May 8, 2010

ICC World Twenty20

Could this be England?

Andrew Hughes


Shahid Afridi feels cheated after he finds the England team is not as pathetic as he was promised by the ICC © Getty Images
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Can I be frank with you? I feel we’re all friends here and that I what I say to you will go no further. The thing is, I have a confession to make. For some time now, I have not derived any particular pleasure from watching the England cricket team. This will, I know, come as a shock to some of you, who were under the impression that the chaps in darkish blue were a throwback to the Golden Age of cricket.

But those of you not residing in long-term institutions for the mentally bewildered will understand. When England play cricket, they provoke many feelings. Boredom. Ennui. Fatigue. Apathy. Sporadic bouts of blind rage. Factory operatives are strongly advised not to watch England play cricket whilst operating heavy machinery. I can well recall one July morning when I fell asleep whilst Alastair Cook was taking guard and was only roused in the middle of the evening session by the squeals of my pet gerbil who could stand it no longer.

However, news reached me earlier this week of extraordinary developments taking place in the Caribbean and so on Thursday morning I taped my eyelids in the open position and tuned in. Immediately, I was drawn into a strange and unfamiliar land, an alternative dimension in which two aliens who looked a lot like Michael Atherton and Nick Knight blithely assured us that England would comfortably beat Pakistan. This was exciting, dangerous talk that told of a changed cricket landscape, of a new era in English cricket and possibly of a bottle of whisky behind Charles Colville’s cushion.

These two were, let us remember, prominent performers in England’s Cricket Circus of Calamity that toured the world in the 1990s, bringing hilarity, high jinks, pratfalls and exhibitions of staggering ineptitude to the comedy starved masses of the ICC member states. Now, here they were, large as life in their slacks and open-neck shirts, reclining in a television studio, adopting the blasé attitude of men who had placed a hefty wager on an event that had already happened. It was all most unsettling.

Of course, to an extent, any television appearance by Nick Knight is unsettling. I am no longer of the belief that he is running a mind controlling cult. You don’t have to worry, he isn’t dangerous. He is, however, starting to cause the indicator on my Irritation Gauge to fidget. Every question elicits from the former opener a pained frown, of the kind only usually seen on the faces of patients experiencing what might politely be described as lower intestinal difficulties.

Yet as the game unfolded, it appeared that, a mere seven years after the first ever Twenty20 game, the England players had actually been practising the art of despatching the ball to the boundary without it touching the ground. Previously the English method was to leave it to random instinct. If a chap was possessed of a certain robustness of limb, if the wind was in the right direction, if the moment was right, if the moon was in the right aspect of Mars and if he’d got his dander up, he might have been prevailed upon to assay an occasional lofted shot. Usually he didn’t.

But now the English are in possession of a Kieswetter, a Lumb and a Morgan and since they already had a Pietersen, their slogging goblet runneth over. Throw in Luke Wright’s one big shot and they have a team capable of going all the way, providing Australia withdraw from the competition in the next two weeks, Sri Lanka, South Africa and India continue to play below themselves and the twin evils of rain and mathematics do not ever again dare to conspire against Queen and country.

They are still English of course. Amid all the high-fiving, leaping and diving, there was the occasional scruffy overthrow, lack of communication and hands on hips indignation that tells of a nation for whom fielding is not something a chap does without being asked. And there was a touch of good old-fashioned Yorkshire surliness from Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom who both complained bitterly about being called for bowling bouncers over the batsman’s head shortly after bowling bouncers over the batsman’s head.

And yet, win they did. I am reminded of that old country proverb, often uttered by Warwickshire farmers on eerie mid summer nights,

“When the Knight be right, good folk take fright.”

I think we should all ponder that for a while.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Ahmed on (May 18, 2010, 6:59 GMT)

I believe its not important, the fact that the are not "proper" Englishmen rather the fact that, of all the teams, they chose the English side to represent.. and represent they did well

Looking forward to the Ashes and the series against Pakistan...

Posted by Tim on (May 9, 2010, 14:26 GMT)

England, boring, u must be having a laugh, in test matches England are by far the most interesting side to watch, just look back to the 2005 ashes, or even last years ashes or the recent tour to South Africa. At least matches involving England get results and are not just high run scoring draws like many played in India on flat batsmen wickets. Even when England do draw it is an exciting match where we only have one wicket left and the tail enders have to see off the final overs.

Posted by Kumar on (May 9, 2010, 12:12 GMT)

Good Read. The England team is definitely good to watch now. You probably are the rightful inheritor of the unique skill in writing from PG Wodehouse, who is my all time favourite author. I look forward to reading your perspective on the ECB chairman putting the boot in to Modi and the Yorkshire Chairman's response! Regards

Posted by Patrick Eaton on (May 9, 2010, 11:45 GMT)

Captain Swing, you appear to have forgotten the 1996 home series v Pakistan. The series result was 0-2.

Posted by Ind for Ever on (May 9, 2010, 11:09 GMT)

let just act as if this is perfectly normal shall we ?. England is playing very well and rightfully so ( how long we have seen the creators of the game seem as if they are going to loose it all), now is the time to bury all that past, SA and Rrish players notwithstanding this Eng side is exciting..lovely.

Posted by Gerbs on (May 9, 2010, 10:41 GMT)

Hey! Swing Captain! Leave gerbils alone!! Gerbils are awesome.

Also well put LeBrown James, it's great to be part of one of the most tolerant societies in the world that immigrants want to come be a part of, and if those immigrants are good at cricket... well thats just dandy!

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (May 9, 2010, 10:34 GMT)

Thanks all for your comments

Captain Swing, I would never dream of referring to Lord Atherton as useless. If I had a hero, which I don't, it would be the grumpy former England skipper, as I said in an earlier article. I haven't checked, either, but I think the win in Pakistan was 2001, under Hussain. And I'll have you know that my gerbil's nickname was 'Fang'. Sadly he is no longer with us, he committed suicide by throwing himself off the mantelpiece during the recent series in Bangladesh.

Posted by SirARTHUR on (May 9, 2010, 6:59 GMT)

ENgland is a good test side..very enjoyable to watch.barring their own mistakes..but in t20 an in particular this worlducup they have got a very lucky break in been teamed up with newzealand pakistand and southaftrica whilst the other group as 3 super teams in INDIa aussie an SL whilst a kieron pollard an chris gayle powered west indies is not far behind...........

A easy group making passage to the semis an easy task. let the semis begin we will see their real mettle

Posted by Baaz on (May 9, 2010, 4:35 GMT)

Excellent Read! I loved the the Unted States of South Africa comment as well.. Good thing I read this piece in the morning today, now am sure the rest of the day will be great! :D

Thanks

Posted by Anand V on (May 9, 2010, 4:30 GMT)

I could swear most of the funny pokes would have been true of an Indian team not so long ago!

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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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