What are England and South Africa playing for tonight?

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Are they playing for pride, honour, a trophy?

No! They’re playing for momentum.

Going into the Twenty20 World Cup with this batting line-up, England will need as much momentum as they can get, because it rather feels like they’re about to roll into a brick wall rather than a little hillock.

A common refrain from batsmen in the early days of Twenty20 cricket was ’20 overs is longer than you think’. It isn’t, unless you think there’s four balls in an over. However, the subtext – that you don’t have to take a swing at everything like a pendulum in a bar brawl – still holds true.

England’s batting seems a bit swingy. South Africa have four Test batsmen in their top five. We don’t really know who plays Test cricket for England any more, but they probably have about one Test batsman in their Twenty20 top six – either Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan.

It doesn’t seem enough. It’s a different format, not a different sport, as Hashim Amla showed in the last match.


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  1. England have picked a fairly reasonable squad. Momentum is mass times velocity, so they have chosen to increase it by picking lean guys who can run fast (Broad, Anderson, Morgan, Wright), and chubby guys who are largely immobile (Patel, Bopara, Finn).

    The problem is they don’t have a fat guy who can run tirelessly (Kallis). That’ll send your momentum through the roof.

  2. Not to distract anyone from something as important as momentum, but Andrew Hughes latest piece on the KP-thingy is pretty hilarious.

    Cower, c’mon, Finn and Bopara are not chubby, and Patel would be pretty unstoppable once he picks up any reasonable speed.

    And it would cause the least number of people the least unhappiness if the Windies take this one. After a long time they look really good on paper, and all the momentum I can generate by flapping my arms about several thousand miles away is with them.

  3. They were playing without a reason and then they read KC’s piece so they decided to create a reason, destroying Parnell’s career good enough a reason?

    1. Taking 32 off one Parnell over is no more likely to end his career than Yuvraj’s 36 was likely to end that of Captain Broad.

      But England have seemingly misunderstood this momentum thing, which in cricket tournament speak is all about reaching the right velocity at the right time.

      England have peaked too early and will surely be over the hill before the end of the three week endurance test that is the IT20 World Cup. What a pity.

    2. The HILL of momentum? Velocity PEAK?

      It’s become clear that we are talking about the Rate of Change of Momentum which, as all students know from simply reworking Newton’s Second Law, is equal to the applied force. As vector quantities, direction matters. The key therefore is whether the force is acting in the direction of the momentum or against it. In other words, is the force with England right now, or not?

      I think we are close to a theorem here.

  4. I admit my first thought was of Your Grace when I saw that headline the other day.

    Well, actually my first thought was to give a derisive snort, but there it is.

  5. Bah, humbug. So, England wins a T20 match and levels the series. Why? Is it because they played better overall than SA last night? No, quite clearly not – SA matched them run for run for almost all of the innings. It was entirely because one mad over went one way instead of the other. 10 from that over instead of 32 would have seen SA home, because they would have seen the target as very achievable.

    To put this in the terms of the discussion above, no team can have momentum going into the T20 World Cup, because to have momentum there has to be some substance, and T20 doesn’t have any.

    1. One over was about 4.5 per cent of last night’s game. That’s a sizeable proportion of a match in which to be totally dominant.

    2. Why is that bad? It’s not random. The outcome of those handful of deliveries does depend on what the players do.

    3. It’s not bad, or random. It’s just that I think it’s entirely un-analysable.

      Q: Who will win the T20 World Cup?
      A: Whichever team hits a few 24+s in important overs.
      Q: Which team is that most likely to be?
      A: One of them.

      I know that none of that matters because people enjoy it and that’s that. But that’s the sort of thinking that brought us You’ve Been Framed.

    4. We’re inclined to say that Chris Gayle is more likely to hit 24 off an over than, say, Junaid Siddique. Because of this, and other reasons, we conclude that the Windies are more likely to win the Twenty20 World Cup than Bangladesh.

      If you want to know who WILL win, we can’t answer. But then again we never can answer that question. That’s why we watch the matches.

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