England’s Great Escape

Harry Houdini had nothing to compare with the piece of escapology I have just spent most of the night listening to. The starring roles were played by Ian Bell (75 in 354 minutes) and Matthew Prior whose unbeaten century eventually saw England to safety. Stuart Broad held the fort bravely for two and a quarter hours after Bell’s dismissal, while there will never be a more valuable 2 not out than that produced by Monty Panesar at the death.

Matthew Prior benefitted from a freak piece of good fortune on 28, when he played a ball into his stumps without dislodging a bail (Herbert Sutcliffe once enjoyed a similar break, at Sydney in 1932, and likewise made it pay, advancing from 43 to 194, which formed the backbone of a first innings tally of 524, and the subsequent ten wicket win).

Another quirky stat: this was only the third time a team four wickets down going into the final day batted through an uninterrupted day’s play to gain a draw: Atherton’s stonewall against South Africa was the first, South Africa against Australia at Adelaide was the second, and this, spearheaded by Johannesburg born Matthew Prior was the third.

Old Trafford in 2005 saw a draw with Australia holding out defiantly at the end, one of the two batsmen in at the death for them being a genuine number 11 in Glenn McGrath, while at Cardiff in 2009 James Anderson and Monty Panesar held out for some time to secure a draw for England, but for sheer unremitting tension this one topped the lot.

Having seen England extricate themselves from this match and followed goings on in the Aussie camp I do not see anything other than two English series victories in the centrepiece clashes of the rest of 2013.