Is there a game in Mohali on Wednesday?
For those of you unable to stream or download the audio of the World Cup Cricket podcast, below is a transcript of the scripted parts of the show. But it is supposed to be listened to, not read.
This week’s podcast features reviews of the quarter-finals and a look ahead to the semi-finals. And some contrived similes.
The music in the podcast is by Kevin MacLeod
Hello, cricket fans, I’m Andy Zaltzman, and welcome to issue four of my World Cup Cricket Podcast. I’m 36½ in a couple of weeks. Only five people aged 37 or over have made a Test match debut since the 1950s. So I’m going to have to get in training, and fast.
And I’m English, and we haven’t picked a 37-year-old since 1947. It’s not looking good. My granddad was born in Lithuania. That might be my best shot. I think they’ve got a five-Test series with Uruguay coming up in September. And if there’s one thing that Lithuanian Test team lacks, it’s a grinding left-handed opener who can’t hit it off the square. Call me, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė. If the money’s right, and your sponsors don’t clash with mine, count me in.
In this week’s World Cup Cricket Podcast, I will be looking back at the three quarter-finals: Pakistan whipping West Indies like a tub of cream in a pavlova-making competition, India and Australia fighting out a titanic tussle, in which India emerged as the iceberg and Australia as the sinking ship, and New Zealand serving South Africa an unboned sardine sandwich, the Proteas not chewing it properly, with the quadrennially inevitable results. Were those all the quarter-finals? Can’t remember any others. Er, no. Just the three.
I’ll also be looking ahead to the two semis, along with some of my ESPNcricinfo colleagues.
What I will not be doing in this podcast is: asking Douglas Jardine if he’s planning a comeback as England’s one-day skipper; giving Sachin Tendulkar some tips on effective batting; or discussing the political situation in the Ivory Coast with reference to the songs of Mariah Carey with ICC umpire and ace finger pointer Ian Gould. What I will also not be doing, despite having promised that I would be doing it, is playing you the snippets from my Dhaka gig – I had to get this podcast finished before it became instantly irrelevant, and haven’t had time to edit the stand-up. Next time, I promise.
Official World Cup Cricket Podcast Quarter-Final Review
If you’ve recorded the games off the telly to watch later, and don’t want to know the results, please place your head in a barrel of treacle now.
Pakistan v West Indies Some things have got better since the 1980s. For example, clothes, the South African electoral system, MS Dhoni’s wicketkeeping, and haircuts (present company excepted). Other things, by contrast, have got worse since the 1980s. For example, the Zimbabwean exchange rate, the number of members of the Bush family who have been President of America, and West Indian cricket.
The Caribbean batting line-up once again proved more collapsible than an award-winning deckchair, all out for 112 apologetic runs. If captain Darren Sammy had been able to call on Marshall, Ambrose, Holding and Roberts, well, for a start, he wouldn’t have been captain, or indeed in the team, and for a second start, they would still have struggled to defend that half-baked apple crumble of a score.
Pakistan have an excellent spin attack. But West Indies played it like a blind grandmother trying to do an appendectomy on an unanaesthetised snake. Thus, a new name worked its way onto the list of great Pakistan opening bowlers – Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar (every now and again), and now the most fearsome of them all: Mohammad Hafeez. Pakistan ended 113 for nought, and frankly, West Indies were lucky to get the nought.
India v Australia What a game this was: more tight and tense than a miser waiting for his medical test results. This had everything - good batting, good bowling, good fielding (some of it even by India; it must have been an important game), and, to cap it all off, another kindergarten-level run-out. Ashwin is proving to be the missing link in the Indian bowling attack, and Yuvraj, who over a prolonged barren spell in ODIs had been accused of batting like a wally, has added the word “Hammond” to that accusation. He played one cover drive in his Chennai hundred against West Indies, which I was lucky enough to witness first-hand, that was so good I’m thinking of having a tattoo of it done. On my wife.
Australia went down fighting, and Ricky Ponting bid his baggy-green farewell as captain to the tournament he has so often illuminated with another memorable century, rolling back the years with a masterful display of footwork and craftsmanship. A hundred runs in his last World Cup match as captain. A hundred runs in his last Ashes series as captain. A nice symmetry.
