England August 27, 2011

Saeed Ajmal's secret weapon

Is it the one that might or the one that won't?

Wednesday, 24th August We all like to see the cut shot. It’s a fine shot. However, the traditional view is that it is seen to best effect when played at a ball short and wide of the off stump. Well Phil Hughes isn’t having that. He believes the cut shot is the only shot a girl could ever need. He plays it to short balls, straight balls, bouncers, beamers and yorkers. He uses the cut shot to open cans of beer, mix pancakes and dry the dishes, which perhaps explains why his appearance on Masterchef Australia ended so messily.

He plays the cello with the cut shot, flips burgers with it and when he proposes he will go down on one knee in a fancy restaurant, have a waiter toss him the ring and smack it into the dessert trolley with a flashing blade. And now he’s back, to cut the Sri Lankans into ribbons, at least, until they work him out. It’s just a pity that Lasith Malinga has retired from Test cricket and we have been denied the sight of wee Hughesie attempting to cut one of the Slinger’s slow bouncers from a seated position

Thursday, 25th August Saeed Ajmal has a secret weapon, a new delivery that he is not telling anyone about. These little escalations of the spin-bowling arms race are always fun. It reminds me of the Soviets and Americans trying to outdo one another with ludicrous secret weapons boasts, such as Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars toy or Kruschev’s claim that he had replaced the island of Cuba with a Cuba-shaped cheese that come the hurricane season would blow up to Florida and turn the Sunshine State into the Fondue State.

Anyone remember Shane Warne’s Zooter? It was the Loch Ness Monster of variations; we all wanted to believe it was real, but no one had ever seen it. So what does Ajmal have up his sleeve? I have no idea, but here some possibilities:

The One That Might Do Looks like it might, but in the end it doesn’t.

The One That Doesn’t Exactly like the one that might, except that this one definitely won’t

The KP Puzzler Delivered with a left-armer’s action whilst wearing a Yuvraj rubber mask, this leaves KP looking as confused as a poodle in a hall of mirrors.

The 3D One A recording of Ajmal bowling a long hop is projected onto a screen in front of the batsman who charges out of the ground only to be stumped by the real delivery. This is tricky to arrange as the batsman needs to be persuaded to wear 3D glasses.

The One That Worked Last Time (See The Oval 2010)

Friday, 26th August Ex-pros in the commentary booth are like wine; they mature slowly and may not be palatable for a decade or two. Well I think Nick Knight may need to keep the cork in for a while longer. Last time I saw him, he was reading a sonnet he’d written about Eoin Morgan. On Thursday I found him on my television screen again and he was still talking about Morgan, but now the sonnet had turned into a full blown aria from an opera he’d composed called La Eoin (“Eoin, your tiny Irish hand is frozen”.)

Even footage of Morgan’s extraordinary stance could not dissuade him from his adoration. And when you first see “Crouching Morgan Useful Cameo” in full slow-motion, it is an astonishing thing. He bends, then he bends some more, shakes his back leg like a man doing the Hokey Cokey with a jittery ferret in his trouser pocket, works the ball away for a quick single and repeats till the 50th over.

But Mr Hyperbole is in town at the moment and Nick’s not the only one getting carried away. I caught Simon Hughes in this month’s Cricketer comparing James Anderson to Dennis Lillee. Really? How so, Simon? Because, just like Dennis, he can swing and cut it both ways. That sounds like fun, can I play? I reckon Paul Collingwood is pretty much the new Curtly Ambrose, let me see, yes, Luke Wright is Jeff Thomson and Ravi Bopara is Michael Holding. Hooray! I win!

Someone wake me up when England are rubbish again.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England