England March 12, 2011

England share joy of winning with lesser teams

Apologies for the rather late posting of today’s blog

Apologies for the rather late posting of today’s blog. This has been due to a number of factors:

1. I am on holiday for a few days with the family, and have yet to discover a satisfactory method of turning writing about cricket into a fun game in which a two-year-old boy and four-year-old girl can happily participate. Let alone a wife.

2. I was trying to describe how I imagine the scenes on the streets of Bangladesh must have been last night, without (a) the use of a thesaurus, or (b) my computer melting; this proved impossible.

3. I have been busy working on the libretto for my forthcoming blues-funk opera about the career of Chris Tavare, Brigadier Block And The Deadbat Demons.

4. A minor medical emergency. About fifteen minutes after Mahmudullah clonked Bresnan to the cover boundary to provoke pandemonium across Bangladesh (and major twinges of regret amongst those who had been in the Chittagong Stadium but had left in disgust at around the time the 8th Bangladesh wicket fell), I felt an itching in my hands and feet. Shortly, my face reddened and pink blotches started appearing on my arms. Within another fifteen minutes, my head and upper torso were attempting and pulling off a fairly convincing impersonation of an embarrassed beetroot. Being a hypochondriac Englishman abroad, I naturally assumed it was almost certainly 100% fatal, and started mentally composing my own Wisden obituary (“a flamboyant and irrepressible strokeplayer who was denied international honours only by the misfortune of his own genetic makeup, selectorial prejudice against rubbish cricketers, and his inability to play flamboyant and/or irrepressible strokes”).

As it was, an antihistamine tablet and a glass of water remedied the lurgee shortly before the undertaker was summoned. A local doctor analysed the symptoms, and decided that, me being English, the most likely causes were:

(a) A piece of rogue tuna fish that made Kamran Akmal’s wicket-keeping look Knott-like in its dependability;

(b) Late-onset post-imperial guilt; or

(c) An allergic reaction to England’s performance in Chittagong. “It could have been one of a number of factors,” explained the doc. “Perhaps the rather limp batting, or the chuntering stroppiness in the field, or the prevalence of low full tosses at crucial stages of that 9th wicket stand. Most likely a combination of all those, triggered when James Anderson splurted those five wides down the leg side in the 46th over. Many people reported the same symptoms when Mike Gatting played that reverse sweep in the 1987 final. It’s nothing to worry about. Watch a video of the 2005 Ashes and you’ll be right as rain in no time.”

Anyway, I am happily fully recovered from the ordeal, and able to reflect on yesterday’s match, a flawed and fascinating classic of its type. I am delighted for the non-projectile-hurling Bangladesh supporters, whose team somehow recovered from their dismal West Indian annihilation to bowl and field with skill and determination, and to bat with a mixture of targeted aggression and sensible application. Until choking. And choking hard, with victory in sight, to the point of spluttering paralysis.

Luckily, Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam managed to Heimlich manoeuvre the innings back to health before the choke proved fatal. Bangladesh as a nation has not been traditionally renowned for heroic match-winning 9th wicket partnerships, which makes yesterday’s determined and brilliantly executed performance all the more laudable.

England, meanwhile, continued their selfless efforts to render the needlessly long group phase much more compelling than it might have been with a series of nerve-boiling finishes, to nurture the health of the great game in cricket’s newer territories, and to share the joys of cricketing triumph with nations who have seen too little of it.

As has often been stated, and proved, by the England team themselves, Strauss’ men are masters at bouncing back from dispiriting defeats. Their main problem now is that, after their inevitable critic-silencing rebound victory over West Indies on 17th March, they will find it hard to schedule in any more defeats from which to bounce back without being knocked out of the tournament. Rumours on the grapevine suggest that the ECB is urgently seeking to organise warm-up losses before the quarters, semis and final, ideally against emerging cricket nations such as Afghanistan, Honduras and the Vatican City.

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