World Cup 2011 February 23, 2011

England get poor performance out of the way early

Nagpur saw a much more entertaining game than most were expecting

Nagpur saw a much more entertaining game than most were expecting. England cannily elected to get their worst possible bowling and fielding performance out of the way early on in the tournament to avoid it befalling them in a more important game later, and the Netherlands batted with verve, fielded tenaciously and bowled with discipline to prove that dressing head-to-toe in orange can lead you to the brink of a famous World Cup victory, as well as to the dock in an American court case. If only Allen Stanford had known.

No-one could claim this match represented a marketing triumph for the World Cup. I suppose when you have built a stadium as impressive as the splendid VCA, the last thing you want is people sitting in it and spoiling the aesthetic. Admittedly, England playing the Netherlands in the first week of a marathon tournament in a stadium in the middle of nowhere with minimal-to-zilch transport links would be a hard sell even for the most persuasive of salesmen.

The small crowd that did attend were jaunty and voluble throughout, with a defiantly vocal stadium announcer not merely egging them on, but omeletting them on with an unstoppably loud cocktail of decibels and persistence. He announced bowling changes and score updates as if they were rock legends. He announced that the bowling was not being changed with equal gusto. He announced announcements that no-one had previously thought needed announcing. And then he announced some more. It was a sterling performance.

Earlier in the week, I bought a ticket for the West Indies v South Africa game in Delhi. I wandered down to the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. (And by wandered, I mean attempted to navigate my way across a major junction without being splatted by a car, bus, truck, rickshaw or person, in a state of considerable panic that made me wonder even more how Indian batsmen are ever run out – if you can judge crossing a road in Delhi, you should be able to work out when a quick single is on.)

There was no obvious sign of a ticket office at the ground. I asked for directions. I was directed to the far side of the stadium. At gate 6, I was told to go to gate 3. At gate 3, I as told to go to gate 4. There was no gate 4. There was a gate 6, and a gate 3. And no other gates in between. Some people at an unnumbered quasi-gate told me to go back to gate 3. The people at gate 3 told now me to go back round towards where I had started to find the ticket office. I walked another 100 yards round the outside of the stadium. I walked past another, different gate 3. I found the ticket office. It was shut. Completely shut. I then found gate 4, some way past the second of the two gate 3s. The people at gate 4 told me to go to a branch of a bank half a mile away. I ‘wandered’ back across the junction, found the bank with the help of two Indian men who were on the same seemingly endless odyssey as I was, and bought a ticket. So every effort is being made to ensure the stadium is sold out on Thursday.

Back to the game. England may not have major concerns yet, but if their two top pacemen keep conceding 137 between them, they will. They were lacklustre throughout in the field, and if they play similarly against India, they will be poached like an old man’s salmon.


For those of you not willing or able to follow the ZaltzCricket Twitter feed, here are the latest minor injuries reports:

England's IAN BELL took a lemon pip in the eye in a fruit squishing contest in training before Tuesday’s game, but was cleared to play after dousing it with a pinch of salt and a slug of tequila… Australia's JASON KREJZA tripped over a sleeping dog whilst trying to film two locusts copulating at Australian team hotel, suffering a “mild nose scrape”… India's YUVRAJ SINGH endured a “low-to-trifling-level” neck sprain when throwing pistachio nuts in the air and trying to catch them in his mouth. Yuvraj: "I saw Tom Cruise do it in a film once, I think, so I thought I'd give it a go. I respect Cruise more now. It's damn hard."… South Africa's MORNE MORKEL bit his own cheek whilst trying to cheer up homesick Graeme Smith with a dinosaur impersonation. Team coach Corrie van Zyl: “I’ve told Morne not to do his T-Rex during tournaments, no matter how good it is. If he’s going to do anything, I’d rather it was a herbivore, like a brontosaurus.”... West Indies' GEORGE HEADLEY is out of the whole World Cup after dying in 1983 at age of 74. His initial replacement LEARIE CONSTANTINE has also been ruled out, dead… Pakistan's UMAR AKMAL chipped a fingernail playing an overenthusiastic Scott Joplin medley on the hotel piano. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq: “When he started on The Entertainer, I thought his arms were going to come off.”... Holland's BAS ZUIDERENT played against England despite pricking left index finger playing toothpick snooker with a plate of peas at dinner on Monday night... England's TIM BRESNAN also played after recovering from the emotional trauma of watching animated rabbit movie classic Watership Down for the first time. Bresnan: "It puts cricket in perspective. We're going to go out there and win this World Cup for those poor little bunnies."... Sri Lanka's LASITH MALINGA resting after being goaded by Murali into trying to match Paul Newman's 50-egg-eating exploits in Cool Hand Luke... Australia's SHAUN TAIT “recovering well” after being bitten on the right thigh by his lucky iguana whilst bowling against Zimbabwe on Monday. Tait: "I keep little Iggy in my back pocket, and usually he's fine, but he got a bit carried away with the excitement of a World Cup, and took a nibble."… Australia's BRETT LEE hurt his shoulder trying to open a wall that he thought was a magic door… Umpire SIMON TAUFEL recuperating after electrocuting his hand in an empty light socket whilst practising his signal for four byes… South Africa's A.B. DE VILLIERS fell off his chair whilst explaining Einstein's theory of relativity to Jacques Kallis, who was unhurt… Zimbabwe's RAY PRICE ate a bumble bee that he thought was a prune in a dimly-lit Ahmedabad breakfast room, but was not stung… West Indies' RAMNARESH SARWAN fine for Thursday’s game despite a drawing-pin injury acquired in a team-bonding game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey. Chris Gayle: "It's Sarwan's own fault. He shouldn't have dressed up in his pantomime donkey outfit."

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