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Monday, 13th February In a leap year, strange things happen. February has an extra day, women can propose to men, and most bizarrely of all, England have won a one-day game. The last time they were any good at this stuff was 1992, also a leap year. Coincidence? Yes, probably, given that they mostly sucked in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
But the main thing is, they won a game. Pakistan finally collapsed like an exhausted school bully who’d already extracted all the lunch money and sweets he could possibly need.
Alastair Cook scored a one-day century, which is good news for English hacks who get to run the “Alistair Cook silences his critics” story for the hundredth time, despite the fact that even Alastair Cook’s most dedicated critics, including the retired colonel from Barking who used to follow Cook around the world haranguing him via a loud hailer about his substandard strike rate, have long ago admitted he’s not that bad.
But heading in the opposite direction on the career escalator is poor Kevin Pietersen. Today he was back in the role of “pinch hitter”, which in KP’s case means you pinch yourself if he hits it. Alastair Cook was so embarrassed for the man, he tried to play some Pietersen-style shots, just to remind Kevin what he was supposed to do, like flapping your arms vigorously to encourage a goose with amnesia to fly.
Sadly there was no take off for KP. Instead he gave us a painstaking 36-ball deconstruction of his own batting technique, before Shahid put him out of his befuddled misery. A few years ago he was swatting Warne and Murali into the stands. Now he plays spin bowling like a drunken trainee scythe operative tackling a field of hay in a force-nine gale. In the dark.
Tuesday, 14th February International cricketers are pretty high profile these days, but they still have a lot to learn about how sporting superstars are supposed to conduct themselves in the 21st century. Take today’s game in Adelaide. India’s attempt to chase down Sri Lanka’s total ended in a tie but it turned out that they were a delivery short.
Now this is far from ideal. We don’t expect our crack units of elite umpires to nail every decision, but we do expect that between them, they will be able to count to six.
So what was the response of MS Dhoni, the wronged captain?
“It’s done and dusted…We can create a big fuss out of it, but what’s the point?”
Come on MS, you’re not really trying. I’ve been watching a lot of Premier League football of late, so I can explain to you how it should be done.
First, upon discovering the error, you should have “got all up in the umpire’s face”, as I believe the Americans put it. Convention demands that your team-mates surround the official, jostle him, wave their arms about and generally carry on like five-year-olds at bedtime. Cricketers don’t always get the chance to do this on the pitch, so you may need to stage the jostling at the umpire’s hotel, perhaps when he leaves his room to fetch his dry cleaning, or in the lift on the way down to the breakfast buffet.
You should then explain in your pitch-side interview that the umpire “was an absolute disgrace” before feeding your story to eager tabloid hacks who will regurgitate the half-digested controversy in headline form, perhaps: “Dhoni Blasts Umpire In Adding-Up Storm!” or “You Can’t Count Roars Skipper!”
Still, apart from the missed opportunities for controversy, it was an entertaining game. My highlight was the run out of Angelo Mathews. It is often said that men can’t multi-task, but as Angelo showed, we sometimes struggle with just the one task too. A reproduction of the Mathews thought process might go like this:
“Right, Irfan’s bowling, so focus Angelo, keep your eye on the ball, here it comes, oh it’s a full toss, I should hit that, damn missed it… ooh was that the microwave, my popcorn’s done, better hurry or it’ll go all cold and cardboardy… hang on, what am I doing in the middle of the pitch and why is everyone laughing?”
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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