A curious day of a cricket match, that began as a first-class one and ended without that status, saw England end on top against Essex at Chelmsford. Indeed, the type of match that was being played proved by far the most interesting talking point on a day that was otherwise played at low intensity.
A glut of injuries to the Essex bowlers meant that, at England’s request, they were allowed to draft in Reece Topley and England bowler Boyd Rankin to supplement their attack and provide the batsmen with more meaningful practice ahead of next week’s first Test. The result was that the match, according to the laws of the game, lost its first-class status and Tim Bresnan, Tom Craddock and Graeme Swann lost their personal milestones, accrued over the previous two days, in the blink of a eye. Such are the vagaries of cricket.
The pick of the day’s on-field action came, arguably, first thing in the morning when Graeme Swann, fresh from a bruising at the hands of Tymal Mills yesterday, resumed his battle with the fast-bowler. This time the roles were reversed, with Swann bowling his off-spin for the first time in the match and Essex’s last man Mills wielding the willow. Mills won the early salvos and whacked Swann for two sixes on his way to what was then a career-best 31. Swann, though, had the last laugh and had him bowled to end the Essex innings at 278.
That gave England a lead of 135 on first innings, but the match was about to descend into farce. David Masters didn’t bowl due to an Achilles injury, while Mills limped off after delivering three overs complaining of tightness in his hamstring. Thus, leg-spinner Tom Craddock came onto bowl in just the seventh over and Essex were forced to field a clutch of substitute fielders, one of whom was 15 year-old Academy player Aaron Beard. The problem only worsened when Tom Westley injured himself whilst fielding and Essex were forced to call on the services of Owais Shah’s off-spin.
The sight of Shah bowling at the cream of English batting in Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott - Joe Root had earlier been dismissed by Craddock for 26 - proved just too much, hence the introductions of Topley and Rankin.
They made little difference on a still-flat pitch and Cook and Trott batted through until tea with hardly a nervy moment. They took their second-wicket stand to 119 at the break, at which point another piece of cricket trivia occurred as two wickets fell on one ball when both decided to retire simultaneously.
Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow walked out after tea with an eye on time in the middle, but they will have to wait for anything more meaningful as the rain arrived to force an early halt. Despite the oddities, it was still a largely satisfying day for England as Cook and Trott enjoyed time at the crease and Swann returned to action following yesterday’s injury scare.
© Cricket World 2013