Is it love – or just a short Flynn?

A female acquaintance once told me that it takes a woman about 19 seconds from starting to talk to you to know whether she’d sleep with you. I don’t think it was a come-on and it probably explains why speed-dating has become the phenomenon it has, as well as clarifying for men that they have mostly wasted an inordinate amount of time in their lives flogging a dead horse, but it is a thought-provoking statement, if true. What on earth, you might reasonably ask, however, does this have to do with cricket? The answer is disarmingly simple: I believe there is a similar dynamic at work with cricketers. Not, you understand, in a sexual sense, although – hey – if an unusually strong attraction to men in white flannels, or, in the case of Middlesex’s one-day kit, pink and blue squares, is your aberration, who am I to argue?
No, what I am getting at is the ability of the seasoned cricket observer to spot or sense, almost in an instant – and certainly after 19 seconds – that player who seems to have that little bit extra, that almost inexplicable sliver of of class that makes them one to mark down “for the future”. I had that experience on the first day of England’s opening Test against New Zealand when Daniel Flynn came into bat, his side tottering at 76 for four. With Stuart Broad bowling impressively, fired up after removing James Marshall and unearthing the away swing that most ‘experts’ seem to think he does not possess, the television commentators expressed anxiety that the chunky left-hander from the Northern Districts might go the same way as his fellow debutant Aaron Redmond, dismissed for a duck in his first over of Test cricket.
Broad ran up, delivered the perfect first ball to the 23-year-old, an inswinger a smidgen fuller than a good length zeroing in on middle stump; a test enough for even a seasoned Test campaigner. But Flynn timed his prop forward exquisitely, aligning bat perfectly with front pad and the ball resoundingly found the middle of a defensive bat. Lying on my sick couch, wrapped uncomfortably in a knot of twisted duvet and sweaty tracksuit bottoms as I recuperated from a three-week battle with food poisoning, I was forced to sit up and hastily rearrange my attire to take on a more respectable pose as surely as I would have done had Michelle Pfeiffer unexpectedly walked into my front room and asked for an audience with me.
If it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, it was a close-run thing. By the time he had executed two elegant flicks off his pads from the differing threats of Collingwood and Sidebottom, a strong bond was already developing; when he moved just a little too far across to the off-side to Jame Anderson and the ball scraped off his pad to bowl him round his legs for only nine, I experienced that sinking feeling familiar to those who are dumped two weeks into what appears to be a burgeoning relationship. I took solace in Nasser Hussain’s observation that Flynn, whose attractions I discovered later had obviously been noted in his native country at a tender age, earning him the captaincy of the national Under-19 side, had been particularly unlucky.
So had Nasser seen what I’d seen? And had anyone else? Or was it just a hopeless infatuation? First, I scoured Cricinfo’s online commentary for his first over, and this is what it recorded: “Broad to Flynn, no run, straight ball from Broad, who brings it back into the left-hander and Flynn defends pretty well, he looked solid in defence there.” Encouraging. Then, having missed a second opportunity to view him in the second innings, when, by all accounts, he gave excellent support to Jacob Oram, I came across his captain’s comments on the web.
“He’s got that No. 6 role basically for as long as he wants and if he keeps producing performances like he did first up then it is the start of a good career for him,” Daniel Vettori was quoted as saying. “The way he acknowledged Jacob was the aggressor, and that he could sit back, play a composed innings, turn over the strike and not take too many risks was a great sign for a guy in his first Test.”
Vindication, then? Perhaps. There is a school of thought that first impressions can be misleading; indeed, English cricket is littered with the broken hearts of those who fell deep into enchantment with this player or that who failed to fulfil the hopes invested in them. It’s early days, but by the end of this series I fully expect my initial assessment of Flynn to have been justified. Call it consummation, if you like. 


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