May 27, 2014

Ian Bell is better than Sachin Tendulkar

Or why spectators at Chester-le-Street were denied the pleasure of indulging in sarcastic cheering

Enter "last man not standing" joke here © Getty Images

It's a reasonably well-known fact among web publishers that a large proportion of internet users generally don't read anything beyond the headline of an article. Plenty of people won't even read the first sentence. They just react, as if all the writer wanted to say was being expressed in that handful of words in bold type at the top of the page.

I thought of this phenomenon this week. I was away from home, out of touch, and wanted to check the final score in the second one-day international between England and Sri Lanka.

This website went with "Morgan condemns 'worst' display". The BBC opted for "England suffer humiliating defeat" and "England cannot play worse - Morgan".

That's three headlines, but I've seen enough England cricket over the years to feel pretty confident that I could fill in the gaps. Just as I can hear a radio commentator name a shot and see the batsman play it in my mind's eye, so I can sit back and experience an England defeat without being given the tiniest sliver of detail.

It was hardly likely to be that they completely failed to defend a respectable total. No, I was at Old Trafford when Australia bowled them out for 86 - I know how this goes. Humiliating England one-day defeats always involve a massive collapse when chasing.

The textbook humiliating England one-day defeat sees a constant oscillation between being seen to play responsibly and being seen to take responsibility, but with nothing in between. When a few wickets have fallen, the incoming batsman makes a big show of "not giving it away" by dead-batting everything he can't justifiably leave.

This batsman will either atrophy at the crease, leaving the next man in with a ludicrous run rate to deal with, or he'll survive for long enough that he has to try to deal with the same situation himself. However, at no point will there be a gradual shift from defence to attack. Instead, it will be as if a switch has been flicked between deliveries. Once the "playing responsibly" box has been ticked, whoever is on strike will suddenly launch a series of wild slogs towards cow corner in an effort to tick the "taking responsibility" box.

They might hit one four. The crowd will then think, "Oh, maybe this could be the start of something", shortly before cursing themselves for being taken in. Clearly - clearly - the batsman was only moments away from skying one, missing one, or running someone out.

If you do have the misfortune to be in the crowd during one of these matches, your primary form of entertainment will be the sarcastic cheer. Depending on the scenario, this can be used for boundaries, singles, leg-byes, survival or really minor landmarks, such as when the total reaches 50 or 100.

The exact nature of the sarcastic cheering was the one thing I couldn't really glean from headlines alone. I had to check the scorecard and I was horrified to discover that the ticket-buying public were denied the opportunity to raucously celebrate 100-up. The fans deserve better.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket

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