So far, so good. One test down, and the England cricket team have an 100 per cent record. A 1-0 scoreline only tells half of the story though, and going into the second episode of this summer’s grand narrative, at the hallowed Lord’s ground, all remains to play for. Needless to say, Michael Clarke’s Aussies will be desperate to make up for coming so very close last week. Given the evolutionary nature of the series, here is a quick breakdown of five storylines which will be well worth following as they develop over the currently-sweltering Summer:
1. James Anderson. During the five days at Trent Bridge many players looked good, as if they were playing themselves into form. The pace bowler from Burnley however, looked on a different plane altogether. Undoubtedly, if Australia figure out Jimmy, they’ll figure out England. Meanwhile, how will the other English bowlers fare if, as the great Adam Gilchrist suggests, the Aussies try to use a perceived English dependency on Anderson as a psychological weapon?
2. David Warner. It was hard to ignore the controversy in the build-up to the series – Warner’s ‘altercation’ with Joe Root in a ‘Walkabout’ bar lead to Warner himself going ‘Walkabout’ all the way to Southern Africa to play in an Australia A international – but who’d bet against the left-handed batsman making a statement whilst augmenting a disconcertingly fragile batting line-up, Ashton Agar aside.
3. Spin. Talking of the 19 year-old debutant Agar: the latest in a long line of spinners who have been teed up to replace the legendary Shane Warne was notable, remarkably, for his batting in the first test. Both he, and opposite number Graeme Swann, struggled to make much of a mark in Nottingham, and with Swann no doubt itching to prove his bowling can still live up to his off-field character, it will be fascinating to see how Agar fares – will his record-breaking last stand count for much in the eyes of the newly reorganised Antipodean selectors?
4. Umpires and DRS. According to some respected analysts the finale to the Trent Bridge test was marred by the ‘Decision Review System’. Others felt that the agonising wait to see whether ‘Hotspot’ technology would rule Brad Haddin out added to the tension in a positive manner. What is factual though, is that the reliance on technology is threatening to fuel discussion throughout the series. Equally, the scrutiny over borderline decisions has extended to some mild criticism of the umpires present, and due to the fact that the majority of the ‘Elite’ panel of umpires are either English or Australian, the two who featured last week will be reappearing frequently. Without wishing to mirror football’s occasionally morbid fascination with officiating, the reaction to key calls – whether human or technological – will make for polemical discussion.
5. ‘The Spirit of Cricket’. Related to the DRS debate is the moral standard which cricket holds itself to. In particular, the concept of ‘walking’ when a player knows that they have been got out is ingrained in the fabric of the game. Therefore Stuart Broad’s pokerfaced refusal to leave the field in Nottingham struck many as beyond the pale. That he then went on to make an important half-century, helping England’s eventual victory, has only served to heighten the anger he has faced. Coming hot on the heels of a similar controversy featuring Denesh Ramdin at the recent ICC Champions’ Trophy, the ethical debate shows no signs of abating. As such, when any close decisions occur at Lord’s it might be worth taking a good look into the eyes of the batsman or fielder at the centre of the scenario – it would certainly add another facet to the game. (Not that it needs it.)