March 12, 2011

England

England share joy of winning with lesser teams

Andy Zaltzman
The whole Bangladesh go wild after their last-gasp victory, Bangladesh v England, Group B, World Cup, Chittagong, March 11, 2011
Bangladesh benefitted from England's desire to share the joys of cricketing triumph with nations who have seen too little of it  © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by maddogcfc on (March 20, 2011, 8:17 GMT)

Hilarious Andy, just hilarious.

Even funnier is reading the posts above and realising that the British sense of humour simply doesn't transcend international boundaries.

Posted by stanford mandizvidza on (March 16, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

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.

i rest my case!!

Posted by njr1330 on (March 15, 2011, 12:29 GMT)

Dear Andy, Bit worried about the 'easy' warm-ups. (a) Afghanistan would beat England on merit; they recently thrahsed Canada, which we didn't! (b)If the Pope threatened to excommunicate any Roman Catholic who refused to play for his team; the Vatican City could put out the following 11.

1. Matt Hayden 2. Herschelle Gibbs 3. Brian Lara 4. Brad Hodge 5. Bob Simpson (c) 6. Niall O'Brien (wk) 7. Angelo Mathews 8. Daniel Vettori 9. Chaminda Vaas 10. Ian Bishop 11. James Anderson

Therefore, challenging His Holiness to a game of cricket, in return for your life, might not be the smartest move !!

Posted by Ankan on (March 15, 2011, 9:51 GMT)

I think England is suffering from the guilt of inventing T20- and hence trying to make sure that one day is as interesting

Posted by andy_roy on (March 15, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

Superb!

And to some of the posters on here...get a funny bone implant, mates. It's never too late.

Posted by Erum on (March 15, 2011, 6:59 GMT)

Hi Andy you are hilarious, this is the first time I have read your blog and I have thoroughly enjoyed it!!

Posted by balaji on (March 15, 2011, 6:11 GMT)

I just loved your article, the command over english language that you got is amazing, I find your posts down to earth, funny and enjoyable to read.

Posted by lutf on (March 14, 2011, 21:28 GMT)

@mahfooz. I will keep on reading andy's Blogs if you keep on posting responses.

Posted by HL on (March 14, 2011, 18:29 GMT)

Excellent piece. This was my first read of your work and I'm hooked.

Posted by Anonymous on (March 14, 2011, 18:17 GMT)

U pen a wicked column dude! Ur analogies r akin to hitting a "wide" ball for a six. Thus getting 7 runs & an extra ball to play. Ur article is the only thing I look forward to on this site. It warms the cockles of my heart & brings a smile to my face. keep the pen sharp & the knife inked.

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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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