Let’s talk cricket for a bit as England-New Zealand series rests on Edgbaston Test

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Shall we talk about the cricket for a bit, then? Let’s park the timeline mining and the urge to be outraged by every less-than-savoury comment ever committed to the Twittersphere, and focus on the reason why such remarks from England’s senior sports stars are held to a higher standard than the rest of the poisonous soup that swills around that fetid site.

England’s cricketers are public figures – a fact that might have been easy to overlook in the past 12 months of bio-secure bubbling, but at Edgbaston this week, they can expect to feel once again the full roar (or at least, a 70% roar) of the Hollies Stand, as the sport continues its tiptoe back to normality with cricket’s largest crowd since the T20 Blast final in September 2019, when Edgbaston was once again the host with the most.

This year in the UK, only Leicester City’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea last month has been witnessed by more spectators than the 17,000 a day that will be permitted in Birmingham, and the euphoria of that occasion was palpable, even while the gaps in the stands remained gaping. All things being equal, this Test promises to be a celebration of cricket’s resilience and rebirth. But as we have been reminded over the course of the last few days, all things are far from equal right now.

Nevertheless, the occasion could also be a celebration of a different ilk for the indomitable James Anderson, who now seems to be ticking off a milestone a match as he revels in the “sexy phase” of his career, the phrase recently coined by Peter Moores to describe Stuart Broad’s similarly zen-like confidence in his methods and mien.
Given the eight-week gap until the first Test against India, there seems little reason to defer Anderson’s record-breaking 162nd Test appearance on the grounds of workload management, although it was also England’s stated aim before the series to use these games, which fall outside the World Test Championship remit, to expand their pool of potential Ashes performers. Either way, he’ll get there soon enough, and will do so with a seasoned assurance far removed from the raw rookie who tore in on debut at Lord’s 18 years ago, even as his internal monologue was insisting he “wasn’t good enough”.
New Zealand, too, are embracing the rest-and-rotation vibe. Some of their changes are enforced – most troublingly, the absence of their captain, the world’s No.1-ranked batter, Kane Williamson due to a long-standing elbow injury – but the rest are anticipated with the bigger picture in mind.
For all that Tom Latham, their stand-in skipper, recognizes that victory in England would be a memorable achievement in its own right, the three-day gap to the World Test Championship final against India requires a pragmatic approach, particularly to their fast-bowling resources. After six years as one of the premier teams in world cricket, encompassing the heartache of two World Cup finals, this is a glorious opportunity to obtain a tangible reward for their ceaselessly high standards.


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