England September 9, 2010

A scandalous confession

Andrew Hughes has something unpleasant to tell all you readers

Saturday, September 4th The events of recent days have brought back some unpleasant memories; memories of an episode in my past of which I am not particularly proud. Since I feel, though, that we are all friends here and since I am fairly sure that none of you work for a tabloid newspaper, I thought it might be cathartic if I unburdened myself.

It happened many years ago, when running around on a hot afternoon still seemed like a good idea. I was playing backyard cricket and with the game at a critical point, I assayed a glorious lofted shot, sending the ball straight over my brother’s head and straight through the glass of our parents' bedroom window.

As you might imagine, there ensued something of an enquiry. My hastily constructed defence rested on the following series of ingenious arguments:

1. I never done nothing 2. You can’t prove I done it 3. Your proof is fake 4. You’re biased against me 5. The Indian Secret Service made me do it 6. I am very young 7. Okay, I might have done it but I’m not the only person who’s ever broken a window with a cricket ball

Surprisingly, despite the fact that I’d been apprehended with bat in hand and that our next-door neighbour had caught the whole thing on video, I was let off with a gentle talking to and a suspended pocket-money reduction. But I’d learned my lesson and from that day to this, I doubt if I’ve broken that window more than a dozen times.

Sunday, September 5th It’s Sunday, so it must be cricket scandal day. This whole affair has put the upstanding cricket fan in a tricky position. On the one hand, we want to know what is going on. On the other hand, we don’t want to be seen purchasing a certain publication. Even visiting their website makes you feel rather seedy and warrants a swift deletion of your browsing history. The good news for Pakistan cricketers, though not so good for Premier League footballers, is that the normally sex-obsessed paper’s temporary interest in investigative sports journalism seems to be wearing off.

And the good news for cricket fans everywhere is that the Rawalpindi Express is still chugging along. Good old Shoaib’s misdemeanours seem rather quaint with the benefit of hindsight and there have even been those who suggested that he might have hit Asif rather harder when he had the chance. His run-up has dwindled, he sweats up like a horse having its first canter of the season, but he’s unmistakably a thoroughbred and it was fun to see him blowing Kieswetter away and then blowing him a kiss. Now if he can just get himself fit and not do anything silly…

Tuesday, September 7th Goodness me, that was dull. A drizzly Tuesday afternoon, a half-empty stadium and the limpest Pakistan batting performance since the last one. Their supporters have had to swallow a lot this week, yet still they journeyed down to Cardiff in the rain to cheer on the men in green. They deserved a spirited performance. Naturally, they didn’t get one.

But my personal lowlight was the interminable, matey post-walkover chat between Ian Ward and Paul Collingwood: England are brilliant; Eoin Morgan’s a genius; you must be very happy, yada yada yada. The problem is that Sky’s ex-pros are perfectly equipped, from personal experience, to deliver in-depth analysis of massive English defeats. When England win, they are forced to grope for superlatives and come across like sycophantic cheerleaders in sensible trousers.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England