Bringing light relief as Test goes flat in spite of records

IT was the sort of day when Test Match Special comes into its own.

India's Karun Nair raises his bat after reaching 300 against England in Chenna (Picture: Tsering Topgyal/AP).

With only three wickets falling on day four of the fifth and final Test in Chennai, where the cricket was of interest mainly to lovers of batting milestones and flat pitches, there was plenty of time for the idle talk that normally takes place in the rain breaks.

There was Geoffrey Boycott reminiscing about the former Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper David Bairstow – “one of the hardest bowlers I have ever faced in the nets… a fast-medium dwarf who could make it move”.

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And there was Henry Blofeld waxing lyrical about meeting the Australian tennis player Lew Hoad at No 10 Downing Street in the 1950s – “as I came in, Harold Macmillan said that I don’t think you will ever have it so good”.

Best of all – on a day when Karun Nair scored an easy-as-you-like triple hundred for the hosts – was a post-tea conversation between Jonathan Agnew and Vic Marks, which, if you had only just switched on the radio at the time, might have caused the odd raised eyebrow.

“And she did climb on,” enthused Agnew. “She climbed on several times.

“All I can say is Victor, an hour of that and you will be a new man.”

Marks: “Hmm.”

Agnew: “I did ask her at the end – and I hope she took it the right way – ‘Yo-Yo, just to be honest here, how many of these massages do you think I need?’ And she said: ‘Four.’

“Anyway, she’s free and available, and all I will say Victor is, you will not regret it.”

Marks: “I think Moeen (Ali) could do with a session with Yo-Yo. He’s really struggled today.”

Agnew: “There was one moment, I must tell you, where she motioned me to sit up, and then she again climbed on, but behind, and with her feet in my back, so I was sitting forward, arms pulled behind me, and really forcing the feet into the back.

“And she was gripping me with very oily hands, and pulling hard. I said: ‘Yo-Yo, you’re going to fly off the end.’ I mean, it was really very awkward.”

The back-story – perhaps essential in this case – was that Agnew had been suffering with back trouble and receiving treatment from a lady named Yo-Yo at his Chennai hotel.

“Her English didn’t extend beyond ‘big knot’ and ‘I climb on now’,” he added, no doubt prompting uncontrollable giggling from Brian Johnston in the celestial pavilion.

All of which light-heartedness provided some relief for England supporters on a day when India advanced from 391-4 overnight to 759-7 declared, their highest score in Test cricket and the highest total that England have conceded.

Nair, a 25-year-old playing only his third Test, led the way with an unbeaten 303, the third-highest individual innings in India’s history.

As England’s weary fielders left the field at the end of his marathon, no doubt for an appointment with the dressing room massage table and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s equivalent of Yo-Yo, statisticians turned cartwheels of joy.

Among sundry other data was that Nair was only the third man after Garry Sobers and Bobby Simpson to turn his maiden Test hundred into a triple; that India became only the second side to register a score of 400 or more in the first innings of every Test of a five-match series; and that it was only the second time that England have conceded 600-plus in consecutive innings.

Amid the glut of statistical information, it was practically a footnote that Ravi Ashwin – who chipped in with 67 – became only the fifth man in history to do the double of 300 runs and 25 wickets in a series, something achieved by only one Englishman in the form of Ian Botham during his vintage summer of 1981.

England, already 3-0 down in this series, closed on 12-0 in their second innings to go into the final day of a troubled tour trailing by 270.

Musing on their hopes of salvaging a draw, Geoffrey Boycott said: “If you had to pick a surface, this is one of the better ones to stay in.”

Boycott added that “if you had 20 times to bat on that to save the match, I’d be very unhappy if more than once we failed”.

Of course, flat pitches have a funny habit of becoming minefields under the mountain weight of scoreboard pressure, and England will need to show Boycott-like resilience to escape.

At present, the visitors are in worse shape than Agnew’s back before Yo-Yo “climbed on”.