Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Need For Duck-Worth Lewis at the Rosebowl

Until around 18:00 on Tuesday 6th September at a sodden Rosebowl in Southampton, the highlight of my day was getting Sunil Gavaskar to hold my duck. Now this isn’t some crude or inappropriate euphemism, I’d probably better explain.
My best friends father Mike, who is sadly no longer with us, took a cuddly duck with him to Australia for the 2006 Ashes series. Quite apt given the way the Aussies ripped through England’s batting order that year.
Anyway the Duck became an icon, sharing photo opportunities with the likes of Sir Ian Botham, Mike Atherton, and Merv Hughes, and now we can add to that fine list one of India’s greats. Childish I know, but Gavaskar was a great sport for humouring me at least!
Tuesday was one of those days where grown men acted like children in the face of unavoidable, unrelenting boredom. Some Indian fans led a group containing 2 father Christmases around the ground singing and banging Tabla’s, whilst others played hand cricket with vaguely round objects.
At 16:00, around the time various forecasts had predicted a change in the weather, the heavens opened again and everyone ran for cover under the impressive new West Stand at the Rosebowl. At that stage, some people cut their losses and left. My dad was faltering but I encouraged him to stay just a little longer. The latest a match could start was 7pm, so we still had some time for a little cricket.
At 17:30 the unthinkable happened; the rain stopped, and for more than a few minutes this time too. The magnificent ground staff, who had worked hard all day, leapt back into action soaking up the rain and preparing the wicket for a match.
A chilly Rosebowl - Tuesday 6th September 2011
The umpires, captains and coaches then did a little inspection after which the officials finally declared a game of sorts was on. 23 overs-a-side (that idea might catch on you know?)
The two sides then came out for their warm-ups and I watched with interest recalling Andrew Flintoff’s comments earlier this summer. Flintoff described an amateurish approach by the Indian players and he had a point. England came out and did some well coordinated stretches and fielding drills while India’s bowlers threw a few pies leisurely down a practice strip before doing a little catching practice. All very improvised.
There was a stark difference in the intensity between the two sides if nothing else; real purpose and intent from England, whilst India looked like a team just going through the motions. No wonder England look so much fitter.
A lonely Nick Knight
All these drills were overseen by a lonely looking Nick Knight, Sky Sports junior cricket commentator. He was out in the middle for what seemed an age, desperately looking for someone to talk to. A cameraman or an official would have sufficed, but no one was interested. You could imagine Bumble and Atherton back in the Sky commentary box having a little chuckle at the ex-Warwickshire openers expense!
Finally the toss took place and Cook called correctly and put India in to bat. They did okay, scoring 187-7 from 23 overs, but it always seemed a little shy on a flat wicket and with a limited bowling attack at their disposal. The home side always looked in control and reached the target with 5 balls to spare. Cook deserved the man of the match award for an impressive 80 not out, leading his side to victory.
The crowd, and in particular the Indian contingent was superb. I have seen England versus Australia in ODI’s at the Rosebowl in the past and in many ways I preferred this game. There is such huge support for Indian cricket in this country that matches like this are always well attended and fiercely supported – I wish we played India more often to be honest. It keeps the interest up when other tours can sometimes peter out.
With the vociferous support at the Rosebowl came unfortunately the odd bigoted moron expressing xenophobic views. These clowns were completely in the minority though thankfully.
And so miraculously we had a decent game after all that wind, rain and coldness. India batted well but bowled averagely while England executed both disciplines with distinction. The good news is that with the likes of Parthiv Patel and Suresh Raina coming through India has some promise in the batting department. Their bowling unit however is a different story.
Still, at least India won’t return home with too many more ducks…
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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