“Would Jonah Lomu rate a mention?” wonders Allan MacDonald. “Rugby’s first and to-date only global superstar, he completely changed the way rugby was played and was the template for a wholly new type of winger. There have been wingers who are taller/heavier than Lomu, but no-one has been bigger. And, like Shane Warne, sadly taken from us far too soon.”
I went to a sports supper quiz with my dad sometime in 1995, and though I know nothing about rugby union, got full marks on the rugby World Cup round. My dad was shocked, so I was forced to confess that its scheduling during my GCSE study leave may have had something to do with it. Anyhow, Lomu was indeed like nothing I’d ever seen before – did he change the game, or was he seen as a one-off? I guess James Small and Joost van der Westhuizen were his Tendulkar and VVS.
“A thought on your game-changers topic of discussion,” emails Neil Stewart. “In cricket, Ranjitsinhji must be a good candidate as a batter. He was a pioneer in playing shots all around the wicket, both in front and behind (apparently the latter was uncommon up to the Edwardian era), and playing off the back foot. He even invented the leg-glance! Pretty revolutionary.”
Absolutely, plus a fair bit of presence too.
“Presumably the England bowlers are being a bit rubbish because they know they will all be dropped for the next Test on account of the top-order batting failure yesterday,” snarks Robin Hazlehurst. “And if they all bowl like drains then maybe England’s selection policy will mean the batsmen get dropped instead.”
Lunchtime email: “I was the Rajasthan Royals videographer from 2008 to 2012,” emails Julian Dismore. “At first Warney wasn’t very welcoming – to put it mildly – he was understandably worried about a cameraman filming his ‘exuberant refuelling’ between matches. But a dance-off at a post IPL match party changed all that. He was in hysterics and said watching me dance was the most entertaining ‘15 minutes of his life’ – which made me feel incredibly proud. That man had had some very entertaining 15 minutes! We’d bonded – and after that he couldn’t have been more helpful and generous with his time. We had so many laughs together in India, South Africa, Australia and England. He was without doubt the most charismatic man I’ve ever met. His knowledge of the game was unparalleled and he loved imparting it to his protégés. He is already terribly missed, but will never be forgotten.”
Lovely stuff, thanks for that.
I’m off to buy some sweets; see you in around half an hour, to do some emails and get on with the afternoon session. It should be a belter.
10th over: West Indies 44-0 (Brathwaite 29, Campbell 14) Playing away from his body, Brathwaite slices past gully for two, then slashes at a wide, bouncy one, which leaps over gully for four more. This bowling has been no better than yesterday morning’s batting – it’s the way I tell ‘em – and that’s lunch.
“The subtle art of captaincy,” says Charles Sheldrick. “Woakes is being slapped round the park like a Sunday-afternoon trundler. Overton keeping it quiet at the other end so Root takes Overton off.”
I guess he needed to get Wood on and fancied Woakes was still more likely to get the breakthrough, but ultimately England have left out bowlers better than both – on purpose – so nothing surprises me.
9th over: West Indies 36-0 (Brathwaite 21, Campbell 14) Root tosses Leach the ball for the obligatory go-around before lunch, whenever that happens to be; Campbell comes down to his loosener and prods towards short leg, but Lees can’t grab quickly enough to shy at the stumps. Maiden.
8th over: West Indies 36-0 (Brathwaite 21, Campbell 14) Wood is settled now, bowling with a first slip, third slip, gully and short leg; he hits 92mph before Campbell turns him into the on side for one. It’s the only run of the over, and West Indies are still to lose a wicket; this is your reminder that England opted to leave 1137 of the badgers at home because, well, er, um, but, um, er, but, um, um, er.
7th over: West Indies 35-0 (Brathwaite 21, Campbell 13) Woakes overpitches and Brathwaite steps gently down the pitch to send the ball hurtling past the bowler and to the fence … then, three balls later, whips four more to deep backward square! This is excellent from the hosts and miserable from the tourists … but the session is extended, presumably because it rained earlier.
6th over: West Indies 27-0 (Brathwaite 13, Campbell 13) Root has seen enough, sending Wood on for Overton, and Brathwaite quickly gets down the other end with a single to cover. So Wood goes around to Campbell, hitting the pads as the batter falls towards the off side, but all in all this has been a poor min-sesh from England, who’ve one over to redeem things.
