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The day began with a tribalistic welcome for Ian Bell and Stuart Broad and ended with a great wave of relief at Michael Clarke's dismissal
July 13, 2013
"Jerusalem" was performed later than usual this morning, so late that it delayed play a fraction. Its rousing tune and patriotic tone had an even greater impact than on previous days for it coincided with a tribalistic welcome for Stuart Broad and Ian Bell. Never mind the morality, feel the Ashes. There may not be much of a capacity at Trent Bridge but 17,000 people can roar their approval to mighty effect if they so choose.
Broad was out for a fine 65, caught at the wicket. He didn't wait for the decision, he scarpered. It's okay to say that he was within his right to stand on Friday because the principle of walking is dated to most cricketers - not all but most. At school, Australians are not instructed to walk but they are taught to accept the umpire's decision, come what may. The rest of the world now treads those boards. Even the ones in the 'not all' bracket take the main chance in other ways. Adam Gilchrist was a walker but behind the timbers he appealed for things he doubted were out. Find the gloveman who has not.
Is cricket a moral game? I think not, indeed it confuses itself with the idea. The Spirit of Cricket is worthy but can be interpreted variously for it means different things to different peoples. It matters that players respect the game and their opponents, otherwise anarchy is in their grasp.
Let's face it, all of us bend the law. The speed limit is 70mph but we routinely drive at 80. We park on a double yellow line to quickly buy the newspaper. These are accepted parts of our life, even though they are outside the law. But driving at 100 mph or parking on those zig zags either side of a pedestrian crossing is not so smart. Edging the ball to the wicketkeeper and letting the umpire make the decision has become the norm. Hammering it to slip and standing there with a "What me?" look is another thing altogether. In the ferocity of the moment, Broad made his choice and tens of thousands of people supported him. People who wore red and blue and people in green and gold. It is the game we have all chosen, not just Broad.
Back to the 65 he made - an excellent and important innings in itself but a belter for the bloke at the other end. Ian Bell played a hell of a hand, a royal flush of a thing. The straightest bat, the smoothest footwork and the most delicate touch were at his command. We knew he had these gifts but we lusted for them when conditions and opponents were not set fair.
It is eight summers since Michael Vaughan included Bell in the wonder series. During those heady days of sublime conflict between England and Australia, the boy Bell looked a child. Australia played on this, making his life a misery. For that suffering, Bell received an MBE, along with everyone else who stood in Trafalgar Square and made their bow. This was a nice decoration but the hundred yesterday was payback, to the Aussies for their persecution and to EngIish cricket for the investment. This was the definitive and finished article, the arrival of the man.
|Against Australia, there is an ongoing sense of 'Get Clarke and you get them all'. And get Clarke Broad did|
And there is something else about Bell. In both attack and defence, he is a joy to watch offering us neat pictures of symmetry and poise. The temptation to show off must be overwhelming for he has every shot, and in a 360 degree radius, at his disposal. An overload of talent has done for many a cricketer, especially those so insecure, but the guidance around him and the surefire backing of the selectors has has borne fruit.
Beneath hot sunshine, it was a day of roars. The "Jerusalem" moment had seemed unbeatable, until the Bell hundred moment. From an outpouring of emotion at 11am, there was just a nine-minute wait until the same 17,000 voices turned their attention to unbridled appreciation and celebration. The lucky batsman skipped high and punched the air and with him the people rose and chorused. These are moments of extraordinary togetherness, evangelical almost in their message of England's need.
Amazingly however, both were set aside late in the day for a proper rouser of a response to the fall off the Australian captain. This came by way of England's best cricket, a gift that has rewarded them well and often: the gift to bowl with an old ball. By heaven, they worked on it, specifically Bell, who is chief ball watcher. With spittle he polished away at one side, while assuring the complete dryness of the other. It wore and aged and withered on the dry, abrasive pitch until the two halves separated in their appearance and the effect of reverse swing began - nothing extravagant but enough, and late. Finn bowled fast, Broad bowled accurate and Anderson bowled clever. All the while, the leather-bound ball of mystery moved a little this way and that. Sometimes it kept low, others it bounced high and the batsmen's vigil became a mind game.
Against Australia, there is an ongoing sense of 'Get Clarke and you get them all'. And get Michael Clarke Broad did, with a lovely ball pitched a tad outside off stump that might have moved in but instead moved out. Clarke felt for it, uncertain, and edged thin and low to to Matt Prior - England's banker. There was a decision review in hope, for the captain's heart told him this might be the last stand, but not in expectation. There was no stay in the execution and no sense of wrongdoing in the defendant's response.
That was at 5.37 pm: Get Clarke, get 'em all. Trent Bridge rose once more, like a mighty choir. If emotion and celebration were at the core of its previous reactions, this one was relief - a great wave of the stuff - before due attention was paid to its provider. The next ball was bowled by Graeme Swann to Steve Smith and in the way of killer cricket played by killer teams, it was perfectly pitched and irresistible. A big-spinning offbreak that trapped the victim in a place of no return. The fourth lion roar of the day told a new tale, a tale of 1-0. There is a way to go but you would not bet against it. Another sell-out of celebrators will be back tomorrow, eager for the final kill.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UKFeeds: Mark Nicholas
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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