Mitchell Johnson’s outburst against former teammate and opener David Warner’s selection in what is deemed as the southpaw’s farewell series.
All of us have had the experience of the momentarily most essential thing turning out to be elusive precisely when we need it. But the problem which confronted England a day ahead of the second Ashes Test, which began at Lords on Wednesday with Australia 1-0 ahead, was of greater significance, considering it was a national, rather than individual, headache. You got, first, stray whiffs, and then fuller accounts if you were interested, the whole piling up into a concoction you could scarcely believe was possible in a country that had given us the game. Apparently, it had come home to England that they missed a spinner of any description whatsoever with the crucial Test upon them. Amazingly, there was no one they could name after Moin Ali’s finger blisters. They knew that they could do with one, given that Nathan Lyon was going great guns and, imponderables not blocking his path, would strike again at the Holy of Holies, and make things difficult for the Bazball-obsessed hosts. Life is like that. Fashionably fond of whatever is new, England seemed suddenly to re-discover the virtues of a variety of bowling which had for ages taken some mastering and then yielded only to the truly great. They, alas, were, all and sundry, somewhere else now, just like the unconsidered trifles of everyday existence, with instant online journalistic research revealing that there was simply no one that England could fall back on, though a mothballed Ali being taken off the shelf and having to be pressed into service at Edgbaston had hinted at that.
As names were reeled off and track records pored unavailingly over, the one point which appeared to strike only a handful of the pundits was how the country, inclusive of its domestic game, had kept edging spin bowling to the margin for so long, not letting the bowlers grow and fitting them into, if at all, a general scheme of tight control and not allowing experiments aimed at taking wickets. It had begun long before Twenty20 rebooted cricket and never let up, with ceremonially appointed committees of global experts looking on. They bunged in Josh Tongue, which was not a like-forlike switch, though the Press alluded to Lords pacy pitch. Blighty has always had the authoritative voice which can explain why, say, Abdul Qadir was as good as he was but it clammed up the moment you wanted to know when England was going to unleash the Lethal One. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar won them a series in India, without making a long-term home impact and now, this. If Joe Root is a serious five-day spin option, it is not a story that will inspire generations; it is making do with a substitute, as we sometimes do. A pencil stub for a fountain-pen, perhaps, but will the writing be worth reading?