Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Australasia
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine day indeed. Deepest thanks to Darren for sharing it with me. But, it wasn’t the magical day that the game that Darren fixed for us both to see last year was.
There are several reasons for this relative lack of magic. For starters, last time around, it was all happening, for me, for the first time. I had never before sat high up in the Surrey Pavilion like that, so last September I was doing that for the very first time.
The game in 2015 was a semi-final and was very tense throughout, in fact the result was in doubt until the final ball. The game last Wednesday was a handsome win for Surrey, which was good. But it rather fizzled out at the end, as handsome wins in sport so often do.
But the biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that whereas, in that 2015 game, a cricket legend by the name of Kumar Sangakkara made a superb century, in this game, there was no megastar super-performance, just a succession of very capable Surrey players doing very well, until the game was won.
The nearest thing to a dominant superstar on show last Wednesday was Jason Roy. Roy is not yet a cricket legend on a par with Sangakkara, and of course he probably never will be, having arrived only rather recently as an England one day and twenty-twenty star. But he has made one hell of a start, starts being what he specialises in. He supplied, for example, the rapid start that England had to have if they were to get anywhere near to South Africa’s huge score of 229 in England’s World T20 must-win game back in March of this year, in Mumbai. Roy hit four fours in the first over of that amazing and ultimately successful chase. Then, back in England, Roy did brilliantly in the 50 overs games earlier this year against Sri Lanka. He shared in the huge opening partnership with Alex Hales that won game two, and in game four he made 162, in another dominant England win.
On Wednesday, Roy got the game started in his usual style by hitting the first ball of the match for four. And I got a photo of that very predictable moment:
And so it continued, for a short while. But then, Roy got out for a mere 34, and Surrey needed many more runs to set a decent target. They got those runs, but the day would have been a whole lot more fun if Roy had hung around for longer.
Here is another and much better picture of Roy in action, which shows his face as well as one of his actions:
That shot, in both of its two meanings, was shot by a Real Photographer, again at the Oval, last Friday evening, when Roy played exactly the sort of innings that I would loved to have seen him play on Wednesday afternoon. This was a twenty-overs-each-way game. Roy again went in first for Surrey. But this time he stayed in, and slammed 120 not out. Roy and the formidable Australian, Aaron Finch, shared an opening partnership of 187, and Surrey ended up with 212-4. This was more than enough to crush Kent, but sadly, it was not enough to get Surrey through to the last eight, because another result went against them.
Darren, having so kindly invited me to accompany him to the Wednesday game, was also at the Oval on Friday evening, when I was busy hosting a meeting at my home. Perhaps this posting should end now, on that note of, I trust, good humoured envy. But I want to contrast the events of that game last Friday, which Darren witnessed and which I did not, with what happened in another cricket match, in Sri Lanka, that was happening at the same time.
On Saturday morning, yesterday morning in other words, I followed this other game on Cricinfo. Sri Lanka and Australia were playing out a test match. Remember those? The ones that sometimes go on for five whole days?
Sri Lanka, back home but still smarting from their disappointments in England, had got themselves out for a mere hundred in their first innings. But they then confined Australia to two hundred, and then got a real score in their second innings. By Saturday morning my time, Australia were struggling to get a draw, on the final day of a rain and light interrupted match. And in the course of this ultimately unsuccessful struggle, their ninth wicket pair, Nevill and O’Keeffe, resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers for more than twenty overs, without scoring a single run.
Here is a screen snapshot of cricinfo commentary, taken by me during this dot-ball-fest:
At that point, during over number 77, and as commenter Viran Salgado pointed out towards the bottom of that bit of commentary, it had already been twelve overs of dottiness with no runs having been scored. And when the ninth wicket eventually fell during over number 86 the score was still stuck on 161, with the final wicket falling three overs later, also at 161.
In other words, on Friday night Jason Roy made 120 and Surrey as a whole amassed 212, in the space of 120 balls. A few hours later, Australia, in the passage of play in their game against Sri Lanka that I have just described, faced almost exactly the same number of balls as that, and scored a grand total of: no runs. And in the course of all this relentless blockage, Sri Lanka managed to take: no wickets. 0-0. Zero for zero. Bugger all, for bugger all.
It’s not that nothing happened. It was riveting stuff. But this extreme contrast does illustrate how the game of cricket is now changing.
To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.
