It’s hard to pay attention on days like yesterday. You drift off, but every time you look up, you think: ‘Jesus, how did that happen?’
Look on the bright side though. It’s only very occasionally that a match situation calls for one of cricket’s finest sights: the innings of no intent.
Every once in a while, a number of factors coincide to create a situation so deliciously appealing it’s hard to avoid bursting a kidney with excitement. You need both sides’ first innings out of the way quite quickly, but you then need batting to get easier. You need the side batting last to be miles behind and you need plenty of time.
It was in South Africa that Mike Atherton played his classic 643-minute 185 not out, during which four South Africans in the crowd were hospitalised with acute despair. This is the template.
In this Test, South Africa are already 330 ahead and with two days to go, the stage is almost set. But who will step forward? Who in the England batting line-up could play an innings of no intent?
Step forward Alastair Cook
Andrew Strauss can be pretty dour. Jonathan Trott can eschew attacking shots for lengthy periods of time, but no-one matches Alastair Cook for his disinclination to lay bat on ball.
During his hundred in the last Test, Cook flatly refused to score on the off-side. He’s halfway there. All he needs to do now is spend nine or ten hours avoiding leg-side scoring shots as well.
This could be beautiful. We can see him unfurling leave after leave and treating us to the occasional insipid prod when he absolutely has to.
Come on, Alastair. Do it for Boycott. Do it for Tavaré.