the wrong 'un

Thursday, May 04, 2006

England A vs Sri Lanka, Worcester 4-7 May

The New Road wicket.
Bottom: Chris Read doing keeping drills.

Thursday 4th May 2006.

Left Battersea, Land of the Free and the Home of The Skint, at 7 am on a glorious May morning. I was in Marks and Spencers in Worcester by 9.45 am, buying the necessary high-class, high-calorie junk food needed to sustain one through an entire day. Grapes and meringues were to be the staple foodstuffs, which is just as it should be.

I had never been to Worcester CCC before. The ground is pleasingly small and intimate, just like Taunton. I sat at long-off at the New Road End and watched England A go through their warm-ups in front of me.

Rob Key has lost about two stone in weight this winter. He, or his waif-like doppelganger, hit the ball incredibly hard just going through his warm-up drills. The noise his bat makes is a sharp crack, like gunfire. Was it wise to accept the captaincy of Kent this year when he could still be in the minds of the England selectors?

Jayawardene must have had good advice from Tom Moody, who played for and coached WCCC for eight years before becoming Sri Lanka's coach, but his decision on winning the toss must have been difficult.

Although the wicket threatened to assist the seamers the sun was hot, the England bowling possibly a touch raw (first change - Ricki Clarke and 19-yo beanpole quick Stuart Broad) and his team jammed with batsman.

Jayawardene choose to bat and through the binoculars I saw Rob Key signalling to his team that they were bowling - fingers together as if gripping an imaginary ball, wrist cocked and a swinging motion. If he meant that he expected it to move sideways then he's a bit of a judge.

Jon Lewis had Michael Vandoort caught behind off the first ball. Vandoort is both very tall and extremely boring, as he proved batting with abysmal slowness in the VB Series Game 1 against Aus in Melbourne back in January. Much as I was relieved not to have to endure one of his innings I felt some sympathy for the guy - trying to play his way into the Test team ahead of Jehan Mubarak and here he was walking back to the pavilion whilst the cathedral clock was still chiming eleven.

Bowling from my end Plunkett struggled to locate either line or length and in consequence couldn't exploit conditions. By way of complete contrast Lewis was superb, bowling a tight and controlled line to the three left-handers who comprise Sri Lanka's top order. His first spell yielded 4-22 and Jayawardene must have regretted winning the toss at all.

When Ricki Clarke, who bowled with suprising pace and movement, took a wicket to reduce Sri Lanka to 46-5 the skipper can only have been regretting his decision to bat.

No doubt conditions were producing hooping swing and seam. Read often took the ball in front of first slip from the bowling of Clarke, Lewis and Bopara (whose 21st birthday this was). However Lewis was much more incisive than Plunkett because he put the ball on an awkward spot and let the wicket assist him. Plunkett simply isn't lightning-rapid and so when he struggles for control there is much less chance of success.

Chris Broad's 19 yo son Stuart, a Leicestershire regular, stand 6' 5" and weighs 11 stone. His sunhat blew off more than once. Had it been a smaller hat or a bigger head the wind might have carried him off as well. He showed glimpses of serious promise and generates some good pace out of a slow wicket. He also does a good line in turf-kicking impersonations of his father

England A eventually dismissed a near full strength Lankan batting line up for 179. They lost Cook to a waft in Vaas's first over and Shah to a bat-pad catch from the bowling of Kulasekara. Robert Key was batting very well and could be set for a good score tomorrow. He outsprinted Ed Joyce in the field on three occasions and captained with maturity. Along with Lewis and Clarke he was another to give those much-nudged selectors another little jolt.


  • Is it only in England that people amble up to the square during the intervals, and gaze at the wicket?

    I remember the first time I did it as an 11 year old at Lords, being surprised that the ball left red marks where it pitched, seeing as i'd only ever played on 'strips' with three inches of grass on them.

    John Lewis is an interesting case. His bowling that I've seen has little to suggest that he would ever take a wicket outside England (or New Zealand), and even then only when the wicket's 'doing a bit'. But that was the general consensus about Hoggard as well, and he has shown that he can be effective on different types of track. Can Lewis step up to the next level like Hoggy or Stuart Clark?

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