You want cricket? Real cricket?

It’s either sad. Or hilarious. But then again, it might be both.

Last night: a sporting feast on TV. The summer-exhausted kids go down: I crack the Little Bridge sparkling white (literally), and sit down to watch the tennis.

All over.

Now, I can watch the trots from Ballarat with Sushi Sushi going for 17 in a row. Or the cricket from Abu Dhabi where the Pakis, 1-0 up in the three-Test series, have cobbled together enough runs to play with the minds of the Englishmen. They will need to bowl with spirit. Have they got that? No, the Poms will knock a few off, and they’ll drop away. Or some local cricket.

I turn to the Big Bash Final. The Scorchers are batting. In a T20 sort of way. No-one stands at the crease. Paul Collingwood plays a left handed pull shot and the top edge flies over third man (Third man? Now that’s one for the commentators to have a policy on. Does it become fine leg?) The shot is cheered wildly. Mitch Marsh is trying to thrash because just four overs remain. The bowlers are trying to bowl to their fields but are being gazumped by French cuts and other exotic shots. Brett Lee has a plan but it is risky: he has to bowl wide of the off stump, but not too wide. He bowls a series of wides.  He should be executed.

This is a poor form of baseball. Baseball is in the moment; tactics and strategies are employed according to that moment.

Marsh gets hold of a couple and lobs them into the frenzied home crowd. The Scorchers will now post a defendable total. But what is a defendable total in a game where fortune also plays its part? (I see Herschelle Gibbs’ dismissal on replay. If that was a plan then the Sixers are employing the wrong risk management consultant. A couple of metres either side, it’s 0/4, and they’re on track to make 480.)

The bubbles are going down nicely on a hot night. I water the garden for a while and enjoy an evening so summery I can hear the sound of cutlery on crockery from backyards along the street. (I love that summer sound). I can’t be bothered going back to the Big Bash Final. But eventually I do (my glass is empty). Moises Henriques has smashed them and it’s looking like the Sixers will cruise home. Can Brad Hogg save the Scorchers? Fat chance. The Sixers haven’t lost a wicket so they can sacrifice a few to the slog if need be.

With the Sydney-siders needing 45 off 42, I turn over to see how the slow English chase is going in Abu Dhabi. They’ve got 145 to get and had started slowly. Oh, really: now 2/33. Oh, and they’re upstairs looking at a review. Petiersen has been given out LBW off Abdur Rehman. And he’s out!

Morgan: gone as well. Bowled by a tweaker from Rehman, for a duck.

This could be some story. I get a notepad.

The left-armer is bowling beautifully on a turning wicket. His partner Saeed Ajmal (who really can bowl – ahead of Swann in the pecking order of offies?) is maintaining the pressure at the other end. This is fascinating stuff. Subtle variation from both bowlers: changes of pace and length, big turners, arm balls, use of the crease, the doosra from Ajmal.

The natural misery in David Lloyd’s commentary goes up a notch or two. Like the progeny of Glum and Eeyore, he has little hope for his countrymen. His analysis is sound: he is delighting in the guile of the spinners, while acknowledging the fear in the English batsmen. No-one will use their feet. Playing back is fraught with danger: they can both bowl the quicker one like an illusionist. Prodding forward from the crease is equally dangerous, as their length is immaculate, and the nicks will come. The catchers around the bat are hungry.

The Sixers need 35 off 35. Did I catch a few bars of The Addams Family theme?

While I am away Strauss, who has held the innings together, goes LBW to Rehman for 32 and it’s 5/56. Leg byes are Pakistan’s biggest threat – there are two boundaries off the pad. Prior tries to play shots but his slap through squarish cover is dangerous. Trott, who is not physically well, cannot play these blokes. Gone, after a few overs of entanglement: 6/68.

The Big Bash is of little interest now, but the natural break at the end of the over allows a look. 28 off 30. Tension there? Tension in Abu Dhabi?

Stuart Broad who has batted aggressively to post a run-a-ball half century in the first innings – virtually the difference between the two teams – comes to the crease. David Lloyd implores him to knock these Pakis off their length. The bowlers are confident. They are a delight to watch. But Broad has a big reach and plenty of shots.

Rehman bowls over the wicket to the left-hander. Perfect length. Not to the pitch. Turner. Through the gate (beaten twice I’d say – missed it on line, and missed it on pace). Bowled. “I don’t have words for that,” says Waqar Younis.

24 off 24 in Perth. Swann goes LBW to a quicker one from Ajmal and trudges off like he’s just conceded the heavyweight title. Swann was playing back when he should have known better. Too well-concealed.

23 off 21 in Perth. Marcus North has taken a good catch.

Prior, who has tried to play a few shots, chips to cover. Nine down. Which brings Panesar to crease. Anderson, noting the circumstances, slogs, skies, and is caught. England, mighty, mighty England, all out for 72.

A huge win to the Pakistanis who run around hugging and screeching and wondering what to do next. They are 2-0 up in the series. Maybe they should just win in Dubai.

