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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday July 31 2016

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:

image

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:

image

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:

image

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.