Pakistan in England 2010 August 21, 2010

Cook does a Michelangelo

Deprived of Statsguru, Andy Zaltzman relies on hecklers at his comedy act to update him on cricket scores
42

Pity me, Confectionery Stallers, for I have been locked away in Edinburgh at the Festival with no internet access in my flat. And no internet access means no Statsguru. It is incredible to think, in this day and age, that a man can be forced to live without Statsguru for more than 24 hours without the law or the human rights brigade intervening and righting this obvious wrong, but such is the life I have been leading. A life devoid of purpose, hope, meaning and, above all, statistics.

My one-man show in Edinburgh runs from 4.20pm to 5.40pm, roughly, and has more than once coincided with major flurries of wickets. At my show yesterday, a minute in, I received one of the oddest but most informative heckles of my stand-up comedy career, when an audience member, unprompted shouted out: “Alistair Cook has made a hundred.” As a comedian, I am well used to being heckled with personal abuse, or brusquely phrased criticisms of my act. Being furnished with a point of cricketing information was a rare treat. On went the show, during the course of which six England wickets fell. The show went well – if the game is still active at 4:20pm today, I may deliberately do the worst show possible, just to see if that makes England play better.

This has been a brilliant Test match, garlanded with outstanding play, intriguing subplots and tidal fluctuations, the kind of game that makes you want to fly a light aeroplane around your neighbourhood trailing a banner reading “I Love Cricket”.

The series had previously contained passages of brilliance, but the drama that is generated by bowler-dominated Test cricket was undercut by the knowledge of Pakistan’s dismal vulnerability with the bat. Werewolf films would be less scary if you knew in advance that the beast suffered from a fatal congenital heart defect.

Now, visibly maturing and reinforced by the craft and steel of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Yousuf, and with Kamran Akmal having jettisoned the gloves made of live baby eels that he had been using earlier in the summer, Pakistan are poised for a second Test victory of their compelling, undulating summer. “Poised for victory” of course, has a slightly different meaning for this Pakistan batting line-up than it does for most cricket sides.

Watching the highlights on Thursday, a couple of Azhar Ali’s back-foot drives made me put my cup of tea down and tap the table with my fingers in appreciation, his weeks of largely unsuccessful struggle blossoming into a potentially match-winning innings of style and stature.

Alistair Cook played his finest Test innings, which rivals Collingwood’s Edgbaston hundred against South Africa two years ago in the contest for the Best England Hundred By A Player Facing The Selectorial Chop In A Critical Match Situation 2008-2010. Cook, I thought, should have been dropped for this Test. His run of just-about-adequate form against the stronger international teams stretches back to the 2006-07 Ashes, camouflaged by healthy, century-laden hauls against Bangladesh and West Indies which have bumped up his average in that period from low-30s to low-40s. He had fully earned a “rest from the front-line”, but the selectors have proved to be amply justified in not granting him one.

Bearing in mind that England’s batsmen have not faced a bowling attack of this all-round quality for some time, and have been unsettlingly exposed by it regularly during this series (as were the Australians in July), Cook’s innings becomes even more impressive.

England thus remain vulnerable should one of their openers be injured, out of form, abducted by aliens, overwhelmed by a sudden desire to give up cricket in favour of accountancy or the priesthood, or otherwise indisposed, but Cook’s innings has resolved matters for the foreseeable future. His Ashes record suggests that Australia will not exactly be quaking in their baggy-green boots at the prospect of having to bowl to him, but perhaps this innings will mark a turning point.

His decisive approach and strokeplay were in notable contrast to the tentative proddings of his recent performances (which were also in notable contrast to his much improved technical performance in South Africa last winter (which was in notable contrast to his tentative proddings of last summer’s Ashes)). The innings that first brought him to the attention of the broader English cricketing public was a double-hundred in a day for Essex against the 2005 Australians, so he has clearly possessed the ability to dominate. It has seldom been unleashed in Test cricket, where, after his stellar start, he has – without, until this summer, properly failing − serially underachieved.

This excellent, surprisingly stylish hundred may prove to be a springboard for the remainder of his career – after all, Michelangelo had painted many rather drab, humdrum ceilings (largely in a bland, neutral creamy colour) before he nailed the Sistine Chapel, and went on to become 23-time Italian All-Round Art Champion. This is not true, but the point stands.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Suly on July 31, 2012, 18:44 GMT

    说:I’ve found that it’s difficult to relaly make money off of the local menu concept outside of Northern California. It’s still pretty hard up in Silicon Valley. San Francisco seems to be unique in its wholesale adoption.

