England appear to have sold you a dummy. Just when you thought they might be transforming into some sort of competent modern T20 side, they conspire to lose three wickets in an over against Afghanistan. Masterful stuff.
The bowler was Mohammad Nabi, one of our ten World Cup players to watch. Different World Cup, but come on, we do this for free you know. If we came up with ten players for each and every World Cup, we wouldn’t have time to drink coffee and play Civilization.
Next time around, we’re going to play that game as the Afghanistan civilisation. Mohammad Nabi will be their leader. We will seek out the English and pillage their tile improvements. That is what is happening today.
How many World Cup finals would New Zealand have to reach before people considered them ‘the team to beat’? We’d guess about forty. This is assuming they didn’t lose each of those finals to the same team because in that situation the team that beat them would obviously be the team to beat.
Maybe we’ve lost ourself in specifics there. Our point is that New Zealand are never favourites, even when they’re debagging opponents in a multitude of ways.
Respect has to be earned, you might argue. But ask the Associate Nations whether the cricket world pays a living wage in that regard. You can put in long, long hours trying to earn respect and then thanks to an act of god (or at least thanks to the cooling of moist air and resultant precipitation) you’ll find yourself pretty much back where you started. In cricket, respect runs through your fingers. You might get a few grains of it stuck to your skin if you’re particularly sweaty, but they’ll soon be gone.
Whatever their ‘brand of cricket’, New Zealand have a much darker, more permanent brand as outsiders in world competitions. Even though they’re winning all their games, you may still hear people refer to them as dark horses. Anyone who says they’re punching above their weight might like to consult the scales.
Don’t know. New Zealand are yet to make any runs and yet have won both games, the Windies are also unbeaten, while everyone else has lost at least once.
England looked like the England of old in their first match. South Africa failed to defend a million. Sri Lanka have seemingly forgotten how to play cricket. India were skittled. Bangladesh and Afghanistan are yet to trouble the scorers.
Pakistan are a notch up from where they’ve been in recent months, which puts them at notch one. Australia actually won today, but still did a passable impression of losing for a portion of the game (which is no mean feat when they basically won easily).
It’s all been rather fun and with less than half the teams going through to the next round, there’s an unusual hint of jeopardy about proceedings. It all seems too good to be true.
They’re not even playing the final on a Monday lunchtime like they did in 2007. It’s on a Sunday. An actual weekend day. Like in a proper tournament in a normal sport.
India are playing Pakistan. It’s a big deal. This website being what it is, the only appropriate course of action was for us to wander out halfway through.
At the time of writing, Mohammad Sami – Mohammad Sami! – had taken two wickets in two balls as India set about chasing not-all-that-many runs with no real sense of urgency.
Mohammad Sami is a million years old, but apparently he still bowls quite quickly. He was too quick for Suresh Raina, that’s for certain. Then again there have been days when Raina has played as if Chris Harris would have been able to bounce him out – even though Harris really digging it in would be unlikely to get the ball above bollock height.
As we prepare to click ‘publish’ a couple of big shots have edged India closer to ‘cakewalk’ territory. Hopefully there’s some sort of late drama which’ll be really conspicuous by its absence in this post.
Ooh. A wicket. [Clicks publish.]
After two overs against the West Indies, England had scored five. They then added another 177.
After two overs against South Africa, England had made 44. They then added another 186.
The first two overs aren’t to be wasted.
It was an odd match though. We can only conclude that they used the wrong ball. Rather than a cricket ball, some sort of fast-rolling rubber bouncy ball was employed. Better bowling has certainly been seen, but no matter where this ball landed and no matter what its pace, it was clipped to the fence with ease.
South Africa made 229, which is quite clearly a ludicrous total. England matched it with an over to spare.
If they’d batted first England would almost certainly have made about 190 and patted themselves on their giant collective back for having exceeded ‘par’. Jason Roy would have played himself in. They’d have finished four wickets down.
Instead, Roy was forced to revert to tinder, while Root took on the role of the hot-burning log – the hot-burning root arguably. Everyone else was kindling and the blaze roared until just one run was needed. At that point, everyone lost both perspective and their shit and the flame briefly flickered, damn near going out.
Fortunately, Moeen Ali was around to duff the necessary single with a level of serenity appropriate to the match – which is to say none.
Regardless of how they’re performing, it’s worth taking a moment to ponder that anew. Afghanistan are playing cricket. Afghanistan.
And indeed cricket. The sport hasn’t exactly gone viral. Most of the time it seems hell-bent on playing out behind some sort of paywall, yet somehow Afghanistan has barged its way into the private party and is busying itself having a fine old time. Perhaps it’s the only country to have built up the sheer endurance needed to jump through the ICC’s endless line of hoops.
