stumps was itself telling. The team revelled in the victory, further betraying their true feelings about the side they were playing. Later there were handshakes but that tightly gripped stump and that belligerent victory huddle had revealed it all.
England had reached out to cricket in Pakistan when offering to host their contest with Australia this summer. The MCC had actually sponsored the Lord’s Test match between the two countries when no commercial sponsor came forward. The England players did not deserve or merit being unworthily traduced by elements of the Pakistan set up. It is one thing to counter attack on the cricket field but quite another thing to counter attack in this way off it.
An improper tour is ended.
Seven cold months now confront us, over half a year of anxious waiting for the return of the swallows, swifts and house martins with whom we have shared this summer. Let us hope as many as possible return fit and well to rebuild their nests and add charm and interest, drama and fulfilment to the summer of 2011.