  • Salman on September 19, 2010, 14:26 GMT

    What a shame this bunch of looters and their agents have brought again to this country...it is an insult on our nation by these pathetic faces!!!

    The indian controlled ICC is openly playing their dirty game, and every tom-dick and harry's criminal bookie phone call is now a lead into new investigations against our players, who are the best in the world....and the whole parliament and PCB sits and watch this nonsense that is crossing all limits....

    We need to stop this insane plot in which, as our crooked leader Zardari, is his agent Ijaz butt, playing the pivotal role, by showing a pathetic face after every insult that the ICC has put on the face of our country, our players.

    the indian controlled ICC, Ijaz butt and all the bookies involved need to be caught and put on trial in Pakistan....we need to stop this nonsense ....wherever there is indian hands there is a conspricay and corruption and politics, and cricket is dead if indians are allowed their dirty games, like in Afghanistan

  • nisarg dave on September 1, 2010, 4:13 GMT

    Missing your views on the current spot-fixing mess...

  • JMike on August 27, 2010, 19:09 GMT

    ahem.

    May I just point out that a certain highly intelligent (and funny (and good-looking, if I may say so)) individual just totally nailed a prediction up at the top of these comments.

    Yours sincerely etc. --someone completely unrelated to JMike

  • tvBite on August 26, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    Just got this e-mail: "Amazing fact: No test playing cricketer in the history of ever has lived to the age of 100. There's a South African who is 99 and counting though."

    And my first thought was: "Andy Zaltzman must hear of this. "

  • andyrocks-thanksman on August 25, 2010, 21:06 GMT

    Andy i really think ur readers are ungrateful. 99% of your articles leave us on the floor ROFLOL and with that 1% of rare, interspersed not-as-hilarious, witty or satirical-but-still-good-articles they complain. You probably wrote this in your sleep and you write much better than any of them will ever be able to write. You have an innate talent Andy. Thanks for exposing your talent to us. Good luck with your show and I'm sure that when you're done with it you'll be back to your 99% best.

  • waterbuffalo on August 25, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    Hey Andy, can you contact Strauss and let him know, if he wins the toss, England should bat first? After all, Cook is in form and Strauss obviously wants to score a 50, and Pieterson can also score a 50, at least. Best Regards.

  • RIC on August 24, 2010, 15:42 GMT

    That is precisely the point with Cook; a 'serial under-achiever' is precisely right, he has seldom made good runs against good opposition and for all the approbation for his 'temperament' he actually seems unable to produce against the genuinely good teams, until this hundred which I must say was magnificent. What is it with Essex producing highly talented batsmen who go missing on the big stage? Cook, Bopara....I can only think of two but I'm sure there are more. Somewhere. Maybe.

  • Anonymous on August 23, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    'England thus remain vulnerable should one of their openers be injured ... or otherwise indisposed...' Apparently Andrew Strauss is emigrating to North Korea and going into politics - he got a taste for it after attempting to twittergag the England squad.

  • Taimur Khan on August 23, 2010, 5:05 GMT

    Hi Andy Good thing Cook decided on a medium rare well done! Otherwise he would have been cooked for sure by the selecters..over a slow fire. As for splendid Amir & Ajmal, backed up by excellent Asif & Wahab, the essential difference between England's finest and this lot (with the honorable exception of the elegantly gliding Swan) is that England are flourishing only in helpful conditions. Anderson produced an excellent spell and the one that sent Yousuf back to the prayer mat was an absolute peach, but Broad and Finn looked about as penetrative as mosquitos boring against rhino hide. Please note that likening the resolve of the chasing Pakistanis to rhino hide is a travesty as a modicum of menance in the bowling can wobble them. Anderson and Swann oblidged but Finn and Broad were lamentably toothless. Kamran held his catches, easy as they were, but then that has never been an issue. He has proved capable of dropping the dolliest and on the trot too. Poor Zulqarnain..Poor Pakistan!

  • Suly on July 31, 2012, 18:44 GMT

    说:I’ve found that it’s difficult to relaly make money off of the local menu concept outside of Northern California. It’s still pretty hard up in Silicon Valley. San Francisco seems to be unique in its wholesale adoption.

  • Salman on September 19, 2010, 14:26 GMT

    What a shame this bunch of looters and their agents have brought again to this country...it is an insult on our nation by these pathetic faces!!!

    The indian controlled ICC is openly playing their dirty game, and every tom-dick and harry's criminal bookie phone call is now a lead into new investigations against our players, who are the best in the world....and the whole parliament and PCB sits and watch this nonsense that is crossing all limits....

