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Fat Jack, Mr Boom, splendid hair

... And why we should give the C word a rest and use the P word a little more

As straight as it gets from Jacques Kallis, Pakistan v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, 1st semi-final, Trent Bridge, June 18, 2009
Kallis: a man of substance, in more ways than one © Associated Press

It is hard to fault the organisation of this World Twenty20 but I do think that when the players line up to sing their national anthems, they could be supported with a vocal track. As they mumble and mime their way through seven or eight verses celebrating their country's green fields/open grasslands/rocky mountains, your heart goes out to the poor dears; their no doubt sincere patriotism remains entirely unexpressed thanks to the tone deafness of the professional sportsperson.

Still, I find the ritual compelling because it offers you the chance to study these players away from the heat of battle. Pakistan's line-up before the semi-final began had uncle Younis, chin up, singing manfully. Then the camera moved on to mournful looking Misbah, lingered awhile on Kamran Akmal's impressive teeth, on the fragile features of Shoaib Malik, and finally on the real star, Shahid Afridi, his hair lifting slightly in the Nottingham breeze, looking as though he'd just finished shooting a shampoo commercial.

And perhaps it was follicular jealousy that led Jacques Kallis to sledge the floppy-fringed one soon after he arrived at the crease. Afridi responded with a couple of boundaries that had me out of my seat. At this point, my daughter wanted to know what was happening. Seizing the opportunity to initiate her into the world of international cricket, I explained all about Kallis and Afridi, sure that these two compelling characters were bound to capture the imagination of an impressionable mind. She listened dutifully for a while and then ran off to impress her mother with her new-found knowledge.

"Fat Jack is throwing the ball at Mr Boom," she reported. A reasonable summary.

You had to feel a little sorry for fat Jack though. A man of substance, he played his hand sensibly, threading the gaps, crafting boundaries where required, and by his lone efforts keeping South Africa in the hunt. But he was thoroughly upstaged by the aforementioned Mr Boom, who thrashed the ball around delightfully, used up three bats during the course of his half-century, and was finally out attempting to land a ball on the moon.

There will be much mention of the C word. But in my dictionary a choker is a closely fitting piece of neckware or a person who practices strangulation in their spare time. Although one or two of the South Africans could pass for stranglers, I suspect that such a hobby is difficult to sustain alongside a career in professional sport. So let's hear no more of the C word and a little more of the P word. Pakistan play Twenty20 the way God intended: expecting nothing and risking everything. They would be worthy winners.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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