Saturday, May 27, 2017


This is the beautiful game.  As we approached the ground at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, the atmosphere appeared muted for an England international match, no tribalism no aggression, just well-ordered and palpably soporific.  I liked it.

The weather was cool and overcast, a stark contrast to the hot humid weather of the day before.  Maybe winning the toss and bowling would be the obvious decision.  Which is what South Africa did.

The ground took a while to fill-up.  Spectators tucking into their hampers early doors, stag-doers fancifully dressed to celebrate impending nuptials and the start of summer.  We were all urging the sun to peak through the low leaden grey clouds as they passed low over the ground.  Any glimpse of sunlight was greeted with rapturous applause.  It was surprising to feel so much part of it.   Cricket still maintains a connection with their cultured fans.   Accessibility in sport is such a rare thing nowadays.  It's all very esoteric; line and length, corridors of uncertainty, deep extra cover and fine leg.  With TMS plugged into my ear, it felt perfect.

And then there was the game.  Seated a few rows from the front close to the long-off fielding position, the view from the boundary was immaculate.

South Africa bowled first, but England batted well, despite the early loss of the out-of-form Jason Roy, the innings included half centuries from Hales, Root, and Morgan, and a battling ton from the irrepressible Ben Stokes who hardly got out of second gear having been dropped off his first two deliveries.

A total of 330 is about average in today's 50 over form of the game, the versatility of shots coupled with powerful enterprising batsmen who now bring a real vigour to the game.

It was very even all the way through the match, the 50 over form of the game allowing innings to ebb and flow unlike the dirty swashbuckling 20 over format.

It all came down to the last over.  England were in the box seat until Miller and Morris turned the tide with a few quick flourishing boundaries in pursuit of the run-chase.  Ball and Wood however managed to seize back the initiative.

The last over, and South Africa required just seven from it, but a skillfully controlled over from Mark Wood under huge pressure limited the Proteas to just four handing England a two run victory.

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