December 11, 2008

Everything points to an England win

Andy Zaltzman
Kevin Pietersen at a press conference, Chennai, December 10, 2008
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Cricket makes a welcome return to the world of cricket today with the beginning of two Test series. As I write, the loser-takes-all New Zealand v West Indies clash has just begun, with bragging rights as Test cricket’s second most useless team up for grabs. Shortly, and thankfully, the India-England series will commence. With their total lack of preparation, chaotic travel arrangements, almost complete absence of public expectation and rampantly in-form opposition, it now seems inconceivable that England can do anything other than win. Everything is stacked in their favour.

Allow me to explain. Preparation is overrated. Before the 1954-55 Ashes series, England began their tour with a two-day match followed by six four-day matches. Hutton’s men must have been primed for first-Test action in a way of which a modern team’s management and backroom staff could only dream. If such an elongated build-up were possible in today’s hectic cricketing age, dressing-room laptops would be exploding with excessive analysis.

When the real action finally began, however, England promptly conceded 601-8 to Australia’s batsmen, before losing a high-class top four of Hutton, Simpson, Edrich and May for just 25, and eventually being comprehensively drubbed by an innings and 154 runs. Even a highly-trained 21st-century coach would have struggled to take many positives from a defeat like that – “the boys have learnt not to bother building up for matches,” he might have said. “It’s a valuable, money-saving lesson for future tours. We should have listened to Compton.” (England did admittedly recover to win the series 3-1. But they would have won 5-0 if they had pitched up two days before the first Test and winged it.)

Alastair Cook stands tall to pull, England v South Africa, 1st Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 10, 2008
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Alastair Cook will also testify to the futility of advance planning and acclimatisation. On his surprise Test debut on England’s last tour of India in March 2006, he scored 60 and 104 not out, thriving due to having endured two gruelling days of travel, and having no time to adjust to subcontinental conditions.

In fact, given Cook’s relatively mediocre recent form – an average of 37 and just one century in his last 17 Tests, compared with a 48 average and six hundreds in his first 17 – there is an argument that the young Essex opener should forcibly bundled onto an aeroplane and flown around for 15,000 miles before every match. Ideally, he should land on an airstrip near the stadium three minutes before the start of play, handed a bat, and ushered out to the crease before he has the chance to start worrying about all the different ways you can edge a drive into the slips without moving your feet.

Furthermore, the fact that virtually no-one expects England to win, and few will criticise them even if they are soundly beaten, may work in their favour. It should enable them to play with a freedom which they have arguably lacked since winning the Ashes in 2005 raised their supporters’ expectations to total and utter world domination, and which they have certainly lacked since implausibly pulling one of the great defeats from the jaws of a comfortable draw at Adelaide in 2006.

And finally, India may just have beaten Australia, but when they last did so in the legendary 2000-01 rubber, they followed it up by drawing with Zimbabwe (let me repeat that: drawing, with Zimbabwe), and then losing their next two series. Whereas the last time England lost to South Africa (1999-2000), they responded by winning their next four series. England, statistically as well as practically, cannot lose.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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Posted by R Sivasubramaniam on (December 13, 2008, 23:47 GMT)

Hi Andy I wish I had taken your predictions seriously, could have made a fortune. What is your forecast for the Mohali Test? Siva from Singapore

Posted by James on (December 13, 2008, 7:55 GMT)

Well England could well have a bit of the dark horse about them, good on them for going, it speaks volumes about cricket building bridges of international friendship.

Posted by Nampally on (December 12, 2008, 16:11 GMT)

Not so fast Sir. As Yogi Berra said "it isn't over till its over". Day 3 might hold surprises for England and India could easily reverse the tables.Lets Go Dhoni/India!.

Posted by Shak on (December 12, 2008, 14:46 GMT)

Yeah maybe he wasn't. 2 days have gone by and everybody with match practice, on both sides, have failed. Andy isn't a satirist, he is god. :)

Posted by Sridhar on (December 12, 2008, 12:42 GMT)

What a prescient article, I must say! Congrats to England, the way they have got on top in the first 2 days

Posted by hipocrites in a humor blog on (December 12, 2008, 9:18 GMT)

The initial part on WI-NZ series is devine could not control my laugh.

yeah ok and now it seems the latest rule in this blog is to act touch on this poor bloke 'Ravi' and be noted as a respected regular of andy's funny blog. Wow thats a lot of goat herd there in you blog funnyman.

Posted by 112211de on (December 12, 2008, 3:52 GMT)

hey shak mayb andy is not being satirical:

Posted by: Shak 13 hours, 27 minutes ago

Uhh did you just get that Ravi? Andy is obviously a satarist giving his own twisted view of the game. I like it very much and would ask him to continue his good work. Hell he even predicted what would happen. The only two batsmen without match practice actually score runs.

and it continues.....

Posted by saurabh on (December 11, 2008, 17:18 GMT)

Andy, you are not quite on the same level your namesake the Legend from WI Mr.Roberts but you sure are reaching there with your satire :)

Posted by fardoc on (December 11, 2008, 17:01 GMT)

Good doosra, Ravi!

Posted by Tushar on (December 11, 2008, 16:46 GMT)

Good one mate.

When I heard last, BCCI had an opening for a consultant. Why don't you apply?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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