In truth, there are so many Test Matches that they tend to blur into one another, even for the ‘tragics’ who wish to write about it. Obsessive note taking and a young and alert brain are required which, for someone like Third Man, nearing his 300th birthday, and with a thousand Test matches located somewhere in a crowded and disordered mind, it is too much to hope for.
In the Test played yesterday, one side are 456 for 3, giving them a lead over their opponents of 232, but if you were the gentleman photographed above, when you woke from your cricket-induced revelry and read these facts from the scoreboard, would you have been able to tell where you happened to be, which match in the series you were watching, what day of the match it was, and, even, which day of the week it was?
If you glanced at the newspaper being read by the person sitting in front of you and saw it was Thursday, your confusion would double. Test matches for most of his life began on Thursdays.
So far, 700 runs have been scored for the loss of 13 wickets. Not even in the Golden Age was such action likely in a single day. If it were the 1960’s this stage in a match would have been reached on day four. Cricket was not played on a Sunday, so he could be forgiven for thinking it was Monday. No?
No, it is the Thursday of this match and all these runs have been amassed in two days. If this were 2004, then,India would be batting and sailing along at 453 for 3. No?
No, it is England who are already 232 runs ahead of a despairing side about to lose their World Champion status to, of all sides, England – yes England – and it is day two of the match.
So, where exactly are we?
The ground is quite unrecognizable as £36 million pounds has been spent here on a new stand. £36 million. It looks a little like the Gabba, but it is the wrong time of year for a Test ‘Down Under’.
With a score like that it could be Lord’s 2011. Why is that? Because England thrashed India at Lord’s in 2011. It could be Trent Bridsge in the same year. And why is that? Because England thrashed India at Trent Bridge in that year too. It could be the Oval in 2011 ? Again, why? Because England look set to thrash this Indian side there too.
No, it’s Edgbaston. Does that matter? Same result.
England are superior in every area of the game – batting, bowling, keeping, fielding, captaincy, tactics, management, support and, most importantly in cricketing culture.
Does that matter? Ah, ha … another cause for confusion.
True, Dravid, when untypically dropping his second chance of the day, threw down his precious national cap in abject frustration with his own performance in a way that every one who has ever played cricket and dropped a dolly can empathized with.
But Sehwag, moments before, had walked off the pitch leaving his team mates to ‘it’ – that is to the formalities of another ‘unconditional surrender’. His retreat from the situation spoke more eloquently than an unfurled white flag.
To paraphrase an Australian captain responding to Body-Line in 1932/33, “There are 10 sides in the ICC ‘top rank’ but only three of them are trying to play Test cricket.”
The other seven are either too weak or unable to gain a following for Test cricket or more concerned with the income generating shorter forms of the game.
It is no exaggeration to say that every single member of theI ndian side is a dollar millionaire, in many cases, many, many times over.
This is also the case with some Englandplayers, but to be celebrated in England the player must excel in Test cricket. This is not the case in India or the West Indies. For a young West Indian or New Zealander, the IPL or The Big Bash now provide the dreams and incentives.
Bopara, yet to bat, turned his back on fame and fortune in the IPL to increase his chances of selection for the England Test team. His ambition has been rewarded by circumstances. He deserves much credit. Lovers of Test cricket will hope he scores a hundred today.
There are great Test cricketers, in the Indian side and those self-same cricket lover also want them to score a stack of runs in their second innings, whenever that begins, which could be Saturday at this rate.
But the 2010 Duke balls being used in this series are swinging, there is life fin this wicket for the three tall England seamers (as there was at Headingley), and the ball is beginning to turn considerably and a little more quickly as the part-time off-spinner, Raina, is demonstrating.
In England, the political class are facing the consequences of a dismantled social fabric and wandering from television studio to television studio protesting that, “Something must be done.” They may not have a solution but their behaviour at least demonstrates their concern.
Similarly, this series between England and India needs to be a wake-up call.
And not just to Indian cricketers, administrators and supporters, but to everyone committed to cricket in its highest expression.
It is not clear, however, that anyone leading the sport is bothered even to admit, “Something must be done.”
India 224, England 456/3