Test 4, Day 1

What a weird day.

It rained, of course, as we all knew it would. It’s Manchester in September. What’s the old adage? “If you can’t see the hills, that means it’s raining; if you can see the hills, it’s about to rain.” Or something like that.

The day started off in the sun though. The toss was on time and Australia chose to have a bat. Broad took two early wickets, including that of a very hapless and helpless David Warner, but Smith (who looks to be on the edge of another decent knock) and Labuschagne settled in and parried most of what England had to throw at them. But not what Mother Nature threw at them. Off and on the batsmen came, as the rains came and went. It would thunder down and then be dry and the outfield would be soaked and the light would be bad. The wind blew. The bails came off. Trash littered the ground. Maiden over after maiden over after maiden over. It “all went a bit village” as the Cricinfo commentator put it so eloquently. Late in the day, Overton took Labuschagne’s wicket — clean bowled — but then the rain came back and even though the sun came out the outfield was too wet so play was abandoned.

An inauspicious start to the fourth Test. Right now, it has draw written all over it. The forecast calls for rain tomorrow and Friday.

England has to win one of these matches, and so losing almost a half day’s cricket today was not ideal. Australia, for their part, have to be feeling pretty good right now. A nice stand, Smith at the crease, after surviving a tricky bunch of overs in the northwest wind and the northwest dark. Of course, Tests rarely, it seems, go for the full five days now, so they are not out of the woods yet. That’s speaking anecdotally, of course, but it feels like most matches only go four days now, or even three. A few quick wickets for England in the early session tomorrow and some clear weather (stop laughing) and we could very get a result.

But honestly I think for the next few days the story is going to be Steve Smith and rain. Rain and Steve Smith. Rinse. Repeat.

A weird day. A nothing day. A disappointing day. A wet day. Cricket isn’t always late afternoon heroics, sometimes it’s the teams in their clubhouses, playing cards while playing out a draw, as the rain beats down. We would all prefer the former, of course, but the latter is part of the game, too. Sure, we could put cricket in a dome, but then you lose the long shadows (I love the long shadows). Sure, we could move all Test matches to the UAE, but the US just had a match there rained out earlier this year. It’s simply part of the game, rain. The worst part — or one of the worst parts — but still a part. And like Longfellow wrote, behind the clouds, the sun is always shining. Some days are dreary, but that’s just how it works. “Into every life a little rain must fall.” Into every cricket match a little rain must fall. It’s how we appreciate it when it doesn’t.

Until tomorrow.

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