5th over: West Indies 26-0 (Brathwaite 12, Campbell 13) I know they use the Duke ball in the Caribbean, but Woakes is still extremely lucky to be leading England’s attack in this series; I know he bats nicely and perhaps he’ll be useful in the summer, but he is not a better – or more hiLarious option – than Stuart Broad. anyhow, his first delivery is straight so Brathwaite twizzles him for four to fine leg, then shoves him to long off for three; two more to Campbell make it nine off the over and West Indies have started nicely.
4th over: West Indies 17-0 (Brathwaite 5, Campbell 11) West Indies have settled now, and the batsmen take a single each; again, stop whatever you’re doing and inspire yourself courtesy of Michael Stipe. I defy you not to love it.
3rd over: West Indies 15-0 (Brathwaite 4, Campbell 10) A jaffa to begin Woakes’ second over, wobble-seamed across Campbell and leaving him, too good for his outside-edge; Campbell responds well, larruping a short one over midwicket for four. So Woakes goes back to slanting across, again beating the outside edge; it’s a no ball, it turns out, but that was still a really fine delivery … only for the next to be sent over midwicket too for four more!
“I can’t think of a sportsperson in history where a player completely reinvented, or at least rediscovered, a way of playing their sport which was completely novel,” says Thomas Atkins. “Brady, for all his longevity and brilliance, basically did what other people do, just better. Warne came along and bowled in a way nobody below a certain age had ever seen before. It was like he’d been beamed down from space.”
And when to that, you add the personality that meant he could grab hold of a match, then refocus it to be all about him, you’ve got something extremely special. I’m reminded, as it goes, of Michael Stipe’s beautiful and moving speech inducting Nirvana into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Watch it, it’s only a few minutes, and I promise your eyeballs will be sweating in the aftermath.
2nd over: West Indies 5-0 (Brathwaite 4, Campbell 1) I was wondering who’d share the new ball with Woakes, and it’s not Wood, it’s Overton. I can see why – Wood is dangerous without the shine, and can generate reverse – but on a new-ball wicket in particular, I’d have gone for his extra pace; if I’m honest, I don’t totally understand the wisdom of even picking Overton, who’s never struck me as a difference-maker at this level. Anyhow, Overton starts around to the left-handed Campbell and sees his final delivery shoved into the off side for one.
1st over: West Indies 4-0 (Brathwaite 4, Campbell 0) Yeah, this is brilliant stuff – the crowd are singing Jerusalem once again, hurray, amazing, what an effort! Brathwaite sees away Woakes’ first three balls, then is almost foxed by one moving in; to redress the balance, he gets down on one knee to crash a drive through mid off for four.
Righto, back we go. This is, it seems a new-ball wicket, so England, armed with 311 rescued from 48-4, will be wanting to get stuck into West Indies early. Let’s see…
“Brady vs Ali is an interesting debate,” emails Freddie Heynes. “As a recent follower of the NFL, I was unaware of quite how dominant Brady was during his (exceptionally long) 22 season career as a quarterback. Wikipedia has a list as long as a YJB six of his various records and achievements. Ali is undoubtedly an incredible boxer – don’t get me wrong – but Brady might just be the greatest sportsman of his discipline the world has ever seen. Hopefully YJB continues in current form – I’ve spent so long fiddling over this email that I’ve missed any updates since the Overton wicket.”
Brady, though, was just good at what he did – there’s no cultural currency of which I’m aware, nor any innovation that was all his.
“Gamechangers,” says John Starbuck. “If you stick to cricket, measure it by how their actions affected the game to the extent that the Laws were changed. WG Grace’s reactions with umpires, Douglas Jardine/Harold Larwood’s bodyline, Derek Underwood’s performance on sticky dogs, Mike Gatting/Shakoor Rana bringing in neutral Test umpires and Clive Lloyd’s fast bowling attacks generating increased bodily armour all deserve recognition.”
Sure, but I think I’m asking a slightly different question, about people who combine gamechanging genius with unstoppable competitive charisma. Either way, it’s a while since a celebrity death affected me as much as Warnie’s – no doubt I’m just the right age to be considering the passing of my childhood while wondering about my own mortality, but – and this is going to sound trite, so apologies – he felt like a mate in a way few sportsfolk do.
England will have wanted a few more, but they’re well in the match. The next hour will be crucial*.
*Likewise the hour after that and the hour after that.
WICKET! Bairstow c Holder b Joseph 140 (England all out 311)
This is an unbelievable catch, it really is. Bairstow looks to boom a drive down the ground but ends up carving to backward point, where the swirl deceives Holder, who winds up having to take it over his head, diving backwards. Brilliant grab to end a brilliant innings, and this match is properly set up.
