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What We Learned

Ghost match day

No cricket, no problem - there's always a game on in the garden

Roelof van der Merwe celebrates Brendon McCullum's dismissal with Herschelle Gibbs, New Zealand v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's, June 9, 2009
Due to become likeable at approximately 8pm on Sunday © Associated Press

And so the aberration that is the blank day. It is for our own good, no doubt; the spectators' version of the warm-down, to prepare us for life after Sunday's finale. But it is a damn strange feeling not to be going through the old pre-match routine. For the first time in 13 days, there were no anthems to respectfully observe and no need for a brisk pre-game perambulation around the living room to loosen up those hamstrings. Out of force of habit, I brought the remote control in to silly point, moved the television a little straighter at midwicket and placed a cup of tea at short fine leg. But it was all pointless. I felt like Mahendra Singh Dhoni rearranging the complimentary condiments on his flight back to Mumbai.

So instead I turned my attention to the rolling acres of Hughes Hall, where, if I am honest, the underprepared surface has more than a tinge of green about it and the outfield is on the lush side. Inspired by what I had seen over the preceding days, I unearthed a rusty old scythe and set about the job Twenty20 style. Taking a low grip, I cleared my left foot out of the way and swung mightily. It was all going swimmingly until I attempted an ambitious switch-scythe hit and very nearly stumped myself.

I reined myself in after that and settled for a little light spadework in the vegetable patch. As I wielded my three-pound shovel with Dilshanic virtuosity, soil was soon flying in all directions and I quickly found myself well ahead of the dig-rate. Sadly play had to be abandoned for the day when one of my exquisitely timed scoop shots sent a stray pebble sailing high over the boundary fence and through my neighbour's bathroom window. Unfortunately, in the absence of video replays, I can't say for sure whether he caught it or indeed how many feet he had on the ground at the time.

Back in the safety of the pavilion, I decided to catch up on my reading. Of the many good things on the Cricinfo site, I was particularly taken with Tanya Aldred's highly entertaining piece on just why we are not warming to our chums from the Cape. I would add just one more observation: they look like school bullies. No one ever roots for a bully, regardless of how troubled the bully's upbringing may have been.

It isn't fair, but I suspect that we won't be feeling warmly towards eight-foot-tall Graeme Smith or Bulldog van der Merwe until they are collapsed on the Lord's turf in disbelief at around half-past eight on Sunday evening - the time of day that is known on the mean streets of NW8 as "the choking hour".

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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