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Thursday, 19th July Today’s cricket has been intense, boring, nervy, relaxed, boring again, occasionally brutal, a bit dull, and has ended with matters fascinatingly poised, as though a crane operator had clocked off for the evening in the middle of hoisting Michaelangelo’s David from one rooftop to another and left it swinging gently in the breeze.
Those emerging from the day with most credit are, in no particular order: Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott who have nurtured another mammoth partnership to go with the herd of mammoth partnerships they have already released into the big partnerships enclosure of the statistical safari park; Dale Steyn for swallowing his pride and letting Morne have the shiny new ball to play with; Morne for his Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonation, and the team of welders, surgeons, fixers and sculpters responsible for Jacques Kallis’s hair.
After Gangulypunzel and Rooneylocks, Kallis’ follicular furnishing is a reminder of what heights the delicate art of the hair-weaver was once able to attain, the kind of work that makes you want to stand up and applaud every time it comes into view. No straggling locks, no suspicious joins, no disturbing highlights; a nice, sensible coiffure that would look perfectly respectable perched atop a former nineties boy band star launching his comeback album after six months in rehab or a thirty-something real estate agent called Nigel.
But the main men on day one were Cook and Trott. Fans of grinding attritional accumulation had to wait for the best part of an over before their patience was rewarded, Strauss was out and the deadly duo of deadbat could get down to it. But for every eager Trott and Cook fan busily recording the dot balls and applauding another wisely judged leave or elegantly nudged single to midwicket, there was another spectator deep into War and Peace, snoozing under the Daily Telegraph or jabbing herself in the arm with a fork to stay awake.
So is a T&C partnership a stirring example of Anglo-African pluck and general stiff-upper lippery or a fun-free excursion to the sleepy town of Yawnsville-on-Tedium? Are they successful because they are dull? Or are they dull because they are successful? It’s the Cook-Trott Conundrum* and how you respond to it can reveal a lot about your personality.
Studies show that risk takers, Sagittarians, racing drivers, children, grasshoppers and cats are unlikely to respond favourably when played footage of Trott scraping his name in the soil or of Cook crouching on the back foot. Conversely, accountants, Yorkshiremen, undertakers and border collies react positively to the same footage and investment bankers tend to be particularly excited by the large numbers accumulated under the runs scored and balls faced columns, although they are often disappointed to discover that the numbers have to be earned and that you can’t just make them up.
* Coincidentally, the Cook-Trott Conundrum is also the first film in a trilogy of dark, futuristic, and confusing spy thrillers staring Justin Bieber, Derek Jacobi and Graeme Swann’s cat Tiddles (to be followed by The Boycott Paradox and The Mark Nicholas Kerfuffle)
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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