Tag Archives: Matt Prior

Step Forward the Agents of Change: England v India Test 100 Day 4

It would have taken a professor of volcanology – and a particularly smart professor of volcanology at that  – to have been able to predict the seismic changes and startling discharges that occurred during the seven hours of play in the fourth day of this match-up between the champion side and a determined contender for their crown.

A good Test requires just such a back story along with the inclusion of a sprinkling of Promethian heroes hammering each other.  A very good Test requires the unexpected. 

For this, there have to be mere mortals whose impudence shakes the very earth on which the Gods play their game.

Yesterday, these agents of change – these catalysts – whose deeds erupt and transform the landscape were Ishant Sharma and Matt Prior.

It was expected that Englandwould extend their lead of nearly 200 on the first innings with, surely, an opener scoring a century, Pietersen providing a cameo as counterpoint to his first innings edifice, and perhaps Morgan displaying, in an hour after tea, those limited-over shots that take the breath.

But no, in the space of 37 minutes between 12.17 and 12.44 Sharma ripped the heart out of the England batting making a mockery of Bell’s brilliance, defying Trotts tenacity and doing to Pietersen what a dozen of the best bowlers in the world have tried unsuccessfully to do – meet his arrogant advance with a throat ball that has him pleading for his life with his gloves raised in supplication and self-preservation.

England went to lunch with their view of the world in tatters, five wickets down, ash and molten debris littering the dressing room floor. 

In contrast the Indian weltanschauung was fully restored and all was bonhomie  and back-slapping.

The second Law of Thermo-Dynamics points to change occurring as much from omission as commission and for some unexplained reason MS Dhoni omitted to press home his advantage after lunch.  It took fully forty minutes for him to recall Sharma to the attack.

In that time Matt Prior had turned counter attack into full scale advance.  England’s number 7 accompanied by Broad, who replaced the summarily dispatched Morgan that gave Sharma his fourth wicket and who began this innings on a King Pair, took the score from 107 for 6 to 269 without further loss and the lead from an earth trembling 295 to the terra firma of 457.

At which stage the game was out of the hands of those born to mothers.

It is expected that, although India will put up a solid defence, their remaining nine wickets will be sufficiently immovable.  It is expected that England will win this opening Test.  It is expected …

And what will happen?  Go ask a volcanologist.

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Fine Dining in North London

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.

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Has Old Father Time Finally Handed Over the Family Business?

Third Man was sitting on the sofa watching England v Bangladesh just after five o’clock this morning and mulling that great metaphysical problem, Time.

He was in a typical early morning trance with only a mild buzz coming from his on board computer as he attempted to picture what weather vane would be most appropriate for Lord’s when it holds its first IPL match, whilst simultaneously a deeper, older part of the brain was watching England creep along at less than three an over against Bangladesh. (Or as we might once have said, “42 an hour”.)

Has Old Father Time finally handed over the family business?

This is how Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball Live Scorecard covered the moments Third Man was watching:

90.1 Shakib Al Hasan to Prior, FOUR, well, it doesn’t help if you bowl like that. Gentle full toss on the legs, and Prior says thanks a lot and clips the ball easily through midwicket.

(N.B. not 5:10 am, but 90.1 )

According to Bob Willis on Sky this takes England to ‘three-an-over’ for the first time in their innings.

90.2 Shakib Al Hasan to Prior, FOUR, and again. This one, if anything, was an even filthier full toss from Shakib and is put away emphatically by Prior.

To Third Man’s befuddled pre-dawn mind it is not a certainty that this second shot is not yet another TV replay of the first.  Because every four is such a cherished event for the broadcaster each is repeated three or four times in the interval before the batsman takes guard again.  It can be confusing to the serial mind when, as in this case, a similar shot to a similar ball receives similar treatment.

90.3 Shakib Al Hasan to Prior, no run, pushed back to the bowler.

At which moment of time Third Man is asking himself The Great Question facing cricket lovers at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty first century:

“Which would you choose if you could watch England live from Dhaka batting against this club bowling OR  (by time shifting) yesterday afternoon’s ITV4 coverage of the Chennai Super Kings vs Kings XI Punjab T20 match stored on your Sky Plus machine?”

90.4    Shakib Al Hasan to Prior, OUT, Prior goes, bowled by Shakib as he charged down the wicket and swiped towards midwicket! Was he a little overconfident after the lollipops served up earlier in the over? He ran down the pitch and swung wildly at that, and was comprehensively beaten in the flight. There was a touch of turn, too, as the ball pitched well wide of leg but went on to hit the stumps. Is that the moment of inspiration Bangladesh have been searching for?

But The Great Question is no longer metaphysical.  To borrow from Obama, “Yes we can.”  We can cheat time and watch the Super Over climax that took place yesterday afternoon four thousand miles distance away and a million light years from our sitting rooms.  The Plus Box remote controller is in our hands.

We should not blame poor Matt Prior for his injudicious slog but, more than his wicket, he may have lost his audience.  And, in the world of cricketainment where so much depends on the revenues from Sky, the Director of Cricket will tell you, “That, young man, is a sackable offence.  You’re out … of the game.”

Old Father Time has replaced his scythe with a time shifting remote.

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