At 124 for 8, India who had won the toss in the second Test of the series and put England into bat had their sponsor’s boots firmly pressed down on the home side’s wind pipe.
It was then, after tea, that Broad and Swann impishly launched a counterattack. India’s bowlers, who had previously been perfecting the tantric art of bowling balls round corners, reduced their length and invited the big shot, while the field scattered generously to allow the single.
When Swann departed, caught off his glove in the gully to a 75 mph ball from Praveen that leapt from a good length in a way that the 90mph Malcolm Marshall would have been pleased with, India allowed Broad to farm the bowling and shield the eleventh man, James Anderson.
Broad ended with 64, easily twice the score recorded by any of the other batsmen. The last three in the England line-up put on nearly a hundred to almost double the score to 221, but it appeared not to matter in any way to the cool and composed MS Dhoni, he of the sang froid.
The Brit, a member of an Island race, has never valued languages other than his own and a half dozen or so that no-one living now uses such as Latin, Greek and Old Persian.
So when a couple of million of them were transported a hundred years ago across to France to fight in the First World War their reaction to the incomprehensible sounds uttered by the locals was to paraphrase them into something that sounded … well … English.
The Gallic shrug articulated in the expression ça ne fait rien, “it does not matter”, became a catchphrase of the lowest ranks of the army whose duty it was to accept whatever fate and his bungling officers decreed in a fashion both resigned and cynical.
In English mouths the phrase evolved via ‘san fairy Ann’ into the plaintive, ‘Send for Mary Ann’.
India’s captain at Trent Bridge yesterday appeared to be as fatalistic as the old British Tommy facing a hail of bullets. “Dear Fellows,” he was heard to say, “We are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. Who are we to seek to influence the future?”
To which VVS Relaxman standing at first slip with knees as inflexible as iron girders intoned, “Even God cannot alter the flow of Vidhi.”
As the players left the field at the end of the England innings Anderson turned to Broad, “Stuart, I just don’t get it. Man may not be able to will what he wills, but he is free to do what he wills.”
Ten minutes later the boy from Burnley, where the favourite tipple is still a ‘hot Benny’ or Benedictine first sampled on the freezing Western Front*, translated these words into action, having Mukund caught by Pietersen in the gully with the very first ball of the Indian innings.
These fine philosophical distinctions surrounding predetermination will be further articulated when play resumes with India on 24 for 1 in pursuit of the 221 runs that England have on the board.
Send for Mary Ann or, “Deo Optimo Maximo,” as they say in Burnley.
* 93 years after the Old Pals returned from the trenches, this East Lancashire town is still responsible for the consumption of more of this herbal liqueur than everywhere else in the world … put together!