Posts Tagged ‘australia’
As ever the Cricket World Cup is shaping up to be another slough of despond for England fans. With most of the action happening in the small hours it’s tempting just to ignore it completely, but if we must follow it then maybe it’s best to manage expectations. Personally I’m going to judge England’s performance against the standards of my own team, a friendly side that plays around six games a summer.
First of all it was good to see that all England players turned up on time. No-one got caught in traffic or slept in too late and Eoin Morgan wasn’t forced to bat first while he waited for half his team to pitch up. Everybody looked smart. All players were wearing trousers. There seemed to be enough kit to go around. There were no delays while incoming and outgoing batsmen exchanged boxes and similarly all batsmen were padded up ready to go in. Which was a good job. There was a new ball for each innings, in fact there were two new balls for each innings which is outstanding.
Someone took a hat-trick. A hat-trick! That makes them a shoe-in for the Bowler of the Year award at the end-of-season dinner, largely because that will be the only thing anyone can remember when voting. Someone else nearly scored a hundred. That is unheard of. Only a few catches were dropped. Not half bad.
Fundamentally England were able to field eleven players. Some of whom looked as if they could bat better than they could bowl and some of whom who looked as if they could bowl better than they could bat. And some of them, well, some of them were at least there. It was encouraging to see that there seemed to be three or four other people on the sidelines who looked like they might able to step in if later in tournament one of the regulars withdraws citing a prior hitherto unmentioned commitment or a sudden early-morning “migraine”.
So there are plenty of positives to take from the game and apparently they serve a really good tea at Wellington, where the next game is. Onwards.
Normally the Barmy Army trumpet rings out it works as a call to arms, the signal for a thousand stupefied contract workers to form a disorderly conga and sing ribald songs about Mitchell Johnson. In Dubai it sounds like a lonely last post. Where is everyone? Perhaps the insurmountable clash of cultures is to blame. Beer snakes and t-shirts bearing unhilarious ‘all Australian people are convicts’ slogans are actually forbidden according to sharia law. Getting lashed is stitched into the constitution of the Barmy Army. But not with an actual lash.
The ICC are hoping that the attendance will double when the series returns to Dubai for the final game. I’m going.
As for the team, maybe they are pining for the boozy encouragement from the sidelines. Or maybe they didn’t prepare properly. A lot has been spoken about the issues that the English batsmen had picking the length of the spinners. Thanks to an e-mail from a nice woman who appears to be doing PR for dhows, I’ve found the reason why:
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.
There was a time when England stars strode the turf at Surrey. The Oval dressing room was a habitat where big players flourished and dominated. It was an age of Thorpe, Butcher, Stewart. The era of Martin Bicknell. But then they were gone. Mysteriously driven into extinction as the county slid into a prolonged slough.
So you can’t really blame the Surrey administrators for hollering now that suddenly the international superstars have returned. Although when some marketing factotum was instructed to ‘big up’ this exciting influx, they obviously took it too literally.
It’s a creative effort that should be appluaded even if it does present a nightmarish vision of genetic experimentation in cricket gone wrong. Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of a naturalised Englishman through his mother’s passport. Sadly it may be that you’d be more likely to see the giant version of Kevin Pietersen than the lifesize one, given his previous attendance record at Hampshire.
Still, the Oval is definitely worth paying a visit this summer – why not seek the shade under Chris Tremlett’s huge sweaty ass?
Largely I leave the making of military comparisons in sport to jingoistic American Ryder Cup captains, but when I think of the English dressing room I can’t help imagine an army hospital, full of shattered bodies and high with the rancid smell of decay. Their whites stiff with dirt and gore, returning from the front line of a battle they’ve no need or desire to fight. The war in Australia was won at Christmas, the subsequent smaller squabbles have only served to strain and fracture the squad. How many of Eoin Morgan‘s fingers have to be flown home in a splint before questions are raised of ECB command?
Apologies for all this. But when you’re propounding palpable truisms like there is too much international cricket being played, sometimes you have to dress it up in ludicrous war metaphors.
It is actually quite comforting watching England flounder in the current series against Australia, like putting on a old pair of slippers or drinking a cup of hot Ribena. It seems that all our optimism for the World Cup may be based on their recent gains in the other two formats of the game. It may just be that our most successful operatives are better suited to cricket’s extremes rather than the middle ground.
Take Michael Yardy for instance, a keystone of the triumphant Twenty20 campaign in the Caribbean last year. In the abridged version, his skill is to zip off his four-over allocation before the batsmen have taken their guard. In the longer form of limited overs cricket, at around the fifth or sixth over the opposition notice that he is bowling at them and begin to make the necessary preparations.
Conversely Matt Prior is a cricketer with some superior statistics at test level, where he seems to play with that thumping one-day beat. But put him in a blue shirt and his batting becomes oddly and ineffectually frenetic, like a man trying to stave off a tiger attack with a stick of celery. His surprise promotion has also freshened up a rather musty debate about the transience of the opening combination. Steve Davies had previously performed steadily, stymied only by the obvious weakness of looking like a frightened owlet about to chunder up a worm.
Of course Andy Flower has made a few queriable decisions that have turned out to be providential. And I’m just sitting here in my pants with a laptop across my knee.
Here’s an artily murky photo of James Anderson. It was sent to me by Trion: Z, the manufacturers of the natty necklace he is sporting. They also generously donated one of their bracelets to sample. I’m not normally one for gratuitous product placement, but I am in favour of jewellery that makes you better at cricket.
Apparently it uses magnetic and ionic technology to help the wearer focus, energise, and generally feel more cheerful about life. I tried mine on for the duration of my flight to Sydney. Hardly the best conditions for a controlled experiment, but it has to be said that I skipped through the arrivals hall feel well and truly ionised.
To complete the review I dispensed with the bracelet for the return flight. I touched down a week ago and I’m still whack. It’s like my body doesn’t consider GMT good enough for it any more. My bladder is the most resistant of my organs to the time difference, it still thinks it’s party-time down under, waking me regularly through the night demanding that I urgently empty it. The days are spent finding corners to curl up in like a pissed cat.
I miss the bracelet.