Two images remain from today, one of a 19-year-old lad who may already have played the innings of his life and the other from a 38 year old man who has no more left to play.
There was a moment after Ashton Agar's dismissal at Trent Bridge when he removed his helmet, hair plastered to his head, and gave a wry and gentle smile that contained emotions he probably can't quite express. It was all there though: joy, uncertainty, regret, relief...
His was a young man's innings played with a young man's sensibility. The fleeting nature of days like these means nothing to him yet, and nor should it. His mind was as free as his arms, his uncomplicated love of the game leant perfect expression. It was so good partly because it was so unexpected but also because it was a reminder of what it was like to be 19 years old and to believe that anything is possible.
The other image was a tweeted picture of Ricky Ponting leaving the Oval, bat raised, helmet under one arm, being applauded off after making 169 not out for Surrey in his final first-class innings. The Oval probably owed him one, and it would have pleased him that this was a meaningful knock that saved a cricket match. But that is over now. His battles have been fought; the war is done. What will hit him soon is how quickly it all went by. Life will be good, but it will never be this.
The frenetic first couple of days of the Ashes seems to be a kind of psychic reaction to the sheer amount of media that now surrounds it. The modern world is screaming at it, online, on television, in the papers, demanding that it match the expectation. The result has been two chaotic days of cricket, vividly enjoyable but ultimately impossible to sustain. The game needs room to breathe.
Ashton Agar might be a new Vettori, or even a Pietersen (at 19, KP was still an off-spinner) or maybe an Alex Tudor or a Jason Krejza or a Richie Benaud, no-one can know. But whatever else happens, his innings will not be surpassed for
its out-of-the-box unlikeliness and its glorious innocence.
The gap between it and Ponting's at the Oval, that brief window of time in which sportsmen have their lives and all of us are young, closes before anyone notices. What a day it was today.
Cricket 2014 – Three Favourite Moments
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