The forecast had said it was going to rain. Had insisted, in fact, with the stubborn assurance of the friend who tells you that the last train definitely doesn’t leave till midnight. At stumps on day three it confidently predicted conditions that would keep the players in their dressing rooms for most of the day. By morning it revised its estimate to a major downpour at lunchtime.
In the early afternoon, with sunshine radiating around Trent Bridge, the satellite radar maps maintained that it was actually pelting over West Bridgford, like Donald Trump standing in front of the Biggest Inauguration Crowd EVER!!!
No weather app was going to gaslight the Nottingham crowd. They had come here in their thousands, in their India shirts, in their buy-four-get-one-free fancy dress purchases. There was a time when England cricket fans – most of whom are serious enough about meteorology to earn a diploma from a minor university – used to pray for rain. But no one wanted that here. We have all missed plenty already.
There was the chance that a late shower, say 5pm, would allow rugby lovers to sneak to the pub and watch the Lions game; when England’s first two wickets fell early, it looked as if they might get the chance anyway. For anyone who missed England’s tour of India earlier this year there has been plenty of the repeat performance about this Test, especially the feeling that they are a team teetering on the edge of dysfunction.
In fact, England’s second innings threatened to be a lazy cut‑and‑paste of the first; one could almost hear the targeted algorithm boasting: “If you liked that, you’ll love this!” The top order failed, the captain organised the resistance, and his fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow stuck around for one more run than he managed on Wednesday. We will soon run out of metaphors for Joe Root as captain‑under-strain. Until then his century was the equivalent of the comic book hero catching a plummeting lift and holding it up, the cable between his teeth, until everyone was safely out.
It has been tempting to give in to anger at England’s batters this week, and scrutiny will fall mercilessly on the young pretenders. Zak Crawley is still flattering to deceive. Nothing about Dan Lawrence’s appearance has been flattering, either at the crease or in the field. Dom “Sluggardly” Sibley nearly caused two run-outs before he departed, his three-and-a-third hours at the crease having yielded 28 runs. Rory Burns walked off the field with his eyes fixed to the replay on the big screen, which is batsman sign language for “There’s nothing I could have done about that, honest”.
But a Trent Bridge weekend was not the time or place to get annoyed. How could one get angry in a place where there is a fried chicken stand called Leg Before Fillet? Why would anyone waste time on negative emotion when a team of hairy, XL-sized male cheerleaders are signalling a Joe Root boundary with pink pom-poms? Who would not smile at the sight of India and England flags hanging side by side on a balcony on the Radcliffe Road?
In the balmy temperatures, the ground hummed with goodwill. Hawaiian shirts – a summer ’21 men’s fashion trend we can surely all get behind – were out in force. In the Fox Road stand, monks, nuns and Knights Templar joined voices, to bellow their love for “Roooooooooot”. From the stand opposite, the Bumrah Army chanted back.
Little things tugged at the heart. It is amazing, in this tired-and-emotional stage of the Covid hangover, what can bring a lump to the throat. A child gazing lovingly at her ice cream. A phalanx of canoes gliding downstream on the river. A dozen beer barrels stacked tenderly at the back of the Trent Bridge Inn.
The cricket, meanwhile, delivered a rich all-day menu, from Root’s emotive hundred to another Sam Curran cameo, from Mohammed Siraj’s effervescent send-offs to Jasprit Bumrah’s trademark yorkers. There will surely be plenty more to enjoy from the India fast bowler this series but four for 46 and five for 64 is not a bad place to start.
Most in the crowd would have settled for that from a fourth day’s play. They got a bonus: Stuart Broad, back in his Karate Kid headband, opening with a tantalising spell and KL Rahul’s wicket. In the last hour, a single grey cloud finally slid overhead: it was not even enough to make the umpires reach for the light meters. Nice try, weather. You lost.