England’s Lord’s rally posts reminder that sport is best enjoyed without bickering
To the unconverted and casual observer of cricket in England over the past 15 months, one who notes the headlines in newsprint or cocks an ear to the radio bulletins occasionally, the sport is played with mood hoovers and Dairylea slices, with its participants scored on their trustworthiness and its teams ranked by way of their dressing room culture.
Such has been the noise during this turbulent chapter in the history of the national team and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s struggle to suppress its star-in-exile , that one half-expected Alastair Cook, on losing the toss and being inserted by New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, to be asked for his latest not-me-guv response to the unchanged situation.
But day one of the Lord’s Test has, in recent weeks, represented something of a life raft for those lovers of the game who have wished a plague on both the houses of KP and and either took their seats or tuned in to watch a youthful England side, featuring two exciting debutants in the Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth and Durham fast bowler Mark Wood, take on cricket’s answer to the Hell’s Angels on the grandest of stages.
Let’s face it, chuntering about the state of England’s new jumpers – a cable-knit of white polyester, as opposed to the traditional cream lambswool adorning the visitors – or admiring the Bruce Forsyth-esque footwork of Whitby’s first Test cricketer, Lyth, as he gambolled down the pavilion steps for a first taste of Test cricket, is a far more relaxing experience when the angst of the Pietersen saga is, temporarily at least, put to one side.
It must be said, of course, that using the polite and respectful hum of the Lord’s crowd to check the pulse of English cricket is akin to placing the stethoscope on the patient’s shiny wristwatch. The champagne corks pop come rain or shine, collapse or counterattack, and the mood at the Home of generally remains as effervescent as the liquids poured thereafter.
Over on social media, when England hit the skids at 30 for four, a commentary was unfolding that was a far cry from the ripples of respectful applause in the ground for the admirable talents of Messrs Boult, Southee and Henry. Piers Morgan – who else? – , just as Moeen Ali was walking back from the nets to hurriedly don his whites, and a chorus of doom and gloom dripped down the timelines.
Among all this, meanwhile, was some good old English gallows humour, the highlight of which was the description of England’s top order as .
But Joe Root and Ben Stokes – the latter eschewing the garment in question – provided the perfect antidote with a fifth-wicket stand of 161 runs, one that pointed to a bright future on the field rather than the bickering about the past that has dogged events away from it.
This is not to say that those still embittered by Pietersen’s continued exclusion should not feel free to keep fighting what they deem the good fight. Their voices remain as valid as any, as are those supporters concerned by dwindling participation at grassroots level, cricket’s seclusion behind the TV paywall or the machinations of the power-brokers at the International Cricket Council.
But watching Root and Stokes battle back at a zesty five runs an over in glorious sunshine was a reminder that cricket – and all sport for that matter – is often best enjoyed by unhooking from the issues that blight its administration and simply drinking in what unfolds in front of you. It was a cracking counterattack.