England’s openers stave off boredom with record opening stand

England’s opening batsmen enjoyed a rollicking day with the blade, making a splendid opening partnership of 196 on the first day of the second Ashes Test.

Captain Andrew Strauss, who finished the day on 161 not out, said afterwards: “I’ve been having problems recently with my batting in that I’ve been getting out quite a bit. And that’s rubbish, because you’ve then got to find something to do whilst all the others have a go. By 9 o’clock this morning my emails were all up to date and I’d completed all my turns on Facebook Scrabble, so I knew there wouldn’t be much else to do other than bat. I decided it would probably be best not to get out, as there wouldn’t have been much for me to do for the rest of the day. I’m one of those people who hate having nothing to do and I’d have been a nightmare for the others to be around on the players’ balcony. Plus they wouldn’t let me go home, as I’m the captain and I have to set the right example, apparently.”

Cook was also at a loose end for most of the day, so the pair duly compiled their highest opening partnership for England so far, surpassing Gooch and Atherton’s stand back in 1991 – a staggering feat, considering in their day the internet hadn’t even been invented. Players back in the early 1990s often had to pass the time after their dismissal by playing games such as Connect 4 or Yahtzee – indeed, Gooch and Atherton compiled their mammoth stand midway through a fairly heated game of Abalone.

“Everyone in cricket remembers that partnership, as relations between them at that point were fraught to say the least” said Cook, Gooch’s protégé at Essex, “Athers was winding Goochy up a treat. He’d just won 3 games in a row and Gooch was fuming. Athers kept saying things like ‘You’re too old for this, your brain’s gone to fudge’ and ‘That’s the benefit of a private education, Goochie’. Now Graham’s a fiercely proud working class man and he wasn’t going to have some young Cambridge graduate – especially a northern one – get the upper hand with him in a game of Abalone. None of the others could beat him at that game apart from Athers and by the time they went out to bat they were barely talking. It was the Simon and Garfunkel of batting partnerships which players still talk about to this day. How they managed to bat for nearly six hours together and say nothing to each other between every over was quite incredible.”

Fortunately for the Cook-Strauss partnership there were no such divisions: “Between each over Andy and I would have a laugh together about how bored the others must be, having to sit there all day and watch. We decided after about the 10th over to see how long we could stick around, just to piss them off. We knew there was fuck-all else to do other than bat and to see Ravi Bopara padded up ready to bat for so long was hilarious”, said Cook. “He came up to us at lunch saying ‘When am I going to get a turn?’ and Straussy and I kept telling him that he should stay padded up ready, just in case one of us got out. What he didn’t know was that neither of us intended getting out until at least 3 o’clock, when we knew that Countdown would be on, followed by Deal Or No Deal.”

“Alastair did eventually get out around 20 minutes before Countdown began, though it did give him some time to shower, change and grab a pen and paper before the show started.” said the England captain. “I’m not into Countdown myself, plus I knew Deal Or No Deal was repeated later on in the evening on More4, so I decided to carry on batting as I was having quite a bit of fun and it would have been a shame for it to end for the sake of watching a show I could see again later.”

England ended day one on 364-6, with Strauss not out overnight.


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