England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords. After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen. It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty. It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange. Dropped catches apparently. Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6. Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball. England now look likely winners of that series 3-0. The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them. The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon. I’ve been following the score here.
Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia. At rugby. Aus 28 Eng 39. Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.
And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.
Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:
Great reflections in her sunglasses, right? On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben. Is that red thing she is holding a charger?
Plus an elephant.
The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.
I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.
If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.
Busy day, by my unbusy standards. Inability to contrive clever words. Search through recent photos. One jumps out at me:
Begin to write something clever, but it doesn’t cohere. Give up. Good night.
I’m talking rugby, not life. If you came here because of the above headline but care only about life, relax, the Northern Hemisphere is safe. It isn’t being culled. It is merely that the Northern Hemisphere’s rugby teams haven’t been doing very well in the Rugby World Cup, which is now taking place in England.
Watching Ireland lose to Argentina had me conflicted, as they say. On the one hand, another Home Nation succumbs to a Southern Hemisphere monster. But on the other hand, England don’t now need to feel quite so bad. Wales knocked out England by a whisker, and that was disappointing. But England, Wales, and now Ireland, all got beaten by Southern Hemisphere sides.
And if Scotland do anything different against Australia in the last of the quarter-finals, about to be played, it will be a major upset.
England merely got the same bad news just the one game earlier.
Which means that, unless Scotland have entirely failed to read this script, the semis will be NZ v South Africa, Australia v Argentina. These four teams have their own tournament every year, in their own stadiums. Now, they are having another such tournament, in England.
As for France, well, they have done almost as badly as England, and perhaps worse. They beat their minnows, as England did. But, like England, they lost very upsettingly in the group stage to a home nation, Ireland in their case, and they were then completely shredded by the All Blacks. Many neutrals had hoped for a repeat of 1999 or 2007. By the end, even the humiliation of NZ only winning by one mere point in 2011 was expunged from the record. This time around, the margin was: 49.
John Inverdale told a good joke after England got beaten by Australia 13-33. He was in a taxi afterwards with a couple of England supporters, and one of them said: that was as bad as 1066. Not really, said the other. It was only 1333.
But 1362 (the year of the battles of Brignais and of Launac (blog and learn)) is quelque chose else again. And if an All Black hadn’t dropped the ball just as he was about to score yet another try right at the end, it would have been 1367 or 1369, years in which other things presumably also happened in France.
LATER: Scotland have NOT been reading the above script. They now lead Australia 34-32 with five minutes to go. In-obscene-present-participle-credible.
But, penalty to Australia. They lead 35-34 with a minute to go. End. “Southern Hemisphere clean sweep”, see above.
The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me. When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all. Very peculiar. I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.
My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors. My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons. So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.
How good were Japan? Yes, very good. But. But. How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad. There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss. It’s all: the mighty Boks. Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them. “Political football” etc. Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase). Of not really trying, in other words. Other than that, nothing. Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10. Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest. But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good. Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.
I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium. Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is. Now I can see this. I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley. The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside. That’s terrific. One of London’s great new landmarks. But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary. But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.
England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win. But then again, most other teams seem only okay also. Except the All Blacks of course. How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder? They usually seem to find a way. Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.
The day I spent at the Oval with Darren last Monday was enjoyable for me in so many ways. I am now definitely considering becoming a Surrey Member myself next season, a snip at just under two hundred quid. Seriously, that’s how great a day it was for me. But it was not quite the day that I had been expecting.
The thing was, Surrey had, after many disappointments in the recent past, finally been promoted just three days earlier. Half way through the game against Derby, the reportage was all about how well Derby had been doing. But the Surrey first innings tail did not so much wag as flail like the tail of a crocodile, and then the Surrey spinners polished Derby off on day four, to win the game by an innings and plenty, with several hours to spare.
So, last Monday, I was expecting the Oval to be seething with boisterous celebration. But once the game began, I soon realised that this was not going to happen. The place was that far from being deserted, and looked even more sparsely populated from where Darren and I were at first sitting, what with the bulk of the Surrey support being below us and out of our sight.
The thing about last Monday was that it was on a Monday. And why this game, of all games, on a Monday? A semi-final of the annual 50-50 county tournament ought surely to be staged at a time when regular people can show up to watch it, shouldn’t it? So, why wasn’t it?
