The Week That Was - January 15 to 21 January 22, 2007

Winners, watchers and World Cup woes

Brydon Coverdale looks back at The Week That Was... January 15 to 21, 2007

England discover the secret

At last a victory in Australia! Not against the Aussies but let's not get stuck in the details © Getty Images
It took more than two months but England finally worked out how to win a game on Australian soil. The answer: play someone other than Australia. Even then, they weren't quite sure how to make the victory happen, despite chasing only 206 against New Zealand at Hobart. It took them until the fifth ball of the 50 th over but finally Andrew Flintoff dragged the side home, 68 days after opening their tour with a loss to the Prime Minister's XI. But the Australian media were less than complimentary about the game, which featured only two sixes and a combined run-rate of just over four.

Fan phones a friend
The crowd at Melbourne a few days earlier had plenty to cheer as Australia romped to an eight-wicket win over England but one of the biggest roars of the day was reserved for a fan. Paul Houeix attained instant celebrity status when he caught an Adam Gilchrist six in the MCG stands. Nothing remarkable about that, surely? But in an updating of the fine tradition of spectators trying not to spill their beer while going for a catch, Houeix completed the feat one-handed while talking on his mobile phone. This week he described how it all happened. "As it was coming down I said 'Mate, it's coming towards me, I might catch this'," Houeix told Channel 9's Today show. "I'm holding the phone, I've swapped hands and I've put the mitt out and I've caught it. That's why I was jumping up and down a little bit, I said 'Mate, I've caught it, can you see me?' I had to hang up, I couldn't hear anything afterwards. I got about 50,000 text messages and calls after that." It was hardly surprising Houeix stayed cool under pressure - his day job is as a firefighter.

Run, Nasim, run
Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, was clearly in a leading-by-example mood this week. He took 55 minutes to run a ten- kilometre portion of the Lahore Marathon and had 50 members of his staff participate as well. Nasim said nearly 30,000 people ran the marathon, which was aimed at "softening" the world's image of Pakistan. In a non-soft frame of mind a few days later, Nasim announced all 30 members of Pakistan's preliminary World Cup squad would face drug tests before the tournament.

Jones hits the big time
Somehow England have managed to require three wicketkeepers in the past month and the first discard, Geraint Jones, has decided to spend the rest of his trip playing grade cricket with his old team in Brisbane. But he has not been trusted to take the gloves at Beenleigh-Logan, with Daniel Payne, the former Queensland player, to stay behind the stumps. Jones will play as a specialist batsman, obviously impressing the team's selectors with his Ashes form of 63 runs from six innings at 10.50.

Near enough is good enough
It seems that there have been so few causes for celebration in English cricket lately that some county players have jumped on the bandwagon of a darts player who almost won a tournament but fell at the last. Phill Nixon, 50, an unemployed father of eight, captivated England to come back from 6-0 down to tie things up 6-6 in the Lakeside World Professional Darts Championship, only to lose the final set and go down 7-6. For his trouble, Nixon, who started the event a 150-1 outsider, received an honorary membership of his local county side, Durham. Ben Harmison, the Durham player and darts fan, said he had been glued to the television. "I really enjoyed watching the game on Sunday," he said. "Phill put up a great fight and hopefully he'll be able to give me a few tips on how to hit 180."

The finisher finishes

Michael Bevan: Another Australian great retires though with a almost none of the fanfare that the others got © Getty Images
With the flurry of Australian cricketers jumping ship after the Ashes win, there was another retirement this week that almost slipped under the radar. Michael Bevan, who last played for Australia in 2004, stepped down from first-class cricket with Tasmania. Bevan, 36, had until recently held out hope of for a surprise recall ahead of the World Cup but it was not to be. Injuries kept him out of several state matches this season and he left the game without any of the fanfare of his former team-mates. But anyone who remembers Bevan's last-ball four to beat West Indies in 1996 and his countless other limited-overs heroics will have no doubt the impact he had on the strong Australian one-day teams of the last decade.

Getting the job done
And speaking of the World Cup, it's good to see the big issues are being addressed in the West Indies in the lead-up to the event. "For locals who frequently use the services of prostitutes, the coming of the cricket World Cup to these shores cannot be a good thing," wrote Vernon Daley in the < i>Jamaica Gleaner. It seems there is concern that the huge influx of international tourists with high-value foreign currency in their pockets will drive up the price of the trade. But in fairness, Daley was more worried about the health aspects and urged the authorities to work with the industry to reduce the spread of disease during the tournament.

"I was a bit concerned my name wasn't going to fit on the shirt."
Ebony-Jewel Cora-Lee Camellia Rosamond Rainford-Brent worries about her upcoming tour of India

Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant of Cricinfo