In Perth it’s still a run a ball and the Scorchers are going to have to bowl the last three overs brilliantly. Rimmington concedes two boundaries off his first two balls. The crowd is silenced. The Sixers win.

The hour or so was so illustrative. It was an hour of complete engagement, broken by furtive looks at the soft-porn in Perth.

The Englishmen had all the time in the world (a key part of the beauty of Test cricket) and yet were nailed to the captain’s table by two fine spin bowlers making the most of the conditions and the situation, and supported by a spirited team, and by their own fear. The Scorchers and the Sixers had limited time, and in the urgency felt the need to slog and improvise, knowing they could because they had batsmen to come. At times in Perth, neither the bowling nor the batting looked a lot like cricket.

These are two different games. One is contrived.

Australia watched mundane It’s a Knockout from the WACA, while the very best was on show a channel flick away.

In the end, I decided it was sad. Can’t the administrators see what they’re doing?

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Before the day’s play England were unbackable. Pakistan cobbled some late runs to set a “Fanie-like” target and then the wickets started to roll. It was gripping TV, somehow barracking for Pakistan in Abu Dhabi! And the endless awards afterwards, with the “dignitaries”, Allah and a cringing Athers. Golden.
    I’m still unhappy with doosras…shoulda banned Murali when Darrell Hair had the conviction. The door’s been kicked down now.
    And, John, the race replays came on after that so no need for T20 or doubles tennis (or SBS movies!).

  2. Skip of Skipton says:

    Cheers, John. As I have said before CA and the state associations need to have contracted cricketers and a separate pool of contracted 20/20ers. You can be one or the other but not both. Let it be a retirement home for has beens like Warnie, Hogg, Brett Lee, Hayden etc. Also a home for almost-cricketers like Tait etc.

  3. I made the same point on Twitter as the two games unfolded: “Big Bash on Fox Sports 2. 4th innings of Pakistan v England on Fox Sports 3. Right now Pak v Eng the more exciting option. #BBL #PakvEng”

    The Addams Family theme has been a constant throughout the series as has Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat song. Why? I think it’s because they both allow for a crowd response. Harry: “Deo”. Crowd: “Day-ay-ay-o” Music: “Dum dum dum dum” Crowd “{Click click}” or “{Clap clap}” Why the need for such crowd “gee-ing”? Just another contrived aspect.

    Over on the other channel there was no need to contrive anything – the drama was all on the field. And that’s why Test cricket is so much better. Greg Baum made a good point about the scores throughout the BBL series. They were almost all within a very narrow range, making one game virtually indistinguishable from another and almost none of them memorable.

    Speaking to a couple of juniors at my club yesterday, I was pleased to hear them say they appreciated the twists and turns of Tests far more than the BBL games.

    There is yet hope!

  4. Peter Flynn says:

    The shorter the game the smaller the team score standard deviation.

  5. JTH – it was a fascinating night’s cricket. I only heard about the Poms’ demise (I assume the TV action was on Foxtel which I don’t have). I was bemused to read the newspapers this morning whereby the overwhelming view is that Australia’s cricket “is back!”. Not sure about that. The bowlers are back, the keeper isn’t and nor is most of the batting. However you can only beat who they put in front of you.

    The tennis sounded like it was a contest between one player who sounded like Robert Plant as he reaches the climax of “Whole Lotta Love (Sharapova) and the lead singer of The Cranberries as she belts out the end of “Zombie” (Azarenka). Horrible noise but an entertaining game for the first set.

    As I was unwilling to watch the Big Bash I watched a movie called “The Trip” – highly recommended. I laughed out loud plenty of times.

  6. Ajmal really can chuck. His doosra is a fiasco.

  7. Steve Fahey says:

    I had a similar evening John, made the same choice and was rewarded for it.

    Gripping Test cricket in Abu Dhabi accompanied by a highly excitable Pakistani wicketkeeper and excellent commentary from Bumble Lloyd, Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton. It was like watching a train crash, and a nice change for it not to be Australia falling in a heap chasing a small total. Same problem as the Aussies’ infamous chase against Sth Africa – too slow at the top of the order, allowing the pressure to pile up, especially when wickets start to fall. Great viewing watching a couple of quality spinners ply their wares in the fourth innings, and a much better option that the Big Bash.

    Speaking of Big Bash, there were some highlights, notably :

    Warney being back larger than life (and this comes from a cyclist !) – he can spark a crowd and a game like no-one else. His work on the mike while bowling was by far the most intriguing viewing of the summer, a tactical master class
    Gibbs’ batting (other than the golden globe in the final) – he and Birt were head and shoulders above the other batsmen in the tournament
    The dominance of the slow bowlers, contrary to expectations at the time T20 originated. Take a bow, Bead Hogg.
    Nathan Lyon’s run-out of Rob Quiney off his own bowling – you should see it on youtube if you haven’t already
    Owais Shah showing that you don’t have to hit lots of boundaries to have a strike rate of 150

    There were also some lowlights:
    The lack of competitive atmosphere and rivalry in the so-called derbies
    The generally ordinary form of the young batsmen across the country, with imports filling most of the higher ranks in the batting stats
    Shaun Tait, what can you say
    Some incredibly unsuccessful imports for the Melbourne teams – Abdur Razzaq and Jade Dernbach

    And there was the truly bizarre – Luke Wright kissing his helmet when he scored a ton for the Stars.