The answer of course is: television:
That’s Gary Wilson of Surrey striding off at the end of the Surrey innings (they batted first), doing a great job of pretending that the TV guy who is poking his huge camera in his face just isn’t there.
These are not the kind of pictures of cricket that you usually see, are they? Usually, you see only the sort of pictures that this TV guy himself is taking, not pictures of him. He is not supposed to be part of the story which he is, so very obtrusively, helping to tell. Yet even the very day on which this match took place cannot be explained without reference to that TV guy, and all his mates.
That’s a picture, taken moments later, of Sky TV discussing that Surrey first innings with Notts fast bowler and recent England Ashes hero Stuart Broad. What did Broad say? I don’t know. I wasn’t watching this game on my telly. I was merely there.
But why Monday, rather than Sunday or Saturday? I mean, more people watch the telly at the weekend, surely. Well yes, they do. And Sky TV did indeed show the first semi-final on Sunday. (Yorkshire, crowned only days later as the 2015 champions of the four day game, were beaten in this first semi-final by Gloucester, with surprising ease.) So, why not the other semi- between Surrey and Notts, on the Saturday?
Because on Saturday, Sky TV were showing the second England v Australia ODI, and there would be no point in Sky buying both those games if they had happened on the same one day. So, the other semi- got shoved over to Monday. The schools were back at school. Workers were back at work. But, television rules.
So this was mostly an Old Geezer day, from the live spectator point of you. But, despite all those empty seats, this particular Old Geezer had a terrific time, not least because of all those TV cameramen whom I was able to take photos of.
I promise nothing, but I do now hope that there’ll be a whole lot more to follow about this marvellous day out.
Australia’s first innings, in this game, has got off to a shaky start:
. 4b W 2 4 W | . W . 4 1nb . . | . . . W . 4lb | . . . 1 1 . | W
Broad has four wickets. Wood has only one, and was responsible for that humiliatingly wicketless fourth over. Extras is doing the best for Australia.
England are clearly missing Jimmy Anderson. If he had been bowling first up instead of Wood, Australia could have been in serious trouble.
Australia, at the start of the seventh over, now 27-6. Clarke out to Broad, who now has five, with just nineteen balls. Before that, yet another wicketless over from Wood.
To be a bit more serious, this is the kind of blog posting I do for myself, to put alongside postings like this one, because goodness knows, there’ll be plenty of other people writing about this. File under: my heart, warming the cockles of. I missed the first two wickets on the radio, because I was having a quick piss. Happy day.
But here, as my Aussie friend Michael Jennings likes to say, ‘s the thing. When Australia smash England, they do it five nil. When England smash Australia, which is what looks to be happening now, it’s usually something more like three one. Have we ever beaten them five nil? Ever?
Meanwhile, more consolation for England fans like me. Australia now 33-7. Nevill bowled Finn. But, as has just been pointed out by the radio commentators, in his previous over, Broad, like Wood before him, just bowled an entire over without taking a wicket.
More than the usual number of cock-ups while posting this, I’m afraid, and I expect there’ll need to be further cleaning up. Happy day. So far.
LATER: One of those crazy taken-in-a-pub-at-a-crazy-angle shots of a big pub screen, showing the carnage inflicted upon Australia on Day One of Trent Bridge 2015:
On the right, Sky TV’s Ian Ward, I think. On the left, Broad, I know. 8-15. 8-15.
Australia 1st Innings: 60.
New dwellings and shops behind the facade of an old brewery, and a new power plant on top of it:
Another of those Wicked Camper vans, from the same fleet as this one:
It was never a totally White Van, but someone has painted some white on it.
I recently saw another of these vans with something like “Chuck Norris is the only person who can slam a revolving door”, but my photoing reflexes were too slow to capture it. When I do photo this, I’ll try to remember that I said I might put the picture up here.
I agree with you. Yes, it is a good marketing strategy. Both of us are right about that. And I see that these arseholes have been helping.
Who saw that coming? Not me. Although in my defence, had Haddin not dropped Root on nought when England were 43-3 and would have been 43-4, it would surely have been a very different match (a match which, having not been dropped, Root (134 and 60 and two wickets at the end with his spin) is now presumably the Man of). And, I was definitely not the only one who reckoned Australia to be the stronger team, which they may yet prove to be. Although, this guy hedged his bets and had this to say:
A win for England and the series could be a classic.
I’d settle for a series win for England. Five nil would be nice. (Very nice.)
