What a difference a day makes, as Paul Edwards discovers at Lord's
It was just a little tempting to look the other way at Lord's on Sunday morning. What I rather wanted to do was to go to the ground's famous museum and gaze at the Ashes urn for a moment or two, in the hope that it would remind me of the best that cricket can offer those who love it. That, though, would have been the "ostrich response" and it would also have been a disgraceful dereliction of duty.
Both last year and this, "Tales From The Test" have been intended to entertain and to inform; the hope is that they will give people not at the match a flavour of what it is like to be at these great occasions. So it was right to let them remain true to their purpose even on a morning when cricket led the news bulletins for reasons which brought shame on the game.
In the Media Centre, the atmosphere was both busy and subdued: everybody knew that they had plenty of work to do and no one was looking forward to it very much. Any humour was strictly of the gallows variety. Writing about cricket is a job, but it is also a pleasure. What one or two people who read the newspapers don't realise is that the reporters are often fans like them. We love seeing opening spells like that produced by Mohammed Amir on Friday morning; we like to analyse wonderful partnerships like the one shared between Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad. Even after previous scandals, we take it for granted the players are giving of their best in every moment of the game. And now this.
Before the spot-fixing scandal broke on Saturday evening, I received an email from my best and oldest friend. It read: "It must have been a privilege and a delight to be able to watch this remarkable Test Match from (some of) the privileged seats!" Yes, it was indeed - except that now, of course, I've begun to doubt the evidence of my eyes. That's the point about corruption allegations in sport: they corrupt everything. As Christopher Martin-Jenkins said on Test Match Special, "They're like oil seeping from a tanker; they stain everything. Over on Sky, Ian Botham got it right too, when he said: "It's hard to get interested in the cricket, isn't it?"
But I wonder what the members of Kinross Cricket Club felt about it all. As I walked back from the pavilion about an hour before the start of the oddest Test Match session I've ever watched, I saw some young cricketers from this Perthshire-based club being guided to their seats. Apparently Kinross is, or was, The Wisden Cricketer's Club of the Year. I hope they enjoyed their day, insofar as they could.
Work began in earnest after the cricket ended. Post-match press conferences at Lord's are normally held in the Brian Johnston Film Theatre at the back of the Lord's Museum. That was the venue, even at the end of each day of the Ashes Test last year. On Sunday, though, they were shifted to the Thomas Lord suite, which accommodates rather more journalists and cameramen. This is understandable. Umar Akmal could have made 279 in 100 balls, never mind 79 in 68, and hardly anybody would have been writing about his innings. Cricket's made the front pages tomorrow, dammit.
There were no public post-match presentations. Exactly two hours after the end of the game, the England team trooped out of the pavilion and posed for a picture designed to show their "joy" at winning the series. There could have been few more suitable metaphors for the whole day.
Photo: PA Images