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World Cricket Podcast
How England could easily have won
January 21, 2010
Andy Zaltzman lays out a plausible scenario. Plus, not one but two guests, and a cattle fair
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Here's a transcript of the latest instalment of the World Cricket podcast. The show contains two interviews, which aren't in this transcript, due to time, fate, and a lack of a qualified transcriber.

Hello, cricket nuts, and welcome to issue four of Andy Zaltzman's World Cricket Podcast, the planet's leading podcast that is recorded by a lapsed Jew in his living room. Hopefully. I'm Andy Zaltzman and I once cried when I was run out backing up. And I'm not afraid to tell you all that. The bowler fingertipped a straight-drive onto the stumps, I was out of my crease like a good young batsman should be, and I wept salty tears of despair as I trudged back into the oblivion. Pavilion, sorry. I was only 10. But it still keeps me awake at night. Haunted by failure and injustice. Still, it's only a game. Curse you cruel fate. I was batting like a dream that day. Albeit a dream that wasn't very good at batting. Still, I was definitely on for double figures. Right, on with the show.

Now I have previously promised you a guest on this podcast, and once again I cannot fulfil that promise. Because I've got two guests this week. Alex Bowden, author of the excellent King Cricket blog, and Australian comedian Justin Hamilton. More from them later.

So, it's been a busy week in cricketland. England very unluckily lost out in the fourth and final Test, being narrowly obliterated by an innings and lots by a rampant South Africa. But if England had batted infinitely better and bowled as well as South Africa did - well, the result could have been very different. So many ifs and buts. If Hashim Amla hadn't pulled off that incredible first-ball-of-the-match catch, if Jonathan Trott hadn't batted as if he'd left the oven on in his flat, if Kevin Pietersen wasn't more off the boil than a penguin's ice cream, if Matt Prior didn't keep going for the hook like a gluttonous but suicidal fish, if Dale Steyn had stayed injured instead of unfairly recovering, if Morne Morkel hadn't transformed from a toothless newt into a ravenous fire-breathing dinosaur, and if Fred Trueman and Jack Hobbs were both still fit to play... well, who knows how that Test would have gone.

And if Daryl Harper, whilst watching the replay of Graeme Smith's edge behind early in the kind of match-turning hundred that he is irritatingly prone to playing against England, if Harper hadn't been playing the electric guitar and shouting the laws of cricket to himself, or whatever he was doing, and had therefore heard that edge... well, it's hard to see how South Africa would have recovered from that.

England, with those crucial 180 first-innings runs safely in the bank, would have had the hosts 36-1. Prince was out in the next over; that's 36-2. Kallis wouldn't have had time to put his pads on - 36-3. De Villiers would have come in to bat thinking the pitch was a minefield - 36-4, Duminy would have been next in... 36-5, next over Amla would have been distracted trying to remember the name of the batsman now at the other end, 36-6. Then there would have been a leg-bye - 37-6. Then Strauss would have put Pietersen on and told him to mop up the tail. Pietersen, proving that he is still the promising offsppiner South Africa let slip through their fingers all those years ago, would have tweaked out MacLaren, Parnell and Morkel - 37-9. Then Steyn and Boucher would have both retired hurt after running into each other trying to get to the non-striker's end to avoid having to face Ryan Sidebottom - 37 all out. So it all came down to the worldwide shortage of Hotspot cameras. The ICC, in their defence, are trying to breed Hotspot cameras in captivity, but it's not the mating season for Hotspot cameras at the moment, so they're just not up for it.

Anyway, all in all, South Africa will be waking up in the dead of night shouting, "Oh my god, I've just had a terrible nightmare - we only drew with England despite outplaying them in three out of four Tests. I must stop eating cheese before bedtime. What do you mean it actually happened? Four of their top seven averaged under 30 and all of their bowlers averaged over 30, and we didn't win? I must stop eating cheese before the start of a Test series."

