England July 31, 2010

The Dilfail, and Athers' love for controversy

Why not to back teams with animal names and why to continue subscribing to Sky

Monday, July 26
An excess of confidence, like alcohol, can lead a man to do things he later regrets. Intoxicated by the success of my recent Sri Lankan wager, I became monetarily involved in today’s quarter-final disputations in the Friends Provident t20, expressing my certainty to the bemused chap behind the counter at my local bookmakers that the Bears of Warwickshire and the Sharks of Sussex would certainly triumph.

It turned out not to be a great day for zoologically-monikered cricket teams. I should have known better, really. The Bears were so named because of the popularity of bear-baiting in the fair towns of Warwickshire, a sport that didn’t usually end well for the bear. And now I come to think of it, the aquatic stars of the Jaws films didn’t usually finish on top either. In future I will stick to supporting teams with humans in their names, like the Outlaws, the Bushrangers or the Knight Riders.

Wednesday, July 28
The rain in Port-of-Spain made viewing hard to sustain. Nevertheless, I hung around. I rearranged my collection of in order of thickness, then in reverse chronological order, then finally by shades of yellow, from ripe cider to vivid sunshine. Finally, the Trinidad openers sloshed out to bat against Jamaica in front of packed stands. Ten dollars a ticket and a full house. Could there be a lesson here for certain county chief executives?

Trinidad were soon in trouble. Adrian Barath went early and was followed by the hapless William Perkins; undone by the modern mania for inventive strokeplay. We hear a lot about the Dilscoop, but it has an evil twin, called the Dilfail, that brings only mockery and amusement in its wake. Perkins did all the basics right, gave himself plenty of room, got down on his haunches but sadly, neglected to hit the thing and was castled in the reclining position, a most undignified demise.

You see, Twenty20 can make a clown out of any batsman. It is important, therefore, to try to keep one’s dignity in tact. Take Darren Bravo, for example. Things were pretty hot and sweaty out there and in attempting a delicate leg-side hoik, he found his bat slipping from his grasp and hurtling towards the boundary. But Bravo didn’t panic. After a suitable pause, he drew himself up, calmly strolled over to square leg, retrieved his blade and returned to his crease without a word, as though this kind of thing happens all the time. Chris Gayle himself could not have been cooler.

Thursday, July 29
Don’t mention Shakoor Rana. Or Mike Gatting. Or the series before that. Or 1992. Sky’s pre-game montage of exciting previous clashes between England and Pakistan avoided all that unnecessary unpleasantness and began in the dark of Karachi in 2001. It did include The Oval in 2006, but that unfortunate business was brushed over hastily. David Gower, clearly auditioning for a role in the diplomatic corps, wished for an entirely non-controversial series, with which Ramiz Raja was in agreement. But there was a third member of the panel, one MA Atherton.

Athers merrily expressed a wish for lots and lots of lovely controversy. He even scoffed at the Spirit Of Cricket, causing his genial host to splutter; the fixed Gower grin straining under the pressure. One day, mark my words, it will break and DG will go berserk on live television, probably throttling David Lloyd and assaulting Sir Ian Botham about the moustache with the thick end of a microphone. The hope of seeing such a day is the main reason I continue to renew my subscription.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England