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Wednesday, 24th November It’s the Ashes! Finally, the big day had dawned and SKY were beside themselves with excitement. Their pre-game package appeared to have been put together by a producer who’d overdosed on sugary sweets and espresso. Rushed interviews, curtailed opinions, frantic ad breaks, an orchestral crescendo, more ads, a chat with Graeme Swann, a few bars of thumping music, a fast-forward two minute review of the 1986-87 series, another advert and oh my god it’s the Ashes! The Ashes!
The whirlwind of hype reached a shrieking frenzy at around 23:45 GMT with an uptight Nasser and a rudely tanned Sir Beefy breathlessly chanting, “The pressure’s on Australia, never write off the Aussies, the pressure’s on Australia, never write off the Aussies…” whilst both looking as though they really badly needed to go pee. And when Strauss was out in the first over, the coverage moved into the higher registers where only bats, dolphins and highly sensitive dogs could enjoy it.
And then it got a bit dull. Admittedly, Test cricket isn’t designed for late-night television where constant stimulation is necessary to keep your audience from slipping into unconsciousness. But there’s another problem. Let’s be honest, this is a mid-ranking tiff between two unremarkable teams squabbling for the right to be considered not quite as good as Sri Lanka. By 00:20, my snacks depleted, I had begun to scratch a Trott-style line in my sofa. By 00:35 I was taking an interest in the shopping channel. By 00:45 I was asleep. It’s the Ashes! Wake me up when it’s over.
Thursday, 25th November You’ve got to hand it to Mr Modi and I’m not just talking about legal notices. The great man has been speaking to his people via Modivision, his personal Youtube channel.
"Of course we made some mistakes, but if we hadn't made some mistakes, I wouldn't have corrected them and made it better and that is why we are the world's hottest league".
Nice work, Mr M. A lesser man admitting to his mistakes might suggest as a defence that yes, he did a few things wrong, but that he’s learnt his lesson. But that is not the Modi way. Here the blessed Lalit is suggesting that without his mistakes, the IPL wouldn’t be as good as it is and so really, he should be thanked for instituting those vital mistakes and can he have his job back please? I’m not sure if he has a lawyer, but then again, I’m not sure that he needs one.
Saturday, 27th November Ajantha Mendis is a bowling machine set to “random”. Trying to pick him must be like trying to work out what kind of liquorice allsort will be next out of the packet. A googly without the turn. A kind of offbreak. A carrom ball. One that sort of hangs there. A range of loopy ones that look like they might break left or right but don’t. A straight fast one. A curvy straight fast one. A slightly slower straight one.
But in the end, liquorice allsorts all taste like, well, liquorice. You can have enough liquorice is what I’m saying. Watching him bowl is exhausting to watch, faintly hypnotic, but also a little infuriating. He’s like a magician performing the same trick over and over again. “Ta-da!” says Ajantha as he pulls yet another new breed of rabbit out of his top hat to polite but dwindling applause. “Look at this one though,” he protests, “It’s got slightly longer ears than the others!”
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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