October 14, 2009

Champions League 2009

Beware the Benaud

Andrew Hughes


Richie Benaud: “There was only thish much in it” © Getty Images
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It all started at breakfast. I had just poured out my customary bowl of chocolate googlies and was about to add a dash of the semi-skimmed when I noticed that the cocoa-flavoured shapes had formed themselves into the image of Richie Benaud gazing sadly into the middle distance.

Now, students of cricket-lore will know that the breakfast-time manifestation of a former Australian cricketer is a portent of some significance. For example, if your egg yolk takes on the shape of David Boon, your health check-up is overdue; if your buttered toast looks a bit like Kim Hughes, you should keep an eye on your work colleagues, and if you see Glenn McGrath in your tea leaves, you are probably Mike Atherton.

But what, I wondered, could Richie be trying to tell me? The answer became clear at a little after 6.45 this evening. As Rory Hamilton-Brown failed utterly to defend his wooden castle, I finally understood. Besides being everyone’s favourite decommissioned Australian captain, retired wrist-swiveller and microphone jockey, Benaud is a betting shaman. He had taken on cereal form in order to warn me.

For I am afraid dear reader, I had succumbed to the gambler’s curse. I couldn’t let a tournament like this go by without a modest wager, and I had chosen to place my money on the Sharks of Sussex. My reasons were plentiful, if not particularly convincing. They are, it must be said, the best hit-and-giggle troupe in England. They wear a particularly fetching shade of sky blue. And they are called the Sharks. Powerful, swift, killing machines, always on the move. How could they lose? Easily, it transpired.

Under the Delhi floodlights, Sussex toyed with the emotions of the desperate gambler as though they didn’t even care that I had backed them at 16-1 in the upstairs back room of a discrete Soho establishment a week last Wednesday. Like a tedious relative who tells the same joke at every family gathering, Luke Wright ran through his usual repertoire of boundary-boundary-boundary-oopsy daisy, and the subsequent exhibition of recklessness by his batting chums was more reminiscent of lemmings than sharks.

But all hope was not extinguished. Piyush Chawla, my favourite promising spinner of the pre-Mendis era, spun a web of silken subtlety to tie the Eagles down. A dozen to get off the last over and a glorious penultimate yorker from Yasir Arafat – surely the game was won? Alas, no. A heartless, clubbing blow from Ryan McLaren and we were into a super-duper-sudden-death-knock-out eliminator. By the time Rory of the Hamilton-Browns failed, I was spent, a limp rag of a man lying stretched out on the chaise longue, with a bottle of gin in my hand and a wet flannel over my face.

The moral of the story should be obvious by now, dear reader. Clearly, the game was fixed. I have already written a letter to Sussex County Council asking them to instigate an immediate enquiry, and I expect to be reading of the resignation of Michael Yardy in Sunday’s Times. In the circumstances, it is the least he could do.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by reg on (October 16, 2009, 10:58 GMT)

all jokes aside i did not understand why the Sussex chose to use the bowler with the worst economy rate in the entire game for both the last regular over and the eliminator over. I reckon this was very ordinary captaincy.

But the issue of resolving ties is important and the present rules are plainly rediculous. When one side may have two very well-set batsmen available, and the other side only has chaps who have been tearing around in the field for the last 20 overs, it is hardly equitable.

Posted by Tanmay on (October 15, 2009, 10:25 GMT)

Great article Mr. Hughes. I like the term pre-mendis era. I am sure he will be some one to watch out for. I assume that the game was not fixed. Really subtle way of laughing at Pakistani cricket!

Posted by Anonymous on (October 15, 2009, 6:21 GMT)

Funny

Posted by James on (October 14, 2009, 23:58 GMT)

Maybe the game was not fixed, but in fact Sussex are just not a good enough cricket team to defeat the Eagles and advance to the next round, let alone win the Champions League. When they failed miserably like this; can you really say that the match was fixed or just another bad performance from the Sharks.

Posted by lf on (October 14, 2009, 22:35 GMT)

LMAO @ ...and if you see Glenn McGrath in your tea leaves, you are probably Mike Atherton.

ROFL @ Luke Wright ran through his usual repertoire of boundary-boundary-boundary-oopsy daisy

I have already written a letter to Sussex County Council asking them to change the name of the team to the Hove Remoras.

Posted by honkytonkpopcorn on (October 14, 2009, 20:14 GMT)

well written piece there my old royster-doysterer, very funny indeed. shame some of the previous folks to have left comments didn't seem to realise it was meant to be funny...

Posted by Gaurav on (October 14, 2009, 17:37 GMT)

Nice way to take a swipe at Pakistan Cricket :D

Posted by rob heinen on (October 14, 2009, 13:42 GMT)

Even without this article I expect Michael Yardy to hand in his resignation as a player effective immediately. He's no box office success, to put it mildly. There's but one spin bowler that makes less sense then Michael Yardy and that is Robert Croft. Although the latter made it to the England team! Oops, Michael did as well didn't he? Guys, spin bowling is about being able to make the ball turn! It's supposed to move sideways after pitching at least some of the time!!

Posted by sridhar on (October 14, 2009, 12:53 GMT)

Nice piece. I saw the game and it was one of the few good games that we have had in this tournament. Fixed? that is a four letter word in my book at least and as they say in the movies"when you say that smile". Indian Tv is full of images of Younis dropping a sitter with his fingers pointing skyward. Of course the Aussies catch that way don't they! To my mind that match was a lot more suspicious than this one. Teaches you never to bet on English teams even if the odds are 16 to 1!Sridhar

Posted by Amar on (October 14, 2009, 12:33 GMT)

Y'days game needed agression, something you'd normally associate with Aussies. Luke and Smith provided foolhardiness. perhaps all the agressive englishmen perished in WWII and the English are now more like their french cousins. Time to air out the beret, n'est-ce pas?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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

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