100th over: England 311-9 (Bairstow 140, Leach 4) Roach surprises Bairstow with a bouncer and the pair exchange smiles, then he adds one more via pull to deep square. Roach, though, finds it harder to see the funny side when Leach edges his first ball at catchable height, only for Da Silva and Campbell to leave it for each other at cost of a boundary-four. That’s got to be keeper’s ball, given he’s wearing gloves and has the best look at it, and Roach, flapping arms and stamping foot, has been more gruntled.
99th over: England 306-9 (Bairstow 139, Leach 0) Now they take drinks, and because they crossed it’s Bairstow on strike – a law that will soon not exist. A leg bye follows.
“As I have no idea of how old you are,” says Mark Slater, “I shall give you the name of the person who really changed their sport and became an icon in doing so: Martina Navratilova. There were great players before, and Serena Williams is greater now than Navratilova was, but MN changed women’s tennis from a languid game played in pretty frocks into a professional athletic challenge. She took on players who otherwise would have been undisputed champions, each upping the level of the game, and beat them – Chris Evert, Tracey Austin, and those who peaked briefly. Martina Navratilova made women’s tennis a force in its own right.”
I’m 43 yesterday, and love Martina – see below. She was actually on my list when I had the conversation with my wife, and absolutely belongs on it. The 30 for 30 with her and Evert is a beautiful anatomy of a friendship.
WICKET! Wood c Permaul b Joseph 1 (England 305-9)
Cramped for space, Wood again defaults to his hook, or his hooke as he probably calls it, skying one to point.
99th over: England 305-8 (Bairstow 139, Wood 1) Drinks are delayed as consequence of the rain delay, then Joseph replaces Seales – I wonder if he’ll come back at the other end – and Bairstow takes his loosener for one to fine leg.
98th over: England 304-8 (Bairstow 138, Wood 1) Ah man, 90s cricket was so good: Wasim and Waqar, Courtney and Curtly, Warne and McGrath, Murali and Vaas, Ilott and McCague. Anyhow, Roach returns, and again Wood has no answer to a jaffa that moves away from him – he’s going to need Hazza Houdini to untangle his blood before he’s asked to bowl. Maiden, and that’s drinks I think.
97th over: England 304-8 (Bairstow 138, Wood 1) When your luck’s in it’s in, and Bairstow attempts a filthy slog, sending an edge for four disappearing over the cordon and to the fence for four, much to Seales’ amusement; two to extra follow, meaning England have now made more runs in this innings than in any in Australia. To emphasise the point, Bairstow opens the face for add four more, taking his team beyond 300! 300! I cannot believe what I’m seeing – and Jack Leach is still in the hut. Two singles follow, the second setting Wood away and making it 12 from the over.
96th over: England 292-8 (Bairstow 127, Wood 0) Bairstow picks Holder’s slower one, set down at the back of the hand; I’m not sure why he tried that first up, with the batters under pressure, and shonuff Bairstow flays it through cover for four. Two balls later, he’s through his drive too early, presenting the full face … and Holder, barely following-through, spills a dolly. Eesh, follow-through is right, and when Bairstow then pinches a single, he makes it home just as the throw breaks the stumps.
Back to Warne-level greatness, Charles Sheldrick suggests Ayrton Senna and David hHarland Wayne Gretzsky.
95th over: England 287-8 (Bairstow 122, Wood 0) I’m looking forward to a bit of Seales v Wood, and shonuff Wood unfurls a hook first up – he misses, on the duck, then controls himself and allows the remaining five balls to pass him by.
94th over: England 287-8 (Bairstow 122, Wood 0) A leg bye, then Holder totally befuddles Wood, whose attempts to play result in a bye – the first conceded by Da Silva all innings.
“I’m sure you’ve had this suggestion already but Muhammad Ali arguably helped change the world, let alone his sport,” says David Hopkins. “ On a related note, a friend recently made the quite ludicrous suggestion that he ranked Tom Brady higher than Ali. I’m still waiting for details of what possible metric this would be true by.”
Yes, of course – I was thinking in my time of watching sport, but forgot to add that parameter.
WICKET! Overton c Bonner b Seales 0 (England 285-6)
Ahahahaha! England! Three minutes ago, they were fully in control, and Overton defended his first ball very nicely … before glancing his second to short leg, where Bonner took an extremely smart catch. West Indies are right back in this!
