January 4, 2014

The delights of a soggy souffle

Andrew Hughes
"Smashing innings, mate but what's your middle name again?"  © AFP
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Deciding which cricket game to watch is like choosing dessert. When the sweet menu is first pressed into your hands, your pupils dilate, your stomach limbers up with a few practice rumbles and you may even begin to drool onto the carpet a little.

Yet you don't ask the waiter for a slice of everything with custard. Experience has taught you that biting off more than you can comfortably digest will leave you feeling sicker than Andy Flower on his way to his end-of-year debrief with the new boss.

So it is with cricket. Overdose on bat-and-ball action and your palate becomes jaded. You no longer appreciate the subtle flavours of a finely balanced rain-interrupted draw, or the gentle pleasure of watching Monty Panesar land the ball in the same place 72 times in a row. You want bigger and bigger hits. You want five-fers, ten-fers, triple-centuries with a sprinkle of sixes on top. Then you get that end-of-IPL nausea, when all you want to do is take a couple of painkillers and lie down in a darkened room.

Like most cricket watchers, I've had to make some ruthless decisions when piling up my cricket plate this holiday season: a helping or two of the Indian tour, a dollop of the Ashes, a tiny slice of Pakistan versus Sri Lanka, but no more, I couldn't possibly.

I'm sure I'm not the only one to pass over the soggy soufflé that is New Zealand versus West Indies. Served up alongside the bounty of tasty cricket delicacies, it didn't look that appetising: limp batting, a flaky set of tourists and a bland, undercooked home team.

But those cricket watchers who stuck with this stodgy fare have enjoyed a rare and utterly unexpected treat: like finding an uncut blue diamond in a helping of Christmas pudding.

On the face of it, Wednesday's ODI in Queenstown didn't have a lot going for it. For a start, the game appeared to be taking place in a field. It was a very pretty field, surrounded by pleasant grass banks, and soaring, craggy Tolkienesque slopes, but it wasn't the kind of intergalactic sports arena in which we're used to watching international cricket happen.

This particular field was also situated underneath a rain cloud, and in the flight path of a howling gale that had an Antarctic look about it. Play seemed as unlikely as a Glenn McGrath Ashes prediction. The West Indies players huddled together for warmth, or rather, huddled in three or four separate groups for warmth, and tried to think Caribbean thoughts.

Yet against the odds, a game of cricket started and New Zealand set about things with the urgency of a team who had been told that there was an explosive device in Martin Guptil's sandwich box that would detonate if their run rate dipped below ten an over.

Jesse Ryder hit a glorious, punchy century at two runs a ball. But Jesse Ryder's century was not the headline. At the end of the game, Jesse Ryder's century had to stand to one side and applaud politely as Corey Anderson's century took a bow.

Up until Wednesday, the only thing I knew about Corey J Anderson was that he was one of those suspicious coves who feels the need to pad out his scoreboard name with a middle initial, as though a mere first name-surname combination was not enough to express the full magnitude of his personality. Even Kevin P Pietersen has drawn the line at that sort of thing.

Now I know three more things about Corey J Anderson. Firstly, he's a hefty chap, with the kind of physique that is entirely wasted on a cricket career. Secondly, he is very good at smashing little leather balls over hills, banks, and other natural obstacles situated in the middle distance. Most importantly, I now know that he isn't just Corey J Anderson, relatively promising New Zealand cricketer. He is Corey J Anderson: the new Shahid Afridi.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (January 9, 2014, 2:24 GMT)

this article reduced me to tears of laughter

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 11:32 GMT)

there can be no other shahid afridi ... the brainlessness , talent, and madness just not possible.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 5:09 GMT)

"He is Corey J Anderson: the new Shahid Afridi." absolutely love that :)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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

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