    We need to stop this insane plot in which, as our crooked leader Zardari, is his agent Ijaz butt, playing the pivotal role, by showing a pathetic face after every insult that the ICC has put on the face of our country, our players.

    the indian controlled ICC, Ijaz butt and all the bookies involved need to be caught and put on trial in Pakistan....we need to stop this nonsense ....wherever there is indian hands there is a conspricay and corruption and politics, and cricket is dead if indians are allowed their dirty games, like in Afghanistan

  • nisarg dave on September 1, 2010, 4:13 GMT

    Missing your views on the current spot-fixing mess...

  • JMike on August 27, 2010, 19:09 GMT

    ahem.

    May I just point out that a certain highly intelligent (and funny (and good-looking, if I may say so)) individual just totally nailed a prediction up at the top of these comments.

    Yours sincerely etc. --someone completely unrelated to JMike

  • tvBite on August 26, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    Just got this e-mail: "Amazing fact: No test playing cricketer in the history of ever has lived to the age of 100. There's a South African who is 99 and counting though."

    And my first thought was: "Andy Zaltzman must hear of this. "

  • andyrocks-thanksman on August 25, 2010, 21:06 GMT

    Andy i really think ur readers are ungrateful. 99% of your articles leave us on the floor ROFLOL and with that 1% of rare, interspersed not-as-hilarious, witty or satirical-but-still-good-articles they complain. You probably wrote this in your sleep and you write much better than any of them will ever be able to write. You have an innate talent Andy. Thanks for exposing your talent to us. Good luck with your show and I'm sure that when you're done with it you'll be back to your 99% best.

  • waterbuffalo on August 25, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    Hey Andy, can you contact Strauss and let him know, if he wins the toss, England should bat first? After all, Cook is in form and Strauss obviously wants to score a 50, and Pieterson can also score a 50, at least. Best Regards.

  • RIC on August 24, 2010, 15:42 GMT

    That is precisely the point with Cook; a 'serial under-achiever' is precisely right, he has seldom made good runs against good opposition and for all the approbation for his 'temperament' he actually seems unable to produce against the genuinely good teams, until this hundred which I must say was magnificent. What is it with Essex producing highly talented batsmen who go missing on the big stage? Cook, Bopara....I can only think of two but I'm sure there are more. Somewhere. Maybe.

  • Anonymous on August 23, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    'England thus remain vulnerable should one of their openers be injured ... or otherwise indisposed...' Apparently Andrew Strauss is emigrating to North Korea and going into politics - he got a taste for it after attempting to twittergag the England squad.

  • Taimur Khan on August 23, 2010, 5:05 GMT

    Hi Andy Good thing Cook decided on a medium rare well done! Otherwise he would have been cooked for sure by the selecters..over a slow fire. As for splendid Amir & Ajmal, backed up by excellent Asif & Wahab, the essential difference between England's finest and this lot (with the honorable exception of the elegantly gliding Swan) is that England are flourishing only in helpful conditions. Anderson produced an excellent spell and the one that sent Yousuf back to the prayer mat was an absolute peach, but Broad and Finn looked about as penetrative as mosquitos boring against rhino hide. Please note that likening the resolve of the chasing Pakistanis to rhino hide is a travesty as a modicum of menance in the bowling can wobble them. Anderson and Swann oblidged but Finn and Broad were lamentably toothless. Kamran held his catches, easy as they were, but then that has never been an issue. He has proved capable of dropping the dolliest and on the trot too. Poor Zulqarnain..Poor Pakistan!

  • Singhe on August 22, 2010, 17:56 GMT

    Do you think Carberry would have been given that many chances???Carberry ought to be opening the batting!!!!!Marcus T is still the best opening batsman on the Isle and should be approached!

  • waterbuffalo on August 22, 2010, 11:44 GMT

    Heheh, nice to see you back, Andy, I've always liked Cook, very classy batsman the other guy I like is Morgan, who reminds me Thorpe, in reverse, compact, good in defence, might be a future # 3, and you have Bell coming back, and Broad, at# 9, this will be a strong lineup to take to Australia, as for Pakistan, it was great to see Yousuf show England what he can do, his head was so low, he played the ball so late, and it was all front foot, you never saw his face, that new guy Azhar Ali, has serious potential, very good temperamant, and a solid technique, Umar Akmal is a little crazy, like Afridi, but he has guts, and is fun to watch.

