March 9, 2011

World Cup 2011

Twenty utterly crazy minutes

Andy Zaltzman
Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor smashed 85 off 22 balls for the seventh wicket, New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 8, 2011
Jacob Orman and Ross Taylor decided everything must go, with everything being the Pakistan bowlers  © AFP
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The words “spectacular” and “New Zealand batting” have not always sat comfortably together in the same sentence. Yesterday, for twenty utterly crazy minutes, they were amorously smooching each other on the sofa at Pallekele, their clothes flying off in all directions whilst Barry White crooned in the background.

We must first pay tribute to the man who made it all possible – the Maharajah of Missed Chances, the Don Corleone of Dropped Catches, the Earl of Err, the Pharaoh of Fumble, Lance Corporal Granite Hands himself, Kamran Akmal. Shoaib Akhtar’s opening spell had been a microcosm of his career, a mixture of brilliance, wastefulness, and underachievement. He clean bowled Brendan McCullum with a perfect off cutter, beat a clutch of outside edges, touched 90mph, bowled three no-balls and conceded 14 from the resulting free hits, and needlessly hurled a ball so far over Kamran’s head for 4 byes that the beleaguered gloveman would have needed both a giraffe on a ladder and a functioning pair of hands to stop it. Neither of which, sadly, were at his disposal.

Afridi brought Shoaib back to bowl at Ross Taylor when he was not yet off the mark. Shoiab instantly found the edge. It flew just to Kamran’s right. It was perfection – shrewd captaincy and fine bowling had ensnared a dangerous opponent. And Kamran, a renowned lover of beauty, did not want to spoil the aesthetic of that perfection by moving half a step to his right and interrupting the majestic parabola of the edged ball. One chance missed. Oops. No matter – Taylor was looking like a wicket in waiting.

Two balls later, another excellent ball by Shoaib found another nervously prodding Taylor edge. This time, Kamran could not help but get his gloves to it. Most wicketkeepers from cricket history would have caught it. Men such as George Duckworth and Bert Oldfield would have pocketed it without a moment’s fuss. Despite both having been dead for decades. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America have been analysing the footage since yesterday, and still have “absolutely no idea how that ball hit the ground – it seemed to defy physics”.

Oops again.

Shoaib looked understandably irate, albeit in the manner of a parent whose naughty son has just thrown baked beans at his sister for the 100th consecutive mealtime. His figures then were 1 for 39 off 6. Without the no-balls, free hits, overhurls and wicketkeeper, they would have been 2 for 10. They could have been even better than that. Which explains why Shoaib has always been such a bristlingly compelling cricketer.

Taylor should have been back in the hutch, eating his birthday duck. His extraordinary innings might be described as an innings of two halves. Numerically. Or an innings of one 87% and another 13%, in terms of balls faced. His first 108 balls in 34 overs brought 69 runs, and just 4 fours, two of them edged. His final 16 balls featured 7 mighty clumps catablasted into or beyond the crowd, 4 more boundaries slapspanked to the fence, and a mind-altering total of 62 runs. He gelignited 54 runs – 466046 off Shoaib, 466246 off Razzaq – from the last two overs of pace that Pakistan bowled.

Pakistan may, on reflection, conclude that bowling low full tosses on leg stump was something of an error, but this was a startling, unprecedented assault. The Taylor-Oram partnership of 85 off 3.4 overs, by a massive margin, the fastest ODI partnership of more than 50 runs. If New Zealand had batted at that rate for their whole innings, they would have scored 1159. Most teams would struggle to chase that down. Even if the Indian powerbatting line-up really clicked, they’d probably fall 700 or so runs short.

All of this gives some credence to the age-old cricketing adage that schoolmaster have barked at their pupils ever since the game began: “It is definitely a good idea not to miss two facile chances that a Venezuelan schoolgirl could have taken when a key opposition batsman has just come to the wicket.”

