May 20, 2010

ICC World Twenty20

The secret to winning the World Twenty20

Andy Zaltzman

I shall calculate the length of the shadow cast by my hand and divide it by the number croissants I had for breakfast, and voila, we have a target © Getty Images

What days we have been living through. A coalition government is in putative charge for the first time since Geoff Arnold used to open the bowling for the country – can you imagine a cricketer with Arnold’s admirably defiant lack of personal-grooming products being allowed near the England dressing room today? David Cameron has taken the keys to Number 10, a man marketed by some media acolytes as Britain’s answer to Obama. An independently wealthy Old Etonian Oxford graduate reaching the highest office in the land – they said it would never happen in our lifetimes. There is hope for us all.

But these momentous events were as nothing to the seismic jolt that blasted England’s conception of itself to smithereens, like a vintage Waqar Younis yorker splintering a nervous tailender’s big toe. In a post-imperial, globalising, technological age, the old certainties of what it meant to be English have been tossed around in the tumble dryer of progress. But one immutable national trait has remained steadfast through the baffling transformations of the modern age – an indefatigable, almost fundamentalist, ineptitude at limited-overs cricket. Now even this one beacon of reliability, this solitary undeflatable rubber dinghy on the stormy boating lake of change, has been cruelly snatched from us by a ruthless fortnight of powerful, focused and consistent cricket.

I exaggerate, of course. Slightly. But, from the beginning of the Super Eights, England barely wobbled in their progress towards their first-ever world limited-overs gong. After formulating a strategy of Machiavellian brilliance – picking lots of batsmen who can thwack the ball hard – Collingwood’s team were Australianically dominant.

There was never even the slightest hint that they would find a way to concoct a defeat. Clearly, England have been recruiting the right type of South Africans.

England thus became the third different winner of the three World Twenty20 tournaments over three years, and the last of the eight major Test nations to reach a semi-final in the shortest form of the international game. Pakistan have reached three semi-finals, Australia and Sri Lanka two, and the other five teams one each. There is no real pattern emerging yet, and no dominant force – by contrast, the World Cup has been dominated successively by West Indies (two wins and a losing final in the first three competitions) and Australia (four wins out of five finals in the last six tournaments). Long may it remain so.

The one unifying feature of the winning teams at the World Twenty20 has been that they have hit a streak of form for 10 days once the Super Eight stage begins. This contrasts with the 50-over World Cup, which is essentially a test of which team goes least mad sitting in a hotel room for six skull-crushingly tedious weeks, playing a bit of mostly meaningless cricket once every five or six days. This format evidently suits the Australian psyche extremely snugly.

Here’s a slightly curious fact for you, Confectionery Stallers. The champion World Twenty20 teams between them have won two out of six group matches – India sneaked through with a washout and a bowl-out win against Pakistan in 2007, Pakistan were clobbered by England then defeated the Netherlands last year, and England lost a titanic opening-match struggle with the Duckworth-Lewis method before being rained through to the second phase whilst defending an unimposing 120 against Ireland. So it seems that starting the tournament shakily is a prerequisite for ultimate triumph, which, once all the teams realise this, could make for some highly entertaining anti-cricket in the group stage next time round in 2012.

(Duckworth-Lewis clearly needs some tinkering in its Twenty20 incarnation. It generally functions fairly when rain interrupts in 50-over cricket, but in the 20-over game, it seems to involve the umpire dropping a calculator into a pint of ram’s blood, then jumping up and down on it, thinking about what Salvador Dali would have been like if he’d been Freddie Trueman instead, holding his breath for two minutes whilst growling, and then saying the first number that comes into his head.)

Thank you for your questions in response to last week’s blog. Having been divorced from cricket by the election for too long, I am now going away with the family for a week’s holiday in a non-cricketous country, but I have responded to some of your queries, and my factually and legally incontrovertible answers will be posted here next week.


Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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Posted by Dhananjay on (May 23, 2010, 18:33 GMT)

Pal....must are not just a stand up comedian....but a write up comedian too... Your articles are Southafricanlly British, but Australianisque, batting with Indian inconsistent elegance on flat beds of Srilanka against Pakistan fielded Zimbawean kind of attack of Kiwis...... in short... unpredictably funny..... Keep them coming

Posted by Shiva on (May 20, 2010, 22:35 GMT)

Loved the last Duckworth-Lewis Bit for T20! Hilarious :D

Posted by Shahid on (May 20, 2010, 19:19 GMT)

It's a long since I have been advocating a joint team made up of pakistan and Afghanistan players. we will at least be getting some better fielders if not more. we should just follow the recipe our colonial masters used to get their hands on a silverware after a hundred years struggle.

Posted by Kunal on (May 20, 2010, 17:18 GMT)

have read/heard each of ur blogs. please post audio clips for funny stuff like this.

in my eyes/ears, it's andy the confectionery man! give us some audio, man!

Posted by Sagar on (May 20, 2010, 13:19 GMT)

"This format evidently suits the Australian psyche extremely snugly." LOL!!!!

Posted by sean of adelaide on (May 20, 2010, 12:36 GMT)

'Grrr, there goes my heart's abhorrence', as the typically weak lower order English batsman Robert Browning once said. We here in the Ozymandias of the South look forward to the brutal onslaught to be visited on the English. Our pain is deep and unforgiving. Only a Tarantino film could do it justice or perhaps Ken Loach at his most unforgiving.

Nevertheless, well done England. Great cricket, but lets see how Brisbane is playing in a few months time.

Posted by Farhan on (May 20, 2010, 12:33 GMT)

Totally agree with Andy. Still hope England will find the tunnel of hope with 'the right kind of South Africans'. Hahahahh........

Posted by Patrick A on (May 20, 2010, 11:11 GMT)

Excellent point about winners doing poorly in group stages. Hey, wait a minute, isnt it a breach of your fine ethics to raise excellent points?

Posted by Colin West on (May 20, 2010, 9:11 GMT)

I'm greedily awaiting the answer to my question in last weeks blog with a copy of Hansard in one hand and surgical saw in the other.

Posted by vb on (May 20, 2010, 9:04 GMT)

On the topic of Geoff Arnold being allowed near the England dressing room, Ryan Sidebottom manages to creep in unnoticed with his Frank Gallaghar like grooming techniques.

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Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on ESPNcricinfo.

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