WICKET! Woakes c Da Silva b Seales 28 (England 285-7)
This is an excellent bumper, leaping late and close to the body; Woakes raises hands as he tries to turn away, and the ball catches his thumb on the way to the keeper. Still, a(nother) very useful innings.
93rd over: England 285-6 (Bairstow 119, Woakes 28) Bairstow stomps down the track to base Seales, on for Roach, for three through cover.
On Warne, feel free to send in any recollections of the great man to start, here’s one of mine. I was lucky enough to ghost KP on Cricket, and when KP took me through the stuff that’s extracted here, I could barely believe the thrill I felt. It was all I could do to refrain from bawling my eyes out.
92nd over: England 282-6 (Bairstow 119, Woakes 27) Holder – who, let’s not forget, started his first spell yesterday with five maidens – sends down another.
“Dick Fosbury, Seve Ballesteros, John Curry, Danny Macaskill,” says Gary Naylor of sportsfolk on Warne’s level. Fosbury of course, but though he had the creativity and charisma I don’t think Seve was good enough – great as he was.
91st over: England 281-6 (Bairstow 119, Woakes 27) Five dots from Roach, then Woakes bumps down into the odd side and they race through for a single. This has been a good start from England – if West Indies get nothing out of the new ball, they’re in big trouble.
“I was just looking back to when England last scored 300 in a Test,” emails Pete Salmon, “and it seems to have been the third Test against India in August 2021. Only three England players are still in the team – Root, Bairstow and … Craig Overton! Well done that man.”
Craig Overthreeton, more like!!!!
90th over: England 281-6 (Bairstow 119, Woakes 27) Bairstow nurdles a single into the on side, then Woakes guides one through slip; not much going on here, until Holder delivers a beauty that gulls Bairstow into a drive; he misses with all but the outermost fibres of his outside edge, and it’s that which saves him from being bowled.
“That is indeed excellent news from His Bobness,” says John Foster. “Will he ever stop surprising, in the most wonderful ways? The announcement yesterday was some balm as I finally had to give up two tickets for his show in Lubbock, Texas last night, what with being stuck 6,000 miles away in East Kent. We got the tickets about a year ago (I grew up in Texas and haven’t been back for a while) when the original date was in August this year. It was such an extravagant purchase, my partner and I decided it would make an excellent honeymoon, so then we decided we’d finally get married to justify it. The show was rescheduled to yesterday not long ago and no refund because it wasn’t cancelled and too late to do anything about it.
So in a simple twist of fate, I spent yesterday evening planning a wedding while decidedly not sipping a Lone Star while basking in the glory of Bob’s latest opus. Still, all’s well that ends well – managed to find a nice French lady who needed tickets but couldn’t afford any, and was on the Greyhound from Albuquerque to Lubbock in expectation, so at least they went to a good home. Plus she contributed to the setlist on boblinks.com and I take a vicarious joy from that.
See you soon Bob.”
Ah man, mazal tov to you both!
89th over: England 279-6 (Bairstow 118, Woakes 26) The Jonny’s for turning, waiting for Roach and guiding a straight one around the corner for four. He’s seeing it like Comet Dibiasky, he really is, and will have Graham Gooch in his earworm telling him to make this a daddy. Roach responds well, swinging one in that snags away off the seam, before his final ball is sent for one to square leg.
“Whilst reading about the late, great Shane Warne,” emails Darrien Bold, “I instinctively started to utter ‘Bowling Warney’ in the Healy/Gilchrist style. This got me thinking, what are the memorable England wicket-keeping chirps? The first one that came into my head was the Gaffer giving it a solid ‘I like it Crofty’ after the batsman gets in a tangle over a straight one.”
Ah yes, the England spinner classic: was it the one that didn’t turn, or the one that went straight on? But goodness me, the late, great Shane Warne – what a dreadfully depressing combination of words that is. I’ve been thinking, over the last few days, which sportsfolk I’d put on his level of game-changing greatness. I came up with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Diego Maradona, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams.
We’ve only seen two overs, but England look pretty settled out there – and, as I type that, the covers are removed. Problem being, the wind keeps catching them so it’s turned into something of a struggle.
88th over: England 274-6 (Bairstow 113, Woakes 26) Jason Holder is invited to open from the other end, which makes sense – he bowled well yesterday, and West Indies needs his parsimony at this point. Sure enough, he induces an outside edge from Woakes, and the batters run two.
“Re broken records,” tweets Adrian Pennington, “look no further than the bittersweet end of Brighton Rock (1948) the Boulting Brothers’ brilliant reversioned ending to Greene’s novel.”