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

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Posted by hemant on (March 18, 2011, 19:11 GMT)

If this line does not freeze your brain into shock with its awesomeness, I don't know what will...

"And Kamran, a renowned lover of beauty, did not want to spoil the aesthetic of that perfection by moving half a step to his right and interrupting the majestic parabola of the edged ball."

I also would like to thank the readers too. Some terrific lines in there. I won't repeat them as I would be dancing on Kamran's grave if I did. The best one was probably from "nadfa" who said, "I have never laughed so much at my injury."

Either way, Andy Zaltzman may be one of the best things to come out of this world cup. Amidst the utter lack of taste and grace brought about by shortened boundaries, flat pitches and promotion of batting, Andy's writing brings much needed respite from the tackiness all around us.

Posted by hemant on (March 18, 2011, 19:09 GMT)

If this line does not freeze your brain into shock with its awesomeness, I don't know what will...

"And Kamran, a renowned lover of beauty, did not want to spoil the aesthetic of that perfection by moving half a step to his right and interrupting the majestic parabola of the edged ball."

I also would like to thank the readers too. Some terrific lines in there. I won't repeat them as I would be dancing on Kamran's grave if I did. The best one was probably from "nadfa" who said, "I have never laughed so much at my injury."

Either way, Andy Zaltzman may be one of the best things to come out of this world cup. Amidst the utter lack of taste and grace brought about by shortened boundaries, flat pitches and promotion of batting, Andy's writing brings much needed respite from the tackiness all around us.

Posted by Anonymous on (March 17, 2011, 21:56 GMT)

Okay... I am at work and I have stopped reading the article after the first 2 paragraphs...I am laughing so hard, my co-workers are glaring at me...will finish reading the piece at home at leisure... Andy...you rock!!

Posted by sp on (March 16, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

Andy, i can see where you're heading with that 1159 runs and India batting lineup falling short by 700 runs... the WC Final 2003.. lol! great stuff man..just hilarious

Posted by truth on (March 14, 2011, 14:22 GMT)

Andy Zaltzman

In PAKISTAN if you are from Lahore you always has a privilege in everything. Cricketers from Lahore always has more chances, e:g Ahmed Shezad failed in four matches and still with the playing team, if any cricketer from Karachi failed even only one inning they are out forever. We are losing Khalid Latif, Khurrum Manzoor and Fawad Alam. They all are excellent cricketer but unfortunately not support from Punjab Cricket Board. In past how we treated Asim Kamal it is on record. We never gave opportunity to 2006 under 19 world cup hero Anwar Ali.

Posted by nasir on (March 14, 2011, 6:14 GMT)

excellent articles....such glaring failure by wicket keeper..and people blame the bowler. what a bowler can do? even great imran, akram and yunus have been victim of such sloppiness in the field or else, murlis, warnes or kumbles could not have tuch their statistics...

Posted by Kieran on (March 14, 2011, 5:44 GMT)

At least you know that Kamran will never be unavailable due to illness - you can be quite certain that he won't catch anything.

Posted by eman on (March 14, 2011, 3:39 GMT)

great writing, but a bit harsh hitting a man who is down. would go down well in india, pakistan or bl where they love to crucify their cricketers when the team loses. by the way, would you want him to keep goal for england in the next soccer world cup?

Posted by Impala on (March 14, 2011, 1:58 GMT)

As far as Kamran is concerned, Andy is his worst fan-that is if he has any! Fun-tastic article. What more can anyone else say. And it is not over yet, seems he is playing the next (and the next) game. Folks turn off your TVs when Pakistan takes the field.

Posted by venbas on (March 13, 2011, 19:59 GMT)

Its a pity that Kamran did not get the man of the match award. Surely Taylor would not have grudged the award to the man who made it all possible. If Pakistan continue with the Akmal brothers, then I am sure that they will be kicked out by the Quarterfinals alongwith India who have an equally inept bowling attack that the batsmen have to think about 370+ everytime they set out to make a target to an opposition.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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