Mike Holmans August 1, 2010

A swinger's paradise

While Pakistan remain in exile, they could do a great deal worse than make Trent Bridge their headquarters

While Pakistan remain in exile, they could do a great deal worse than make Trent Bridge their headquarters. Since the opening of the Fox Road stand in 2003, the Trent Bridge micro-climate has been a virtual guarantee of swing. If you are sceptical about how so simple a thing as a stand can have this kind of effect, consider that the MCC specified that all schemes for redevelopment at Lord's had to maintain the present gap between the stands because their computer modelling had shown that without it the ball would no longer swing.

Pakistan may have been flattened in this Test, but that's because Ijaz Butt got it slightly wrong in his pre-match touting of Mohammads Asif and Amir as the best swing bowlers in the world. The best swing bowler in the world is James Anderson, and has been for a couple of years.

While Ijaz Butt understandably went over the top about the Mohammads' world standing, they are probably second and third on the list. The only other real contenders are Zaheer Khan and Ben Hilfenhaus, so it's a limited field. Amir and Asif are streets ahead of Hilfenhaus and at least a few metres ahead of Zaheer. Trent Bridge is Pakistan's ideal Test ground given their current attack - so long as they aren't up against England.

When properly executed, swing bowling is a delight to watch, especially as there are so few batsmen who can play it well; at its best, no batsmen can, and what we saw in Nottingham was almost as perfect an exhibition of top-class swing bowling as can be imagined. The only real blemish was that Pakistan do not back up their brilliant bowlers with even halfway-competent catchers. (They also have some bloke standing around behind the stumps wearing pads and gloves but it's not altogether clear what he's there for, since he’s definitely not a wicket-keeper.) England, on the other hand, have bred a flock of predatory magpies who will snatch anything which flies in their general direction.

Despite the huge margin of victory, it was the fielding that decided the match. England would probably not have passed 180 in the first innings if Eoin Morgan had been snaffled when on 5, and the match would have taken a rather different course, I fancy, if the first-innings lead had been closer to 20 than 200. Every team will miss the odd chance, so whether you can take twenty wickets depends on how many chances you have to create to take them. England needed about 22 to get their 20 successes, whereas Pakistan created about 35 and still only took 19.

That imbalance shows that this series can still be a lot closer than one might expect after such a lopsided result in the first Test. Pakistan were beaten out of sight by Australia at Lord's as England were in 2005, yet Australia won neither series. Should Pakistan give up coating their hands in oil before going out to field, we could well be in for that rare thing in modern Test cricket, a series dominated by the ball.

And what a relief that will be. The ludicrous “Test” played by India and Sri Lanka last week is the kind of farce we have far too much of these days, and Trent Bridge was a welcome antidote to the overpowering sedative of the Colombo SSC.

But, for reasons hinted at in my opening paragraph, I would not have given the Man of the Match award to James Anderson. The company's brochure does not name him, but the true hero was the man from Maber Associates who oversaw the design and construction of the Fox Road stand.

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