The Saturday of a Lords Test is always special, an Ashes one very special, but yesterday can only be described as very, very special.
I cannot remember a more absorbing day of Test cricket. It had everything: incident, but better than that – so close was and is – the encounter that you cannot predict the result. All this is the more surprising as six sessions have been lost.
Being an early bird, I arrive at Lords at 10.00am, enjoy the morning’s play, fall asleep in the afternoon and leave after tea.
Yesterday the morning play was probably the least exciting of all. There seems no workable strategy to dismiss Steve Smith. His fidgety self seemed glued to the crease totting up runs.
As my head lolled and I was in that state of semi-consciousness my mind went back to one of the first Tests I attended at Lords when gold chain around his neck, ebony chest glistening, Wes Hall roared in from the Pavilion gate.
Cricket at its best can be reduced to the struggle between bat and ball. I think of AA Donald peppering Mike Atherton in that marathon innings in Joburg in 1995: Geoff Boycott surviving 2 overs from Mike Holding when he was as unplayable as the Barbados wicket: Charlie Griffiths bumping Derek Underwood and John Snow doing the same to Terry Jenner; West Indian bowlers from Andy Roberts to Curtly Ambrose terrorising English batsmen, as did Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
He is a genuine hostile speedster the like of which we have not seen in an England shirt since Frank Tyson.
Archer was buoyed by a baying Lords who nonetheless showed the utmost concern when Steve Smith was felled and clapped him back to the pavilion.
Aside from Archer, we saw a potential hat-trick from Pat Cummins, two dropped catches by David Warner, two “dismissals” by Nathan Lyon that were not given and a conclusion where your guess is as good or mine as to the result.
Already one up in the Ashes the Aussies need not take any risks and I don’t think they will.
England therefore have to survive after lunch and hope to dismiss the Aussies in play extended till 7pm. We could have a finale to equal that of the England v Werst Indies here at Lords in 1963.
It seems curmudgeonly to criticise but why-oh-why was play not started at 10.00 am on Friday and Saturday?
I have heard arguments for the 11.00 start vary from on peak travel to morning dew. It’s easy in our digital age to contact ticket holders. It would have saved the Friday refund and if anything the outcome would be even more exciting.
Still we debenture holders who have seen an extraordinary Test against Ireland, the finest ODI ever in the World Cup Final and now this, can scarcely whinge.