Meanwhile, as worrying for Australia as this loss is the fact that it looks like their much heralded bowling attack may be falling apart. Harris has retired hurt, and not temporarily. Now Starc is hobbling. Johnson will surely have his moments in this series. (He did today, but only with the bat when it was all over bar Mitchell Johnson having a good day with the bat.)
I started this posting when the ninth wicket fell, in anticipation. The tenth wicket did not cause any delays. England win by 169.
Preview – England begin latest rebuild, announced the Cricinfo front page, betting on this latest one being a flop. But then what happens?
This. England batted first and this is what the Cricinfo guy said after their innings had finished:
5.45pm, tea Well that is extraordinary. Two scintillating hundreds, first from Joe Root but then usurped by Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid playing their parts too in big partnerships, and all after losing a wicket first ball of the innings! Just some of the records here: England’s first ODI score of over 400, the first score over 400 in an ODI in England, the most sixes in an innings from England, the world record seventh-wicket stand in an ODI. Few others I’m sure. But England have played a blinder here and if New Zealand can get anywhere close to chasing it, we’re in for an outrageous evening. See you in 25 mins…
The last over of the England innings went like this: 1 W W 6 1nb 6 1. Both the sixes were hit by England’s number ten, Plunkett, in an innings consisting of those last four balls there after those two Ws. This took England well past 400 just when it looked like they might not get to 400 after all, on account of Buttler and then Rashid (they of the record seventh-wicket stand) getting out near the end.
Jason Roy getting himself out to the first ball of the match was by no means at all the worst one-day innings you’ll ever see or hear about, because at least Roy only consumed one ball making zero runs. Thirty balls making not much more than zero is what will cost you your place in an ODI side, not very few balls making very few. Provided you don’t make too much of a habit of it, getting out first or second or third ball is okay. It comes with the territory.
Paul Collingwood was recently accused by various scumbag headline writers - headline writers are the origin of most of the biggest media lies, I find - of calling for “no consequences” cricket. But if you actually read the reports below the scumbag headlines by the scumbag headline writers, you find that what Collingwood really said was stuff like this:
“The guys in world cricket now who have taken the game to the next level are people like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Chris Gayle and they are playing as if they are in the back yard. It’s as if there are no consequences on their wicket whatsoever. Somehow a coach has to get that environment, certainly in the one-day form of the game, to where he can say ‘lads, you’re backed, don’t worry, you have games to fail, go out there and prove what you can do’. I think that is an important factor in how to get the utmost amount of skills from each player.”
“It’s as if there are no consequences ...” Of course there are consequences if you make a succession of small scores and no big ones, as Collingwood perfectly well knows and as he never denied. But the best players play as if that wasn’t the case, because they know that every few tries they’ll make big runs.
Talking of Jason Roy, Roy usually plays for Surrey, and also today, Surrey trounced Leicester with a day to spare, and are now promotion contenders. Leicester, big deal, I hear you sneer. But Surrey have had a bad habit of late of not taking enough wickets in such situations. They have, over recent years, bought in all sorts of big name England or nearly-England bowlers, who then try to bowl sides out at the Oval and lose the will to live, never mind bowl. This win was accomplished by younger bowlers with less starry names, notably by one young bowler called Curran, who also batted well. Also, Surrey now have a new spinner who is coming along nicely called Ansari, and there is talk of him playing for England soon, because he bowls better than Moeen Ali. But Surrey didn’t buy Ansari in after he had already proved his worth, they spotted him early and trained him up themselves. Ansari is also quite a good batter, having learned in recent months the art of hitting boundaries, which he never used to do until this season. It would be nice to see Surrey creating England players (or in Curran’s case maybe South African players, unless England come calling first) rather than just buying them in after someone else has created them, so to speak.
But I digress. In the NZ reply to England, the one-man wrecking ball that is Brendan McCullum hit two fours and then got out, off the last three balls of the first over. And whereas England were able to do without Roy, and later Stokes and new boy Billings, all of whom struck out with the bat, NZ really needed some slogging from McCullum to get them going, and they never truly recovered from his early departure. There were, in other words, consequences to McCullum getting out so quickly. See also: the recent World Cup Final. NZ ended up getting less than half England’s score, losing by 210.
England won the first test match against NZ in style, only to lose the second not at all in style. So they could easily make a hash of the next ODI against NZ, as everyone realises. But in the meantime: hurrah, and I am now going to settle down to watch the TV highlights.
