Cow Corner

Cricketing lexicon: ‘The next hour is crucial’

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In a semi-regular feature during this Ashes series we will be bringing you some terms you may hear bandied about in commentary and explaining their uses.

Term: ‘The next/first hour is crucial’

When it’s actually applicable: Almost always

Why that’s true: When play began this morning, for example, the next hour was obviously hugely important. Negotiate it safely, and Australia have the rest of the day in sunny conditions on a flat pitch with England a bowler down to build a lead. If England strike early, it’s them who might be able to bat through the afternoon and evening sessions and turn the Test decisively their way.

But say it’s honours even for an hour. Australia move from 75-4 to, for example, 120-5. Neither side claims a significant advantage. The next hour, unsurprisingly, will be crucial.

The truism also works if Australia have the best of the hour and finish, say, 150-4. England must hit back – Australia must not blow that partnership in the second hour.

This gets to the heart of things. Test cricket is a game where you can rarely win it in an hour, but you can often lose it. Collapse is an eternal threat and an everlasting hope, depending on what side you are on. And that is why the game is so compelling over five days – it can be defined by brilliance and momentary lapses of concentration. It can take five days to win, and a mad half hour to lose.

As it happens, England used the first hour on day two of the first Test at Trent Bridge to find some reverse swing and spark an Australian collapse.

But when they bat, the first hour will be crucial.

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