Electrifying wake-up call, occasioned by my lack of a wake-up call. No bloody alarm! 6.27! Have to be IN THE CAR, ON THE WAY TO THE STATION, by 6.45. Blimey. That’s one way to sharpen the senses.
Another, more agreeable way, is to watch the river then the estuary, then the soporific mudbanks slide past. On the train. Between Caerfyrddin a Llanelli. Mae’n hyfryd – even when resolutely grey.
A favourite journey before a favourite walk. From Cardiff Central, past the Millenium, into Bute Park, on to Sophia Gardens. Even in light rain, even with the Millenium Gates locked, to de-bar an intimate skirting of that iconic stadium. Lovely – and encouragingly bustly. Full house?
The players are warming up under that grey blanket. Footie for England then fielding/catching drills; fair amount of agility stuff then catching for the Aussies. 10.35.
Shortly afterwards Australia win what might be an important toss, given the possibility for really tricky batting conditions early, and brighter forecast later. (Having said that, the England batting lineup feels strong, what with Wood in at eleven!) Morgan has had a back spasm so Buttler will skipper England.
Lols as Neil Warnock rings the bell. Expected him to hoof it into the stand.
Richardson will open up, to Bairstow. Glides to fine leg for the first run. Ground about 58% full. Approximately. Roy leans rather beautifully into an on-drive. Four. Seven off the first over and no alarms.
T’other Richardson, from the River End. Helpfully, he has that Pirlo-thing going on. Roy cuts the fourth ball emphatically for four. As Bairstow back-drives for another boundary the early sense is of a benign batting strip. (*Fatal*). Roy has gone through a couple of pull shots a tad early but otherwise, no dramas.
17 for 0, after 4.
Bairstow sticks a beauty past extra cover and looks tasty, already. Lights are on, mind so maybe no room for complacency. Smooth-chinned Richardson sends down two quick bouncers in succession to keep the Yorkshireman honest.
Ground now 84% full. Plus.
Bairstow – no doubt to welcome the late-comers in – booms Pirlo straight down the ground for 6. Then 4. Then 4. This is not an electrifying start – 40 for 0 after 6 – but it’s been great, for England. Agar on from the Cathedral Road End: first over goes for 9.
Double-change as Stoinis comes on, to Roy, who has 18. England look dangerously good. (*Fatal revisited*).
Pirlo has changed ends: now runs in from in front of us Elite Media People, in the press box. From nowhere, he removes the imperious Bairstow (42 off 24), who edges through to the keeper. In comes Hales, who *may want* to make the most of this opportunity.
After one from Pirlo, Agar returns, bringing medium-strength sunshine. England are 75 for 1 after that 11th over. 100 comes up with a fine-looking drive through mid-off, from Roy. Hales has progressed neatly enough to 20-odd.
Tye has entered the fray but Hales and Roy remain both watchful and aggressive. The Aussie paceman goes for 11 in his first over. At drinks, England are 112 for just the loss of Bairstow, off 18. Surely ahead on points?
At this point some bloke called Bumble sits immediately next to me: shocking bit of groupiedom but I forgive him.
Shortly afterwards, Hales is clean bowled by Richardson J. An absolute peach. Hales needed more than his 26, methinks.
Root nonchalantly flicks to fine leg for his opening runs – a boundary. Then Roy goes through to his fifty – good knock. England are 124 for 2 after 20.
We’re into something of a lull, which is clearly goodish for Aus. Roy responds by smoothing Stoinis with some intent, straight over mid-on, for six. Again it feels this pitch is on the honest-to-slow side: Root, in ver-ry carefully guiding towards third man, almost steers it to the keeper’s right hand.
At 142 for 2, we have a shower, and off they go.
One o’oclock and we’re preparing to re-lock horns. Much brighter… but there *are* clouds. Tye at it first; Roy tonks him through extra. Four – and the 150 up. Pirlo from the other (Cathedral Road) end.
Roy tennis-smashes him, almost studiously, so slow is the bounce. Next over, he ab-so-lutely carts Tye, easily, over midwicket for six.
Suddenly, a great catch from Short, off Stoinis. Pull shot from Roooot that dropped sharply in front of the fielder. Plucked it one-handed – brilliantly.
But… rain in again… until just before 2p.m. 184 for 3, off 30. Unfortunate disruption – for everybody.
Have a long, fascinating chat with Chris Waterman, who is, apparently, a kind of educational terrorist-iconoclast. Good on ‘im. Remember when some England boss waxed lyrical about Paul Scholes ‘running round letting off his wee hand grenades’ (or similar?) Like that. Only in the House of Lords or the MCC.
2.15 and Short lobs a few slow left-arm overs. Roy and Buttler get scampering. 200 up, for 3, in the 32nd. Roy gets to a rather accomplished century in the over-after-next. Runs coming, but it’s hardly a torrent.
Ever-sensitive to that Positivity Quotient, Buttler leans coolly into a full one and it flies over mid-off. Quality. Roy gets cuter – reverse-sweeping Agar for four. Controlled upward spike? Could be. Confirmed as Roy powerfully, almost maliciously smashes Tye straight.
As rain falls again there is another stoppage but this is to attend to Paine, who has been clattered in the face by an awkward, double-bouncing delivery. Half the Aus team think they’ve been called off again but no – no actual break in play. England are 233 for 3 at this point.
Tye finally nails Roy courtesy of a great catch by the bloodied Paine, who moves really sharply to pouch one low down to his left. The keeper can’t smile, due to that cut above his norf’n sarf, but wow – top catch.
Short is on, at the River End. Expect fireworks from Billings, who faces, initially. Instead, it’s relatively conservative – not sure that will be the case if the spinner returns next over.
Agar, from the Cathedral Road, receives similar respect. Moral victory for the slowies. 250 for 4 up in the 40th.
WOW. Buttler then ramp-scoops Richardson J TWICE IN SUCCESSION for six, before cutting through to his fifty. A moment – two – of star, star quality. Maybe the innings needs more of this, to pile the pressure on the visitors, who may well benefit from improved batting conditions?
Buttler is showing off, booming a hockey shot through extra cover. It brings out the sun.
Billings, meanwhile has been quietish. Or maybe just in the shadow of Buttlerdom? He goes, in fact, a tad unluckily but his inside edge-onto-pad-onto-stumps feels a little tame. Enter Moeen, who has had fun here before.
Ali starts with an easy pull, forward of square, off a short one from Tye. Did I say it’s kinda windy, by the way? Trees are a-dancing vigorously. Richardson J is running in hard and slapping it down with that breeze coming across him from his right. Good marks for commitment for all the Australian quicks, to be fair.
300 achieved in the 45th as Moeen doinks a single from Tye. But Mo also goes rather tamely, flipping one to deep square. Willey comes in, surely looking to garner ten plus an over off the last four?
Aus bowl a lump of shortish quickish ones and the policy is pret-ty successful – boundaries being hard to find. The anticipated 350 drifts, in a flurry of ill-timed wafts and slashes. Willey connects, off Pirlo, and then flukes a second over Paine but these are relatively isolated spikes in the run rate.
Willey kisses one high on the bat and Richardson runs across to reach for the catch. 325 for 7 feels 30 light so Buttler defiantly clouts him cross-batted for four over midwicket; middled. Plunkett, however, engineers a kamikaze schoolboy runout.
The innings closes with another biff to leg from Buttler, who gets to 91 not out as England post 342 for 8. Certainly good… but I wonder if Finch might really fancy this?