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Tanya's Take

A jolly thrash

South Africa restrain themselves from wrestling animals in the dugout and instead settle for pummelling England silly

Paul Collingwood is cleaned up by Jacques Kallis, England v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 11, 2009
England's captain discovers that South Africa are pretty good, really © AFP

Cricket is nothing if not counter-intuitive. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the ground was full, sprawled on the sofas at home we were crunching on salt-and-vinegar chipsticks and wishing we were there.

"God save the Queen" set the crowd buzzing (though "Nkosi Sikeleli Afrika" wins the battle of the anthems every time). The camera panned along and Luke Wright was belting out the words: Send her victorious and all that. I could feel it in my bones, England, reborn after that win against Pakistan, were going to thrash South Africa and begin their triumphant march to the semi-finals.

And then the game began. And it turns out South Africa are pretty good. In fact, so good, they seemed to have swallowed their own cliché-handbook: relentless, disciplined, not so say enormous - it was only due to ground regulations that they weren't chewing on biltong while wrestling cattle with their bare hands in the dugout. Jonty Rhodes seemed to have come back from retirement and to be fielding in about eight positions, and Graeme Smith directed operations with unyielding command as England lost four for 10 in 15 balls and petered miserably to 111.

We saw the England dugout. Oh, they looked depressed. Even the relentlessly upbeat Kevin Pietersen couldn't manage a smile for the cameras. They looked at their bats, they looked at the ground - but it wasn't going to oblige and open up before them.

The bowlers did their best. Adil Rashid bowled beautifully, but they didn't have a chance. England had just made their lowest score in twenty20 cricket. The only consolation was that Scotland had made fewer against South Africa.

Meanwhile Andrew Flintoff was taking a wicket with his second ball for Lancashire at Chester le Street, and a couple of catches at slip, without a care in the world.

And down in Taunton, England's women were thrashing India by 10 wickets in their opening World Cup game. They passed India's total of 113 in the 16th over (at Trent Bridge, England's 111 came in 19.5) - a pause for thought for all those naysayers who go on and on about the lack of strokeplay in the women's game.

Viewers of Sky Sports will be watching with alarm the straining regulation chinos as Ian Ward, Nick Knight and "SirIan" compete to see how far can they spread their legs during the studio chat between innings. Are they trying to tell us something? Is Twenty20 effeminate? Is it the bowler's hairbands? The sight of an umpire applying lipstick (oh all right, perhaps it was lipsalve)? The male dancers? Note to wardrobe, please ensure those trousers are reinforced.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

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