Well this game is very nicely poised. There is something for everyone in this game. There’s defensive and attacking batting, moments of calm serenity when nothing much happens, followed by a crescendo of wickets falling, because, well, this is England we are talking about after all. There’s fast bowling, medium paced bowling, spin bowling. There are great catches, and massive errors. Debutants mixed with experience. Players making their way, against players nearing the end, fighting against the dying of the light. The venue looks brilliant, a festival approach to test cricket in a market that while it still clearly loves the format, wants to bring it to the people in a slightly different way – taking it from the impersonal multi-sport stadium to the park like atmosphere at Hagley and Bay Oval.
In short, it makes you glow for test cricket. Hell, I even like the graphics bug at the bottom which my colleagues feel is too obtrusive. It looks quite classy, if you ask me. Surely you don’t need to be middle-aged to love this? Surely there’s something here for every cricket lover. You get to watch Kane Williamson, a modern great, against Jofra Archer, a phenom who will either hold England together, or flame out. You get to admire the sheer struggle and effort that Joe Denly is applying to his test career. You get to watch Tim Southee, with Lockie Ferguson breathing down his neck, rip out our lower middle order and bring England to heel, just when it looked like the game was being ground down.
There is, as always, a problem. Life. That’s the issue isn’t it. It’s not because I don’t want to devote the time to the game, to watch more of the action, but it’s because I can’t. Boiler issues, work issues, lawyer meetings (they go on for longer than a cricket match and are much less exciting) and an airport run this morning means I’m not going to be able to give you the match report. I watched the first hour last night. I watched as the commentators built up Ollie Pope, only to be made look a little silly when he flashed at a wide one and nicked off. There was Ben Stokes, playing shots of amazing authority, getting out when a hundred beckoned. Sam Curran, in because we presume he can bat, getting out for a golden. Jofra showing he’s no clue as a test batsman. Then Leach and Buttler restoring some honour and taking the score to something that means there is a game on. 350 doesn’t daunt great teams, but it certainly keeps those just below top level on their toes that errors mean danger, and Raval and Taylor will look at their dismissals and think, that’s giving it away (and yes, I know, we’ve gone on about attacking shots not working being more tut tutted than having your defensive technique defenestrated). Raval, from the highlights, tried to hit out against Leach and barely succeeded, so it appeared he wanted to keep trying until he failed.
With the wicket of Williamson towards the end of play, England hold the advantage. New Zealand are 200 behind but without their two major run producers (Williamson and Taylor – Latham has also had some good form in the past twelve months), but there is plenty of batting to come and that lead is by no means safe. It does appear that the Black Caps should not bat England out of the game, but that there is a good game to be had. It was also funny that Sam Curran got the wicket with a surprise short ball at “only 126 kph”. David Lloyd appears not to be a fan.
I’ll get to watch a bit tonight, so hopefully I might even be able to live blog some of it (absolutely no promises).
Since I last wrote a fair bit has happened. Three of us had an interesting evening with Nick Hoult and Izzy Westbury on Tuesday, in which I spoke more bollocks about blogging than usual. It was certainly interesting to be in the minority of one in not being amazed by Ian Smith’s commentary at the end of the World Cup Final (too screamy for me), while still liking Smith’s overall work. We had the T20 series, and Shiny Toy Vaughan overlooking the Malan hundred, and calling me a muppet for alluding to his management loyalties (the point being if Vince had scored Malan’s ton, he’d be singing from the rooftops).
It was lovely to see, and yet he’s not blocked me. Wonder why we call him Shiny Toy?
David Warner has proven his brilliance on flat decks against a ball that is softer than England’s lower middle order. Simon Hughes kept his job despite a faux pas that spoke volumes about his sheer lack of self-awareness, and for many to jump on someone for a mistake that wasn’t malevolent, but dumb.
India are dominating, playing a day night test, seeing Agarwal make a double hundred, making Shaw feel even worse for his doping violation. Each batsman has appeared to fill their boots against Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, India are almost certainly in the WTC final already, and this day night test might work well, and thus we’ll see more of them, and India might even believe they created them!
We also have a T20 competition starting in South Africa where all the game’s greats are in action and as far as I am aware, no-one really seems to care, except the TV networks who love this stuff. Oh and Harry Gurney has decided this competition is too long and is playing in the T10 jamboree in the Middle East. Liam Livingstone has withdrawn his name from the IPL auction, which had literally millions of Indian cricket fans in tears at the news, to concentrate on something else. Which is about as relevant as me withdrawing from my bid to become Prime Minister. No more politics than that.
So Day 3 beckons. I hope you are following it, enjoying it, and loving it for what it is. A good game of cricket, in a lovely location, with plenty of meaning without it being World Test Championship. It’s the start of the Silverwood era, there are players not established, and players with something to prove. It’s well poised. It’s good sport. It’s fun.