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Troupers v Androids

The upper body of Botha, the paunch of Yuvraj, and the light from the heavens - all on display at Trent Bridge

Spectators cheer for India, India v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Trent Bridge, June 16, 2009
If you look hard enough you can see angels peeping from behind the clouds © Associated Press

I don't know how keen India were to take the field again on Tuesday, but the show must go on and like the troupers they are, they donned the sunblock and gaudy pyjamas and got back up on stage for one last farewell performance. The crowd too had dug out their flags, wigs and face paint for a tribute concert to what might have been. Instead, they got a rerun of Sunday night's production. They did at least get to see more of Yuvraj Singh, and not just because there is more of him to see these days. The portly one was restored to his normal batting position, though judging by the way he ran his captain out, all may not yet have been forgiven.

It didn't help that for their swansong, India had to go up against the Green Machine, a team of androids skilfully assembled to look like mortals, but exhibiting none of the signs of humanity. For a start, they don't drop catches. Literally, they don't drop catches. Ever. And they are all programmed with the very latest fielding software. Even the statuesque Graeme Smith was hustling in the field, fussing after a nudged single to square leg like a middle-aged matron trying to catch a puppy. Their only weakness is in their tailoring. Those shirts are distressingly tight and I am far more familiar with Johan Botha's upper body than I really ought to be.

But besides Botha's nipples and Yuvraj's paunch, the other feature of day 12 was the dusty Trent Bridge pitch upon which spinners hunted gleefully in packs. Considering that the breed was on the verge of extinction in the 1980s, it is a remarkable survival story. We were able to watch Vettori, Murali and Mendis in their natural habitat, as well as many unusual species of spinner, including the rarely sighted Raina and the lesser-spotted Rohit. All day the ball was bouncing off pads, looping into the air and plopping into the dust. It was marvellous.

And a quick word, too, for that unsung hero of the tournament: the light. When the clouds disperse, early summer evenings in England are the perfect setting for cricket. From the blaring sun of mid-day, the light passes subtly through shades of amber as the shadows lengthen across the amphitheatre, and as today's evening game drew on and India's final hopes were extinguished, every single person in the ground, spectators and players alike, was haloed with a golden tinge.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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