Monday, May 17, 2010

England can win – by mimitig

I’m not going to plunge into an explanation of that headline straight away – too much of a shock for our readers. Let’s ease our way into this unlikely situation.

So while club football is almost over – Chelsea have done the double and Dundee crushed the hopes of the Highlands beating Ross County 3-0 in the Scottish Cup - and with at least a few weeks to go before the Football World Cup takes over the airwaves, we have a little, tiny, wee window in which to play our traditional summer sports.

My favourites are well-known to Pseuds and today I will set aside my affinity with leather and lycra and, for your delectation, will concentrate on men in pyjamas.

In March and April we were treated to the joys of the Indian Premier League. For the first time this was live on terrestrial telly. Every day we had matches to watch. Sometimes only one, but mostly double-headers – all live from the various grounds in India – and presented by a wondrously diverse set of broadcasters.

From the utterly gorgeous but totally biased fan Mandira Bedi (and this link does not do her justice!) to the not-at-all gorgeous but unbiased and expert Simon Hughes – no, not THAT one, I mean former county cricketer and Channel 4 analyst (I await comments here …)

The glory of the IPL was that for many of us, it was the first time we had been able to watch live cricket on the telly since 2005 and although the involvement of many international players could have made for allegiances, it was not so. It was just great to get the chance to see all these players performing on a big stage. I found myself supporting a team which had Jaques Kallis in it, for goodness sake. And I relished the opportunity to watch some of the Aussies live prior to another Ashes year.

Just a few short weeks after the tournament ended, cricketers descended upon the Caribbean for the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament. And there’s the first thing. We got used to this form of the game being T20 in India. More letters once we’re back in “official land”.

Anyway, everyone was there – all the big teams plus a few spares like Ireland and Afghanistan. They didn’t last long, though it was very good to see the cricket family enlarging.

Group matches were played out and then the Super Eights. The West Indies, hosting the even, got knocked out then, as did India and very surprisingly England didn’t. The semi-finals lined up with England v Sri Lanka (early favourites) and Australia v Pakistan (holders).

England won their semi rather comfortably – slightly scary for fans. We’re not used to doing things properly.

Australia v Pakistan was a very different match. Australia expected to win with ease but the right Pakistan turned up and posted a top total of 191. Equalling the totals set earlier in the competition by England and Australia.

The men from the sub-continent gave the antipodeans a hard task. At first it seemed as though Pakistan were in control, so it went on for 18 overs. They were winning, it looked to be a glorious win for the “homeless” international side. But then Mike Hussey cut loose and in the final over he broke the collective heart of a nation and Australia scraped a win. Rabbits and hats were the words.

This meant that the holders, Pakistan, were out and perennial losers, England, would face Australia in the final.

Interesting now – the Twenty20 World Title is the only one the Australians have never won and England – well they haven’t won anything at World level for, well ever really.

Battle was joined on Sunday. England, in the body of Collingwood, won the toss and put the Aussies in to bat. A bold move, I would have thought as England’s long-term record in chasing in the short version of the game has not been great. It started very well indeed. Ryan Sidebottom got Watson with his third ball and after three overs, the Aussies were 10 for three.

A fine start indeed. And just the sort of start to set England nerves jangling and England teeth tearing at nails.

There was no way that we could start with a flourish and keep it going, but we did. Restricted the Aussies to 147. This was gettable. For a good team. On a good day.

The second innings started – I was just home from work and so naturally England lost an early wicket. Talk about fate, luck, and omens. This was the first time in a limited overs tournament that my team had any chance, and I lost the first wicket.

Stepping away a bit, ie not sending emails to the OBO and pretending not to listen to TMS, I subliminally learned that England were creeping up to a good total. Possibly a winning position.

With my nerves in a sectionable state, I did rejoin live coverage – cursing the commentators who kept banging on about how England couldn’t lose this. Fraught does not begin to describe the emotions I and many England fans were feeling.

Until the final over it was hard not to have a horrid feeling that it could all go so hideously wrong, but it didn’t.

Despite losing the wickets of Lumb, Keiswetter and Pietersen, England did win and captain St Paul Collingwood hit the winning runs – a fitting end.

Colly has not been in good form for this tournament with the bat but he has been a fine captain. England have deserved this win. Their first in an International Tournament for, well, not in my memory. A superb win, clinical is the best way to describe it. It wasn’t done with flair and luck, it was done with hard yakka and superb execution.

To my astonishment, our achievement has left me with nothing more to say.

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