At the time of writing, Australia have made a solid start to chasing 400-and-plenty to win against Pakistan after losing ten wickets for 60 runs in their first innings.
We can’t at this point say what we expect the situation to be at the close of play, but it seems highly likely it will be a time for wide-eyed optimism. The very best form of wide-eyed optimism is when teams are chasing very big fourth innings targets and play ends for the day and everyone takes stock and loses all perspective.
At these times, the team that is highly likely to lose, pats itself on the back and says ‘maybe, maybe, maybe’ and they all say it to each other enough times that they get a little ahead of themselves.
The phrase ‘records are made to be broken’ is 50 per cent this and 50 per cent the professional obligation to try for a win (or at least a draw) no matter what the circumstances.
Records aren’t made to be broken. Records are made in the absence of a statistically superior event from the past.
Anyway, we’re very excited to see whether an Australia player says ‘records are made to be broken’. That’s the main thing that hangs in the balance in the final session – the possible saying of that phrase.
Shane Warne’s got another book out – No Spin. In it, he’s taken the time to dig over old grievances with Steve Waugh.
The story is this. Steve Waugh wanted to drop Shane Warne once because he was coming back from major shoulder surgery and he wasn’t bowling very well. Warne agreed that he wasn’t bowling very well, but said he was about to start bowling very well any minute now, so Waugh shouldn’t drop him.
Waugh dropped him.
Let’s say that the two men got on a bit less well after that point.
A little further down the line, Waugh was advised by doctors to miss a Test after a horrific on-field collision with Jason Gillespie. Waugh didn’t want to miss the Test.
Fox Sports reports that in a tour management meeting, Warne told Waugh that he didn’t think much of his suggestion that he’d field in a helmet if he had to and said that he should sit out the Test.
Waugh refused to sit out the Test. Warne stood his ground, and…
“As the conversation went on I got more and more facetious about it. I’d even say I was being a dickhead and looking for a bit of revenge.”
So there you have it: proof, finally, that Shane Warne is self-aware.
This is actually a somewhat damning revelation when you think about some of the other stuff he’s got up to over the years. A complete lack of self-awareness seemed to explain a lot.
If you want to watch that Al Jazeera documentary about match-fixing (spot fixing, actually) to see for yourself whether the allegations have any merit, here it is (or click here).
The film went out in May, but it’s in the news again this week because Glenn Maxwell’s been talking about it. He’s understandably less than delighted to have been all but accused of involvement.
Maxwell wasn’t named, but the film makers say at what point in an India v Australia Test match the alleged fix took place and then when they’re talking about ‘suspicious’ activity by the batsman, they show some blurry footage of a guy who moves like Glenn Maxwell wearing Glenn Maxwell’s clothes using Glenn Maxwell’s bat.
The fixing fella says that a given over will result in a ‘low score’ and then it turns out to be a maiden. The narrator says that the batsman “appeared to be trying not to score runs.” (In a Test match! Whatever next?)
Examining the footage, Ed Hawkins (who wrote Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld) describes the batsman as being “like a cat on hot coals” – which sounds precisely like a fully normal Glenn Maxwell innings to us. (You kind of wonder whether Ed would watch old footage of Phil Tufnell backing away and also find that suspicious.)
Ed adds that the batsman is, “just desperately trying to get on top of the ball and cover any edge that might squirt off and concede a run.”
Or, you know, squirt off into someone’s hands and lose him his wicket.
Cricket Australia have said that there’s “no credible evidence,” and without discounting the possibility that something might eventually come of this, the documentary does at the very least seem to us to be an excellent exploration of the way in which humans actively root for meaningful signs once they’ve been primed to expect something specific.
“You wonder whether he’s taking his helmet off deliberately, don’t you?” says Ed at one point. Well, yes, he probably was taking his helmet off deliberately. You don’t tend to take a helmet off accidentally. Helmet removal can of course be a covert sign that a fix is going to take place – or it could just be a bit hot out there.
Nevertheless, spot fixing has happened before now and it probably will again. The suggestion that someone at the ICC might be keeping it quiet seems to imply that the scale of the problem is greater than people think – but then it’s hard to imagine one person operating alone achieving anything at the ICC, whether good or bad.
Maybe they’re all in on it? That level of agreement at the ICC would literally be unprecedented.
Bangladesh were bowled out in 18.4 overs yesterday. That’s pretty bad, but apparently it wasn’t actually the shortest first innings in Test history.
Imagine how bad at cricket you’d have to be to be bowled out inside 18.4 overs. Imagine how embarrassing that must have been. Hopefully, whoever it was, they weren’t playing a big match against a bitter rival because that would have been unbearable.
All out in under 18.4 overs. It’s almost beyond comprehension. No, wait, it’s almost beyond belief – it most definitely is beyond comprehension.
In a Test match there is no obligation to score runs at a quick rate. You can just block the ball or leave it. You can all but remove risk from your game. With that option available to you, how could you possibly lose a wicket more frequently than once every two overs?
That’s not just rank incompetence, it’s sustained rank incompetence from an entire team of players selected because they are the most competent that nation has at its disposal.
If we saw such an innings, these are the top three things we would think as the awful offensive joke cricket played out in front of us:
Chin up, Bangladesh. You’re not the most embarrassing cricketers of all time.