Am I going to have to stop denouncing test matches that clash with the IPL? The IPL didn’t seem to have a lot of close finishes this time around. (Yesterday’s final was over long before it was over, if you get my meaning.) And now, both England and New Zealand have all their top players playing test cricket, in England, in May. And playing it really well. NZ, a far better team now than they were only a few years back, got over 500 in their first innings and a serious first innings lead. But yesterday Cook batted all day, and Stokes scored a century that absolutely did not take all day.
What struck me, watching Stokes on the C5 highlights yesterday evening, was how sweetly his off-drives were struck. He is no mere slogger, although he definitely can slog. Thanks to Stokes, England can now, on the final day, win.
Stokes hitting two blistering scores at number six (he also got 92 in the first innings), and Root not wasting any time at number five, means that Pietersen can now kiss his test career a final goodbye. Had the England batting failed in this mini-series against NZ, and above all had it failed slowly, the cries for Pietersen to come in and beef it up and speed it up would have grown in volume. As it was, the slow guys at the top failed (Lyth and Ballance both twice over), apart from Cook yesterday, while the quick batters got on with it. This leaves no place for Pietersen. Bell? A decent innings in the next game will end any moans about him.
Meanwhile, this test match, as of today, is a real cracker. And today is one of those great test days in London where they cut the prices for the last day and Lord’s suddenly fills up with people like me. Not actually me, today. But I thought about it. And if I thought about actually going, it can’t be that I think the game is meaningless. Score one for the Old Farts who think that the IPL is just a faraway T20 slog of which we know little.
This game began with England being 30 for 4. Now NZ are 12 for 3, “chasing” (the inverted commas there meaning: forget about it) 345. Broad, a bowler who, in between match winning performances, looks like a bit of a waste of space, has two wickets already. Plus, Taylor, whom Broad has just got out, was dropped off him in the previous over, and that now gets mentally chalked up by both sides as further evidence that another wicket is liable to fall at any moment.
Earlier in the week Paul Collingwood of Durham was talking up Stokes, also of Durham. He can bat, said Collingwood, which he could say with confidence after Stokes made his first innings 92. Stokes can also bowl, said Collingwood and should do so earlier than he has tended to so far in his test career. He is not just a filler in, said Collingwood. Well, now, with the score a mere 16 for 3, Stokes is bowling.
At lunch, NZ 21 for 3.
LATER: And just when I thought KP was forgotten, there was Boycott on the radio talking him up, as a replacement for the as-of-now non-firing Ian Bell. So if England get hammered in the first two Ashes tests, with Bell getting four more blobs or near blobs ... Maybe KP ... I just added a question mark to my title.
LATER: Take a bow, Collingwood! Stokes gets Williamson and McCullum in two balls! NZ 61 for 5.
After an hour in the first test against New Zealand, England are now 30 for 4. This is exactly the sort of start the England bosses did not want, because it will amplify the clamour for the return of Kevin Petersen.
Here’s Ed: “Oh dear, an inevitably miserable summer for English cricket has now commenced ... and can already hear the plaintive cries of ‘KP, blah blah, must bring KP back ... blah, blah ... it’s SCANDALOUS, KP, blah blah, he’s box-office, you know ...’”
Well, you can see which side “Ed” is on. As for me, well, I want cricket to be entertaining and diverting. Whatever England do or do not manage this summer, first against New Zealand, and then against Australia, it will certainly be entertaining and diverting. If England win, hurrah! If they lose, then there will be all the “KP, blah blah” that Ed refers to. Sport is, among other things, soap opera, and it promises to be hugely soapy and operatic this summer, because England now look like doing very badly.
My main opinion about English cricket just now is, as it has long been, that the people running it seem to imagine that the I(ndian) P(remier) L(eague), now nearing its climax for this year, is “just another T20 slogfest”, when in truth it is the Indian T20 slogfest, which means that you can earn more money playing in it than in the rest of your year as a cricketer. Something like that anyway. It’s a lot of money, especially if you are really good at it. And money talks. Money says that the world’s best players now all want to play in the IPL, and that they will not want to play stupid test matches in England against England.
I will never forget the first day of a recent England/WI series, in England, in mid-may, when Gayle scored a terrific century. But, not a terrific century for the West Indies against England, a terrific century for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I also distinctly remember blogging about this at the time, on the day, but cannot find anything by me about this.
