Weather turns cricket Test match to ashes

Slow play, rain and bad light in Manchester is all just part of the typical English summer



When you come around after a 15-minute snooze while watching the third Test between England and Australia it’s all very splendid. You don’t miss anything at all.

The run rate remains 4.33. David Warner is still taking the occasional ball on the head in the Aussie’s second innings.

“Not too sure what dat is. I’m sure the umpire will let us know. Big turn from Graham Swann,” says Michael Holding in that mellifluous West Indian accent, the one thing brightening up Manchester on a northern summer’s day.

The sky, well it’s the colour of an oyster. It’s Old Trafford and it’s raining stair rods just a couple of miles off. There’s a momentary fascination about which way the tempest is headed.

One forecast had it raining from 12.30 yesterday but the English summer was just about holding in a game where predicting weather patterns is part of a captain’s brief.

Aussie Usman Khawaja goes

“If there is weather around tomorrow and we don’t know how bad,” says Ian Botham, who will always be Beefy to us. “He’ll want to put that into the equation. I think this is quite interesting how they play this tactically. Australia has to win ... Good bouncer that. Straight at the head.” .

Disgruntled Shane Watson leaves the field. It’s 103 for 4 and apparently Watson picked out Pietersen at third man.

“Got here about 8.30 to check things out . . .” adds a cheery Beefy. “See if the coffee maker was on.”

Polystyrene Cup
Beefy sounds like a polystyrene cup for his coffee would do just fine. David Gower is an altogether different animal. Gower had been to dinner with the chairman on Saturday night. Beefy’s inflection makes that innocent appointment feel almost like a terrible act of treachery.

A few weeks ago Mike Atherton, who will always be Athers, and Nasser Hussain had one of those discussions you can only have in a game that can move at glacial speed. They were debating who was the most posh England player Gower or Andrew Strauss. Lord Gower and Viscount Strauss, they said, had 17 butlers between them.

Gower yis not short on opinions. England are slowing the over rate with preposterous between-ball delays. Inertia is their ally.

“England are quite prepared to slow things down here. Almost cynically. Cynically,” says the former England captain.

Bob Willis is altogether more flinty as Sky rotate their commentary team with impressive extravagance. Cricketing blue blood all. Willis is low key to Beefy’s ebullience.

“It is raining right now. Quite heavily. The covers are coming on. They can take an early tea,” says a doleful Willis.”

Only in Test match cricket and Wimbledon does covering the pitch because of rain become a compelling set-piece of military precision where the hired help actually get a look in.

“It’s Michael Clarke’s game, is this,” says David Lloyd in his factory Lancashire accent. Strictly polystyrene in the Beefy mould.

Sky are star-bombing us now. Gary Neville turns up in his “Ashes” T-shirt. He bangs a few buttons on the interactive screen and shows a younger Hussian ducking from a delivery. Immediately after there’s a super slow-mo goal from Robin van Persie, perfect technique, head over the ball.

The rain stops. Holding is back in the commentary box. It’s 4.27pm in the afternoon as they file off. The northern skies are proving be the winner in this Test Match.

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