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Tuesday, May 3rd The word ashes has many meanings. It’s the plural of a well-known species of tree belonging to the genus Fraxinus. It’s the correct phonetical transcription of the sound the Queen makes when she sneezes. But to Graeme Swann, it’s the name of the greatest sporting event on the planet. Don’t believe me? Here’s what he said in today’s Independent:
“The Ashes is the greatest sporting event on the planet.”
Told you. Graeme’s a likeable chap so let’s give him a chance. Is there any way in which this statement could be correct? Is there another dimension in which this might be true? Can it really be the case that an event watched by a small minority of people in two of the world’s 193 sovereign countries is the greatest on the planet? No, almost certainly not, and no.
It isn’t really his fault. Cricket hereabouts runs on Ashes time (for instance, it’s currently quarter past Ashes) and everything that is not Ashes exists in a haze of dreamy indifference, which might perhaps explain the continued existence of the County Championship, the world’s oldest living museum. He is a product of his cricket culture and his obsession with a little brown pot is, I suppose harmless.
And he does a nice line in old fashioned English understatement:
“We want to be No. 1 in both Test and one dayers. We’ve got a better chance of doing it in Test cricket, whereas the one-dayers might take a bit longer.”
Just a bit, Graeme…
Wednesday, May 4th As he gleamed under the floodlights, his burnished skin the colour of a nicely done barbecued sausage, Captain Shane knew the game was up. There was nothing left but to resort to that thing he does involving his nose, his forefinger and his thumb that looks as though he is trying to prevent a nosebleed but is actually his way of saying that he’d like to use the thick end of a cricket bat to bludgeon his colleagues to death one at a time, if cricket etiquette didn’t frown upon that sort of thing.
Stuart Binny was the main culprit. But as a fielding duffer myself, I enjoyed his performance, particularly his first error, in which the ball appeared to pass straight through his navel en route to the boundary. It is always reassuring to get a reminder that most professionals hate fielding just like the rest of us do. Let’s be honest, its an unpleasant, time-consuming and tedious activity, only enjoyed by a few South Africans and the odd Australian who has spent too long in the sun.
Thursday, May 5th What a splendid idea! Three captains! Everyone agrees that having a captain is a good thing. Far better, for example, than not having a captain. So three captains must be three times as good! And England have added a nice touch, ranking their captains based on the calibre of their private school. Extensive analysis reveals that their innovative three-headed skipper strategy will have the following outcome:
1. After a poor series against India and having relinquished two-thirds of his power, Andrew Strauss will be under intense pressure to step down. 2. Deputy Alastair Cook will be unavailable, a broken man, having dropped himself from the one-day team due to a strike rate of 7.00. 3. Deputy deputy, Stuart Broad, will be serving his third ban of the summer, this time for setting fire to the umpire’s shoes after a marginal wide call. 4. In the absence of anyone else, a fourth candidate will emerge, unite the three formats and lead England into a glorious new age of arm-waving, top-of-the-range sunglasses and flashy defeats. All hail the second coming of KP!
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73