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Tuesday, 15th November I came across Paul Collingwood in the supermarket today. He was in the tinned comestibles aisle, struggling to reach the baked beans, so I picked up a can from my basket, shouted his name and flung it in his direction, expecting him to execute one of his trademark salmon-like leaps. Instead, it caught him flush on the crest of his Sunderland baseball cap and sent him flying backwards, demolishing a display of cut-price DVDs and a cardboard cut-out of Graeme Swann.
“Bad luck, you almost had it,” I lied, as I helped the dazed allrounder to his feet.
“Can you believe this rubbish?” he asked, brandishing one of the much discounted DVDs (was £9.99, now available at £2.50, three for £5.00).
“Swanny in a Spin?” I read the title, none the wiser.
“It doesn’t even make sense,” continued the ginger one, “Why is he in a spin? Is he surprised? Is he drunk? It’s gibberish. If I was still captain I’d sort this out…”
I left him to it. As I queued at the till, absent-mindedly casting my eye over a selection of Graeme Swann Advent Calendars (25 Days of Swanny), I mused on how sad it was that a player like Collingwood could have developed such animosity for the harmless commercial activities of everyone’s favourite offspinner.
By the exits, I paused at the magazine display. Graeme Swann was on the cover of Vogue, The Radio Times, Angling Weekly and the Catholic Herald. And on the front of Time magazine was a photo of Graeme Swann holding a photo of Graeme Swann holding a photo of Swanny. As I left, I could have sworn I saw his eyes follow me.
Wednesday, 16th November I’ve got the decorators in. Caddick and Russell Ltd. are cheap but progress has been slow. After half an hour I found Caddick reclining on my sofa, dipping digestives into his tea, claiming a bruised toe; whilst Russell spent all morning on the door frame, although I have to say it’s the finest two square inches of paintwork I’ve ever seen.
I suppose I should have known better than to employ 90s rejects. I’m still waiting for Alan Mullally to finish that chicken coop and Dean Headley’s work on the rockery left so much loose dirt, I had to get Mike Atherton in to dispose of it and it’s taking for ever because his pockets are so damn small. I’d let him go, but when he looks at me with that weary, downtrodden, press-conference face, I haven’t the heart.
When I returned from taking Dale Steyn’s pet crocodile for a walk, I found Jack balancing on Andy’s shoulders, painting Trevor Chappell’s moustache onto the dining room ceiling.
“It’s a re-interpretation of Michelangelo,” Russell explained, “I’m calling it the Sistine Chappell ceiling.”
Caddick didn’t get it. I pointed out that it was wrong on so many levels, not least because I didn’t want to look up in the middle of my carrot and coriander soup to find Trevor and Ian leering down at me, nor did I particularly want to behold a naked Greg reclining on a cloud about to touch fingers with a bearded Richie Benaud.
At this point, Caddick bent down to pick up a jelly bean, causing Russell to loose his footing and tumble to the carpet, spilling burnt umber and yellow ochre in all directions. How these people ever represented their country is beyond me.
Thursday, 17th November Last night I had a terrible nightmare.
I’m lying on a table, looking up at a bright light, when Graeme Swann leers over me, teeth glinting. He’s trying to sell me his DVD and I’m trying to tell him I don’t want it, even at the reasonable price of 99 pence, then he pulls on a surgical mask and I can hear someone strumming an electric guitar. And that’s when I scream.
I thought it might be effect of lingering paint fumes, or possibly that ill-advised second helping of gorgonzola I’d eaten whilst watching my old video of the 1990 Benson&Hedges Cup Final (I blame you, Hick, for that result). But no, I think the dream was brought on by anxiety over today’s events in Johannesburg.
You see, instead of betting on a whim as per usual, I had dabbled with Statsguru, in an attempt to bring science to bear on the art of the gambler. After much clicking, my screen was full of statistics of all shapes and sizes, but after a while, the numbers started to blur together and I became so confused that I forgot where I was or what I was doing. It was like my maths GCSE all over again. And that is the only defence I can offer for betting on Australia to win the second Test.
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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. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73