Going to bed with Aggers. Waking up with Jim
Posted in England in Australia 2010-11
Please excuse me if I drift off mid-sentence; I’ve only had a few hours’ sleep.
I’m sure I’m not the only person to be sporting bags under my eyes today, although I at least spared the rest of the office the sight of my Postman Pat pyjamas.
Ashes tours inevitably mean sleepless nights for England fans, and the opening day of the first Test in Australia is the cricketing equivalent of a movie premiere. Which starts at midnight. Lasts five days. And usually has an unhappy ending.
It certainly started badly from an English perspective, with the bubble of public confidence that has swollen - some would say unrealistically - in the build-up punctured within a matter of minutes of play getting under way.
Go on, admit it - how many of you thought/sighed/shouted (delete according to how much you care about waking the rest of the household) ‘here we go again’ when Andrew Strauss, England’s captain and talisman, cut the third ball of the day straight to gully?
Those of us who spent every fourth winter of our childhood watching England routinely dismantled by the most ruthless of hosts could be forgiven such a sense of foreboding, and I must admit it took an effort to remind myself that, just as we shouldn’t get carried away by England’s form in the warm-up matches, so we shouldn’t let one early hiccup with the bat persuade us to abandon all hope of retaining the Ashes.
I watched the remainder of the first session on Sky Sports, before tucking myself into bed with Test Match Special for company.
By lunch England were 86 for two. It was far from a commanding position, but Alastair Cook was solidity personified and Kevin Pietersen appeared to be doing a much better impersonation of his former self than we have seen for some time.
I thus nodded off amid the mellifluous tones of Jonathan Agnew and with the green shoots of optimism beginning to sprout in my mind.
I woke to the sound of Jim Maxwell screaming: “Siddle is on a hat-trick!” As alarm calls go, I've had better.
I kept my eyes and ears open long enough to hear Maxwell describe Siddle trapping Stuart Broad lbw, the crowd at the Gabba roaring their delight at the lbw decision, a lengthy pause while the decision was reviewed, and another cheer when Aleem Dar’s verdict was upheld. Double the misery. At least in years gone we only had to suffer once.
It was with a certain amount of inevitability that I emerged from a far from heavy sleep less than an hour later to be informed by Maxwell that England had been bowled out for 260.
It was not until I arrived in the office that I realised how important a role Ian Bell played in carrying England to something significantly closer to respectability than looked likely at 197 for seven.
Indeed, in sleeping through much of the afternoon and evening sessions, I was denied the pleasure of witnessing a typically fluent innings of 76, and one which may finally suggest the fulfilment of Bell’s potential against Australia.
You never know, it might, just might, prove to be one of the key performances in an England victory which, though admittedly less likely now than this morning, remains far from an impossibility.
For those of you who have lives to lead and can’t afford to spend the night in front of the box or with Aggers in bed with you (metaphorically speaking, of course), thank your lucky stars for ecb.co.uk.
The only place where you can watch free Ashes highlights online - and after each session at that - ecb.co.uk lets you relive Bell’s wonderful strokeplay, James Anderson’s impudent reverse-sweep or, for the more sadistic amongst you, Siddle’s hat-trick.
I for one can’t manage too many nights like last night, so rest assured I will be practising what I preach by logging on tomorrow. Unless Aggers ruins the surprise.