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Friday May 16 2014

Yes, Surrey just won a cricket match.  I know.  You don’t care.  All you care about is football.  But I have supported Surrey ever since I was a tot, while football doesn’t really grab me.  I am not totally hostile to it.  I like it when Spurs win, and I watch the World Cup.  But basically, I just don’t find the regular things that footballers do, when playing football but when not scoring goals, very interesting.  At school I was a goalie, rather than a regular football player, and I never became that interested in how the people out there in that big field contrived to make balls fly towards me and my goal.  All I cared about was stopping them, which is nothing to do with most of what happens on a football pitch.  It was more like fielding in cricket, or wicketkeeping (which I also did).

When I say I “supported” Surrey I don’t mean I actually went to any games, but I did follow them on the radio, and now I follow them on the Internet.  And this week, for the first time in about two years, and after being relegated from Division One of the County Championship at the end of last season, Surrey finally won a first class four day county match, against Gloucester.

Day one saw a clatter of wickets, with Surrey, having bowled Gloucester out cheaply, throwing away the chance of a first innings lead by losing six cheap wickets themselves.  On day two, Surrey’s first innings having ended with its customary ignominy, Gloucester were building a big lead, and I went into “only a game” mode.  I forgot about it in other words.  Later I remembered, and by then Gloucester’s second innings had been ripped to bits by Chris Tremlett, the fast and very tall bowler who went on tour with England to Australia last winter but was hopelessly ineffective.  On Tuesday, for the first time in ages, he stopped being ineffective.  If he carries on bowling like this, Surrey could end up doing as well as people said they would at the start of the season.

So, by the end of day two, Surrey were already starting their fourth innings, chasing 267 to win, and then came another huge surprise.  I assumed they’d be four down by the close and would lose by over a hundred, such has been the awfulness of the post-Ramprakash post-Maynard post-that-other-South-African-bloke Surrey batting.  Instead, by the close, Surrey were forty four without loss.  Astonishing.

The next day was almost entire rained off, and Surrey made it to forty seven, again without loss.  The final day, Wednesday, was sunny, and Smith, Surrey’s ageing guest worker captain who until recently captained South Africa, also come good at last with the bat and got a hundred.  Steve Davies, after abandoning his wicketkeeper’s gloves in this game to concentrate on batting (thereby kissing any chance of an England return goodbye), and after a disappointment in the first innings, got sixty, only getting out in a final little clatter of wickets just before the end.  The end was actually quite funny.  Jason Roy and Davies both got out with only one more good clout needed to win it, and then the dot balls started piling up, as if speed of scoring was proportional to the number of runs still needed, with the Surrey score becoming ever more static even as victory beckoned.  Asymptotic, I think this is called, as when a graph nearly gets to a particular point, but never quite gets there, even as it keeps getting ever closer.  But a single occurred, and then a two was finally managed, and all was well.  So.  Hurrah.

In other cricket news, it seems that England’s cricket bosses continue to take their time about adjusting to the IPL.  I have been telling these people that the IPL is something else again for years, but although I am sure that they are aware of my views, they still choose not to act on them.  This guy agrees with me.  Of the relations between the IPL and England’s cricket bigwigs, he says this:

If the hand of friendship is being extended there, it’s being extended on the quiet, far from public view. A cold-war chill persists publicly, perhaps hardened by the presence of the establishment’s own Voldemort, Kevin Pietersen, in Delhi. One of the many irks that led to his estrangement was his ardent advocacy of the tournament.

That was attributed to money, and only a fool would deny its role, yet Pietersen’s sharpened cricketing instincts also recognised other values: the chance to deliver under pressure in front of hysterical crowds; the opportunities it provided as a learning experience and an information exchange; the way it was driving the patterns and techniques of the sport forwards. To be isolated from the less attractive elements of IPL cricket was also to be isolated from its benefits. The other day Chris Gayle tweeted news of a dinner he’d had with Pietersen, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh. Maybe they didn’t speak about cricket at all, but maybe they did too, and imagine what a conversation that would have been.

Actually, Pietersen is having a wretched time of it in the IPL right now, captaining the Delhi “Daredevils”, who are now bottom.  Well, someone has to be.  Gayle is also not doing well this year, so far, because he is hurt.  One of the ITV4 commentators recently described him as a liability to his team.  Ouch.

Next year, apparently, the IPL will stop being free-to-view on ITV4 and will instead by on Sky.  So, finally, I will stop recording all the games, as I have been doing, and can settle down to mining these past games for blogging purposes, on an “end of an era” basis.  And apparently, it being a well known fact that Sky TV is the nearest thing to a World Government that the world now possesses, this means that the England cricket panjandra will be told to fit English cricket in with the IPL, and they will obey.  That way, England players will be in the IPL, instead of just Pietersen, Sky will make more money.

Perhaps I’ll get out more and watch the IPL in pubs.  Maybe I’ll get Sky, although my understanding is that Sky don’t do what they blitheringly obviously should do which is sell me all their cricket and nothing else for ten quid a month, or perhaps all their cricket and all their rugby union for fifteen quid a month.  (Ten quid a month for one sport, five quid more for each extra sport.) I refuse to pay forty quid a month for sport the majority of which is of no interest to me.  I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want football but wants other Sky stuff, but at present people like that are just not catered for.

This afternoon, the Big Bang or Big Blast or whatever, the rejigged English county cricket version of T20, begins.  Instead of concentrating all the T20 games in one concentrated burst IPL-style, the Big Whatever will see T20s every Friday evening throughout the summer.  It might work.  Trouble is, it will be harder to get the best foreigners involved, if they have to be here all summer long just for one little tournament.  We shall see.  Aaron Finch, recent T20 tormentor of England, will be playing for Yorkshire, presumably only after he has completed his duties at the IPL.  And a chastened Pietersen will have “a lot to prove” with Surrey, but is he now getting past it?  With luck, greed will kick in, and he will want to hang on in there for the sake of his bank balance.  If his mate Yuvraj Singh can do it, he will even now be telling himself, so can he.

(In the first edition of this posting I erroneously claimed that Finch would be playing for Surrey, when actually he will be playing for Yorkshire.  Apologies.  It tells you something about my subconscious that I began by spelling Yorkshire as “Yorkshite”.)