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The Light Roller

England's transformation into ruthless white-ball assassins is giving us the warm fuzzies

The three-time World Cup champions have poached, mauled and plundered their way into our hearts

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
16-Nov-2022
"Psst, mate, how much do you think I can get for this?"  •  Graham Denholm/Getty Images

"Psst, mate, how much do you think I can get for this?"  •  Graham Denholm/Getty Images

So, cricket has come home again - like an indolent Gen Zedder who can't afford the rent and so moves back in with their parents. At least this one has had the decency to return with something worth a bit down at the pawnshop after couch-surfing around Australia for the last month.
In the end, relying on 1992 vibes and Matt Hayden's ayahuasca-fuelled team talks was not enough for Pakistan. Sure, Imran Khan is once again revving up the masses and the value of the pound has gone through the floor, but this time the cornered tigers were chasing their own tails against a tooled-up T20 machine backed by talent and know-how plucked from around the world. Truly, it was a story for the cricket romantics to hug to their breast.
Is it too much to suggest that success for a team featuring players with roots in England, Pakistan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, the West Indies, and coached by a bunch of Aussies, is a victory for cricket as a whole? Yes, of course, that would be complete hogwash. But if it hasn't added to the gaiety of nations, then at least benighted little Blighty feels a little less miserable.
The UK is, of course, on its third prime minister of the year (thanks, India, for the latest one) and has been running its economy "like an emerging market", so it should be abundantly clear that we've given up trying to tell the rest of the world how to do things. Or, perhaps more accurately, the rest of the world has given up listening. But buying into the view, long accepted by most established cricket countries, that playing in pyjamas was actually a serious business continues to pay out for England.
The Light Roller has mentioned before how disconcerting it is for anyone who was exposed to even a few minutes of the 1999 World Cup that England have not only won two men's white-ball titles in the last three years, but now seem to be setting the standard for everyone else. It's about as plausible as Krusty the Clown opening an architectural practice, or Donald Trump being elected president.
But it turns out by listening to others, and/or poaching their players/coaches, you can achieve a cockles-warming tale of growth. It could only have been bettered had Jos Buttler's team demonstrated the full extent of their conversion from preachy establishment buffoons to cutting-edge white-ball assassins by finishing off Pakistan in the final with a run-out of the non-striker while backing up.
Come on, Jos. You can do it. Mankad your way into our hearts forever.

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Spare a thought for Australia, who had to suffer the sequel to the "sprinkler dance" as England partied at the MCG. These are strange times for Australian cricketers, whose skill set was previously not required to extend much beyond growing a moustache, knocking back tinnies and smashing the oppo into next week. Since Sandpapergate, they've all had to become paragons of virtue - a gear shift accelerated when squeaky clean Tim Paine lost the Test captaincy over a sexting scandal, only to be replaced by an even more suspiciously perfect model in Pat Cummins. Now, after Australia decided to reduce their carbon footprint by getting knocked out of their own tournament, "Captain Woke" is being blamed in some quarters for spending more time trying to save the planet than his own bowling figures. Truly, climate change has got a lot to answer for.

****

No such identity crisis for South Africa, who have taken their own history-repeating-itself shtick into realms far beyond tragedy, comedy and farce. At one stage of the Super 12s, South Africa were the only unbeaten team left in the World Cup and needed just one win against either Pakistan (on the brink of elimination) or Netherlands (whom they had never lost to) to confirm a knockout spot. That the punchline was eventually delivered by a Dutch team featuring four South African-born players merely added to the Freudian levels of self-sabotage. "We have to accept that we're going to carry the chokers tag again," mused captain Temba Bavuma afterwards, before offering a solution: "The way to overcome it is by getting to the final of an ICC event, and winning the competition." There you go, South Africa. Easy! Now why didn't someone think of that before?

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick