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What the Jimmy Anderson was that?
I had cleared my schedule for this clash of the blue Titans. I accumulated several road traffic violations whilst dashing back from my daughter’s school in order not to miss the opening exchanges, and in the face of considerable protest I vetoed her proposal that she be allowed to watch some cartoons. Top-class sport is all about sacrifices, I told her and in any case, the misadventures of Mr Squarepants couldn’t possibly compare with the tough, gristly contest that was about to ensue at 1530 BST on Eurosport UK.
I will admit that there was more at stake than just the chance to watch some all-Aussie action. For many long years I have been boring people senseless with my theories on the inadequacy of the English domestic game versus its Australian counterpart. Aussie cricket is tougher, I would explain to the nearest set of ears, because there are fewer teams, so the talent is more concentrated, you see. I would then elaborate on the Academy, annual rainfall in the Australasian region, the administrative methodology of Cricket Australia, the teachings of Master Langer and so on and so forth until their eyes glazed over and I once more found myself checking the wine list on my own.
So the Champions League was the perfect test and when Somerset and Sussex crashed out while Victoria and New South Wales strolled to the semi-finals, I could savour the warm glow of unbearable smugness. All that was needed for my theory to be proven and my self-satisfaction to be engraved in stone was an epic tussle between these Australian giants, a no-holds-barred, no-mercy sledgefest, a battering of limbs and wills that would have us wincing and hiding behind the sofa at the sheer unrelenting ferocious professionalism of it all.
Part one was bang on. The Bushrangers snarled, scrambled and shouted, but the Hughes blade hummed, Warner walloped the leather off the white ball, and after a spirited 20 overs worth of entertainment, a hefty target was raised for the Victorians to tackle. Looking at their line-up, I thought this was going to be one hell of a run-chase: David Hussey. Cameron White. Brad Hodge. Aiden Blizzard. Some others. Hell, Billy Doctrove was so excited, he started to get a little jiggy on the sidelines (surely those long delays during referrals to the third umpire are crying out for a contemporary dance interlude).
But then something strange happened. Perhaps they were trying to retain the interest of bored five-year-olds or perhaps the Bushrangers just aren’t very good, but they appeared to be acting out a classic Spongebob episode. Specifically, episode seven of series eight, in which our inept invertebrate hero takes up Twenty20 but is hilariously unable to score at faster than three-and-a-half runs an over. They swung. They missed. They lost a wicket. They swung. They missed. And so on. Watching Victoria’s innings was like sitting staring at an acorn, waiting for it to turn into a tree. No, it was worse than that. It was like watching Worcestershire.
So now I have a new theory. Fifty per cent of Australian cricketers are useless under pressure, and Cameron White clearly belongs to the species Felis Catus. Someone email it to the Times and we can call it a dossier.
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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