With England tottering at 25 for seven in Jamaica and the home supporters carnivaling like it’s 2009, the Sky cameras switched to the man leading the new era, Andrew Strauss, on the team balcony. Alongside, fellow opener Alistair Cook, he was laughing. A few minutes later, Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom met in mid-pitch for a between-overs conference, and also seemed to be sharing a joke.
Had I missed something? Was something funny happening? Yes, that was it, England were obviously batting for Comic Relief. But no. I was quickly assured that isn’t until March 13 and none of the players had pre-recorded an appeal for starving children in Africa.
OK, so had I pressed the wrong numbers on my remote and hit Richard Hammond in the middle of Total Wipeout. But no, it wasn’t that either.
It was reality; the same sort of reality that descended on Port-of-Spain in 1994, Adelaide in 2006 and, probably, Sydney, in January 1887 when England plummeted to what remains their lowest score in Test cricket: 45.
Yet, if you look at the scorecard for that Test at the SCG, you discover something quite remarkable, and which puts the 51 that they cobbled together in the 33.2 overs of their second innings today, into an even worse light: they won that game.
Shocking as this defeat was, I was filled with one moment of clarity: while this was dreadful for England, this was great for cricket. We can pull apart the England batting, Cook’s inability to get properly forward to an innocuous full length ball – I won’t remind the Reverse Sweep regular reader that I’ve been going on about this technical fault in the Essex opener’s batting for more than three years – Pietersen trying to push an off-side yorker through the leg side, Matthew Prior failing to read a slower ball cutter, and public enemy No1 Ian Bell’s inability to execute a straightforward square cut two balls before lunch.
No, I’d rather concentrate on the joy outpouring from Sabina Park at a destructive spell from Jerome Taylor, excellent probing from Sulieman Benn and the sensible batting from their tail as well as their top order, and pray that it spreads throughout the Caribbean and gives the game the kind of impetus that many thought the Stanford Millions win would bring.
Certainly, England can still win the series, but the bowling attack perhaps more than the batting needs a kick up the backside. Steve Harmison can no longer continue to perform in one game – as he did when brought back against South Africa at the Oval for the final Test last summer – and then return to his mediocre self for the next several matches.
Monty Panesar needs to develop an arm ball, but more pertinently, the skill of tossing the ball up above the eye line which still dips enough to be testing to the batsman pressing on to the front foot. And Sidebottom needs to get fitter.
But the main trouble with England, as Nasser Hussain pointed out almost in a throwaway remark during the lunch interval, is that nobody in the team is improving, perhaps except KP, and he doesn’t need to improve too much.
Now I’m off to read the opinions on the rest of the blogosphere before the fury coming from no doubt angry and humiliated English authors sends it into meltdown.
ANYONE wishing to read a view of the Adelaide debacle should go and buy this http://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-Raining-Palaces-Dunny-Door/dp/1905411081/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234038239&sr=1-1
ANYONE wishing to read about England’s worst collapses, including Trinidad in 1994 should go and buy this http://www.amazon.co.uk/Worst-Cricket-Sport/dp/1905411235/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234038239&sr=1-3