South Africa v New Zealand South Africa set out this World Cup to shed their tag as “chokers”. I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that they did not entirely succeed in that mission. Some would say not only did they not shed that tag, they ended up looking like a lost suitcase from a Choke Airways flight that has been passed round every single airport in the world. And to be fair to them, for the first 74 overs of the scheduled 100, they were nervelessly excellent: 74% success; that’s not bad. That would pass most exams. How many of us can claim 74% success in our chosen lines of work? I know I can’t. If I could, I wouldn’t have to supplement my earnings from comedy by writing nonsense about cricket.
And it’s easy to criticise sportsmen for cracking on the big occasion. I therefore feel duty bound to admit that, after the game, as the celebrations marking the end of Bangladesh’s part of the World Cup began at the Shere Bangla, as I was sitting on the press box roof starting to write a blog slamming South Africa for shrinking under pressure, I was genuinely scared by a firework.
As for New Zealand, after a group stage patchier than an old man’s trousers, they batted reasonably, bowled tightly, and put on a Nadia Comaneci of a fielding performance, perfect tens across the board. If South Africa were the ones who cracked, New Zealand were waiting with a hot buttered frying pan to turn them into an omelette. A superb performance by Vettori and his team.
And that completes my review of the three quarter-finals…
Hang on, I have just been handed a bit of paper that contains some information relating to an alleged fourth quarter-final. It claims that Sri Lanka beat England by 10 wickets. No, must be a hoax. There is no way that could have happened. No way. England, who only ever have close finishes and never know when they’re beaten? And Sri Lanka, who didn’t win a Test match between 1877 and 1985? No, I’m not falling for that. I suppose you’re going to tell me Kieron Pollard gets paid millions of dollars for playing cricket next? Pull the other one, big horse. I don’t care if it’s on the internet, there’s loads of stuff on the internet that isn’t true.
So that wraps it up.
Sri Lanka v New Zealand There have been rumours in the Indian media in the last few hours that Sri Lanka and New Zealand will play a charity exhibition match in Colombo ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup final. Sri Lanka will start as hot favourites. They’ve got more spinning options than a top-of-the-range washing machine, and their openers keep on both scoring hundreds in the same game. Well, they’ve done it twice this tournament. Which is two more than I’ve ever managed in my entire ODI career.
But if New Zealand can slice through that top four, with their six centuries, five fifties and combined tournament average of 66 ‒ and that is a medium-sized but not gargantuan “if” ‒ and expose the Sri Lankan middle order, they may find some players struggling to remember what the funny-shaped wooden things in their hands is. And I’m not talking about their lucky commemorative mahogany figurines of former England left-armer Alan Mullally. I’m talking about their cricket bats.
Thilan Samaraweera has faced 15 balls of bowling since the Colombo rain cut him off mid-accumulate on 5 March against Australia. Angelo Mathews has faced 36 balls since 26th February, 35 of them in one innings 10 days ago, and Chamara Silva has seen a little round white thing heading in his direction in a competitive situation just seven times in the last 30 days. If you exclude his epic boiled-egg fight with Thisara Perera in the final of Sri Lanka’s Messiest Breakfast Eater competition before Saturday’s quarter-final.
But ‒ and this is a big, round, pert “but”, the kind that American rapper Sir Mixalot cannot lie about liking (he’s a big fan of balanced statistical analysis about cricket) ‒ when New Zealand last played Sri Lanka, Murali, Mendis and Dilshan between them took 7 for 73 in 20 overs. At that rate, if the Triplets Of Tweak had bowled their full 30 overs, they would have taken 10½ for 109.5. Which would have been a record.
Official World Cup Cricket Podcast Prediction: Sri Lanka to win, quite easily. Unless they drop Murali, Mendis, Dilshan and Herath. Or the always-improving Southee fulfills Allan Donald’s prophecy that he will become the best swing bowler in the world, and fulfills it fast.
India v Pakistan On Wednesday here in Mohali, there is the second semi-final, between, er, um, ach, who is it again, er… hardly anyone round here has been talking about it. I think one of the sides begins with an I, and the other with a P… Iceland v Papua New Guinea… no, I’ll check the paper… can’t find anything about it, no, it’s definitely not on pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 - advert on 6 - 8, or 9-24. Here it is, in the “Other Cricket Fixtures” list: India v Pakistan.