  • Usman ahmed on August 22, 2010, 7:27 GMT

    His decisive approach and strokeplay were in notable contrast to the tentative proddings of his recent performances (which were also in notable contrast to his much improved technical performance in South Africa last winter (which was in notable contrast to his tentative proddings of last summer’s Ashes)).

    pure magic... :D

  • dil se on August 22, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    The ghosts of English defeat have obviously hurt the wits of our beloved Mr. Andy Statzman ;)

  • Jayanth R on August 22, 2010, 3:35 GMT

    There is a small typo error in your article. Cook's first name is spelt as Alastair and not Alistair as you have indicated - is this a result of not having Statsguru around :-)

  • Arvind on August 22, 2010, 2:52 GMT

    The entire expert analysis about Cook was hilarious!

  • Ajinkya on August 22, 2010, 0:52 GMT

    you're a legend! =D do u write anywhere else, so i can follow more of your awesome writing?

  • NaveedHashmi on August 21, 2010, 22:29 GMT

    Nice one Andy! Though it's a bit of surprise that you mention the name of person who hold 8 catches during this match. More than the aggregate he got in all this summer..... :P

  • Nadeem Kureshi on August 21, 2010, 22:08 GMT

    @Fazel & Atif! It would be way too unfair asking Michelangelo to paint a Sistine Chapel every week!

    Nevertheless, if you liked Sistine Chapel, you may find Madonna and Child ... and others interesting too!

  • DT on August 21, 2010, 19:22 GMT

    Hmm... not the high wit-rate of a typical AZ article. Got quite serious in the middle there as well :-o Maybe you were suffering from Statsguru withdrawal symptoms when writing this? Hopefully, as Cook score his hundred after a poor first innings, AZ will write something worthy of me putting my laptop down and tap the table with my fingers in appreciation ;)

  • Rayhan on August 21, 2010, 19:01 GMT

    "contest for the Best England Hundred By A Player Facing The Selectorial Chop In A Critical Match Situation " ....LOL High standards Imran Farhat must be wondering - his father in law, a Pak cric board man, him for another few tests just for NOT appearing in the headlines.

  • Rashid on August 21, 2010, 19:01 GMT

    Why did not Pakistan choose Yousuf from the beginning.If anyone needed brain surgery that had to be PCB selectors; Psychiatrists alone will not help, it needs replacement.Because of them we did not enjoy better competition on first and second test.

  • Zihan Jiffry on August 21, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    Hi Andy it's just surprised me and i was so disappointed after reading it all the way down mAnn where is the Stats YES as you have mentioned that you didn't have internet for a while but this not what we expect from you =( we miss the old you =( hope to see him soon =) write with stats thats your strength =D

  • Ali Abbas on August 21, 2010, 18:44 GMT

    Give Andy a break! Don't treat him as Pakistan treats Amir. He can't keep on throwing jewels every time. Andy, ignore the comments. I liked every bit of it. You rock.

  • Rahil Khan on August 21, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Masterpiece! Andy, you seem to have excellent software programmer's skills as well - somewhere deep down. I say that because of your remarkable command over the use of double parentheses. Good to see an article that can also be fed into a computer without any compilation errors due to a lazy programmer forgetting to close a parenthesis that he/she opened!

  • Imran on August 21, 2010, 16:57 GMT

    Good article,as usual.Cook's century was great but in vain for England.

  • Ali Shah on August 21, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Very well written article but Andy this piece of yours was much smaller than your previous articles or so it seemed. Also maybe we are used to a much higher quantity of humor in your articles which is why I thought this article was quite far from your better ones.

  • asim on August 21, 2010, 16:38 GMT

    pakistan was about to lose match not by runs but nerves!!!!!!!

  • jogesh99 on August 21, 2010, 16:24 GMT

    pretty pedestrian stuff andy me lad. but still better than antything else on cricinfo - not that thats saying anything - much like your article.

    get back into form - we adore you.

  • Anonymous on August 21, 2010, 16:04 GMT

    It all good

  • Karan Takkar on August 21, 2010, 15:40 GMT

    Andy Zaltzman, FTW!

  • Hamza Ahmad Khan on August 21, 2010, 14:50 GMT

    I absolutely LOVE the stall, Andy. Lines like "the selectorial chop", "Michelangelo becoming 23 time Italian Champion" make my insides tickle. Keep them coming.

  • aahashes on August 21, 2010, 14:49 GMT

    i would anyday take alistair cook scoring 100s against us and having the same result as it did in this match :), i.e an aussie triumph. the winning of england seems to be directly correlated to the form of Cook, he failed in the last six matches and england won them. Suddenly he scores a hundred and they lose. i guess the Strauss has to stress the fact to cook to under perform so that england can win:)

  • Atif on August 21, 2010, 14:35 GMT

    Andy, has a separation from stat guru done something to your wits? Not the piece I should have expected from you!!

