England March 7, 2011

With England, appearances are deceiving

What an odd team England are
45

What an odd team England are. They are comprehensively prepared, and admirably focused. They are honed with scientific exactness, and led with calm assurance by an irrefutably level-headed captain-and-coach combination. And they are wildly inconsistent. They are like a man who dresses like an accountant, talks like an accountant, lives in a comfortable suburban house, and sleeps in spreadsheet-print pyjamas. But who is actually the lead singer of a thrash metal band, with an unrivalled collection of exotic snakes.

I did not see much of yesterday’s match, as I was travelling from Colombo to the hills near Kandy, past innumerable impromptu cricket games (few of which, it must be sadly reported, were being played with ICC-regulation equipment, accurately measured creases, or properly qualified umpires). We left Colombo as Ian Bell was trudging back to the pavilion, and the cricket world was wondering whether Robin Peterson had been injected with a special serum made out of the DNA of Hedley Verity, Bishen Bedi and Derek Underwood. We stopped for lunch in time to find out that Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara’s steady recovery had evaporated in a nostalgia-tinged England collapse against leg spin. We departed post-lunch with Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla seemingly intent on securing a merciless 10-wicket drubbing, against an England team looking more stony-faced than an Easter Island statue.

So it was with considerable surprise and, from an English perspective, delight, that I discovered that England’s hitherto struggling bowling attack had turned the game on its head, with Stuart Broad and James Anderson, arguably England’s two most important players in this tournament, to the fore.

Most had predicted one win and one loss from England’s last two matches. Even the most soothy of sayers had not foreseen that the loss would come against Ireland, especially after spending three-quarters of the game cruising to an efficient victory, and that the victory would be against South Africa, having spent the majority of the match subsiding to a comprehensive defeat which confirmed all the doubts about their tournament credentials. Suddenly, England are a team to fear again. At least until their next match.

However, the other teams watching the event in Chennai unfold may be even more concerned about South Africa. A Proteas team that has already got a spectacular choke out of its system could well be unbeatable. They have learnt from their 1999 and 2003 implosions – like an addict acknowledging his weakness and trying to live with it rather than conquer it, South African cricket has stood up bravely in front of its peers and proudly announced, “We are South Africa, and we are chokers. We will choke, and choke hard.” They have thus been able to time their choke for a safe stage of the tournament.

The group stage of this World Cup has proved to be more interesting that I had feared. There still have not been enough matches where the result really mattered – even in defeat against Ireland, England knew they had three further matches to compensate for Kevin O’Brien turning into a peak-era Hercules ‒ but as it has progressed, each of the contenders has unfurled a potentially fatal flaw. South Africa’s uncharacteristically long tail yesterday joined India’s bowling and fielding, Sri Lanka’s over-reliance on Lasith Malinga, England’s lack of penetration on subcontinental wickets, Pakistan’s being Pakistan, and the rest, as reasons why, logically, no-one will win this World Cup. There could be an awkward presentation in Mumbai on April 2 as Haroon Lorgat presents the trophy to himself.

Only Australia have not had a significant wobble or worse, but they are in danger of reaching the cut-throat knock-out phase more undercooked than a roast chicken that arrives at your table on the phone to its personal injury lawyer complaining of mild heat rash. So far, they have had two simple wins and a wash-out. They have a week of unnecessarily-scheduled heel-kicking now, followed by games against Canada and Kenya to come, then a match with Pakistan by which both teams will have comfortably qualified.

In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the New Zealand All Blacks waltzed through a simple group against the feeblest of opposition, before being ambushed by a battle-hardened France in their first knock-out match. There were two things my parents taught me to beware of when I was a child: 1. Wolves dressed as grannies; and 2. beginning the elimination stage of a tournament without at least one competitive match under my belt.

EXTRAS

Saturday’s Colombo 1996-final-rematch between Sri Lanka and Australia promised to be a sizzling match, and began with a fascinating showdown between the world’s fastest pace attack and two of modern cricket’s finest batsmen, before turning into a drowned squib as the heavens rather inconsiderately emptied themselves on the Premadasa, and Hydrogen, Hydrogen and Oxygen teamed up to score a comfortable victory over cricket.

(It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water.)

It was a spectacular deluge, although I am sure I heard the ghost of Freddie Trueman muttering, “We’d have played through this in my day”, as the groundsman rowed across the pitch to check that the covers had not dissolved.

