Compared to the torpor of the dressing room yesterday, we were all awake early and stayed awake all day. Once play began, there was no time for stealing a quiet cat nap to settle the nerves. Wickets fell more regularly than the muezzin’s call to prayers. And rather than face east to Mecca to repent or find resolve, those of us who had played our part noisily thumbed through the parables of the New Testament to justify our dwindling expectations of a face saving draw. Faith is everything.
Coach2.0 channeled his inner-Yoda with a ‘let the force be with you, young Skywalker’ wink to each of the specialist batsmen as they left the dressing-room shade for the heat of the middle. The Big Show told me later he was not sure what a wink meant. He presumed it was some existential ‘what will be, will be’ Doris Day thing. So he forgot it and played his natural game. They all did. Coach2.0 told me later that he uses a wink to express confidence not judgment. Only the Almighty can judge he said. His censure is the guillotine.
Plopper Lyon was the only batsman who really understood Coach2.0’s wink. He had received one in India. At first he thought it was a salacious pass, then he realised it was nothing more than a quizzical ‘I don’t really get your arm ball. But the band of buccaneers who pass for spinners in the selection lottery are hardly any better’ look. So he never thought much about what Coach2.0 meant by it. When he did remark on it he just said “His eyes are a still lake meant only for your own reflection. The twitch is the human part.”
It didn’t seem to matter what a dressing room wink meant. When our top 5 bats had delivered their customary first innings 100 runs [Ed. 100 in total not 100 each] Coach2.0 substituted the bemusing wink for words “Bat yourself in first. The game continues tomorrow. There is no need to hurry.” The Big Show was heard to mutter “…if that is what you meant, you should have said so.” Puff quickly replied “I suppose I didn’t need to make that shot, at least not to the fielder.” It was only yesterday that Sarah remarked how well Puff’s repartee classes were progressing.
The Captain was not one of the unlucky 5. He is an excellent listener and could see how to play the pitch and the Pakistani bowlers. Coach2.0’s words were for others. The Captain raced to almost 50. He looked in excellent touch. Then he received yet another ‘brute of a ball’ which laid flat his middle stump like a felled log in an old growth timber forest. Out. The Prof reckoned he said something like “Lord, I have faith, but where is my luck?” as he turned away from the wicket in absolute disgust. [Ed. The Captain always receives the unplayable ball]
JJ Marsh played a lone hand mixing up the moxy with the big hits and generally taking the mickey out of the bowlers. Like The Captain he looked destined for a match saving innings. He blew past 50 then landed on 87. 87 is the devil’s own number after 666 and 13. The Freak was batting with JJ at the time. He said later he felt in excellent form. He had pleaded with JJ to go after the record for the 8th wicket stand in Abu Dhabi because every other personal and team milestone was out of reach. Apparently, JJ smiled and told him he just wanted another 13 runs. The Freak swears he heard the ground rumble. JJ’s much-lauded maturity then inexplicably went fishing in the Gulf thinking a maiden test century was in the bag. By the time it re-emerging, he had blasted a chest height ball to the mid-wicket fielder. Out.
Mr. Darcy wandered to the crease and yelled to The Freak at the other end. “Coach2.0 says there are only 230 overs to bat out, if it doesn’t rain.”
“Did you ask for middle” the Umpire replied.
“No. Just rain.”
“I can’t help you.” He stuck his finger up “That’s middle, mate.”
This sparked a jovial ripple from behind the stumps. I suppose anything is funny when you are a comfortable 300+ runs ahead.
The Freak has always said he doesn’t trust the lower order. He swished at a ball and was caught [Ed. I did get 28, 4th top score. don’t blame me!] . 261 all out.
The Prof and I watched the after tea session whilst on patrol. CA had notified us during the morning that a platoon from C Company, the specialist SAS unit in the UAE on call for deployment in Northern Iraq, would be at the ground sometime during the afternoon to lend their support. The Prof likes a challenge and was determined to locate them in the crowd. “How hard can it be? The crowd is 1/10th what it was yesterday”, he said.
“Harder than you imagine. I can see their camels in the car park, but I can’t see them.”
“They’ll be in fancy dress for sure.”
We camouflaged ourselves as ice cream vendors and searched the crowd trying to find C Company. A spectator suggested they were out on the field impersonating the Pakistani team. There was a pre-victory party on the Pakistani balcony so it was possible. Or C Company might have been holding a party. It was hard to tell. There was a party of 30 Sheiks in a corporate box taking lunch but they had been there all game. Anyway we couldn’t find them.
The camels were gone when we strolled back past the car park at tea.
Pakistan chose not to enforce the follow-on despite the protestations of the cricket sadists in the commentary teams. Misbah had it right. Why enforce a follow-on when it takes only 60+ to bowl us out. And there is the tantalising prospect that Younis might score another century [Ed. No one can be that lucky, surely].
The only time Australia successfully chased a fourth innings target of 400+ was against England in 1948. Of course, that was a different side truly blessed by the Almighty.