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August 26, 2010
Luck of the day
Alastair Cook's century in the Oval Test enabled him to turn a corner, in more ways than one. While the runs were clearly welcome, the change of fortune was arguably the most vital aspect of his innings, because his footwork visibly flourished after a trio of near-misses before he had reached 30. Today his luck continued its upward trajectory, with two key reprieves in the 12.3 overs available before the weather closed in. First, he edged his first legitimate delivery from Mohammad Amir at a perfect catchable height to Umar Akmal at third slip, who made a total hash of the opportunity. Then, with just 9 to his name, he successfully overturned a caught-behind appeal, again off Amir, as a full-length delivery seamed late past the edge.
Delivery of the day
Andrew Strauss could have done with a dollop of that good fortune. The skipper was subjected to something of a grilling on the eve of the match, as media attention shifted from the back-in-form Cook and settled instead on a man who hasn't made a Test hundred for 22 innings, dating back to his 161 on this ground against Australia last summer. Lord's is a venue at which he has scored four of his 18 hundreds, including a memorable matchwinning effort on debut in 2004, and in theory it was the perfect place to rediscover the good times. But having lost the toss under foreboding skies, he always looked on a hiding to nothing. Sure enough, Mohammad Asif snaked a superb legcutter back through the gate into his middle stump, as Strauss propped forward on 13, but found himself groping at thin air.
Hillbillies of the day
There wasn't much action to write home about at Lord's, but for umpires Tony Hill and Billy Bowden it was a day to remember nonetheless. "To be at Lord's and to create a little piece of history will be super-special," enthused Bowden. "The full impact of the occasion probably won't sink in for a while yet," remarked Hill. For the two men today became the first pair of neutral umpires from the same country to officiate in a Test at Lord's, a moment so notable that Cricket New Zealand was roused out of its off-season slumber to pass comment. "Billy and Tony are great role models for the next generation of umpires and we are extremely proud of them," said the chief executive, Justin Vaughan. "It is a worthy reflection on the work done in this country over many years by the New Zealand Umpires and Scorers Association, and is a very formal stamp of approval for the two men themselves." So there.
Light reading of the day
Perhaps it helps that Kiwis are used to battling with Antarctic conditions on their visits to Dunedin and Queenstown, but Hill and Bowden's most significant decision was to keep the players on the field in conditions reminiscent of their hometown Test in Auckland back in 2001-02 - the first occasion in which floodlights were used in the course of an England Test match. With the Lord's lights on, and thick cloud causing clear four-way shadows on the wicket (significantly clearer than was the case when play was suspended at The Oval last week) play pushed on regardless until the threat of rain finally drove them from the field. While the willingness to give the crowd their money's worth was, on the face of it, admirable, there were a few cynical whispers about the decision - most of them to do with the ECB's policy on refunds. By extending the day's play to 12.3 overs, they crossed the all-important 10-over threshold, and saved themselves a useful 50% pay-out.
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