And England reacted by sacking their captain. Or their captain sacking himself. Temporarily. For the tour of Bangladesh. And that little "We're taking this really seriously" card plopped onto Bangladesh's doorstep just as they were bowling the world's No. 1-ranked side out for 240. Nice timing England. Still, they've beaten Australia and drawn away in South Africa, whilst averaging seven runs per wicket less than their opponents, with a top batting average (Strauss) of a fraction over 40, and a best bowling average (Broad) of 31. In this age of excess, we can only applaud England for their hyper-efficient maximisation of resources. And Graeme Swann. About whom there will be a highly flattering statistic in my next Confectionery Stall blog.

Aside from Test cricket, the IPL auction took place this week - the bizarre annual ritual in which some of the world's leading cricketers are led into an auction hall like farm animals, are groped and prodded by IPL team owners and Bollywood superstars, and have their teeth and hooves checked, before being bid on. Well, I didn't actually see it. But I like to think that's what happens. All I do know is that the Deccan Chargers have bought Ian Botham and are going to put him out to stud in an effort to breed the perfect allrounder.

And once again in the auction, I was left on the shelf. I can't believe it. I know I'm not the most valuable Twenty20 player in the world. In fact, I'm only just the most valuable Twenty20 player in my household - my little boy, now aged 1.09, has got a decent throwing arm, but is vulnerable to the fast inswinging yorker. As I ruthlessly exploit in our thrice daily games of indoor cricket. Ruthlessly. With my bowling machine.

The main feature of the IPL auction was the total - and it seemed deliberate and co-ordinated - refusal to pick any Pakistan player. Well, why would these teams want anyone who was in the world champion team? And when you can get the largely unproven Kieron Pollard for a knockdown three quarters of a million bucks, why would you even think of world Twenty20 semi final and final man of the match and proven devastator with bat and ball Shahid Afridi?

On to Australia now, and if Pakistan followers would have predicted their second-Test meltdown from a position of seeming impregnability, they would also have predicted that they would get horsewhipped in the final Test. As indeed they did. Helping the somewhat workmanlike Australians on their way by dropping Ponting on 0 - costing a cheeky double-hundred to the baggy green skipper, and then losing their two best batsmen to run-outs. Classic.

A quick word for Danish Kaneria, who in Hobart conceded 150 runs in an innings for his third Test in a row, the seventh time in his last nine Tests, and the 12th time in his career. Putting him second equal with Kumble, two behind Murali, in the list of bowlers who've conceded 150 in most Test innings. Kaneria has reached 12 in 58 Tests - Kumble and Murali have each played 132. Danish Kaneria truly is the Don Bradman of conceding 150 runs in Test innings. Although, to be fair to him - hang on, this is becoming another stat - of the 11 bowlers who've conceded 150 four or more times, only counting those innings in which they've conceded 150, Kaneria has the best average: 45. Not so bad. Better than Murali's 50, Kumble's 55 or Vinoo Mankad's frankly embarrassing 64. So cut the guy some slack next time you see him. And there's a link to that stat. So you can treasure it like a long-lost dog.

Now, to look back at the Australian season, I spoke to a fellow comedian from Melbourne, the city where Test cricket began: Justin Hamilton, who words you might have heard in the last podcast, read by me. Well here he is now, in the flesh. The audio flesh at least.

Thanks again to Justin, whose website address is And all hail to Viv Richards. Although his Test batting average is less than Thilan Samaraweera's. Which goes to show that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and 21st-century batting averages.

So that's it for this edition of the WCP. Thanks for listening. If indeed you have been. Thanks to Alex Bowden, aka King Cricket, and to Justin Hamilton. And to cricket itself. I'll be back with more in a couple of weeks' time. In the meantime, I'll play you out this week with more lies about cricketers.

Australian batsman Greg Ritchie thinks it should be illegal to wait at a bus stop for more than 15 minutes.

Legendary West Indian paceman Joel Garner used to prepare for Test matches by baking gingerbread men in the shape of opposition batsmen, and then eating them whilst warming up in the nets.

Indian master Dilip Vengsarkar once took a can of tuna fish for a walk along the beach, just because he felt like it.

1950s South African dasher (now there's a set of words you don't hear very often) Roy MacLean once accidentally ate a ferret after tripping up whilst walking in the woods, falling over, and landing face down, mouth open in a rabbit hole.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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