Puzzling facts whizzing round England cricket

It seems that the whole of this vibrant sporting country is suddenly out of form. Please don’t ask me why, writes Ted Corbett.

Trent Bridge has the reputation of being the friendliest of all England’s Test grounds and no wonder. Not only are the staff helpful and always on hand but throughout my lifetime the city itself has been rumoured to be home to seven women for every man.

Even the dourest cricket fan must surely feel welcome in those circumstances.

Perhaps it was this hospitable intent that allowed the ground staff to prepare a pitch for the first Test against India that was so safe that tail-enders were able to feel at home on its low, slow surface for hours at a time.

The match had draw written all over it from the start and whenever some cheeky bowler threatened to find a way towards victory there was always someone with more sense usually carrying a bat who insisted on taking charge.

Just as well. It has been a rotten time to be an English sports fan and before the start of this Test there was no sign that it would break the mould of defeat piled on top of humiliation and completed with another lesson in how to win from teams we thought were our inferiors.

We are all hoping this match marks the turning point.

It all began in Australia but let’s not talk about that lesson in abject surrender. By the time our miserable men returned here we were getting ready for the football World Cup in Brazil. I guess there was an air of optimism here because the manager in charge of England, a 66-year-old by the name of Roy Hodgson seemed to be a jovial, avuncular type always neatly dressed and full of goodwill.

He spent months assuring us that all would be well and even though two warm-up matches were less than encouraging most people took him at his word and consoled themselves with the thought that at least we could enjoy Brazil the host nation, that great side some of us remembered with affection from the days of Pele and those other soccer conjurors.

I once saw Pele try — unsuccessfully I am sad to say — to score from the kick-off. That is how spectacular we expected Brazil to be although we must have forgotten that he was now far into his seventies and some of the new players were not quite as good.

Anyway, England soon fell by the wayside because they proved to be less able than the pessimists expected but things got worse. We sent a team to tackle the giant Rugby Union All Blacks in New Zealand and from somewhere got the idea we might beat the world champions. Instead we lost the series 3-0.

Humiliatingly a horse called Australia won the prestige race known as the Derby, Andy Murray our bonniest tennis player for 70 years was knocked out of both the French championship and Wimbledon just as he seemed to be getting into his stride.

For as long as it takes to change gear, our star driver Lewis Hamilton led the F1 championship but faded until — and this is up to date as I write — he won the British event and allowed we permanent hopefuls to dream again that he might win the title.

By the time the World Cup had reached the final stages and our second-best hopes Brazil had been kicked off the park by Germany we were rejoicing that our spectators at the start of the Tour de France had turned out in their millions. Sadly our finest riders hardly managed to take part but instead crashed out — literally.

So what chance of victory over India in the next four Tests. It is difficult to be upbeat, even though I have seen better Indian teams and the series is being played on our pitches. Traditionally our groundsmen have always declined to prepare pitches to suit England so the odds are not in our favour.

I am not saying that panic has set in, but you could be excused for thinking that was the case. After Australia the ECB responded by getting rid of Kevin Pietersen, our top-scorer Down Under, on the basis that he seemed to cause trouble in the dressing room.

They promise they will explain more fully later but don’t hold your breath.

They also said farewell to Andy Flower, hailed for a while as the best coach in the last quarter of a century, but now happy to look after young talent. I am not sure whether it was his wish or his bosses that he made this change but then there are a great many puzzling facts whizzing round England cricket at the moment.

The captain Alastair Cook hardly scored a run in Australia but he was retained to lead the side. Many of us wanted KP but his character deficiencies counted against him, so we are given to understand. The selectors dispensed with some of the big, tall, strong and nasty fast bowlers they took to Australia even though they might have been more effective against Sri Lanka’s mini men.

Did I say mini men? They trailed in the first Test and won the second so perhaps England were the side lacking size or at least stout hearts.

It seems that the whole of this vibrant sporting country is suddenly out of form. Please don’t ask me why. I have just heard that the old enemy Germany have won the World Cup. Can things get any worse?