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Tales from the Test - day 2

Tales from the Test - day 2

Paul Edwards doffs his cap towards Pakistan on another difficult day for the touring side at Edgbaston.

Yesterday it was hard hats; today I have been thinking about caps. Both England and Pakistan wear headgear unadorned by a sponsor's logo when fielding, but for the press conferences after each day's play, Andrew Strauss's players sport a baseball cap advertising the name of the company ploughing their cash into Team England.

Does this matter very much? Probably not, but I still prefer the Pakistani, and indeed the Australian, approach of wearing the national cap when they are discussing their team's performance. It suggests that there is one part of a player's body which should remain free of advertisments and it makes sense that this should be the head. After all, we talk of a player winning their first cap, not their first sweater or shirt.

Australians invest their "baggy green" with an almost sacred importance and some argue that they go over the top in doing so. Nevertheless, at the end of each day's play in last year's Ashes series, there they were, proudly wearing the often battered cap they had been awarded on their Test debut, not a sharp-peaked substitute emblazoned with the logo of their current backer. It was impressive.

In offering this view, I am in no way denying the importance of sponsorship in helping to sustain the game at all levels. Each national team, each series, each league and each forward-thinking club now has an official sponsor which journalists are rightly expected to mention in their copy. Almost any professional sport would be on its knees without business involvement. In a way, that makes it all the more important that there should be one area free from such influence.

Some readers may now be thinking that it is richly ironic that I should be praising a Pakistani practice after one of the worst days in their Test history. That's true, of course, but I actually thought that Salman Butt was both dignified and honest in his appraisal of his team's inadequacies last night. No, he said, he didn't want to make excuses for Pakistan's failings but great credit should be given to the England bowlers. Yes, it was frustrating when catches went down but it's part of the game. As for the rest of the match and the series, Butt was very clear: "We have been doing this all our lives and we have to clear up our own mess." he said.

There is, however, one far greater "mess" which Butt's countrymen should not be left to clear up by themselves. Before this Test match began, news had come in of the devastating floods in Pakistan. As the game has unfolded, it's become fairly clear that the worst is not over. In each interval, a charity advertisement has been shown asking spectators at the Test to give as much money as they could afford to the flood relief fund. The coins rattling in the buckets of the collectors this morning were a reminder of how fortunate we were to be able to watch cricket in relative peace and comfort.

Yet sport's capacity to carry on in all but the most desperate circumstances is well documented. Precisely a fortnight after the 7/7 bombings in London the greatest Ashes series of all began with cricketers and fans both determined to play on despite the threat of terrorism. Who knows when Pakistan will play a home Test in their homeland again, yet two weeks ago they defeated Australia and shared the series 1-1. The performance of their batsmen and fielders in this Test may have been lamentable so far, but that should not obscure the broader context of the occasion.

And so I must fail Norman Tebbit's cricket test - again. I am delighted to see Pakistan fight back after the tea interval of a disjointed day at Edgbaston. Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal takes four wickets for two runs in 26 balls and finishes with a Test best five for 82. I want to see the tourists make a proper fight of it in the second innings and not just because I reckon it is the sort of preparation England need in advance of the Ashes this winter. Children will have tickets for tomorrow and they will relish a day's play far more than a refund. The 10,000 or so spectators are enjoying themselves in the bright evening sunshine as I write. Orville the Duck is cavorting up and down the Eric Hollies Stand, the banter is essentially good humoured.....I could do with another day or so of this before I return home to Old Trafford next week.

Photo: PA Images                 .                 


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