Eng 215 & 80-2
FOR as long as I can remember, almost everyone who has captained England for any length of time has ended up losing his hair. Gatting, Gooch, Hussain, Vaughan, Strauss – even Atherton and Stewart might have thinned on top by the end of their ill-fated tenures.
Alastair Cook’s thick black mane is showing no signs of wilting – but if the next six weeks follow the course of the first two pulsating days at Nottingham, he might have cause to pull some of it out himself.
Having collapsed to a mediocre score then launched a stirring fightback on day one, England reduced Australia to rubble. Well, almost. At 117-9 it just needed one final blow to bring the tourists’ house crashing down. But the harder the wolves puffed, the more the final pair of Ashton Agar and Phil Hughes refused to let them in.
19-year-old Agar played with freedom, skill and an impish smile. It was a freakish knock, a once in a lifetime innings. He made a mockery of the nerves and tension that seemed to grip the more experienced players during the opening exchanges.
England suffered some bad luck courtesy of two perplexing decisions by third umpire Marais Erasmus. These things will even themselves out over the series, but it’s unusual to feel hard done by as a result of the man upstairs, who should have time and technology on his side.
Cook and Pietersen did well to calm the pulse rate of the match during the final session of day two, and the situation remains delicately poised. Despite Siddle, Agar and Hughes’ excellent performances so far, this Australian side should not be giving Cook any sleepless nights. Let’s hope he doesn’t need to invest in any re-growth products just yet.