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Just how bad was the Twenty20 game between West Indies and Zimbabwe? There is as yet no internationally agreed scale by which we can measure cricket awfulness, so instead we must rely on the judgement of the experts. Alec Stewart played for England in the 1990s and so clearly knows a thing or two about staggering ineptitude. He declared Sunday’s game the worst international cricket he has ever seen. I think that says it all.
Both sides were equally dreadful, but in slightly different ways. Zimbabwe spent their first dozen overs swinging and missing, like blindfolded lumberjacks trying to locate something woody. They worked their way through The Book of Thwackery, exhibiting every variation of scything, lunging and groping that you could wish to see on a cricket field. Mr Stewart said it belonged on the village green. It wasn’t that good.
At 40 for 4 after 12 overs, it was all over and the Zimbabwean in the box, Neil Johnson, was expressing disappointment that at this rate, we would not get to see Keiron Pollard bat. But his companion, the legendary Tony Cozier, had been here before, on two or three dozen occasions.
“This is West Indies we’re talking about,” he said, “Let’s not get too far ahead.”
The man is a prophet.
Zimbabwe were noisy, keen and had the word “faith” sewn onto their tomato red jerseys. More importantly, they had spinners, dozens of them.
The spin bowler is the natural predator of the modern West Indian batsman. Apparently, even modest trundlers wreak havoc in Caribbean regional cricket. If Gareth Batty had been born in Port-of-Spain, he’d be on his 100th international cap by now. I understand that Kieron Pollard’s agent has insisted on a clause in his Mumbai Indians contract, exempting him from having to face anyone bowling slower than 70mph.
They tried charging down the pitch. They tried hitting them in the air. They tried missing the ball completely in the hope that it might catch Tatenda Taibu by surprise and sneak past for four byes. They didn’t so much collapse like a house of cards as sink slowly into oblivion like a house constructed on quicksand. At the end of game, the echo of booing drifted across the home ground of the second best Twenty20 team in the world. First Bangladesh, now Zimbabwe. Is there anyone left to lose to?
Bob Willis would have loved the carnival of comedy in Trinidad. Instead, he was stuck in Bangladesh, watching comparatively good cricket. But being a professional, he can adapt his curmudgeonly style to any conditions. I turned on late for Tuesday’s game but within 60 seconds he had already worked in two complaints. First, he bemoaned the effect of the new fielding restrictions on one-day bowlers’ economy rates. Then Stuart Broad had the misfortune to drop a sitter. "Playground stuff,” sighed Bob, keeping his own personal moan rate at a healthy two per over.
This game also produced the best banner of the year so far: “Tigers are hungry. Cook, go to kitchen.” Genius.
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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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73