Those who handed over their hard earned cash at Lord’s yesterday and those who had the faith to pay weeks ahead with a credit card were rewarded with a densely packed hamper of ‘goodies’ to match the finest on sale at the Nursery End from that ‘Greedy Italian’ Antonio Carluccio .
To Dilshan and Law the wicket may have looked like a green salad, but Hammond would have laughed at such a menu description.
This was a typical Lord’s wicket which, with much fine weather forecast, had been left cooking under the covers for slightly longer than would otherwise have been the case and therefore required respect in the morning and gluttony thereafter.
The Sri Lankans still queasy after their late meal at Cardiff and in a gesture that looked insipid declined the first course.
Strauss and Trott spurned the necessary digestif and to their cost played across straight deliveries. An impatient Pietersen reached for the h’orderves without properly preparing the palette and was caught in the gully. He has become ‘the hungry man’ of cricket.
England were 22 for 3 and Dilshan and Law’s reading of the menu now looked expertly seasoned.
Cook, as might be expected, understood the nature of the fare on offer and chewed on each mouthful with the greatest care in pursuit of his third successive century, while across the table, Bell, who is finally enjoying his deserved three star rating, took the score to 130 before edging to slip.
At which point the bon viveur Morgan took his place at the table and sumptuously feasted on the spin of Herath and Dilshan, lifting them deliciously for straight sixes towards the pavilion, but judiciously picking selectively at the pace on offer.
The fifth wicket fell at 201 when Cook on 96, having devoured a couple of scrumptiously short deliveries from Fernando, went for one too many and, misjudging the length, could only pull the ball skyward into a waiter’s safe hands.
Matt Prior, who now came to the table, resembles a travelling salesman enjoying the table d’hote at The Commercial, the juices from his lamb cutlets running down his chin as he describes the charms of a young lady in lingerie or the trick he has played on the unpalatable Head of Buying.
Prior and Morgan now guzzled at five an over to take England to 295 for 5 with the kitchen hard pressed to keep pace with their craving for more.
It is a truism, though not less true for that, to say that Morgan does not play cricket like an Englishman. He is a Dubliner who consumes Guinness and pie, tells tales and is the greatest of companions. An O’Toole of a cricketer.* So, with the wicket now flattening and the sun now burning and the crowd now merry and the bowlers now drained, a banquet was ordered in high anticipation and much salivation.
Cricket, however, has one restorative for tired staff: a refreshing new ball, and with this one, deliciously cool in his hand Lakmal produced the perfect delivery to trap the ravenous Irishman LBW for 79 gorgeous runs.
A rather gaunt Broad, starved of opportunity since his first-baller in Siddle’s hat trick an age ago, now joined Prior who continued to wolf down what was served up to him and to encourage his new companion to put away a rarebit with relish until the restaurant closed leaving England on 342 for 6 and Prior and Broad wanting more.
* Third Man was tempted to liken Morgan to Samuel Beckett, another lefty, but his batting average of 8.75 in Gordon and Hawke’s Cricket Form at a Glance made it an unjustifiable comparison.