Anyway, as I’m sure you can all well imagine, everyone is being very level-headed and calm about it. It’s just a game of cricket. Sixty-five years of almost exclusively jaunty history doesn’t come into it. For the fans, or the media. For those of you struggling to understand what it’s like in Mohali at the moment, it’s basically like Kent versus Sussex in Tunbridge Wells, but with slightly bulkier political baggage.
And, aside from the political grandstanding, this is, cricketingly speaking, a fascinating match-up. India, the tournament’s leading players of spin, against Pakistan, the No.1-one ranked exponents of it. But, as the age-old saying goes, “You can’t eat your starter and your pudding at the same time” (Jean-Paul Sartre, I think, wasn’t it?), so something will have to give.
Can India bowl and field with the same precision they showed in Ahmedabad? Can Pakistan’s batsmen score fast enough to set or chase a decent total? Can Shahid Afridi bat in the manner that he seems to have persuaded himself that he cannot? He once batted for five hours in a Test match. Admittedly, it was 12 years ago, and he was much more experienced back then. Hang on, there’s a mistake in there. Here’s a tip, Mr Afridi, and I say this as someone who has always loved watching you play, for your sporadic brilliance and less sporadic showmanship: a six counts for the same number of runs if you hit it off your 20th ball or even your 40th ball, as it does if you hit it off your second or fourth. And it counts for six more than if you hit it on your PlayStation back in the pavilion after honking one in the air to midwicket. Hope that clears up any confusion.
I discussed this once in a millennium contest, albeit one that’s already been contested 42 times this millennium in ODIs, although I guess that merely counterbalances the fact that, up until the back end of the last millennium, there had been well more than 42 millenniums in a row when Pakistan and India did not meet at cricket, start this sentence again, Andy… I discussed the contest over dinner here in Mohali with some of my ESPNcricinfo colleagues.
Recorded interview with Osman Samiuddin, Sharda Ugra and Nagraj Gollapudi
Let’s all hope the game at least partially lives up to the hype.
It is often said that politics and sport should not mix. Well, countries are political entities. In international sport it’s impossible for them not to mix. The key thing is that they are mixed carefully. Not whizzed up in an electric blender then flung around in a cocktail shaker and spilt all over the floor. So to speak.
And the official Andy Zaltzman World Cup Cricket Podcast Mohali semi-final prediction: rained out. And India win in a jelly-eating play-off between Ravichandran Ashwin and Abdur Rehman. And if that doesn’t happen, I think India’s batting will prove too strong, and they will win. Either by 53 runs, or by six wickets with 2.5 overs to spare. Roughly.
Some quick pieces of other World Cup news.
-- As a gesture of peace and reconciliation, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, and the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, have agreed to swap jobs for the week. Mr Singh will take the reins in Islamabad, whilst Mr Zardari will attempt to steer Singh’s government through the choppy waters of the Wikileaks scandal.
The leaders also announced that, as a consolation prize, whichever nation loses the semi-final will get to keep both of Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza. There will also be a ceremonial handover of ex-cricketers. India will donate Sunil Gavaskar to Pakistan – he becomes Pakistan’s all-time top Test run-scorer – whilst India will receive Javed Miandad. This also means that it was in fact Gavaskar who faced Chetan Sharma’s last-ball full-toss in Sharjah in 1986. He tucked it neatly into the leg side for a single, and India have now won the Australasia Cup.
And finally, the two countries’ champion 1980s allrounders will be surgically cut in half and re-merged to form Imran Dev and Kapil Khan.
-- Sri Lanka’s quarter-final co-hero Upul Tharanga has revealed the secret of his success. “For 48 hours before each match,” he told the press, “I only eat food shaped like a cricket bat. Fish fingers with the corners nibbled out, mostly. Or oddly shaped parsnips.”
-- New Zealand have announced that they have learned from the group-stage befuddling by Sri Lanka’s spinners. NZ skipper Daniel Vettori said: “With hindsight, we should have tried to put Murali and the rest off their length. We can’t realistically do that with batting, so we’re going to try distracting them with funny faces, chicken impressions, and maybe even a puppet show.”
And that’s all for this week’s World Cup cricket podcast. I’ll tell you who won the semi-finals next time. Although I think if you really want to know the scores before then, you could probably find them on the internet if you look hard enough.
Enjoy the games. Both of them. Please. Thank you. Bye bye.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer