Another day stuck in Nottingham before we can move along to our next stop in Northampton. Our opponents have moved on (as The Prof and I found out when we tried to scam some more free wi-fi at their hotel this morning) as they get a week off while we have to slug it out while stuck in our Midlands Vortex of Torture (TM).
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from our mole in the England party, Deep Third. I’ve certainly been waiting for some gloating, but when it arrived, it was both mild mannered and intriguing. The note had been slipped inside the newspaper left at the door of our suite. It was lucky I saw it – I only opened the paper out to use it to wrap some prawn heads for the garbage after last night’s dinner. There’s no chance I’d be reading the thing – full of gloating.
“What does he know?” I asked The Prof over our early pre-training lunch.
“I guess we’ll find out at training.”
“You know how no one has ever watched either of us bat in the nets this whole tour?”
I thought for a moment. “That’s true, actually.”
“It hasn’t bothered you that as a potential Test player, no one is even interested in how you’re batting?”
“So what’s the batting coach’s job?”
I had some flash backs from the first innings at Trent Bridge. and shuddered. “Get the players ready for the series, fine tune their techniques for the conditions, prepare them mentally for the challenges of an Ashes campaign.”
“Make sure the fringe players are prepared to step in should injury, misadventure or lack of form befall an incumbent.”
“Ouch. Nought from four.”
“What are you expecting at training today, 17th?”
“That the coach flogs us with endless fitness drills out of spite, then a net session.”
“I bet we’re first in the nets,” he said, shoveling a fork load of smoked salmon into his mouth for emphasis.
And sure enough, all of a sudden we were worthy of attention. The Prof and I batted first and each had a batting coach standing behind us offering advice while the bowlers let us have it.
“How did you go?” I asked as The Prof and I sweated out kit onto the ground afterwards.
“Hopeless. But you were hitting it alright.”
“Do you know where your baggy green is?” he asked with a smile.
“Sure,” I said. Not that I could remember handling it on tour – it’s only made it to the field that once in India in 2013 and is kept safely in a cotton storage bag at the bottom of my kit. “You don’t think . . .?”
“No, we’ve got no chance. Just asking.”
He’s such a tease. But I’d better find it, and check my playing strip is clean. You can always dream.