Shame. I was so looking forward to the third Test with all its ponderables – would Andrew Strauss be punished by the cricket gods for becoming the latest and most signficant Ashes protagonist to question Australia’s aura, would Ian Bell get a run, would Brad Haddin prove misguided in his bizarre assertion that Mitchell Johnson “is still taking wickets for us” (he quite clearly isn’t – see his figures at Lord’s and against Northamptonshire) and would the captain’s stated intention to stand by his leading paceman be excellent man-management or an indication that Ponting has finally lost his marbles?
And, perhaps most important, would Johnson’s mother turn up to barrack him from the Edgbaston sidelines in the best you-almost-couldn’t-make-it-up-Australian-cricketer-versus-mum-story since Shane Warne’s mater pressed something from a blister-pack and handed it to him, saying : “This should help you get rid of those few extra pounds, darlin’.”
But now it seems those questions will remain unanswered, for at least the first couple of days, anyway, because of England’s finest impediment to top-class sport (apart from lack of ability): rain.
Cricinfo is claiming to have been told that there is no chance of play on the first day, it’s not looking too good for the second, despite sunshine forecast for both, and by the third and fourth showers will back to do their worst. And to back up its claim is a picture of a puddle-strewn outfield. Is there any point in any of the many previews that will come from the wise and wordy in newspaper or blog? Might those attending be advised to cancel their hotel bookings?
I can’t remember experiencing such a depressing build-up to a Test match, especially one that has so many intriguing subplots. The England players had barely returned bladdered to their hotel rooms at 4am on the Tuesday morning before Steve Rouse, the Warwickshire groundsman, was covering his arse with claims that the weather had already put him three days behind on preparation.
Days later, he was explicitly stating that the pitch would be a bowler’s graveyard, encouraging us to think in terms of enormous scores and bore draws before a ball was delivered in anger. And now we are given to understand that Edgbaston, despite being first on the case many moons ago with the ‘brumbella’ and four super-soppers, is one of the slowest drying grounds in the country.
The word ‘marshy’ has been used more than once and not just in passing mention of the great former Australian wicketkeeper. In fact, so unsuitable it seems has the Edgbaston outfield become for cricket that one might expect the local council to move in and designate its alternative use as a wildlife sanctuary.
Sadly, the only ducks we are likely to see will not be those in Mitchell Johnson’s wickets column but ones that have flown in for the duration.