Yes I can. Here:
I remember very little about that meaningless test series in England, but I do remember that on the first day of it, Chris Gayle scored a brilliant century. I watched this brilliant century on my television. But Gayle did not score this brilliant century for the West Indies, against England. He scored it for the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
You would think that the ECB would have got the message. How soon before cricket fandom everywhere just hoots with derision at these “test matches” in the sodden and frigid English spring? Such tests test nobody except the out-of-their depth second-stringers sucked into them. With the star players of the touring side missing, these tests mean very little. Sport is all about meaning. Drain the meaning from a game, and the thing is dead in the water. Literally in the water, if you are playing in England, in May, and you don’t get lucky.
So, memory does not deceive.
Well, it would seem that England still have the trick of enticing the best New Zealanders to come and play test matches in England, in mid-May. That is, the NZ cricket bosses are still able to insist that their IPL-ers come to England, in the nick of time. But this still isn’t satisfactory. I will be interested to see, when I watch the highlights of day one this evening on the telly, how big the crowd is.
England, at lunch, are now somewhat less soapy and less operatic 113 for 4, after the beginnings of a decent stand between Root and Stokes. But still very iffy.
Here is a picture I took in 2005 of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne, which I spotted at Waterloo Station in June of that year (it’s not one of those pictures):
Having had lunch, England are now 182 for 4, and the big stand by Root and Stokes is getting bigger and bigger. Stokes is really stepping on it. Hurrah! If England end up with a decent score, the KP clamour will fade.
And, happy coincidence, my other team, Surrey, are also right now enjoying a century stand for the fifth wicket, this time by Sanga and Roy. Roy is really stepping on it.
MOMENTS LATER: Stokes out, Sanga out, withing seconds of each other. Not so happy.
Yes, incoming from Michael Jennings:
As I see it, we have five teams in this World Cup who are any good and have some chance of winning it: Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lankan in Group A, and India and South Africa in Group B.
New Zealand will win Group A, the winner of the game between Australia and Sri Lanka on Sunday will come second, and the loser of that game will come third. (England will probably limp into fourth.) Barring major upsets, India will win Group B and South Africa will come second. Pakistan and the West Indies (or possibly even Ireland) will take the third and fourth places, but it is very hard to say in what order at this point.
This means in the quarter finals, New Zealand, India, and the winners of Australia v Sri Lanka get relatively easy quarter finals, and South Africa and the losers of Australia v Sri Lanka get a tough one. Given South Africa’s history of choking in World Cup knockout matches, I can’t imagine this thrills them. The possibility of playing Australia at home in the quarter final really doesn’t thrill them, I suspect.
Australia will want to beat Sri Lanka, though. Not only do they avoid South Africa in the quarter final, but that way they also avoid the possibility of having to play New Zealand in New Zealand in the semi-final. If they beat Sri Lanka and come second in the group, the only way they can play New Zealand again would be at the MCG in the final. The New Zealand crowd was apparently rather abusive towards the Australian players last week, and Australian crowds remember such things and have a tendency to want to get their own back. (The New Zealand players were apparently paragons of sportsmanship, though.)
I’m following it from here.
Alas, the team I’ve been supporting (aside from Dead Team Walking England), Afghanistan, have just been crushed by Australia, by what I am guessing is a record (of some sort) margin. These record margins have become a World Cup Thing, presumably because net run rate now looms large in qualification calculations. So, when you get on top, you make sure you stay on top and cash in. It will be interesting to see if anyone does qualify, or fail to qualify, because of run rate calculations.
The other day (to be more exact: on this day) I described England as a “dead team walking”, in the currently unfolding Cricket World Cup. So, if England now turn around and start winning and winning well, well, that’s good because hurrah England. But if England carry on losing, and losing badly, then hurrah me for being right.
How to snatch happiness out of thin air: be a prophet of doom proved right. There are other ways to place a bet besides spending money.
This explains a lot about the world, I think. Basically, as Steven Pinker has pointed out in the first half of that excellent (because of its first half) book of his, everything (approximately speaking) is getting better, slowly and with many back-trackings, but surely. Yet to listen to publicly expressed opinion, both public and posh, you’d think that everything was getting worse, all the time. And it’s been like that throughout most of recorded history. But people are not really that pessimistic. All that is really happening is that people are predicting the worst in order to be happy if the worst happens, and also happy if the worst does not happen.