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Up, down and sideways at Lord's

England beat Bangladesh comfortably enough at Lord's. That was to be expected. Strauss re-established himself to full authority as captain with personal runs – that is good for the team. And Finn confirmed the excellent impressions he made during the winter . Then there were the Trott runs which gives a pleasing look to the upper batting order. Meanwhile spare a thought for the unfortunate Cook who was twice “sawn off” with incorrect lbw decisions.
Now for the downside. The decision to play a sixth batsman against the weakest bowling side in the world was not only unfathomable but did one piece of incalculable damage. It was as if the selectors did not really trust the established players, whether top, middle or lower order players. Worst of all was the sideways swipe at Peterson – as if to say that he was an uncertain quantity and needed extra back-up. So Peterson reacted in just that way. As if to say in reply “ if that is what you selectors think of me, then that is the way I will play.”
On the face of it, Peterson played the most stupidly irresponsible innings I have ever seen for England. But since he was not given any responsibility in the first place, who can blame him. I am as sure as I know I have become a lousy putter that in a five batsman line-up, we would have seen a completely different Peterson. More than likely he would have made plenty of runs and that sort of time in the middle against weak bowling is just what every batsman, however talented, always needs. Bah! It makes me mad just thinking of the pure boneheaded selection folly.
The further damage was visited on our excellent lower order i.e. Prior, Bresnan and Swann who only batted when it was “slog” time before the declaration. What a sorry mess it all was.
So we come to the bowling, which, Finn apart was as creaky as a rusty gate. If ever we needed a five bowler attack it was in this first Test of the summer. It really should have dawned on selectors that: a. England would always bat first, win the toss or not., and: b. that enforcing the follow-on was a strong possibility. It meant that Anderson and Bresnan, both short of a couple of gallops, were both exposed over long periods, as pretty dreadful. Their “pitch maps” with scattergun line and consistent underpitching were as bad as I have seen.
Anderson is once again being excused for a pretty dismal performance. He gets the new ball – he gets to bowl at the best end and yet he continues to dissappoint. The only slightly positive note was that on the last day, he seemed to have decided (or even better been persuaded) to bowl his stock “away” swing ball consistently instead of the “inners” and “outers” which tend to be off line most of the time. He can be a dangerous swing bowler but only in extremely helpful conditions and the reason for that is that the “seam” is turned too sharply to the left. So it either goes a lot or not at all. That is also why he never seams the ball back into the right handers. Bresnan simply bowled too short and from too wide of the crease. Not for the first time I was hoping desperately that Strauss would give an ultimatum i.e. bowl every ball to hit the stumps - not wide and not over the top= or else!
With luck, and thanks to a sensible debut by Morgan and a failure by Bell, the selectors will drop the latter for the Manchester game and bring in an extra bowler. If they are still worried about the batting, they could do worse than give the admirable Martin- Jenkins a game. At least he can bowl a length and a line and is in full practise.
A final few words of praise for the Lord's pitch. In recent years the bounce has been a bit low but this one was ideal: heaven for the proper batsmen but with enough life to make it hard for the tail to survive. There was not much sideways movement for seamers and spinners alike except some generous swing when the sky was overcast. And the beautifully prepared outfield kept some shine on the ball. Well done the MCC.

T20 Birthday Present

Readers of the Times may have noticed a 75th Birthday notice about me on May 15th. Two things. Saying that my favourite dish, worth driving 80 mile through the mountains to enjoy, looked pretty prosaic when referred to as "boiled meats". The dish is "bollito" with "salsa verde". In the event it was hardly worth it with slightly dry meat, a salsa without much taste and a bottle of corked wine. However the two hours spent in the gorgeous town centre of Cuneo was worth any amount of good meals. I have never enjoyed window shopping so much, all under cover of heavy arches with a general level of elegance unmatched. There were no signs of recession in Cuneo. The second slightly off-beat comment concerned my boast at winning the longest drive at the eighteenth hole at Cannes Mougins GC. Mentioning that some of the other contestants were perhaps even older than me turned into the idea that all the other contestants were somewhat geriatric. There were indeed older players than me but plenty of younger ones too: and, young or old, the members at this lovely Club have made me very welcome in my six years in Nice. I would hate them to feel slighted in any way. For the record the drive was 260 yards on softish ground with a slight uphill at the 250 yard mark.
Of course that slight frisson of pleasure was as nothing compared with watching England beating the Australians fair and square in the T20 Final. I decided to open the champagne within 30 minutes of the start and hardly had a moment to regret it. All this to watch AND the highest quality comments to hear from Michael Atherton who was enjoying the thought of a winning nine to one betting slip in his hip pocket. Will Nick Knight please take a moment to reconsider his out of order comment which labled Collingwood as "not a natural captain". Can any of us remember an England team playing with such drive, purpose and confidence? Please nobody tell me that it all came from the "coaching staff". Congratulations to Collingwood. Natural or not he came out of a testing fortnight with flying colours and a team to be proud of.