Day 1 – Fifth Test – The Oval
“Victory runs with the toss. Call heads,” The Prof said to The Captain, who was in an officious mood. Chef gets to hold the fake Urn high at The Oval, win, lose or draw. The Captain won the toss. His comments to Mark N ( ‘a gladhanding passport ruffian with a C minus County record’ Dad says) were short and sharp. He made a signal to the dressing room to pad up – it appeared to me more like a “get stuffed you lot, a few runs would be [Ed. Expletive deleted] useful on this pitch” signal than the DRS-T Hollywood said he saw.
It is hard to blame The Captain’s mood. The series was really flushed down Manchester’s gutters on Day 5 at OT. And England’s choice to field a sub-standard bowling line-up in what is already seen as a ‘dead rubber’ is just “bloody insolent” Coach2.0 had said at breakfast. That had silenced us all for a while. Humour stalked the breakfast tables like an bent undertaker seeking pennies for a bunch of wilting roses. “Things aren’t that bad, Coach,” I suggested after a while. “3-0 with 6 to play is mathematically possible. Much better odds than Kevin07 surviving another month as PM, or Ed Millibrand surviving another year.”
“Very funny,” he replied.
“Or you could be one of the 3,500 Britons prosecuted each week for watching a TV without a licence.”
“Or a sparrow that flies too close to a jet engine,” The Freak added reading about the rise in bird strikes at international airports.
“Or a batsman that becomes a bunny,” Mr Bean said. He doesn’t really have a good feel for this sort of banter.
“Very random, Bean,” Coach 2.0 concluded.
“Listen to this,” Mr X announced. “I was unsure about Coach being called a motivational wizard until he managed to inspire Twitter to side with Stuart Broad.”
“Shut up and stay off that social stuff. It’s addictive, like alcohol. Get addicted to run-scoring,” Coach2.0 replied from behind the Times.
The conversation had nowhere to go after that. We all drifted off with one thing on our minds from the briefest of team meetings before breakfast. “The weather is fine,” I remember Coach2.0 saying “Score 450. Take wickets. Let’s win some RESPECT.” Plopper led the team song in the auditorium where he had assembled the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge in support. This restored our enthusiasm. I couldn’t hear a thing until I got to the ground.
It is the measure of a good day BATTING when the English strangle their own. James Morgan [Ed. TheFullToss], Eion Morgan’s brother, wrote “I fell off my chair [Ed. High chair] when I saw England’s team. Chris Woakes at six? This has to be some sort of bizarre joke, right?! Well, apparently not. Alastair Cook described the Warwickshire seamer, who may or may not be Ashley Giles’ secret illegitimate son, as a ‘genuine all-rounder’ at the toss. Having got back on to my chair, I promptly fell off it again.” [Ed Must be in the ‘wolds somewhere] As I said, experimental cricket in England just like the DRS.
The day belonged to Hollywood. And he murdered the attack. No one could believe it. The Prof said the hotel must have slipped him some stimulants. “You remind me of a man I met in a half-remembered dream,” said Mr X [Ed Imitating Saito, The Inception 2010]. He was possessed of some radical notions.” The Prof had his binoculars trained on ‘Hollywood’ thinking it was Big Bresnan out to even things up with a breezy ton. Even Flower called Coach2.0 “Is that the bunny Hollywood?”
“No shit. He’s middling it.” Another ball tumbled over the boundary. 80 blistering runs off 87 balls before lunch.
“Are they your Test bowlers?”
“Regards to your batsmen,” Coach2.0 chuckled as he put down the phone.
After lunch The Captain came and went. Hollywood took one on the head from Broad, and then got his TON.
A BLOODY TON. First No 3 ton in 28 matches. First Hollywood ton since 2010 .
And he kept going, and going and going with Trapper all afternoon, wielding his prized GM like a machine gun spraying Jimmy, Broad and Swann to all parts with a growing satisfaction all the way to 176. When he came in Coach2.0 drowned him in tears. Even The Captain forgave him for getting one DRS correct and for Chef spilling a sitter on 107. At stumps Trapper, looking very solid on 66, and The Freak (night watchman) on 16 were set each eyeing off a ton.
“More importantly,” I said to the Prof, “no batting collapse. Long partnerships.”
“Nice. Very nice,” The Prof said as he closed his laptop and cracked open a short bottle of bubbly he had taken from the Presidential Suite.
“Congratulations,” he said “We are into hotels. Oh, I’ve booked the limo for 5.00 tomorrow morning to meet Deep Third.”
“I remember,” I said
A great day. A smashing Day at The Oval!
COMING SOON – The 17th Man: The Ashes Diary – Part 1 – England 2013
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