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Tuesday, 9th August It seems that Kamran Akmal is being shunted out of the Pakistan team, an incredibly short-sighted move that can only have been taken by the kind of narrow-minded person who obsesses over trivial details like runs and catches. Yes he’s dropped a clanger or seven over the years but he was never dull, and he had an astonishingly brutal cover drive. Like Hot Spot, he doesn’t always function as intended but cricket is less entertaining without him.
Thursday, 11th August Xavier Doherty has packed a decade and a half’s worth of disillusionment into eight months. A sudden and unexpected promotion, a short but eventful Test career and already he’s concentrating on one-day cricket. In six months time he’ll be restricting himself to Twenty20, applying to go on Masterchef Australia and accepting an invitation to join the crack commentary firm of Heals, Tubs and Slats Ltd.
Being an Australian spinner must be like auditioning for one of those reality talent shows. You rehearse for months, you get a telephone call out of the blue, and then when you’re on the stage, you’ve only got 30 seconds to do your thing. One bum note or unintentional long hop, the buzzers sound and off you go. Bye bye, Xavier, you’re not quite right for us. Come back and try again next year.
He has today humbly suggested that perhaps Australian spinners need to be given longer than say, a couple of sessions, to prove themselves in the national team. Shane Warne took four wickets and averaged 96 in his first four Tests. Would Hilditch, Chappell and chums have given him a fifth?
Friday, 12th August So England grind on with the relentless efficiency of an automatic coffee-grinding machine set to “relentless”. Strauss and Co are now a byword for ruthlessness and the inspiration for the new film Terminator 5: The Rise Up The Rankings in which a team of deadly androids with sensible hair cuts travel back in time to destroy the careers of leading Indian cricketers by making them look silly.
Now I’m not saying that the England cricketers are soulless killing machines without consciences. But they are freakishly tall. And they often wear sunglasses. All summer long they have been bulldozing through the picturesque and hitherto undisturbed valley of India’s reputation like a gang of construction workers without planning permission building a six-lane motorway.
And now with only seven, or more likely five, or possibly even four days left in this series, India’s chances of being able to go home without having to wear disguises depends on three unlikely eventualities:
1. Rahul Dravid not getting out again
2. Conveniently timed precipitation of Biblical proportions
3. English overconfidence on the brink of victory, of the kind that once enabled the tortoise to win an unlikely 10,000-metre gold medal at the 1904 Olympics.
This last hope is a particularly forlorn one. The English hare has been working with a leaping endurance coach and is on a high-energy carrot-based diet. Having hit the ground running, he’s determined to push on to the line and indeed beyond it, and there appears to be very little chance of him ducking behind a tree for forty winks any time soon.
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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