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What's with the whining?

The covers are dragged on under ominously leaden skies at The Oval Associated Press

Grrr. Lest any of you are unfamiliar with the foregoing letters, I should tell you that they indicate disapprobation. It may only be registering as Harbhajan Seven (the Bhajji being the international measure of cricket anger) but nevertheless, I am a slightly angry man. And the source of my peevishness is England's reluctant captain Paul Collingwood. Am I feeling this way because under his palm-licking, eye-rolling leadership, England have lost another cricket match? Hardly. I've been watching England lose cricket matches since 1986, and if I'd dug out the effigies and cigarette lighter every time it happened I'd have succumbed to smoke inhalation long ago.

No, losing doesn't tickle the Hughes hackles. But ungentlemanly conduct is quite another matter. On Sunday, Collingwood complained that the Indian supporters booed him. Now being booed isn't nice, I'm sure. But it can hardly be the first time. I've booed him myself once or twice, and that was only when I bumped into him in the supermarket. Then after Monday's defeat, he complained that West Indies had an advantage batting second in a game that was always likely to be rain-blemished. Indeed they did, Paul. If only there had been some way of making them bat first?

As Daniel Vettori has recently discovered, getting your ass whipped can be a painful experience. But that doesn't mean you should air your unsightly soreness in public. In the bitterness of defeat as in the rush of victory, a skipper can, if he wants, react like any person in the street. Or he can choose to conduct himself like a captain of his country. Win gracefully; lose gracefully. It is a simple principle, and in these days of fist-pumping, verbal abuse and winner grabs all, it is the only boundary rope separating cricket from being just a rather expensive squabble over a ball.

The end of England came in a game that was played under skies so apocalyptic that it made you want to look for gopher wood and start rounding up pairs of animals. As the players slipped and scrambled across the slickened turf, the south London sky turned from sullen lead to looming volcanic abyss, and at its heaviest the rain teamed in the dazzling of the floodlights like billions of onrushing silver fish. So good on West Indies, on Ronnie and Tiger and on Chris Gayle, for keeping their footing and their nerve. Underrated, ridiculed in the English press and beaten up several times this summer, theirs were the coolest heads in that maelstrom of thunderous heat, and they won the one that really mattered.