A couple of late night cricket-viewing sessions later, things are looking decidedly rosier for England. Which must be an enormous relief to my work colleagues, since my mood seems to be index-linked to England’s cricketing fortunes at present.
Last night, after a party at my church to mark the forthcoming return to Oz of Diana (she of the pro-Aussie comments and threats on these pages), a whole gaggle of folk descended on Mr and Mrs Robbo’s to see if Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood could carry on the good work from the previous night. Leading dignitaries such as Wiseman and Kenny D were present, as were many others with a less pronounced interest in cricket, and many explanations were required to facilitate informed viewing. Mercifully there were no lbw decisions to explain – indeed, there were no wickets to explain at all, as Pietersen and Collingwood established a new record partnership for the 4th wicket.
Those without a pronounced interest having faded early, I managed to stay up until KP completed his century, retiring to bed at 2am-ish somewhat mindful of the fact that I would be required at work in a little over six hours. I was outdone by most of the gathering, who only left after Robbo had accidentally fallen asleep on the sofa. Robbo’s endurance has to be called into question, as on the second night of the First Test I caught him snoozing after approximately 5 minutes’ play.
But back to Pietersen. Definitely an interesting character. I am not especially drawn to him as a person, he strikes me as someone who does a lot of talking without prior engagement of his brain, but I can’t deny it’s exhilarating watching him bat. I would contend that he has been an absolutely pivotal figure in England’s cricketing resurgence over the last few years. I understand that England were going along nicely in the period immediately before his Test debut, with series wins over the West Indies (home and away), New Zealand, South Africa and Bangladesh. However, I believe it was his aggressive assault on the bowling of both Warne and McGrath, in the opening defeat at Lord’s, that helped infuse the rest of the team with the beginnings of real belief; belief that Warne and McGrath, such bowling champions for so long, could be attacked successfully. This confidence found its initial expression in the first innings run-fest at Edgbaston, (where McGrath wasn’t playing) and grew and grew through the matches at Old Trafford and Trent Bridge. Pietersen, if anything, has stepped up his aggression against McGrath, who I still maintain will not see out the series. I had originally made that assertion on the basis that his 36-year-old body would not cope with the rigours of five intense Test matches, and this may still prove correct, but if he continues to take a pounding from Pietersen et al, he might well be dropped! Almost unthinkable for such a great bowler as McGrath, but I suspect he can’t be objective enough about it to withdraw from the team himself. England’s task will be even easier if Ponting continues to under-bowl Stuart Clark, who, in this match at least, has been more dangerous and effective than McGrath and Warne put together.
Only two weeks now until I head for Sydney, via London and Singapore. Somehow it’s easier to cheerfully battle along Princes St in the face of biting wind and rain, when you’re clutching a bag containing SPF50+ sun lotion. It may be useless in the current situation, but it holds much promise for better days around the corner. Or at least warmer ones.
It helps, of course, that England have now played well for two days on the trot, which all increases the possibility of the series still being alive come Boxing Day.
I’ll drink to that.