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The Light Roller

Has silly season come early to England this year?

There's a Shakespearean comedy, or three, being scripted this English summer

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
The taming of the crew: Pakistan were thrashed by an England team of which they could name maybe one player  •  Getty Images

The taming of the crew: Pakistan were thrashed by an England team of which they could name maybe one player  •  Getty Images

Just past midsummer in England, and you might well have noticed the sound of bubbles bursting - be they metaphorical ones, in the case of India's aura of invincibility being popped at the WTC final, or those of the biosecure variety, such as that which meant England's entire squad to face Pakistan had to be replaced with a new batch from their off-world clone army of one-day bounty hitters.
These are strange times, but it's almost as if the UK's "silly season" - that period of year when the papers are filled with daft stories about humorously shaped vegetables, or pets that can bark the national anthem, or ageing seam bowlers reaching fanciful landmarks - has started early. Thankfully England's footballers did the needful and flunked a penalty shootout as per tradition, or we really would have been through the looking glass.
Still you have to keep your wits about you. Shakespeare didn't, as far as the Light Roller knows, write a role-swap comedy in which a nation of unorthodox, freewheeling island cricketers were imbued with the staid spirit of a mid-2000s England one-day team - but that sadly is what seems to have happened to Sri Lanka, as they stumbled through a tour that featured almost as many players sent home, overlooked or injured as were selected in the first place. Working titles include All's Not Well That Ends 5-0, The Three Gentlemen of Durham and A Comedy of Pereras*.
In a further if-you-don't-laugh-you'll-cry development, both teams were then hit by positive Covid-19 test results - though the international cricket calendar is now so laughably oversubscribed that having a back-up squad at the ready, lest the conveyor belt of broadcast filler be interrupted, will soon be standard practice (just don't ask Arjuna Ranatunga's opinion on the matter).
Even then, it might have been suggested you'd rather overdone the sunshine and Pimms if you had predicted that England's C team would wipe the floor with Pakistan. There is still something unsettling about all this, as if a sport perennially associated with warm beer and green suburbs (at least in the minds of people like John Major) has decided to get tanked up on Jäger bombs and do doughnuts on the vicarage lawn.
So far, so funky - though you suspect a reckoning is on the way, as India look to assuage the pain of losing out on the Test mace by opening up some old-fashioned whup-ass on whichever unlucky stooges England ask to don whites. Joe Root and his players will, of course, warm up for the five-Test series by playing in the Hundred. And if that isn't a punchline, we don't know what is.


"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Not the route taken by the Hundred, though plenty are of a mind that Satan has had a hand in this one. The ECB's new 100-ball format (you may have heard of it) is now in the wall-to-wall spruiking phase of its three-year gestation - and even got a promo spot on the BBC during half-time in the Euros final. Although, to be fair, that might not be what most people remember about the night. Anyway, with overseas stars bailing out left, right and centre, background murmuring about ticket sales, and a very real risk that rising Covid numbers could send the tournament itself into isolation, the organisers are about to find out that the devil is most certainly in the detail.


Regular readers will know that the Light Roller takes great interest in Australian cricketers' burgeoning love of kaffeeklatsch. Gone are the days of David Boon knocking back countless tinnies on the flight over to England - now it's all about how many double espressos you can see away before you start twitching like Steven Smith in full flow. Sadly, as with so many businesses affected by the pandemic, the world-famous Love Café has been shuttered due to Marcus Stoinis' decision to opt out of Australia's tour of the West Indies. Instead, AJ Tye has taken over barista-in-chief duties, relying on a "more mainstream" vibe to bring in the patrons. Nothing like fresh lattes to keep the boys happy… which is good news, because on the field in St Lucia, rather like Tye's 5kg bag of beans, Australia have been getting nicely roasted.
*Yes, okay, we know there was only one Perera on tour - but some opportunities are too good to pass up

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick