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Cricket – bloody hell!

That is a variation on what Sir Alex Ferguson said after Manchester United sneaked a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 final, I think it was, of the European Champions Cup/League/whatever they call it nowadays, with two late late goals in time added on for injuries.

This morning, England were overwhelming favourites to wrap this up by a hundred odd runs, with only two tail end wickets to get. But nobody had told the Assie batsmen that they were tail enders. They batted like batsmen, in conditions which, unlike yesterday when seventeen wickets fell, suddenly looked perfect for batting again. Shane Warne, having got himself out like a pub amateur in the first innings, batted beautifully, until, unbelievably, he was out hit wicket. He kicked his stumps over! And with sixty more runs needed that looked to be it. England were about to win a meaningful test match against Australia by fifty odd runs. Hurrah! When was the last time that happened?

But Lee and Kasparowicz carried right on. There was a close LBW that might have been given. A dropped catch at third man. And suddenly Australia were only one edged four from a win that would have given them a 2-0 lead in the Ashes series and England the biggest kick in the stomach in many a year. But then, Kaspar fended off yet another short ball from Harmison, Jones the Gloves held onto it, show-off umpire Billy Bowden raised his finger, and it was suddenly 1-1 when 2-0 to the Aussies looked a certainty. Two runs. Two runs!! Second narrowest test match win ever, apparently.

This has been a terrific game, which quite blotted me off the Samizdata screen for the duration. The commentators have a concept which they sometimes wheel out called the “champagne moment” of the match. Well this match had two champagne moments at least that will live long in the cricketing memory. There was Warne’s ball that bowled Strauss round his legs on Friday just before the close (Warne’s bowling throughout was a wonder), leaving England jittery instead of confident coming into Saturday. And then there was the perfect slower ball that Harmison bowled Clarke with, with the last ball of yesterday, which seemed to make England’s task this morning easy. There was the great game-turning over by Flintoff, which took Australia from 47-0 to 48-2 (Langer and Ponting) yesterday afternoon. There were eighteen sixes in this game, which is almost two per session, i.e. two more than you usually get.

And just to put the cherry on the cake, that geek-maniac Hughes who works for Channel 4 reckons that the final Jones catch was not out, because Kasparowicz’s hand was not touching the bat when the ball hit it. That LBW, on the other hand… There have been the usual crop of umpiring disagreements with the technologically better informed commentators, and they really must give the umpires the same toys as the commentators have.

You do not have to know what hit wicket or LBW or third man means to get the idea. Just translate all of the above into your preferred sport, and slap a hellishly tight finish on the end.

It really is humiliating how much this nonsense still matters to me. I keep telling myself that it – test match cricket between Australia and England – is only a game. Which is true. And King Lear is only a play, and Asia is only a continent.

And because of this particular only-a-game game, the rest of this Ashes series is going to twist my guts around for many more weeks yet.

Plenty more on this game here.

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11 comments to Cricket – bloody hell!

  • sean

    Get over to getty images and have a look at the pics of the end with freddy consoling bret lee.

    Thats the real image of the match.

    If you imagine a game that included, the Warne Gatting ball, the beefys 1981 leeds performance, and the drama of the india/australia 3rd test 2001 at madras, All rolled into one you kinda get the idea what this game had.

    breathtaking game, pity the next one starts thursday, i need a couple of weeks to get my head what I have just seen.

  • dearieme

    I only watched it on the telly and still I needed a shower.

  • sean: Add Melbourne 1982 to that list of games as well. Games like this are why I love test cricket the way I do. I actually do not agree with Brian on You do not have to know what hit wicket or LBW or third man means to get the idea. Just translate all of the above into your preferred sport, and slap a hellishly tight finish on the end. There is nothing in all sport like the end of a close game of test match cricket. I genuinly believe that cricket is the greatest and most exciting game ever invented, for precisely this reason.

  • Brian

    What a match!

    What a series!

    The next games! Bring them on!

  • People often ask me what I miss the most about living in America, compared to S. Africa.


    Not even ostrich biltong comes close.

    I am so jealous I could spit. If anyone has recorded this Test, any part of it, in a computer-friendly medium, please send it to me.

    Thank goodness the EPL starts soon, so I get to watch THAT on Fox Sports Channel or whatever they call channel 401 here.

  • I was enjoying winding up my colleague this morning: “Batting collapse? All part of the plan. Aussies are masters at giving their opponents a false sense of security. The tail-enders will do the business.” But no. Lazy sods.

  • Kim, you can watch the entire series live over a broadband connection at http://www.willow.tv

  • it was nice game good for england that they won else 2-0 was all over bar shouting but my question is can england repeat it once again i know Mcgrath wont be playing but still aussies were below par can england repeat it and go ahead in series what a shock that will be for aussies!!!

  • This old Jacques Barzun article on baseball has an amusing bit about cricket at its end.

  • dsquared

    If his hand wasn’t on the bat when the ball hit it, then he’s out “handled ball” isn’t he? I seem to remember Gooch going out this way once.

  • Law 33 of the Laws of cricket

    “Either batsman is out Handled the ball if he wilfully touches the ball while in play with a hand or hands not holding the bat unless he does so with the consent of the opposing side.”

    A batsman is not out ‘handled the ball’ if:

    (i) He handles the ball in order to avoid injury; OR (ii) He uses his hand or hands to return the ball to any member of the fielding side without the consent of that side.

    So, no he would not be out handled the ball unless it was deliberate, and it wasn’t here. (He was simply attempting to get his hand out of the way).

    That said, most “Handled the Ball” Dismissals I have seen have been almost reflex actions – the ball is going to hit the stumps and the batsman knocks it out of the way without thinking about it. As to how “willful” that is, that is a matter for the philosophers. That said, I think the distinction is pretty clear. If the aim of the movement is to touch the ball, then it is out. If the aim of the movement is something else, then it is not out. (You could probably argue that if the batsman is trying to get out of the way of the ball he is trying to avoid injury, too).