For England, there is a lot to play for at Edgbaston on Saturday, as they usher the weekend in with a handy lead of 214 runs with four wickets in hand.
All is forgotten as Paul Collingwood cements (why does that verb seem most appropriate for the man?) his place in the test team again with a handy hundred. (He got there with a six, didn’t he? Well, well, what’s the world coming to? Now they’ll expect Michael Vaughan to score runs as well, those unreasonable media men.) The captain of the one-day team not finding a place in the test team? That’s a sure way to get the selectors into recalling Graeme Hick.
Ryan Sidebottom gets a chance to do another Bob Willis (as a colleague said, it’s more than the bobbing hair, right?) as he steams in to bowl with a not-so-heavy target to back him. That may put paid to the hopes of Darren Pattinson’s comeback, but who cares for Aussies in England any way?
Andrew Flintoff completes a dream return to the test fold. Was he match fit? Did Michael Vaughan over-bowl him in the first innings? Is he good enough to bat at No. 6? All such questions will be forgotten. Until the big man injures himself again. (Can anyone please lead me to an online video clipping of his two overs to Jacques Kallis in the first innings?)
Andrew Strauss will get one more opportunity to prove that he is worthy of the sparkling whites after back-to-back twin failures following a relatively massive 44 in the first test. With Michael Vaughan preferring to give the opposition two quick wickets at the top of the order, the selectors will find it tough to look beyond a reluctant Marcus Trescothick (remember the man?) to partner Alastair Cook. And if Marcus jumps the ship again… well, let the selectors do their job, I’m not paid to do so.
Ian Bell’s not doing too badly, notwithstanding the twin failures in the second test (and that horror of a shot today), but all it takes is one more loss for the wise men to start looking at Ramps and other assorted veterans for the middle order.
Finally for the skipper. Notwithstanding my cruel jibes at him earlier in this piece, Michael Vaughan redeemed himself somewhat by making a whole fistful of runs today (it constitutes 42.5 percentage of his aggregate for the series so far). But no, Vaughan’s not there in the team to make those runs – that’s for Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar to take care of. A win this weekend and Vaughan will be English captain for life, even after he retires. He will also be unquestionably named the best English captain of all time. Mike Brearley, who’s that? And all those whispers about knighthood will be happily amplified.
There is a lot to play for tomorrow.