Parachutes, brollies and cream cakes
Posted in NatWest Series
The first Twenty20 international between England and Australia began with parachutes and ended amid a barrage of umbrellas.
The RAF Falcons got the limited-overs leg of the tour under way with a display of parachuting which had thousands craning their necks towards the skies.
They were exercising the same muscles an hour and a half later as the rain began to fall on Old Trafford, and their eyes remained trained upwards for much of the remainder of the afternoon before play was called off shortly after 6pm.
It ensured the limited-overs leg of Australia’s Ashes tour got under way in disappointingly damp fashion, although the suspicion is that the abandonment did not overly dishearten England, who had slipped to four for two in pursuit of 146 to win.
As it was, they returned to their hotel with honours even ahead of the second and final match of this brief series at the same venue on Tuesday, while a sell-out crowd trudged out having been denied what promised to be an intriguing run-chase.
It was impossible not to feel for the 19,500 hardy souls who braved the elements on a so-called summer afternoon in Manchester, yet saw only 21.1 overs of play.
Even before the rain intervened, they were huddling from a biting wind, and for once I was secretly applauding the group of lads who turned up in animal fancy dress costumes for their prescient choice of clothing.
Cameron White was even spotted blowing into his gloves as he waited to bat. It was unquestionably a three-layer day.
The pantomime version of Noah’s Ark saw England restrict Australia to 145 for four on a pitch which offered enough assistance to the bowlers to discourage totally fluent strokeplay, the highlight of which was Paul Collingwood’s two wickets in three balls.
Overall, though, there was relatively little for the home supporters to cheer as White – hands freshly warmed – led an entertaining fightback from the depths of 54 for three by smashing a 33-ball half-century containing three times as many sixes as fours (three and one, for the stattos amongst you).
Richard Kettleborough’s decision to call James Anderson for a wide was greeted with light-hearted boos from the stands, while a first-ball wide from Mitchell Johnson drew rapturous cheers.
The barracking of Johnson is a theme from the Ashes series which looks set to continue for the remainder of the tour, and one wonders whether the same unsympathetic fans will be on the runway to wave Johnson goodbye next month.
Today, however, Johnson had the last laugh, removing Ravi Bopara with his next delivery before passing on his appreciation to the crowd.
It proved to be the last ball of the match, the rain which extended the tea interval returning before Bopara had even completed his walk back to the pavilion.
There followed the interminable wait with which English cricket fans are only too familiar. Autograph hunting (Dirk Nannes supplied the signature), posing with cricketers (Nannes again) and letting the air out of balloons in the stands kept them amused for an hour.
For those that are interested, I spent much of the hour-long delay sampling the delights of the cream cakes on offer in the press box: you will be glad to know profiteroles, doughnuts and vanilla slices all went through a thorough taste-test.
Swarms of people were heading for the tram station long before Kettleborough and Ian Gould abandoned play five minutes ahead of the official cut-off time, and the windows of the press box remain spattered with rain drops as I write this.
Deprived of a result and faced with a soggy journey home, at least my sugar craving had been satisfied.