“Dad, dad … why is it that Pakistan are only allowed one review per innings but this is their third … dad, dad …” Such is the danger of sitting in the family stand. Questions to the rear from a wide-eyed child struggling to get why Umpire’s Call means you don’t lose a challenge whilst in front a collective of eight adults (with two children somewhere in the vicinity to give them permission to be in Block T) get progressively more swaying as the booze takes its effect. “I love cricket,” one of them said at one point, “what’s the score?”
The Ageas Bowl at Southampton remains the strangest of beasts. The view for the spectators is probably amongst the best of any ground. The seats are comfortable. And, for those who wish to, the range and ease of pretty much any kind of food, drink or distracting entertainment is easy to access. But, Christ, everything else … Getting to the ground is the same as any big city ground: you can’t park. With the obvious point being that you’re not in a big city, you’re in the middle of nowhere. So Park & Ride, or shuttle from distant stations, or … well, there is an extensive list. But it’s not great and last year we were caught in the crush that means you stand no chance of seeing the first ball (this year we were in ludicrously early) and, so again, people who had no doubt arrived at the right spot an hour before the start were struggling to their seats up to and past midday.
And, with all the negatives out of the way, we can now move on to what a tremendous day this was.
There is still a hardcore of English cricket fans who despise limited over cricket. Pyjama cricket, as it was disparagingly called, and probably still is by men old enough to own a pair of pyjamas. Today’s match will have come close to their worst fear. (In Ireland and here, there were 2 one-day internationals today: nearly 1,700 runs between them with just 20 wickets falling.) But that does a massive disservice to what we witnessed.
Firstly, yes. The pitch didn’t offer much to the bowler. And, yes, with the ICC preparing pitches for the upcoming World Cup then we will be having more of the same. More so, probably. Expect at least one match to have 1,000 runs. But, secondly, come on … you might be batting on a road but the boundaries are deep here at the Ageas and it’s not the pitch’s fault that too many bowlers today couldn’t follow up one good, probing delivery with another. When the margins are so fine you have to be close to perfect and, today, the bowlers were not.
Today will be remembered for two great individual innings. The obvious one being Jos Buttler’s for England which, effectively won the match. England had been building rather than exciting before Buttler came on. Only Bairstow had looked like he was in proper form, scoring his 51 off 45 before being caught in juggling fashion on the boundary. Buttler came on with 14.5 overs left. With Eoin Morgan he put on 162 in 89 balls; his personal contribution being 110 of those runs in 55. He hit his century with a 6 because of course he would hit his century with a 6.
Pakistan came close. Fakhar Zaman’s 138 from 106 was probably acceptable to cricket purists. He grabbed the strike and built from the start of the innings. Pakistan were always there or thereabouts on the DLS score. Where England had needed explosions at the end to reach 373, Pakistan were constantly within striking distance of the run rate. It took the most speculative of appeals, confirmed only via the sensitivity of the edge microphone, to pick out that Zaman had lightly nicked a wide ball into the welcoming keeper’s gloves. His innings over, there could have been a collapse but Pakistan kept coming. Asif Ali made 51 from 36, but wickets began to fall at regular enough intervals, and the England bowlers, in particular Willey, found a line that meant it was became harder and harder to find big runs when needed. England winning, in the end, by 12 runs.
All in all, a splendid day’s cricket then. Sons and daughters had their questions answered by parents of varying degrees of knowledge and engagement. The beer snake wound its way in the distance before being thrown in the direction of the field for reasons which made less sense than the Umpire’s Call review law. And, thanks to Royal London’s limited selection of adverts, we all know that we can upload a video of us bowling to have a chance of bowling Nasser Hussein out. Oh, and the play on the field was decent too.