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Saturday, 26th November Graeme Swann would like to scrap 50-over cricket and keep the other two formats. I have every sympathy. It reminds me of my French GCSE. I was a natural when it came to listening to the stuff and could read the lingo as easily as if I’d been raised in a fishing trawler off the coast of Marseilles. But ask me to speak it and the Hughes brain clammed up. I got my accents horribly muddled and my uncooperative vocal chords did unforgivable things to entirely innocent French vowels.
But there it was. Despite my protests, the headmaster insisted that the French oral exam was an essential part of the course and that he wasn’t about to remove it from the syllabus just because I wasn’t very good at it. C’est la vie, I suppose.
Monday, 28th November One of the many benefits of following this great game of ours is that you are always learning new things about cultures other than your own. For example, until today, had anyone pressed me on my knowledge of New Zealand slang, I would have had nothing to offer but an embarrassed cough and an apologetic shrug.
But now I’m happy to say I have broken my duck when it comes to the vernacular of Christchurch and Auckland, thanks to Doug of the Bracewells.
“We’ve spoken about being more ruthless and having more mongrel…we are the underdogs and so it gives us that mongrel to go out and show that we’re better than them.”
Animals, whether be they monkeys or donkeys, are often a source of perturbation and antagonism in the modern game, so you have to admire Doug’s pluck, or as I gather they say in Wellington, his dog of mixed parentage, in introducing a canine theme.
But with sprains, tweaks and aches afflicting their opponents, are the tourists really the underdogs? I suspect Australia’s arrival on the field of play will have spectators nudging their companions and enquiring which one is Starc and whether the blond one is Lyon or Cutting or indeed Pattinson minor. Thank goodness Ricky is still there: the recognisable pedigree in a kennel full of pups and strays.
Tuesday, 29th November The sun never sets on Twenty20 cricket and today our chum Chris Gayle popped up in Zimbabwe, playing for a team called the Tuskers*. The Tuskers lost out to the Rhinos in what sounds like an epic clash of horned titans on the African savannah.
Chris’ choice of franchise is an appropriate one. The elephant is a big beast, which generally prefers to potter about peacefully, doing its elephant thing, but when provoked can behave recklessly and is absolutely not one to back down. If, for example, you were to ask an elephant to apologise for trampling on your new shoes or snorting loudly as you were about to play a tricky snooker shot, he’d give you short shrift.
While the elephant isn't close to extinction yet, there is a dearth of tall, laidback Caribbean left-handed biffers in world cricket at the moment. So perhaps we should be grateful for the Twenty20 circus that prolongs the careers of such endangered and often unselected cricketers and enables us to enjoy them in their natural habitat: under floodlights, wearing gaudy polyester shirts.
* The article was amended at 1314GMT on November 30 to note that Gayle played for the Tuskers and not the Rhinos in the Stanbic Bank 20 Series
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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