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So the conclusion of the ICC Champions Trophy, 2009’s last set-piece occasion, the ultimate chapter of a gripping cricket narrative, when all will finally be revealed to a worldwide audience is to be held on… a Monday. High fives all round for the scheduling committee! Give yourself a pat on the back, Haroon Lorgat (or have one of your people do it), cos you da man! Yes, you’ve gone and done it again, ICC, and if I hadn’t lost my hat in an unfortunate yachting incident at Cowes, I’d be removing it and doffing it in the general direction of Dubai.
Monday. At the precise moment when a sturdy operatic type with a microphone begins to belt out “Advance Australia Fair” or “God Defend New Zealand” at a frighteningly loud volume, I wonder where the cricket populace of the world will be? Well, in South Africa and England they will be at work. In the Caribbean they will be getting ready for work. In Mumbai, Lahore, Colombo and Dhaka they will be coming home from work. And in Sydney and Wellington, they will be slumped bleary-eyed on their sofas or in bed after a day at work. Spot the common theme?
No doubt, in ICC world, where every day is a cocktail party, one day of the week is much the same as another. There may also be the odd weirdo out there for whom the dawn of another Monday is joy incarnate. However, I am with Bob Geldof on the subject of Mondays. It is not a day for finals. It is a day for weary soberness, for 10 cups of coffee before your lunch break, for hauling yourself out of bed and yawning at the futility of another working week. Let us hope those poor souls staying up in Melbourne and Auckland get a decent final, because they deserve it.
If they were watching Saturday’s game, they would have been thoroughly entertained. I found the second semi-final memorable for a couple of reasons. Firstly there was the wince-inducing but compelling fast bowling of Shane Bond, who twice made Kamran Akmal snatch his hand away from the bat in the manner of someone who has been stung by a wasp, and then dismissed Imran Nazir with a delivery that appeared to be heading straight up his left nostril until he wisely got his bat in the way.
Then there was the battle between the Mighty D and baby-faced Umar Akmal. In the 25th over Vettori had already offered up three identical teasers, one of which Akmal had audaciously tickled to fine leg. The next delivery from the bearded one’s left hand fizzed through so quickly that it verged on the impolite. Undaunted, the youngster’s response was to wallop the fifth ball of the over through midwicket with an ungainly lunging sweep. From the other end, Uncle Mohammad Yousuf had clearly had enough. He came down to explain to the rookie the perils of recklessness and the virtues of patience. A smiling and entirely oblivious Akmal nodded at the old man’s advice, then aimed a wild slash at the next one, sending it curving through the air just out of the reach of short third man and away for four. Cricket needs all the teenagers it can get.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73