The England cricket team run out at Lords, Jonathan Agnew and Henry Blofeld finally give you something worthwhile to listen to on the radio and rain lashes most of the country. The great British summer has arrived.
Most predicted England would beat West Indies going into the first game of the summer, they are the number 1 team in the world after all (although how they managed to keep that title after their winter run is a mystery to most). However there was the suggestion that the home team may still have been nursing a hangover from their disastrous winter tours and with the relatively inexperienced West Indies team there was potential for an upset.
But on the hallowed soil of the Home of Cricket it didn't take long for any cobwebs to be blown away and we were treated to a great spectacle. There were in fact signs of encouragement for both teams.
As a unit England bowled with great discipline with Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson once again showing why at their best they are arguably the finest seam pairing in the world. Broad in particular demonstrated that Anderson isn't the only fast bowler in the team to give batsmen sleepless nights, running riot in the overcast conditions, whilst Anderson bowled faultlessly but just couldn't reap the rewards. If Broad starts to perform regularly with the bat and stops pleading to Strauss for a review every time one of his deliveries hits anything it won't be long before the word 'great' starts to be used to describe him.
Andrew Strauss has recently been given a rough time by critics who had had no complaints about him whilst England were on their rise to the top of the test rankings. It was great to watch him make a century and put that issue to bed. One couldn't help but grin along with Strauss during his post innings interview who looked like a man who'd just lifted King Kong off his back let alone a monkey.
Kevin Pietersen who so often flatters to deceive, looked to have regained his swagger after a much criticised spell in the Indian Premier League. However he once again refused to compromise style for performance and paid the price. Will he ever learn?
Johnny Bairstow failed to put a definitive end to the one big question England still need to answer, who will replace Paul Collingwood? However the signs were encouraging.
Bairstow's run out of Edwards actually was reminiscent of his ginger predecessor, bringing a fresh energy to the field and dispelling the myth that wicket keepers can't throw. As for his batting, Johnny's first innings may have been short but it was assured and something to build on. We know he can bat at other levels of the game and in other formats, but then again the same can be said of Ravi Bopara, so fingers crossed.
As for the West Indies they gave a spirited display and seem to have cut out that apathetic attitude which has riddled their teams of recent years. It's not a coincidence that this has happened to coincide with many of the Windies' stalwarts choosing to enjoy the glamour of the IPL rather than the pride of the national emblem.
It may anger the West Indies hierarchy that whilst they battle in England Chris Gayle is in India blasting centuries for fun, but it's given them the opportunity to blood some young, passionate talent. You can't imagine Gayle digging in like his compatriots did in their second innings, fighting to keep the game alive.
They also impressed in the bowling department with the debutant Gabriel showing promise and Roach bowling a particularly fiery few overs at the end of the fourth day. It was a spell harking back to the great Windies' fast bowlers of old, almost scaring the batsmen into submission. The ante continued to be upped on the final day with early wickets suggesting a dramatic finale. However almost disappointingly on a pitch which steadfastly refused to wear down, Cook and Bell were able to show their class and competently see England home.
One thing the West Indies do seriously lack is a quality spinner. Samuels looked game but just doesn't cut it at this level. It'll be interesting to see if there's a reshuffle for Trent Bridge. There's a feeling that with a proper spin option the screw could really have been turned.
So England start to repair their reputation as a quality outfit but arguably it's the West Indies who will take the most heart from this opening salvo of the series. They've sent a clear message to England that they are not just here to make up the numbers but are prepared to persevere and fight for five days. And it's a long time since they've been able to say that.Suggest a correction