Verging on Insanity

Even fewer people have credited Ian Bell with being a perceptive cricketing sage than with being a Test class number three batsman, but when he warned at the end of the first day at The Oval that people shouldn't pronounce judgement on England's first innings total until Australia had batted, I decided that he had a point.

A fairly obvious and trite one, granted, but a point nevertheless. I've been caught out too many times in the past (haven't we all?), so, this time, I thought, I'll refrain from commenting. In retrospect I'm glad I did, as England swept Australia away yesterday, with Stuart Broad again providing ample evidence of why he should represent England's future, with bat and ball.

Today was a standard positioning day; England assuming what they will take to be a position from which they're immune to defeat and can strike for victory, Australia embarking positively on the long slog to save - or win - the game and the Ashes.

With the pitch appearing less lively than before, I feel that there's plenty of cricket left in the match. And, while an Australian victory is very, very unlikely, I wouldn't quite rule it out in the impulsive way Jonathan Agnew did on the radio this evening (claiming that he would eat one of Geoff Boycott's many hats if Australia won).

Anyone who's played cricket with or against Australians knows that they have a level of competitiveness and optimism which often verges on insanity. They are, almost literally, never beaten.

I used to play with a Doctor from Queensland who'd grown up with Matthew Hayden and who used to try to exhort his downcast team-mates by shouting 'come on, we can still win it' when the opposition needed two runs to win on a featherbed with eight wickets in hand. We all thought he was mad but he genuinely believed what he was saying.

I hope Graeme Swann spends tonight sleeping rather than tweeting, because he's going to do a hell of a lot of bowling over the next couple of days, and the pressure to succeed will be high.

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