One in a thousand?

Today’s spectators seeking shade amidst the increasing tension and heat!

Next week sees England playing their 1000th test match and a lot has been written about the best match, the best team, the best players etc…so let’s add to the debate!

I’ve been watching Test cricket since the early 1960s and tests live since the late 1970s/early 1980s but for me there’s only one test which can be regarded as the best – v Australia Leeds 1981; 2005 as a series was good but proclaimed as the best by those who weren’t born or old enough in the 1980s. Botham, Willis and Brearley take some beating!

The best test ‘live’ also comes from that series – Day 4 Edgbaston 1981 Botham 5/28, Brearley captaining like no other and as I recall some wag in the crowd asking Peter Willey did he bat, bowl or field as he wasn’t very good in that game at any of them! A glorious win when defeat looked assured.

No doubt others will have their own choices, so to add to the debate I’ve come up with two ‘best’ England XIs – one of all time and one from those I’ve seen ‘live’. So…and assuming they’re in their best ‘form’

Best of all time – Hutton, Hobbs, Hammond, Gower, Grace, Botham, Knott, Bailey, Larwood, Trueman and Laker

Best of living memory – Cook, Gooch, Root, Gower, Flintoff, Botham, Knott, Gough, Anderson, Willis and Underwood.

Sorry no room for Boycott, Atherton, Stewart, Broad, Strauss, etc.

And meanwhile on the verdant pastures of St John’s Wood…Middlesex progress to 213/7 after 30 mins play – a second wicket of the innings and match for Woakes. A lead of 173….ummm, will need another 50+ to make the chase ‘interesting’.

By 1230 Middlesex are all back in the hutch after being dismissed for 242. Probably 40 or 50 runs short of making it really interesting but if a couple can be nipped out in the few overs before lunch, then who knows? Rayner will be key to Middlesex success or otherwise!

And two were duly nipped out – Murtagh taking Sibley and Bell in his first over leaving Warwickshire 10/2 at lunch: looks like all to play for!

At 64/5 by mid afternoon it looks like anyone’s game with Trott playing his final innings here gone for 32, it’s left to the younger team members to step up; Woakes promoted to try and add runs to his case for an England call up fails, Hain who has an elegant upright stance reminiscent of the lithographs of Victorian times goes for 37 as Harris makes another breakthrough at 108/6 – four more wickets needed for an improbable win or 95 more runs…and who said county cricket wasn’t tense? They should come here among the faithful.

Trott bids farewell

By tea the equation becomes four more wickets or 61 more runs; the tension is palpable. One outcome is assured – a result today!

OMG as the texting folk say! Two quick wickets just after tea when it looked like an all out assault was coming swings the balance back to Middlesex. One more falls and it’s down to the last pair of Wright and Sidebottom to see the visitors home but that’s some 40 runs away.

Try, strive, strain and stretch every muscle and does the end come? No! The ball doesn’t go to the fielder, appeals for leg before turned down – perhaps too many granted already?

The tension rises as runs are eked and bowling changes tried; Rayner has not been bowled for some time…perhaps there’s more in the pitch for the quicks?

But the end comes with Fuller taking the last wicket for an 18 run win. Didn’t expect to see that at 70/7 at lunch on day 1. Good game by both sides and as tense as anything when it got down to the business end- those one day spectators need to try this longer game!

Interesting that 12 of the 40 wickets were lbw just seems a bit on the high side but the pitch seemed to be a bit on the fast side, not really conducive to spin but as a batsman you needed to apply yourself. Middlesex today seemed to be helped by the cloud cover from time to time and helped the quicks. Odd game this cricket

And whilst all this tension was building, a good crowd was watching intensely and at the same time – swapping courgettes, being filmed for some video or other, essay writing, essay marking, artist sketching the play as he saw it (one for each end each over) and children doing maths questions and even few playing their own games of cricket- one in a thousand each I would suggest?

And I call it here first – Surrey champions as they trounce their nearest challengers and probably have a squad good enough to lead the way for a few years yet!

As a post script the journey home was a night mare – tubes, buses etc – and I really must learn how to man-spread as I’m surrounded as I write this on the train!

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