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English and Australian cricket fans who really pay attention to these things will notice that there isn't an Ashes on this week, nor anything approximating one. These are difficult times. Fortunately, I saw this coming and tried a few other sports in advance so that you could be better informed as to which might best fill the gap until the two teams meet up again in Brisbane. You might not have heard of some of these alternative sports, but try and keep an open mind about them. They may not be cricket, but surely they have something to offer. Surely?
To be clear, I do not mean Aussie Rules here. There is a limit to what I'm willing to do for you people and that limit comes way before Aussie Rules. No, I'm talking about good old association football, or soccer.
As far as I can tell, the sport involves 20 Shane Watsons and two Monty Panesars. The 20 Shane Watsons do the usual thing of allowing the ball to strike their leg, although a key difference seems to be that they do not leave the field sporting a sad expression shortly afterwards. The two Monty Panesars stand at either end and mostly palm the ball away rather than catching it, as you might expect. Bizarrely, no one bats.
One word of warning about this sport: it is quite phenomenally boring. While you can expect to see near-constant run-scoring in a cricket match, interspersed with wickets slightly less frequently, in football nothing of any actual consequence ever really happens. The only meaningful event is when one of the Watsons gets the ball past one of the Panesars. In some matches, this doesn't happen even once.
On the plus side, it is quite like international cricket in that they play pretty much every single day, all year round.
The Tour of Britain is currently underway. I missed the first three stages, assuming they were rained off, but no, apparently rain is not an issue. Cycling pitches are alarmingly large - sometimes exceeding 200km in length - and the pre-match huddle sometimes never breaks, but overall this sport is long enough and subtle enough that the cricket fan can find something of value in it, even if there are an uncomfortably large number of Americans involved.
If you've heard of cycling before, you'll know that it has had doping problems. Riders are now tested almost daily and some have been banned for long periods after the most microscopic amounts of banned substances have been picked up. Cricket, of course, doesn't need to have a particularly comprehensive testing regime because very few players have ever tested positive for the two types of performance-enhancing drugs that the current tests might possibly be able to pick up were they at all carried out regularly.
Another long, slow sport and even better, it is played out in sessions, not halves or quarters. It has also had problems with match-fixing, so cricket fans should feel right at home. Of the three sports listed in this article, this is probably the one I'd recommend as it seems to revolve around spin, angles and changes of pace. Also, with the physiques on display being more towards the Gatting/Inzamam end of the spectrum, it helps deliver warm nostalgia for a time when cricket was a simpler, fatter sport.
Alex Bowden blogs at King CricketFeeds: Alex Bowden
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