Paul Edwards makes his way around the building site and in to the Press Box at Edgbaston for the first day of the Test
Spectators visiting Test match grounds in England these days need to pack hard hats along with their sandwiches.
Old Trafford and the Rose Bowl may be between phases of redevelopment, but work is very much in progress at the Riverside, and at Edgbaston the whole of what used to be the Pavilion End is now a mass of concrete and girders. Nor does the work stop for the little matter of county or international cricket.
At Durham the smack of leather on willow was punctuated by the clang of mallet on transom; in Birmingham this morning the mechanical diggers continued to trundle around and the cranes tilted purposefully even as James Anderson was running in to bowl the first ball of the match from the Breezeblock End. Or maybe we should call it the Schubert End.
One suspects that the full impact of all this was lost on television viewers. An advantage rightly cited by people who choose to watch their cricket at home is that they get a better view than those in say, the Wyatt or Hollies stands. However, their angle is effectively chosen for them by the director, who has no wish to train his cameras on a building site. Watching the game from the press box at the City End this morning, it was impossible to miss the skeletal structure opposite you. It formed a bleak backcloth to almost all the game's incidents.
Mind you, the skies were grey too this morning and the conditions could hardly have been more conducive to swing or seam bowling. All of which made me wonder why Pakistan chose to bat, a decision they were surely regretting when they came into lunch on 37 for six, their runs having been ground out in a first session which reminded me what Test cricket used to be like around the 1960s.
Things didn't get much better for the tourists after lunch, although at least their last four wickets added a modest 35 runs to their tally. This is still Pakistan's lowest total against England and even greater embarrassment might have been on the way, had the lbw decision given by Marais Erasmus against Mohammed Amir not been overturned. As historians of the Counter-Reformation might point out, this was not the first time that one of Erasmus's beliefs had been rejected. Later in the day, continuing my theological theme, a number of men dressed as priests were ejected from the ground. I doubt it was because they were denouncing the umpire.
Nevertheless, by mid-afternoon Pakistan's excellent seam bowlers Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Asif were doing what they should have been doing at eleven o'clock: making the most of the opportunity to unsettle England's brittle batting. It was good to see Zulquarnain Haider take his first catch in Test cricket, especially as he had earlier joined the pretty illustrious list of batsmen who had been dismissed first ball on their Test debut. Haider is the 55th batsmen to lose his wicket to his very first delivery in Test cricket. But only the New Zealander F T Badcock in 1930 has managed to collect a king pair on debut. Incidentally, a colleague googled the unfortunate Badcock and the first reference he is given is to an "upright freezer". It sort of figures.
And finally, on a Lancastrian note, congratulations go to Jimmy Anderson on playing his 50th Test, and on taking four for 20. The 28-year-old wrapped up Pakistan's first innings by taking three wickets for one run in ten balls. He now has 180 Test scalps and has five innings this summer to reach 200. Given the confidence shown by Pakistan's batsmen when facing him, one would not bet against him reaching the landmark at Lord's. This has been one of those rare days in Test cricket when, barring weather, a game's result is decided on the first day. For the sake of Pakistani cricket, I'd love to be proved wrong on that one.
Photo: James Anderson celebrates his dismissal of Shoiab Malik (PA Images)