Life expired from the second Test between England and Sri Lanka with the family gathered around the death bed at the ancestral home of cricket yesterday.
The house guests were given little opportunity other than to block out time after being left the mean spirited and parsimonious gift of 58 overs to make 343 runs.
In order to get seven Tests, three against Sri Lanka and four against India, into the damp crevices of an English summer, the first two Test of this series had to be played in consecutive weeks. The
Executors Authorities insist on at least three days passing between these matches – one for travel and two for practice. Consequently this second Test had to begin on a Friday.
The great British public are generally willing to take a day or two off at the end of the week but some irrationality makes them feel obliged to do some work when a new week begins. Hence more than 30,000 people will willing pay high prices (or receive/give valuable hospitality from/to their clients/consultants) to attend on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but they unpatriotically and wilfully stay away on Mondays and Tuesdays.
In this Friday-starting match, the ancestral home was therefore its wonderful, buzzing, breathing, life-enhancing self for just three of the five days scheduled for this match and was, then, transformed into the the lifeless husk of a mansion that has seen better days. This becomes the setting for any dramatic
reading of the will conclusion that may develop on the final day, as it had in the first Test of the series.
Add to this the tactical concerns raised by this being the second of a three match tie where a draw for England secured that the scion would not lose the series, insert some periods of rain, a few endless delays and the refusal of both sides to bowl even the minimum number of overs possible and you should get a monumentally hacked-off set of customers.
This is no way to run a country house, let alone a game of cricket.
The issue that hung in the air from yesterday was Pietersen. He had been given an encouraging and supportive cheer when going to the wicket towards the end of day four and again on the final morning. As the prodigal son, he was loved, lauded and forgiven. A fatted calf ouzed on a spit in the village at the Nursery End. His knock of 72 was full of thrills and spills as only a Pietersen innings can be.
the old family lawyer, Sir Ian Botham, could advise him, the period from ‘Lion of England’ to ‘Cad’ can be as short as one year. Having been given his inheritance their devotion, Pietersen is forever required to deliver those thrills and spills. It is a birthright that will bequeath tears.
Cook appeared to bat more for himself than his team in reaching a hundred in 223 balls. In contrast his 96 in the first innings had taken 164 balls. Where was the sense in this?
In sport, pressure starts as a uniformity. In a team game your own players as well as opponents can then reduce the pressure on those who follow or increase it. Players have an acute sense of justice or injustice as to the legacy of pressure they receive.
Morgan and then Prior were sent out with instructions to get a move on and to give of their wickets freely. This does not come over well when an Eldest Son has been left the means to compile another century.
Having sacrificed himself for the family estate, Prior broke a window in the South Wing of the old house. The causal links between Prior opening the dressing room door and the pane shattering onto spectators below is uncertain. The links between Prior leaving the dressing room to accept his futile lot and his return, run out for 4, are not.
The MCC, as any well mannered trustee would, has refused to accept an offer of payment. Strauss, Cook and Flower might consider making a large and private donation of their time to A Chance to Shine. The damage is not to the window, but to the heritage gifted to youngsters coping with their own disappointments.
The need to find a solution when Anderson returns will add further tensions to the family wait to hear the
will team read out.
Along the landing in the away dressing room there were few occasions for unease or kit throwing. The sides shook hands with an hour (or laughably 15 overs) to go with Sri Lanka on 127 for 3. The few, who had loyally stayed to watch the presentations, departed to their tubes, buses and trains, leaving the glazier to his task.
This match has bequeathed some very serious questions for the legatees.