Cricket produces all kinds of daft superstitions. In my distinctly average career it was left pad on first, not putting my gloves on until I was ready to actually face, and most annoyingly for my partner (Steve Grima) I always had to take the first ball when opening the batting .
Pertinent to today’s bone fide miracle at Sofia Gardens in Cardiff is that you don’t change seats during a vital partnership, so by 6.40 I was absolutely bursting for a Jimmy Riddle, but fortunately an other Jimmy (Anderson) was busy, along with Monty Panesar saving this First Ashes Test for England.
What a last session. 2005 and all that when the two old enemies produced four unbelievable finishes in a row which tested the nerves of England fans to the full out maximum. When Collingwood finally succumbed after a magnificent knock of 74 obdurate runs and Monty Panesar arrived at the crease England were dead and buried, but a stunning rearguard action from Jimmy Anderson and the Northants spinner, allied to extremely poor bowling when the pressure was on from the tourists saw England home.
Where to now?
Firstly the selectors should resist the urge for change. The pitch did nothing to help any of the bowlers. It was the scourge of the modern game. Flat, slow and low a la the Caribbean and the Sub Continent with no reverse on offer and a sluggish outfield so the bowlers were in queer street from the start of this game.
We under performed in the first innings and had it not been for Swann’s cameo on Thursday 350 would have seen Australia in total control. Make no mistake it’s the top five who got us into this mess, but as usual the press will be calling for the bowlers to be changed. Broad in particular must feel the shadow of Harmison or Onions over his shoulder, but he will come good as Lords may over more for bowler of his height.
I am in favour of two spinners for variety, but if one is to be sacrificed it must be Swann. Don’t be fooled by the runs he offers. If you need your number nine to get significant runs, then the top order need to take a long look at themselves. Monty is the better bowler. That’s all you need to know.
One real worry is that Ponting seems to have out foxed Strauss at every turn, and most of days two and three saw us lose control in the field with seemingly no significant sign of a plan at any stage, especially against Marcus North.
We must look on this as a massive let off, and not waste the chance that a bit of luck, and no little sweat and tears from the three last day heroes has given us.