87th over: England 272-6 (Bairstow 113, Woakes 24) Kemar Roach has the ball while, in the crowd, various England fans sing Jerusalem then applaud themselves for so doing; it’s moving in the extreme. Anyhow, Roach directs an inswinger into Bairstow’s pads, so he turns away for two, then punches through extra for two more. Otherwise, a question: for those of us in the UK, is this the best tour in terms of following from home? On the one hand, there’s nothing like waking up to cricket, but on the other, there’s nothing like cricket nursing you through the post-lunch carb hangover and beyond.
Sam Billings has just compared himself to a broken record, which made me wonder: do broken records actually repeat? That’s not my experience, so maybe the idiom needs refreshing – like a record being played by Grandmaster Flash, for example. Catchy or what?
It didn’t look it during the first hour, but I wonder if this was a good toss to win. The pitch is a bit crumbly, which should help England’s bowlers, and if they can add a bit of scoreboard pressure to that, West Indies will have to work hard to stay in the match.
Mark Butcher has an unusual pair of pumps on today, along with a pair of pink socks. More news as I get it on that one, but in the meantime he points out a divot the ball took out of the pitch yesterday – which has not escaped Jonny Bairstow, who showed it to the umpires earlier this morning.
“England get to 350 in the first innings?” emails Charles Sheldrick. “What has Foakes been smoking?”
And, more importantly, how will redeye set-off against his grey-blue stunners?
On which point, it’s good to see him back. I can’t lie, I wanted Buttler to get a proper run because his talent was too extreme to bin him forever without being sure. But it’s hard to argue the time hasn’t come, and it remains a shame that the bloke brought in to take the game away coming in at 300-5 was forever faced with a rescue gig at 37-5.
Ben Foakes tells BT that his main aim, when batting, was not to get out – it’ll never catch on! – and says he got done by a slightly shorter one that kept a bit low. He reckons anywhere near 350 would be a great effort.
I’ve decided that we’ve spent enough time discussing this thing of ours while also discussing his Bobness, so here’s Laura Snapes with the news:
“Please tell Mr Tickner,” says Dean Kinsella, “that is not a ‘fun’ fact.”
Agreed – it’s a “funny” fact. I shall endeavour to pass on admonishment.
David Gower, now of BT Sport, has his shirt – herringbone, natch – unbuttoned to a jaunty level. It’s never too late to change.
Tell you what, I’m properly looking forward to today’s play. We’ll get time to discuss England’s attack during it, but in the meantime I can’t fathom how anyone can possibly think this combination is the answer.
Email! “Yesterday I suggested that England’s guest coach had been Roger Daltry,” says Em Jackson. “However today I think we need it to be Survivor because to get near 350 (or certainly over 300) we need Bairstow to be there with the ‘Eye of Tiger’ from the first ball of the day . . . . . else “’We Won’t Be Fooled Again’.”
I refer you to the below, but tangentially always enjoyed Raymond van Barneveld singing the “eye of the tiger” bit of his walk-in the process of applying it to himself.
It’s a funny thing, really, that with all the fuss over Australia and India, England’s most compelling recent contests have been against West Indies. That does, I suppose, say plenty about where these sides are currently, but also tells us we should be in for another bazzing series.
It is characteristic of a good team that someone always finds a way. When, for example, West Indies were the best in the world, on the odd occasion their top order were knocked over for minimals, Gus Logie and Jeff Dujon would bail them out, while the mere words Bevan and Bichel are enough to bring
me out in hives.
England, though, seem to have missed out the getting good bit, constantly reliant on their lower middle-order and tail to simply stay competitive – amazingly, the cunning ruse of omitting the third and sixth-most successful Test bowlers of all-time has not yet been reflected in the runs for column. Still, the tactic remains in its infancy, so let’s not snark at it prior to Craig Overton’s matchwinning ton and eight-fer.
In the meantime, though, responsibility rests with Jonny Bairstow – himself a victim of cockeyed selection policy. Had he been dropped when it was clear his approach against the red ball needed honing, he’d have been back ensconced by the time he was finally and mercifully left out, his Test career on life support. But Bairstow being Bairstow, he never gave up, and after getting his latest chance in Australia – most likely his last chance – he found a way to make it count. If he can bat one more session this morning, he’ll leave his team in a strong position, but if West Indies mop them up in the crucial first hour, they’ll be well set to remind us all that England remain a poor team that always find a way to to give it away.
Play: 10am local, 2pm GMT