I spent a hugely entertaining first hour of the match standing on a terrace attempting to pole-vault over a fairly sizeable language barrier with some ecstatically excited Sri Lankans, who, having established that I was not Australian, welcomed me into their throng for another glimpse into the power of cricket in the Asian subcontinent. As I stood with my broad-brimmed hat, factor 50 suncream and one language amongst the dancing, flag-waving, face-painted mania, I have seldom felt quite so irredeemably English. I fear that when I next watch cricket at home, the experience may seem rather pallid by comparison.

● When I was 18, I would be excited about watching the world’s leading cricketers on television. If I had trapped two of them lbw in a World Cup match, I think I would have exploded. That is, of course, a big ‘if’. A very big ‘if’. So congratulations to George Dockrell not only for tweaking Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni back to the pavilion, but for not combusting on the spot.

When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid. I do not know anything about Mr and Mrs Dockrell’s courtship, but it is possible that his parents had not even met when the Mumbai Master played his first international. Which says a great deal both for Dockrell, and for Tendulkar.

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

  • rob on March 9, 2011, 6:14 GMT

    Real nice

  • vatsa on March 8, 2011, 18:45 GMT

    really enjoyed reading the article... thanks,

  • Rehan on March 8, 2011, 18:32 GMT

    Some of the funniest lines ever: "Even the most soothy of sayers..." "Wolves dressed as grannies..." "There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water..."

  • sazid on March 8, 2011, 17:46 GMT

    andy r u coming to BD?? i hav been a big fan of urs!!! dying to get an autohgraph of ur curly hair!!

  • Ronnie on March 8, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    "When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid".

    Jeez you are quite a funny chap. Love reading your blogs Andy. Great witty journalism. Nice quip earlier on the Irish as well as Kamran's chirps :)

    -Ronnie, Cape Town

  • Tushar on March 8, 2011, 16:52 GMT

    Andy, you are really wonderful, mate.

  • cricketlover JA on March 8, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    A-mazzzzzzzzing!!! "When Sachin made his WC debut, Dockrell was..... in amniotic fluid." You have a real talent Andy Zaltzman, I didn't know Oxford graduates could be so funny.

  • Samer on March 8, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    So far 2011 world cup is challenge for every team because associated teams all given the tough time to member countries. No one known that Ireland defeat England and no one also known that Canada gives tough time to Pakistan.

    As far are England team is concerned they look pretty hot to win world cup this time. They have a good openers, middle orders, good all-rounder and have a good seam and spin attack.

  • Rookie on March 8, 2011, 8:26 GMT

    Nice article !!

    It was amazing to watch how cool Dockrell was after taking Tendulkar's wicket. He did celebrate but nothing over the top. I have seen Harbhajan and Zaheer celebrate far harder after taking opposition's 9, 10, 11 in the veritable slog overs (45-50) of many a ODI matches ;-) ;-)

  • Amar on March 8, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    (It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water.)

    I don't think I've ever laughed more whilst staring at a computer screen.

  • rob on March 9, 2011, 6:14 GMT

    Real nice

  • vatsa on March 8, 2011, 18:45 GMT

    really enjoyed reading the article... thanks,

  • Rehan on March 8, 2011, 18:32 GMT

    Some of the funniest lines ever: "Even the most soothy of sayers..." "Wolves dressed as grannies..." "There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water..."

  • sazid on March 8, 2011, 17:46 GMT

    andy r u coming to BD?? i hav been a big fan of urs!!! dying to get an autohgraph of ur curly hair!!

  • Ronnie on March 8, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    "When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid".

    Jeez you are quite a funny chap. Love reading your blogs Andy. Great witty journalism. Nice quip earlier on the Irish as well as Kamran's chirps :)

    -Ronnie, Cape Town

  • Tushar on March 8, 2011, 16:52 GMT

    Andy, you are really wonderful, mate.

  • cricketlover JA on March 8, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    A-mazzzzzzzzing!!! "When Sachin made his WC debut, Dockrell was..... in amniotic fluid." You have a real talent Andy Zaltzman, I didn't know Oxford graduates could be so funny.

  • Samer on March 8, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    So far 2011 world cup is challenge for every team because associated teams all given the tough time to member countries. No one known that Ireland defeat England and no one also known that Canada gives tough time to Pakistan.

    As far are England team is concerned they look pretty hot to win world cup this time. They have a good openers, middle orders, good all-rounder and have a good seam and spin attack.

  • Rookie on March 8, 2011, 8:26 GMT

    Nice article !!

