Posts Tagged ‘south africa’
It’s never quite as intense when you can’t smell the red and white face paint around your nostrils, but watching South Africa take on Australia at cricket is nearly always absorbing, even as a Englishman from afar. The current series is as magnetic as ever, thanks largely to the flailing failures (flailures? that should be a word) of the batsmen on either side.
Australian tribulations are particularly satisfying. Phil Hughes is the Great White Hope of the batting line-up and he isn’t that great. Although he is white to be fair to him. He’s also a human slip cradle. A Mardi Gras-style parade nearly broke out in Sydney when Usman Khawaja made a whole 37 on debut against England, such was the craving for a new talent to emerge. His average has since dipped to 32.5. Mitchell Johnson runs into bowl with the grace of a pantomime horse whose front portion has just farted into his partner’s face. He took 3 wickets at 85. All good fun.
But it is also strangely comforting to witness the Australians reveal their survival instincts and level the series at the Wanderers (obviously disregarding the pustular look of jubilation on Peter Siddle‘s face). Hughes and Khawaja made runs. Pat Cummins is a very fast bowler and he was born in 1993. I’m literally old enough to be his dad, although that would have required relations with a girl when I was 14, where I was actually just at home playing carpet bowls with myself on my parents’ landing. And even Mitch dusted himself down and made a poised 40 to win the game. In Perth last winter he seemed to strike a rhythm with the ball after showing it with the bat. Perhaps this will be the impetus for a five-fer in the deciding test.
The series is tantalisingly poised. It promises much. A famous showdown between two ferocious rivals.
Before most major sporting tournaments I like to whet the appetite by glancing back over some of the action of yesteryear. But having visited the buffet bar of Cricket World Cup memories, I’ve decided I’m not that hungry.
Admittedly my recollections of the early competitions are sketchy, being that I was -4 when the inaugural World Cup took place. The participants were mainly robust-looking men with big collars and bigger hair whose primary ambition was to exit the field of play in order to avoid the frequent invasions of onrushing Rasta men and bell-bottomed youths. Who in turn were inevitably chased by harrassed coppers who looked like they’d spilt over from the set of Z Cars.
The 1992 jamboree probably has most to commend it with its modish pastel pyjamas and Jonty Rhodes‘ demented stump obliteration against Pakistan. But the most enduring incident was the result of a suspect pre-Duckworth Lewis rain calculation which left South Africa needing 22 off the last ball to beat England. They didn’t make it. They should have run quicker.
1996 was a largely forgettable tournament save for the emergence of a Sri Lankan side led by Arjuna Ranatuga, who pioneered the enterprising tactic of irritating his opponents into submission. My most lurid recollection is of English opener Neil Smith violently chundering by the wicket in Peshawar against the UAE. I like to think of that small technicolour puddle as a powerfully iconoclastic statement against the ongoing failure of English limited over cricket.
From that point on the dispiriting Australian procession began and may continue in the coming weeks. Sky Sports have been showing highlights packages of all tournaments, while pointedly excluding the last World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007. I don’t blame them. It’s a story no-one needs to be told.
South Africa have employed a choreographer to create a bespoke celebration if they score. This makes me want them to score no goals. But it probably wouldn’t do for the hosts to shuffle off early. Their job is to ensure that the party gets off to a jolly start to then bow out somewhere around the second round before anyone can accuse them of only succeeding due to home advantage. And to hand out the cheese straws and make sure that everybody has enough red wine.
France won the World Cup in their own country in 1998. Since then they have specialized in a sort of durable incompetence with a dark side. They’re the new Germany. Have largely survived a series of bizarre challenges set by their eccentric manager in the build-up. It’s been a feast of hilarious obstacles designed to wheedle out the more fragile members of the squad (that’s you Lassana Diarra), and it seems to have been influenced by Takeshi’s Castle, or Takeshi’s Chateau as they call it in France. Rumours that they will be swimming up crocodile-infested waters in giant sumo outfits to enter South Africa remain unsubstantiated.
Mexico always seem to make it to the finals. That’s possibly because Concacaf is the qualifying region that all the other regions laugh at. Looked sprightly and fresh-faced in their recent fixture against England with the honourable exception of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who trotted around the Wembley pitch with the lumpen intensity of a washed-up TV chef in a celebrity game. Seem to have played a friendly every day this week.
