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If I were paid by the word I would write Ryan ten Doeschate as often as possible. Sadly, I am not and so I will refer to him as RTD. Before Wednesday’s televised Twenty20 game, RTD said that whilst he was flattered that some were talking up his chances of playing for England, he felt he was South African. There then ensued a debate between Charles Colville and Robert Croft that was a pleasant conversational excursion through the thorny maze of cricket nationality. It went a little like this.
Croft: I find it refreshing that he’s said he doesn’t want to play for England, that he feels South African and only wants to play for South Africa.
Colville: But he’s been playing for Holland
Croft: Well, you can’t blame him for taking the opportunity.
Indeed not. It appears that you can have your biltong and Edam soup and eat it too. Croft of course, is a Welshman who played for England and who bristles at any suggestion that he might be described as an Englishman. It is all rather confusing. Perhaps, since England is a country that in many ways does not exist, we should go further and have it registered alongside Narnia as an entirely mythical realm, thus allowing anyone with access to a wardrobe to be considered for selection.
But whoever he happens to be playing for, RTD is an entertainer, his nimble-footed assays down the pitch and his whirring arms making him Twenty20 box office. In recent times though, the rest of the Essex chorus line have not been pulling their weight. After a thrilling performance was cut short by a calf injury that will stop him turning out for Essex, Holland, South Africa or Narnia for several weeks, Eagles fans, if such people exist, might have expected another disappointing show.
But they were wrong. Essex were "pumped up" as the experts put it, which I understand is a euphemism for "trying really hard" rather than an aspersion that they might be on steroids or wearing inflatable shoes. Kaneria sent Pollard off with some un-Parliamentary language and after taking a catch in the shade of the pavilion, Grant Flower showed off his right bicep in a threatening fashion to a section of the Somerset crowd. At least, I think he was showing off his bicep.
Throughout the debacle, Poor Marcus Trescothick sat helpless in the Somerset dug out. He’d done his bit. Although no longer cutting a dash in the field (his pursuit of one leg glance looked like a middle-aged man trying to catch a runaway puppy) he had helped to lay what is known in the game as a "platform"; a platform from which his chaps proceeded to launch themselves like black-clad lemmings. As the wickets fell, there was even time for a touch of comedy, courtesy of Nick Compton who added to the game’s repertoire of Twenty20 innovations by reverse-sweeping his own bails off.
Still, at the post match sit-down with microphones, even Trescothick was smiling. And why not. Taunton looks a thoroughly lovely place to witness cricket. The game had begun in bright sunlight and every time the ball soared into the sky, we were afforded a glimpse of the sandstone tower of St James Church against various shades of blue. As spectators sizzled, the sun sank and the evening came on by discreet shades so that by the end, the midsummer light had softened to a mellow amber; the colour in fact, of a decent glass of cider.
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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