    It was amazing to watch how cool Dockrell was after taking Tendulkar's wicket. He did celebrate but nothing over the top. I have seen Harbhajan and Zaheer celebrate far harder after taking opposition's 9, 10, 11 in the veritable slog overs (45-50) of many a ODI matches ;-) ;-)

  • Amar on March 8, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    (It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water.)

    I don't think I've ever laughed more whilst staring at a computer screen.

  • Sohel ahmed on March 8, 2011, 6:30 GMT

    Hillarious! I'm a judge.I do a job that bores me to death but i always prepare myself to preside over the next boring trial by reading a fresh blog from andy zaltzman.I have said this before but i do wanna say it again,'you can write andy,you really can write'.Hey andy,do you have any plan to visit bangladesh again during this world cup?

  • Abe on March 8, 2011, 5:37 GMT

    your humour is superb!! kudos. I especially liked the delhi part.

  • Ciaron on March 8, 2011, 3:59 GMT

    Hello Buglers!!!! Quick question Andy, did you go to Slave Island? Would you recommend it?

  • Dunda Clumpton 7 on March 8, 2011, 2:47 GMT

    Brilliant...is there a bit of Charlie Sheen in South Africa? "We will choke, and choke hard"...CLASSIC!

  • Pranav on March 7, 2011, 22:27 GMT

    Great piece as always Andy. But I feel for you - you went all the way to Colombo for a wash-out and missed out on a mouth-watering England match. I am sure the English win made it all bearable :)

  • predfox on March 7, 2011, 20:18 GMT

    Andy - i have not LMAOed this much ever since i stopped reading Bertie Wooster's escapades. This article deserves to be framed for my mantelpiece!!

  • Gautam Kaviraj on March 7, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    "@ DELHI - There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water"

    i actually almost rofl'd readin this...

  • Deb Tripathi on March 7, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    Hillarious! Enjoyed every word!

  • Karthik on March 7, 2011, 18:10 GMT

    It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water.) ROFL.. andy you should write abt all the games on the main page. you are too good

  • pointyhaired on March 7, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    Andy, you've outdone yourself! This was one of the most hilarious pieces I've read in a long long time!! And which also means this is your best till date! Keep 'em coming!

  • Gurjot Singh Ahluwalia on March 7, 2011, 17:15 GMT

    (It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water.)

    HYSTERICAL <3

  • Chandra on March 7, 2011, 16:30 GMT

    Andy, I just now enjoyed watching you on the video "Cricket, universe and Andy Zaltzman". Thank you so much for your work. On many occasions, I've found myself alone in a room or office, laughing out load reading your blogs/tweets or listening to your podcasts, in much the same way you mention that you enjoyed Lara's innings that afternoon. At those moments, the loneliness magically disappears and one is just grateful to the artist for that. I'm immensely grateful to you. I wish you and your family great health and happiness.

  • kaustubh on March 7, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    "There could be an awkward presentation in Mumbai on April 2 as Haroon Lorgat presents the trophy to himself."---this is so Andy Zaltzmann...go on Andy, we're there to appreciate it! Btw Andy, i was watching Ashes 2005 DVD (for 4,56th time, missing an earth-shatteringly important match between India & Ireland) & just wondering, which is your favorite Freddie Flintoff moment?

  • Wahaj Hashmi on March 7, 2011, 14:53 GMT

    Aye, I wasn't expecting England to beat South Africa at all, that was good stuff. Anderson's much under-told heroics on the said day is what I think was the difference between the sides. And lol @ Pakistan's flaw, nicely put - them being them.

  • Steve Hiwe on March 7, 2011, 14:51 GMT

    England are indeed a very dangerous team. Especially for their supporters.

  • Vinay on March 7, 2011, 14:35 GMT

    Andy, I was waiting for your article since Broad took his fourth wicket on Sunday.

  • Ersatzid on March 7, 2011, 14:16 GMT

    Here's a poser for you mate: With Peterson way back home now for the famed hernia surgery, Irish Coffee being banned from the English pubs, Alice Walker's Colour Purple witnessing a resurgence in sales in English book stores, maybe you guys should have a Great Britain Cricket team. The England team can play in the Ranji trophy in India. First class cricket, no less!

  • ali on March 7, 2011, 14:02 GMT

    funniest man in cricket andy. except afridi of course. :)

  • Anonymous on March 7, 2011, 14:01 GMT

    Thank you, Mr Zaltzman

  • knubbyah on March 7, 2011, 13:52 GMT

    Great piece.....I am loving your world cup trail :D

  • blasterballz on March 7, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    "When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid" What balls are you talking about here :)

  • lover257 on March 7, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    legend. GO PROTEAS!