    Overall – it’s good fun during the holiday season, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously
    – six teams (one from each state) would have worked better than eight, and if they wanted more teams they should have been regionally-based
    – I wonder what the country folk make of this capital city-centric competition
    – who cares who won the comp
    – and because of the last point, these T 20 games are absolutely prime candidates for spot or match-fixing. Beware CA !!!!
    _

  8. Mulcaster says:

    I am with you JTH they should leave the theme to the Addams Family and The Banana Boat song alone…Why don’t they play, “Am I ever going to see your face again” by the Angels?…. a perfect song for the 20/20 concept.

  9. JTH

    I watched the demise of the English with fascination.
    Are they in decline already?

    Possibly the best thing about each English wicket falling
    was the unmistakable glee with which the Pakistanis
    were celebrating. They really wanted to win that Test match.
    Another team on the up, maybe?

  10. John Butler says:

    JTH

    The administrators think they know perfectly well what they’re doing.

    That’s the problem.

  11. Mark Doyle says:

    John, Sounds like you had a great night with so much TV sport; as happy as a pig in shit! After a great women’s tennis final and superb performance by Victoria Azarenka, I enjoyed a couple of hours reading an excellent novel; ‘The Street of a Thousand Blossums’ by Gail Tsukiyama.

  12. Paul Daffey says:

    Top piece, Darky.

    Our garden also needs watering, if you feel inclined.

  13. Tony Roberts says:

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on the BF of the BBL, John. I found out about that thingy on Sunday night’s ABC news – the pinkies beat the burnt oranges: correct?

    On Saturday night, I was swapping between a Roar and a Bumble till 10-ish. I established that Azhar Ali is a great disappointment to certain bookmakers, Adnan Akmal can play, but is still an Akmal (ergo, an idiot), as 3rd umpire Billy Bowden is a Billy (ditto). On the field, Steve Davis and Bruce Oxenford were by contrast excellent, as were Monty, Ajmal and Rehman (29 LBs all-up, a new record).

    Then after the tea-break, time for an uninterrupted stare. Not a single pace delivery for over two hours, as the tide of tension rose slowly – and ultimately the dam burst very, very quickly.

    As Bumble puts it….. Deast creeecit!!

  14. Rick Kane says:

    JTH

    Captured nicely. Somehow, unfortunately, the (marketing sport as more entertainment than sport) horse has not only already bolted but it’s moon-walking on water with fireworks in the background.

    I have attached a link to a SNL sketch where Jane Lynch mocks Faith Hill singing the NFL Monday Night Football theme. (If you can, watch the whole sketch to see just how much entertainment dominates the presentation of that sport.)

    What is more disturbing about the clip attached is how the sports commentators ‘use’ the SNL spoof to reinforce the entertainment vs sport symbiosis. I have read that we are living in a post-ironic world but seriously, are we beyond satire?

    Cheers

  15. Skip of Skipton says:

    Rick, condiser the Anaheim Ducks NHL team. They were originally owned and established by Disney and called the Mighty Ducks after the Disney movie.

  16. Damo Balassone says:

    The problem with T20 is the lull between overs 5 and 15 when the fielding restrictions are not in operation.

    Anyone for T10?

  17. Still 10 Irrelevant overs Damo.
    Bet on the coin toss.
    That’s Australian.
    Maybe a song beforehand, perhaps a “best of” on the screen and then fireworks after?

  18. Word on the sandy streets of Abu Dhabi is that the joint was “pumping”. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend due to a laziness and a scientifically induced hangover, (what happens when you mix quality pain killers and VB at the Australia Day celebrations = a desire to sleep and a 24 can hangover even though only 8 were consumed).

    They opened the gates expecting it to be a short day, so the crowd were segregated. English in the hospitality areas and the Pakistanis everywhere else. It is difficult to get a perspective on this, but the town does have a colonial aspect. The percentage of expats in Abu Dhabi is about 80 or so, and the majority of the labourers are from India, Pakistan or any of the other ‘stans. The well off types from these countries have work as bus, crane or taxi drivers. The western expats fill the ‘professional’ jobs, although the fact that a journalist recently suggested “that the collection of expats running businesses here would not get similar jobs anywhere else in the world”, should give you an idea of the standard.

    Due to the free entry, it was somewhat difficult to get a cab on the Saturday in town!

    And since the weekend, the English and Indians have been laying low in town…

  19. Rick Kane says:

    http://www.mamamia.com.au/entertainment/the-best-of-the-super-bowl-ads/

    That’s right, the ads for the Super Bowl are already being, er, advertised. Someone once described Iron Maiden as a t-shirt company that uses a band to advertise its wares. Is sport heading the same way?

    Skip, your point about The Mighty Ducks is compelling.

    Cheers

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