There is of course no optimal time to take to cricket. The sport became established at a time in British history when loads of toffs were dicking about playing all sorts of different games because they had sod all better to do. Afghanistan came to the game much more recently. They paused, took a look around, thought: “Well, everything seems to be going pretty much swimmingly here now. Seems about the right time to take up the gentlemen’s game of cricket.”
Or not. In actual fact, it’s previously been claimed that cricket might be a means of helping Afghanistan rebuild society.
For a bit more background about cricket in Afghanistan, you could do a lot worse than watching Out of the Ashes. We’re going to watch it again ourself at some point in the next few days.
Not so long ago, England were claiming that they had little regard for par scores any more. Henceforth, their only target was to be ‘as many as we can get’. Maybe this is still the case, but today’s batting against the West Indies seemed initially cautious to these sometimes blurry eyes.
We had in mind a rather worrying interview with Jason Roy we read last week, in which he said: “I’ve got to realise I need to give myself time – I’m not a robot.”
It seemed unfair on robots that they shouldn’t be permitted time, but that wasn’t what really concerned us. We were more worried about Roy spending any time at all playing himself in. Jason Roy may well need to give himself time, but that is almost exactly what England don’t need.
Roy’s job is to flail from the off, because Alex Hales can’t. If Roy eats up a dozen balls making a similar number of runs, that isn’t really good enough. It’s a fifth of the innings wasted, because Hales will more often than not be doing the same. Hales has earned the right do that. That’s his way. He is the big log England are looking to ignite. In this analogy, Jason Roy is basically just tinder.
That may seem dismissive, but the truth is that this is essentially England’s strategy. They have ten batsmen, only two or three of whom are special. The rest are disposable; fast-burning kindling. A to-hell-with-the-consequences approach at the top of the order is barely even a gamble because the only consequences are to the individual – the team can easily cope with his loss.
In contrast, Chris Gayle is the West Indies’ Hales. And then some.
Gayle is Alex Hales having played hundreds more international matches and twice as much T20. He is an Alex Hales who’s faced every T20 situation and played T20 in every ground. He is an Alex Hales shot-through with experience and shorn of doubt.
Gayle knew that 183 could be chased in Mumbai. All he had to do was go out and do it.
Imagine you work in accounts for a biggish company that leases out some of its office space to other firms. Imagine that one of your company directors inexplicably removes the coffee machine from the shared kitchen and places it in the middle of your firm’s office.
Now imagine that you trip over in the car park one morning and a load of people who work for other companies in your building all point and laugh at you for 16 minutes while you writhe around on the floor with a broken ankle. This is what it’s like to play cricket for India.
Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t snatched away anyone’s coffee. He’s just a guy with a smashing moustache who enjoys batting. R Ashwin isn’t ruling Prosperity House with an iron fist. He’s just an amiable nerd with a deep and genuine love for spin bowling. Even so, when their team lost to New Zealand, people around the world were laughing at them, enjoying their downfall.
Unfortunately for them, India’s players are representatives. Back when they represented the country, this wasn’t so bad, but nowadays they find themselves the public face of their cricket board. They represent a bunch of fat dullards addicted to cronyism and infatuated with Mammon. This is despite the fact that they have pretty much zero influence over what those people do and are in fact being driven into the ground themselves through their poor decisions.
India are top of the schadenfreude hierarchy. They boss England and Australia, who bully the other six major Test teams, who look down on Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who in turn exploit all the have-nots scrabbling around for international fixtures. The laughter then goes the other way.
England play the West Indies later today. The world can’t wait to see the Windies beat Giles Clarke’s boys and teach him and them a lesson. They then play Afghanistan next Wednesday, which offers the greatest opportunity for schadenfreude in this tournament with India not playing anyone quite so low down in the hierarchy.
Even when you play for one of the least popular nations, there’s always an opportunity to bring joy to the world.
Then a dot ball. Then another six.
Post-qualifying kicked off as if it had a bit of catching up to do. It was almost as if the tournament had begun a couple of weeks ago without the majority of teams being present until now.
India are playing New Zealand. Martin Guptill hit the first ball, delivered by R Ashwin, for six. Next ball he missed a straight one and was adjudged LBW. (You always use the word ‘adjudged’ when it was later shown to be missing.)
Incoming batsman Colin Munro promised greater solidity, defending the third delivery of the match with a good straight bat. Next ball he reverse-pummelled a six.
New Zealand’s number three lasted way longer than Guptill though. It was the sixth delivery he faced before he clogged one to mid-off and exited the stage.
The match continues.
He was a West Indies off-spinner. He averaged 117 against England in 2014. Here’s his Cricinfo profile page.
As that record suggests, Omari wasn’t the greatest spinner of all time. However, somewhat miraculaously, he can now boast an even worse record – his godawful single Me & You, which makes The Lighthouse Family seem like satan-worshipping urban thrash metal hip-hop experimentalists.
Why did you give up the day job, Omari? You were pretty rubbish at it, but if the rest of us let incompetence keep us from our jobs, where would the world find itself?