  • MTrain on August 21, 2010, 14:30 GMT

    You serious, Fazeel? Best one yet I reckon :)

    Tour Australia during the Ashes series....the pound conversion may be terrible, but the beer is good!

  • James on August 21, 2010, 14:29 GMT

    @ Fazeel Actually, I rather enjoyed this piece.

    It would be foolish to think that anyone - including Andy Zaltman - could live up to the stratospheric high standards that Andy has set in every single piece of writing they ever do. I agree that this piece wasn't the sort of laugh-out-loud funny pieces that Andy usually writes, but it still a good piece of writing all the same.

    Also, he mentioned at the start of the piece that he's been in Edinburgh doing stand up comedy, so cut him some slack?

  • natmastak on August 21, 2010, 13:30 GMT

    love ur articles but there are other test playing nations too. ok before anyone comment ,I know that there is an eng-pak test underway.

  • Emaad on August 21, 2010, 12:37 GMT

    hahahahhah the last line is funny :P

  • Ashar Ahmad on August 21, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    ..'His run of just-about-adequate form against the "stronger international teams" stretches back to the 2006-07 Ashes'

    ..'Bearing in mind that England’s batsmen have not faced a "bowling attack of this all-round quality" for some time'

    Rankings vs Honest appreciation by the knowledgeable opposition fans..I know what indians would go for ;)

  • Abul Hasan on August 21, 2010, 12:29 GMT

    Andy, you are the best. I look forward to your blog.

  • Fazeel_Randhawa on August 21, 2010, 12:22 GMT

    not upto the mark i shld say............andy if u r going to write the confectionery stall then plz write it with ur usual concentration and effort...........not lyk this............still luv u

  • JMike on August 21, 2010, 12:13 GMT

    Someone needs to tell KP he's at risk of facing the selectorial chop. Maybe then he'll ruffle his feathers, flap his wings, and produce a hundred. He's coming too close to laying some eggs.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • JMike on August 21, 2010, 12:13 GMT

    Someone needs to tell KP he's at risk of facing the selectorial chop. Maybe then he'll ruffle his feathers, flap his wings, and produce a hundred. He's coming too close to laying some eggs.

  • Fazeel_Randhawa on August 21, 2010, 12:22 GMT

    not upto the mark i shld say............andy if u r going to write the confectionery stall then plz write it with ur usual concentration and effort...........not lyk this............still luv u

  • Abul Hasan on August 21, 2010, 12:29 GMT

    Andy, you are the best. I look forward to your blog.

  • Ashar Ahmad on August 21, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    ..'His run of just-about-adequate form against the "stronger international teams" stretches back to the 2006-07 Ashes'

    ..'Bearing in mind that England’s batsmen have not faced a "bowling attack of this all-round quality" for some time'

    Rankings vs Honest appreciation by the knowledgeable opposition fans..I know what indians would go for ;)

  • Emaad on August 21, 2010, 12:37 GMT

    hahahahhah the last line is funny :P

  • natmastak on August 21, 2010, 13:30 GMT

    love ur articles but there are other test playing nations too. ok before anyone comment ,I know that there is an eng-pak test underway.

  • James on August 21, 2010, 14:29 GMT

    @ Fazeel Actually, I rather enjoyed this piece.

    It would be foolish to think that anyone - including Andy Zaltman - could live up to the stratospheric high standards that Andy has set in every single piece of writing they ever do. I agree that this piece wasn't the sort of laugh-out-loud funny pieces that Andy usually writes, but it still a good piece of writing all the same.

    Also, he mentioned at the start of the piece that he's been in Edinburgh doing stand up comedy, so cut him some slack?

  • MTrain on August 21, 2010, 14:30 GMT

    You serious, Fazeel? Best one yet I reckon :)

    Tour Australia during the Ashes series....the pound conversion may be terrible, but the beer is good!

  • Atif on August 21, 2010, 14:35 GMT

    Andy, has a separation from stat guru done something to your wits? Not the piece I should have expected from you!!

  • aahashes on August 21, 2010, 14:49 GMT

    i would anyday take alistair cook scoring 100s against us and having the same result as it did in this match :), i.e an aussie triumph. the winning of england seems to be directly correlated to the form of Cook, he failed in the last six matches and england won them. Suddenly he scores a hundred and they lose. i guess the Strauss has to stress the fact to cook to under perform so that england can win:)