|Alastair Cook Photo © Nottingham Confidential
“Some things change and some things stay the same” the philosopher said. Actually, the philosopher was Morpheus in The Matrix, but if Laurence Fishburne is a cricket fan he too may have cast his mind back to 1989 today and the last time an Australian side arrived for an Ashes series to be rated by the media as the “worst ever” to tour England.
Of course, Australia went on to win that series 4-0 with the lowest in a series of low points for England that summer a crushing innings defeat inside four days in Nottingham. So while the glitter and swagger of Trent Bridge in 2013 bears hardly any resemblance to the gently fading grandeur of two decades ago, the sense of impotence and frustration that took hold of a partisan crowd just after tea seemed all too familiar.
All this after an auspicious opening ceremony earlier in the day for which full marks for pomp and circumstance are due to the ECB, Investec and Notts CCC. The band of the Coldstream Guards, Lesley Garrett and the Red Arrows produced a surge of patriotism to inspire the crowd and English cricketers, even if one or two couldn’t quite remember the words to the national anthem. In fact within a couple of hours it seemed one or two had forgotten which way round to hold a cricket bat as in the face of steady, if unspectacular Australian seam bowling, wicket fell after wicket giving plenty of opportunity for the scorers to give the new, space age scoreboard at the Radcliffe Road end a thorough workout.
It seemed with Bell’s dismissal leaving England at 178 for 5 as if things could not get any worse. They did however and despite some spirit from Stuart Broad who endured a verbal battering and a clout to the shoulder for his troubles that put paid to his afternoon, the tail duly collapsed with the last five wickets falling for 37 runs.
But just as in The Matrix the resistance called for and were delivered by The One, circumstances duly conjured up a saviour to the English cause in the unlikely form of Stephen Finn. An unprepossessing start of long hops was followed by a correction to his navigation system and rewarded by two wickets in two balls. Clearly uncomfortable with a mere co-starring role, Jimmy Anderson promptly made the stage his own with headline-grabbing deliveries to undo Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, passing Fred Trueman’s Test wicket record in the process.
Fourteen wickets, just under 300 runs and this is only the first day of the first instalment of the 2013 Ashes blockbuster. England’s day, just, but the tourists have showed sufficient discipline to suggest this will be a far closer struggle than previously advertised. Fate, as Morpheus would attest, is not without a sense of irony.