  • Gauttam on March 7, 2011, 12:56 GMT

    Funny as usual Andy.... but got to say cheers to the irish team and Ireland's George Dockrell, who claimed Sachin Tendulkar's wicket at Bangalore, he wasn't even born when the batting maestro began his career !!! Ireland definitely deserves the test status!!

  • Shahzaib on March 7, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    there are two opposite point of view.. 1) england dont deserve to win this world cup becauseof their disappointing perfomance in tournament 2) only england deserve to win this world cup because they face every scenario of cricket(victory,tie,upset n then fightback )

  • T.Rajendran on March 7, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    I don't think anyone accustomed to watching Dhoni's batting style would melt in to the thin air on trapping him Leg-before.And there are perhaps more thinks to write about the Irish other than their parents courtships.

  • Abhijeet Naik on March 7, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    Awesome Article as usual. Keep them coming.Loved the last line on Tendulkar.....

  • mikflem on March 7, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    Nice one Andy keep it coming.

  • NALINWIJ on March 7, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    Only thing more remarkable than Dockerel[not born when Tendulkar first played world cup] dismissing Tendulkar was when Traicos dismissed tendulkar in 1992. Tendulkar was not born when Traicos got his previous test wicket in 1970 when South Africa got banished from test cricket.[world record for longest duration between test wickets] So your article on Traicos triumphs Tendulkar did actually happen.

  • ashish on March 7, 2011, 9:07 GMT

    Can it get more factful yet sarcastic than this. "South African cricket has stood up bravely in front of its peers and proudly announced, “We are South Africa, and we are chokers. We will choke, and choke hard.” zaltzy u have balanced it well!!!

  • saurabh on March 7, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    Andy,

    Your usual wit was well "usual" but what takes the cake for me is this little gem

    "It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water"

    Simply Amazing.. now hoping to see you back in India soon once the SL leg of your journey is over :)

  • Abul Hasan on March 7, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    Another wonderful piece. I am really enjoying his fantastic sense of humour and look forward to more of the same. Keep up the good work Andy. I hope you have a very enjoyable stay in this region.

  • Anonymous on March 7, 2011, 7:01 GMT

    :)

  • rakee677 on March 7, 2011, 7:01 GMT

    interesting article Andy...love your writing style....

  • Phani on March 7, 2011, 6:38 GMT

    "When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid" --- Tooo much.......

  • Anonymous on March 7, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    Hilarious

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  • Anonymous on March 7, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    Hilarious

  • Phani on March 7, 2011, 6:38 GMT

    "When Sachin made his World Cup debut, Dockrell was still working out how to make the ball grip and turn in amniotic fluid" --- Tooo much.......

  • rakee677 on March 7, 2011, 7:01 GMT

    interesting article Andy...love your writing style....

  • Anonymous on March 7, 2011, 7:01 GMT

    :)

  • Abul Hasan on March 7, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    Another wonderful piece. I am really enjoying his fantastic sense of humour and look forward to more of the same. Keep up the good work Andy. I hope you have a very enjoyable stay in this region.

  • saurabh on March 7, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    Andy,

    Your usual wit was well "usual" but what takes the cake for me is this little gem

    "It should be noted that the game would have proceeded unhindered had it been taking place in Delhi. There is no way the ground authorities there would have allowed those clouds anywhere near the ground without first confiscating their water"

    Simply Amazing.. now hoping to see you back in India soon once the SL leg of your journey is over :)

  • ashish on March 7, 2011, 9:07 GMT

    Can it get more factful yet sarcastic than this. "South African cricket has stood up bravely in front of its peers and proudly announced, “We are South Africa, and we are chokers. We will choke, and choke hard.” zaltzy u have balanced it well!!!

  • NALINWIJ on March 7, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    Only thing more remarkable than Dockerel[not born when Tendulkar first played world cup] dismissing Tendulkar was when Traicos dismissed tendulkar in 1992. Tendulkar was not born when Traicos got his previous test wicket in 1970 when South Africa got banished from test cricket.[world record for longest duration between test wickets] So your article on Traicos triumphs Tendulkar did actually happen.

  • mikflem on March 7, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    Nice one Andy keep it coming.

  • Abhijeet Naik on March 7, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    Awesome Article as usual. Keep them coming.Loved the last line on Tendulkar.....