As tenuous links go, this tops the lot, but I just want to send a vote of thanks on behalf of the nation, to Mr Tony Cook.
Tony is our wicket keeper at Buckden Cricket Club, for whom I play as often as I can. Tony is also bat maker to Mr Andrew Flintoff, who today has just scored 68 runs towards England's 407, a record opening day test score against Australia. You see Tony spent Sunday morning with Mr Flintoff crafting a batch of new bats and I can tell you that if you were a test cricketer with the weight of the nation's hopes on your shoulders, you could ask for no-one better to make your bats and give you some encouragement than Tony.
I am prepared to wager that, whilst peering over his spectacles as a lump of willow transformed into a mighty sword, Tony will have said something insightful and yet discreet and that Andrew will have pondered it as he continued on his way towards the battle of Edgbaston. I am thrilled to say that Tony spent the day at the Test and was privileged to see the results of his magnificent job. Thank you, Tony. And thank you too, Andrew!
So England end another first day of a Test match well on top and with records tumbling. Two weeks ago I count my blessings that I was so busy as to have been unable to post my thoughts at the end of the first day of the Lords test. I would have built the most enormous sandcastles out of cricketing superlatives, only to have them washed away in wave after wave of Australian counter attack over subsequent days.
England's mistake at Lords was to whack a giant on the nose and fail to be ready for the backlash. This time they have whacked it again and I can only hope they are prepared and ready to follow it through and deliver more fatal blows.
I said back in May, I think, (Cricket Rocks!) that England were a side ready to contest Australia's longstanding invincibility. For the first time in a long time, England has real talent in all quarters of the game. I am particularly annoyed that Collingwood has lost out to Bell at number four. Collingwood is clearly a batsman on fire who could give stability to that part of the order. Just as importantly, however, he is inspirational in the field, where England are at their weakest and most likely to fall asleep.
Having proved where the Australian weaknesses lie on two occasions now, the England team will prove one way or the other over the next few days, just how much they desire to win and how determined they are to tear down the Australian fortress.
If we square things up with a win here, I feel that England's confidence will be unlocked. If Australia battle back, England will be crushed for another 2 years.
I can't tell you how nervous and excited I am!
P.S. My own season is going well too, thanks for asking. I have scored 20 and 30 in my last two games. Tony is my bat maker too, after all!!