Uruguay are appearing at the World Cup for the first time since 2002. Then they didn’t do very much apart from help knock out France. Would probably be satisfied just to repeat the trick this time round. Have won two World Cups, but I never hear any Uruguayans wanking on about it. That’s probably because I don’t know any Uruguayans.
So the Harris Sportsthoughts Twenty20 World Cup preview grinds to an apologetic halt on the eve of the tournament. Group D, you’re up:
We are now able to add Twenty20 cricket to that tedious list of sports that England invented and are now a bit rubbish at. Built in the image of the national football team, England only perform as well as the opposition put in front of them. Hence last year, England were shamed by the Dutch, before defeating defending champions India and future ones Pakistan. If they could courageously exit in the semi-finals on penalties to Germany having had Kevin Pietersen sent off, then they surely would. Currently undergoing an operation to become fully South African, which means they are even more likely to plummet out of the tournament in hilarious style. Has anyone seen England and South Africa in the same room? Oh yes, today in Bridgetown.
The West Indies are the home team, which counted for not very much during the last World Cup in the region when most of its support was loitering ticketless outside the grounds trying to listen to what was going down. Might be amazing, might be awful. Which is an improvement on last year’s Champions Trophy, where a second string side were only going to be awful.
Ireland have recently made a habit of taking a scalp in the preliminary stages of major tournaments, before clogging up the second phase with their mediocrity. Quite capable of repeating the trick (see England above). Are destined to be forever plagued by strange men in synthetic orange beards.
Group C is the next in our increasingly tiresome preview of the Twenty20 World Cup, which has actually had the effect of diminishing my enthusiasm for the tournament.
South Africa have certainly been handed a raw deal with this ongoing player exchange programme with England. Apparently the scorer is English though. The squad still look pretty strong however, but if past performances are anything to go by then expect them to train on strongly in the early stages before bottling it in comic style somewhere around the semi-final. That said, it would be typical for the Proteas to finally bag a trophy at a time when everyone back in the homeland is too busy putting up the bunting for the World Cup to notice.
Playing India is like taking on your granny at backgammon. She gains an advantage because she plays a lot more than you, so your main hope is that she’ll get tired . She might also struggle against the short ball. The Indians will hope that Yuvraj Singh will have woken from his parlous IPL sulk, and are Sehwagless again, but with MS Dhoni at the tiller anything is achievable. Just ask a Chennai Superking.
Whatever happens to Afghanistan, I’m sure the film of their story has already been pitched somewhere. A sort of Cool Runnings conceived by Khaled Hosseini. If only John Candy was still alive.
Maurice Edu of Rangers and the United States has the solemn honour of being the first participant to be stuck into my South Africa 2010 Panini World Cup sticker album. As a man in his thirties, the excitement that this generates should have dissipated years ago but it’s an enduring addiction that has lasted since the April before Mexico ’86, the month that Maurice Edu was born.
The breaking news from Panini world is that the traditional format of the album has been ditched in favour of a more democratic layout which affords each nation two pages to exhibit their nascent squads. Of course this is more sensible but I can’t help feel a little disappointed, having found great comfort in Panini’s robust and lasting persistence in a wonky structure that relegated three nations to a single page, forcing pairs of players to cosy up on the one sticker. I often dreamt of the day that a team from the shadowy margins of the album – an Angola or a Saudi Arabia or a Jamaica – would go forward and win the trophy. That will not happen now.
I have bought a Panini album every tournament since Mexico, apart from 1990 when I naively plumped for a rival album produced by Orbis, seduced as I was by its Lever arch housing and file dividers. I boycotted the album extravaganza completely in 1994, labouring under the pretence that I was too cool for this puerile frippery and listened to acid jazz instead.
Sticking is a very simple pleasure. I normally buy a dozen packs opening them all at once, turning them face down and sorting them into numerical order for ease of use. And then stick each one in with surgical precision, sometimes putting on a pair of reading glasses that I don’t need. I don’t think I’m alone in wallowing in the scientific approach and misplaced pride in my stickerwork:
Of course the inherent tragedy of being an overannuated sticker collector is a paucity of potential swapsie providers. It’s not like I can go to school. There is a primary school at the end of my road so I could loiter around the gates scoping suitable swapsie swapees. But there are rules against that kind of thing.
