Once upon a time Birmingham was Chocolate City. A couple of miles south of Edgbaston, where the third Test between England and India began yesterday, is the model village of Bourneville. It’s a model village not in the sense of a miniature village built to scale, but in the sense of an ideal village built to a concept.
In the case of Bourneville it was the idea of the Quaker and chocolate making Cadbury family that made its fortune adopting the receipt of Sir Hans Sloane for drinking chocolate milk and later producing the first milk chocolate bars in England to rival those made on the Continent.
As an ideal village, readers would not be surprised to find that Bourneville had a model cricket ground, constructed also in the ideal sense, and played on twice by Worcestershire and later from time to time by Warwickshire IIs.
Today Bourneville is also the site of Cadbury’s World, ‘where chocolate comes to life’ and where visitors have the chance to live the life of a Charlie in a Chocolate Factory.
The India cricketers probably wish that they had spent the day at Bourneville and enjoyed a ‘fun chocolate day trip’.
Instead the side that at Lord’s and Headingley had been dunked as thoroughly as the Etruscans crossing the Tiber turned up at Edgbaston to find the same river continuing to flow fast and furiously before them with no idea how it could be crossed.
They lost the toss, were compelled by England to cross the torrent first, were dismissed for 224 and, then, watched helplessly as the their opponents crossed the stream as if it were a babbling brook, scoring 80 without a single loss on what appeared a benign surface.
Yes, it was England who, as well as winning the toss, looked to have won Willy Wonker’s Golden Ticket.
Good batsman are seldom bowled, but yesterday Gambhir, Dravid and the lost soul Raina were subject to this dismissal.
Sehwag, the usually extravagant, returning from surgery, but batting ‘like a patient etherised upon a table’, endeavoured groggily to drop his hands under the steeply rising first ball he received and ‘gloved’ to the keeper.
Tendulka, who is finding August as cruel as July, was wasted by Broad after scoring just one run in his brief innings of eight balls.
At 111 for 7, Dhoni and Kumar, like ‘Dry Salvages’, launched a counter attack. (After the day’s play the Indian captain confessed, “I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable.”)
But you cannot bridge a river or win a Test match from 117 for 7.
A lucky catch by Cook ‘under the lid’ at silly point brought the innings to a close with the dismissal of Sharma but otherwise every wicket was either bowled or caught off the edge.
Third Man asked back in December whether 80 is the new 90 . The England attack is faster than that of India which seems as soft as a Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclair, but the trio of Anderson, Broad and Bresnan each averaged 83 mph during their combined 58.2 overs.
It is the ideal speed and England have built their attack around this concept. Allied to precise seam position, it maximizes the opportunity for the ball to move late in the air and off the wicket.
Cook and Strauss, who reached fifty shortly before the close of play, batted as if they were enjoying a net before their real innings would begin on day two. That maybe so, provided rain does not spoil things.
This was therefore an ideal day for England, continuing their domination of an India lacking spirit and renewing the World Champion’s acquaintance with the implacable god of cricket.
A large mug of hot chocolate made to Sir Hans Sloane’s formula may be just the ticket, however it is more likely that India will not escape the wrath of the river god until the team is on the plane home.
The BCI would do well to heed Elliot’s warning in the third Quartet that the river once bridged …
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget.