I’ve been wallowing in and savouring, and trying to take in sensibly, what happened yesterday.
I’ve always regretted two cricketing things. One is that I didn’t have a TV in 1981 when Botham and Willis did their things at Headingley. I was living in a flat in Edinburgh, in a room with three other couples laid out on mattresses around a fairly big room, and only got to hear about what was going on from newspapers so never actually saw any of it at the time. (Also I felt it was, and still do, Willis’s match rather than Botham – and Dilley’s – match.)
The other is 2005, when I was not in a good place in my head, and although I did see a fair bit of it on telly was unable to ‘join in’.
So, yesterday was rather special.
I said to my señora yesterday morning, before it all started, that I didn’t really mind which side won, just that I wanted there to be good cricket and for the series to stay live. I don’t necessarily support England in international cricket (I do necessarily support Afghanistan) and I had a bit of an email barny/exchange of views with Geoff Lemon on Friday over his catering only to the Australian readership on the OBO which he took to be an accusation of partisanship. He seemed to take it on board a bit and he did a far better job yesterday (and published an edited version of an email I sent in, and later a good article) but then it might all just have been me seeing things which weren’t there.
I love cricket, especially first-class cricket, of which Test cricket is part. It keeps me sane in this crazy world. I got a good dose of happy pill yesterday.
Obviously Stokes did the heavy lifting, with the ball as well as the bat in both second innings, but there were also vital contributions from Root, Denly (who I really like although I don’t think is quite good enough but am very prepared to be proved wrong), Bairstow, who provided a very important impetus and took Stokes with him, got him motoring a bit if you like, and Archer’s runs and hits were more significant than he’s getting credit for in maintaining the motoring as the crash barriers seemed to be arriving.
But what about Jack Leach? An F-C specialist, who turned out for his club side (paying his match fee) after his 92 against the might of Tim Murtagh when everyone else was playing thrash willow. It doesn’t matter that Australia didn’t have the nous or ability to bowl him a yorker like they did to Broad, or that Lyon fumbled Cummins’ throw. He was there. He did it. He scored the run which meant the Ashes is still there to be won.
I also have so much time for Tim Paine. I know he’s not the greatest wicketkeeper or batsman ever, but he’s the man who’s made me have a lot of fondness, if not love, for the Australian team. (Little Marnus has played a rather large part too, of course.) Langer’s also said some good things and Hazlewood’s a great bowler (I’ve always thought that). Cummins is too but I suspect he needs, and will get, a rest at Old Trafford.
I could easily burble on. I’m just happy the series is alive in an unforgettable way. (However I’m not happy we have to wait another 15 days for CC cricket, although the Bangladesh v Afghanistan Test starts the same day as the fourth Ashes Test, and at a good time-zone time for me.)