After spending a few quiet days in London, the last Test was about to start. Rod, Steve and myself used the spare day to walk around Buckingham Palace and find some nice pubs to have dinner in. The weather here has been pretty cold and wet and the first day of the Test did not disappoint. As far as we know, this match (and the last one) was the first time 3 Australian umpires have been appointed to officiate a Test together, so we had a commemorative photo taken.
We started under gloomy skies. England won the toss and elected to bat first. Normal programming resumed with Strauss and Cook putting on an unbeaten 75 before lunch. With 15mins of the break left we asked for the lights to be put on but the rain came and settled in for several hours – the covers were down and it is a fair sight when you see 47 pitches on a “square” covered with plastic! With our high performance manager (Barry – pictured below) settled in on the couch and the rain still falling, we eventually called the day off just after 5pm. This now means we have 4 very long days coming up in order to make up some of the lost time – great!
We awoke to see some strange glowing orange thing in the sky – rumored to be the sun and rarely seen in this part of the world. Another full house crowd saw England lose their opening batsmen early on. 2/97 became 2/447 six hours later as Bell and Pietersen put on a 350 run partnership. The latter was out just before stumps for 175 and it looks like another long day for the India bowlers tomorrow. After the day’s play I hit the gym for a walk and stretch and was back to settle down in the room around 9pm – after a 12 hour day, it was good to lie down and rest.
Ian Bell, who’s previous Test best was 199, confidently brought up his first Test double hundred – he finished with 235 and England went to lunch at 6/591. During the lunch break the rain started and we lost over 2.5hrs. During that time, we had a few laughs, was visited by Clive Lloyd and some of the team (well, just the one…Ranjan Madugalle pictured below) caught up on some sleep. Of course he will deny he was actually asleep as the man has eyes in the back of his head! England declared during the rain break and India had 33 overs to survive. Sehwag was gone on the last ball of the first over and then it became the Graeme Swann show as he flighted and turned the ball well. It was a tough session for the umpires and there will be a few more before this Test is over. The crowd went home happy in the evening sunshine with India 5/103 and still requiring plenty to avoid the follow on.
What a day of Test cricket we saw today – Rahul Dravid played one of the best innings seen in tough conditions. He carried his bat through the India innings when everyone else fell around him – he finished unbeaten on 146 out of a team total of 300 (the first time India had reached 300 in the series). England enforced the follow on with a lead of 291 and Dravid came out to bat again 10 minutes later. At the close, India were 3/129 with Tendulkar their last real hope. The other highlight for the day, apart from Dravid’s innings, was when Rod and I got to meet and speak with Mark Webber (F1 Red Bull driver). Mark is an old Canberra boy and what struck me about him was firstly his firm handshake and secondly, his fitness – a nice bloke and good to have a brief chat with a world class performer.
Lots of interest today on a number of fronts – could England whitewash the series 4 nil, could Tendulkar bring up his 100th international century and could India make England bat again? The first session was a wicketless one for England in front of another sold out crowd. A great effort by Mishra and Tendulkar on a wearing pitch and with a ball turning square at times. I could have upheld a couple of appeals for LBW but didn’t want to guess that the ball was going to hit the stumps. Then when I did give an LBW on Raina, I later learned he got a thin inside edge that only could be seen on hot spot – the same system that has failed to show a couple of edges in this series. Bugger! Once Tendulkar had been out for 91, the India fight back was all but over, and they lost their last 6 wickets for 21 runs. This was a really tough match to umpire with the interruptions, turning ball, close decisions, intensity, and player v player contests. I feel pretty exhausted now and am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and the plane journey to Dubai for an ICC umpires and referees conference.
All the best and take care, Simon.