Friday 6 December 2013

Intensity, pressure and time

One of the notable features of the Brisbane Test was the intensity levels of both sides: Australia's was higher. It got lost a little in the fog of war, mainly because Michael Clarke's sledge was picked up on the stump mike, and that skewed the debate towards who was saying what, rather than who was doing what.

There's no way it would have escaped Andy Flower though, so James Anderson's first ball at Adelaide was like a punch in the guts, the moment I realised that they may well lose this series. It racked up 78mph on the radar and Chris Rogers had time to adjust his guard, wave to his mates in the stands and wonder what to get the wife for Christmas before he patted it gently back. The rest of the over was runless but had little else to recommend it. Anderson walked stiffly back to his mark, like he hadn't really warmed up.

Mitchell Johnson, by contrast, delivered the quickest ball of the ball of the match with his first, and by the middle of his opening over was at 95mph.

The point is not that Australia have a much faster bowler than England, but that Johnson was on it and Anderson wasn't. England couldn't shake the ennui of too much cricket. Confronted by an opponent of greater desire, they are fading. All of the overs, the hours, the practice, the battles, those great highs and their emotional effort, bring a toll eventually.

It's not even really a criticism, more an observation on human nature and the inevitability of time.  For a while, until he raised himself in mid-afternoon, Anderson looked like Hoggy did in New Zealand when he was taken around the back of the pavilion and given the icy news that he had lost his zip.

It's not too late, but like an old boxer, they've been in a lot of big fights and fresh punches carry their dreaded cumulative effect.


If Test cricket had a narrator, it'd be Morgan Freeman, especially that great line about geology being 'the study of pressure and time' from The Shawshank Redemption. Tests are about that too, the effect of a moment - Carberry dropping Haddin for example - slowly becoming apparent as time and pressure bear down on it.

Then Carberry has to go out and feel the great weight of that scoreboard as he tries to survive the last overs of the day, knowing that more time yawns ahead.