Spare a thought for Steve Davies, England’s new third-choice wicketkeeper. Not only has he spent the last fortnight watching a South African interloper snuggle into his reserve keeper berth, but has been forced to do so from the uneasy distance of about 22 yards away. The England Lions novel tactic of opening the innings with two glovemen has pitted Davies against Craig Kieswetter in a cricketing version of a gladiatorial fight with pugil sticks, a tussle which has left Davies eating crash mat.
Kieswetter has almost certainly impressed the Colly-Flower management axis to such extent that he should think about packing his Bermuda shorts for the Caribbean and the Twenty20 World Cup. England could feasibly repeat the selection of two keepers in the side to accommodate Kieswetter at the top of the innings. It could catch on, like three centre-backs did in the nineties.
Davies is now left to stitch an ironic ‘England’s No.3′ into his gloves and head off down to the shadowy depths of LVCC Division 2 and his new club at the Oval. I wish him well, not only as a Surrey fan, but because there’s a vague danger that Chris Adams is currently transforming the county into a cricketing sister of Newcastle United: a graveyard for the potential of talented young cricketers, whose reputations are hoovered up into nothing.
Not that I’m overly pessimistic.
It must be weird being a South African international cricketer right now. You’re just about to head off on a taxing tour to India and then virtually everyone ahead of you in the hierarchy either resigns or is sacked. It’s like heading into your final year of school, gearing up for your exams, only for your headmaster to walk out and take the entire teaching staff with him.
I can only hope for the Proteas’ sake that the new coach Corrie Van Zyl has a greater sense of authority than any of my supply teachers. They usually arrived on the first bus from teacher training college with the kind of pedagogical aspirations only gained from having watched Goodbye Mr Chips too many times. Which we were too glad to destroy in a shower of flicked elastic bands. I guess we thought we were performing some kind of service to these greenhorns: if you couldn’t survive a squadron of snot-faced shits in tweed blazers, then maybe this lark wasn’t for you.
So be warned, Corrie Van Zyl. Don’t try and be their friend. Don’t ask the dressing room if anyone watched Red Dwarf last night. Don’t ever end any sentence with the words ‘man’ or ‘dude’. Never turn your back on them, particularly if there are bunsen burners in the pavilion. And whatever you do, never ever and try to use a board-rubber to wipe off a pie-chart you’ve just projected onto a wall with a overhead-projector. Trust me, you’ll never hear the last of it.
A man I know once told me that just before drowning the victim is visited by a kind of serenity, calmly accepts their fate and gives up on their mortal struggle. I’m clueless as to how my friend came by this information. I’m assuming that he’s never drowned himself or conducted extensive research on ill-starred guinea pigs.
I think a similar tranquility swept through me yesterday morning as Boucher and De Villiers batted South Africa round the bend and down the home straight. Thus today when Paul Collingwood succumbed to the longest of all long hops, it was a source of dry amusement and not a reason to throttle next-door’s dachshund. Although Fluffy should watch his back next time Matt Prior decides that catching practice is the best form of defence.
So I’m grateful for a quick painless demise this weekend. Imagine if it had been Graham Onions’ off the last ball. We can thank the selectors for avoiding that one.
We are all now tediously aware that the reason that the third umpire has no access to Hot Spot and Snickometer technology during this series is simply because the South African Broadcasting Corporation cannot afford it.
I can sort of understand how the HotSpot hardware might be deemed too dear – it shows lots of pretty colours and could have an alternative use as an icebreaker at parties. “Ooh look how warm that person’s ear is” – hours of fun.
But Snicko seems a little more basic. It’s just a microphone attached to your everyday oscilloscope after all. I could lend them the microphone from my sister’s home karaoke set. And I’m sure we’ve all got an oscilloscope lying around the garage somewhere.
If not, I’ve sourced a very snazzy-looking one here. It’s got a built-in harmonic analyser and 12-bit resolution and user configurable engineering units. By a happy chance my Grandma gave me some oscilloscope tokens for my birthday and I’ve got a bit of Christmas money left over so I can start the financial ball rolling. I’m positive if we all reach into our pockets we can raise the cash pronto. It’ll be like a Blue Peter Appeal.
All we have to worry about is whether Daryl Harper has turned up the contrast on it or not. Sorry. Too easy.