Tales From 2011
Tales From The Test, day 2
Paul Edwards continues from the Lords press box as England appear to have the upper hand.
The Numbers Game
I have news for you, although it may not be please the sports editors who have been asking their best writers to celebrate the fact that this is the 2,000th Test match in cricket history: according to a number of respected historians, it isn't; it's the 1,999th.
You only get to a total of 2,000 if you include the unloved, unremembered ICC Super Series Test Match which took place in Australia hard on the heels of the 2005 Ashes. Admittedly, the non-contest in Sydney suffered by comparison with perhaps the best five-game series in the 134-year history of Test cricket. Nevertheless, it also fell prey to the administrators' misguided desire to hype their product. This led to a trio of misnomers being attached to an encounter which wasn't a series, wasn't super and wasn't a Test match.
The first two one could cope with, but it really isn't unreasonable to argue that Tests should be played between nations, not the most powerful cricketing country in the world at the time and a collection of international players, however talented or highly-rated they may have been. Every other Test has at least been played between countries, even if the teams "selected" were, on occasions, hardly representative of their motherlands' cricketing strength.
All of which may have seemed like mere nitpicking to cricket fans at Lord's on Friday as they watched Kevin Pietersen score an unbeaten double hundred which progressed from the scratchy to the obdurate until it ended in a fusillade of uninhibited shots. The England batsman scored his last 50 runs off 25 deliveries as Andrew Strauss's team raced from 350 to 450 in only 95 balls.
By the end of the evening session the Indian bowlers and fielders were looking throughly battered, and no one could blame them. A hamstring injury had deprived the tourists of their spearhead, Zaheer Khan, and much of the heavy lifting had perforce been done by Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh.
Of this trio, Kumar was easily the most impressive and not just on account of his two wickets in four balls in mid-afternoon or his five-wicket haul by the end of the day. It is generally recognised that the Uttar Pradesh bowler has no great pace, but he is able to swing the ball both ways and bowl a tight line and length.
Kumar's figures in the morning session - 10-3-19-1 - proclaimed his rectitude, and by tea he had conceded only 85 runs off 34.3 overs. Even at the end of Pietersen's merciless assault in the final session, Kumar had an analysis of 40.3-10-106-5. In only his fourth Test he had held the Indian attack together and he well deserved his place on the Lord's honours board.
So it probably didn't matter too much to Kumar whether the current Test is the 1,999th or 2,000th in history. Nor did it matter to Pietersen at the end of perhaps his best innings for England. I doubt the crowd cared a fat lot either: in all probability they had Tendulkar and Laxman to look forward to on the third day. What do a few numbers matter when compared with that?
Photo (c) PA Images
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