Enjoy Leicester, Ricky

A FRIEND of mine is convinced (and has tried to convince me) that the World Twenty20 is a lottery. And I will admit that there are a couple of similarities: 1) I have never bought a ticket for either of them; 2) In both cases, Paul Collingwood’s chances of claiming the jackpot is roughly one in 14 million. (Just watch: he’ll go and win both now.)

There are those at the more conservative end of the sport’s spectrum who will insist that it’s not a proper game of cricket if Mike Atherton isn’t fending off Allan Donald at Trent Bridge for 10 hours. And there’s no doubt that Test cricket at its most dramatic can be enthralling.

The sight of Geraint Jones flinging himself across to take a winning catch from Michael Kasprowicz in the second Ashes Test at Edgbaston in 2005 remains one of the most thrilling moments in recent cricketing history, and it was matched by the drama of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath seeing out a nailbiting final four overs eight days later in the follow-up clash at Old Trafford.

But those moments are rare. Test cricket may have its own tactical battles, its moments of high-class sledging and its forced weather breaks, but Twenty20 has most of the drama. And, judging by the opening few days of the World Twenty20, a fair few upsets too. But a lottery? No, lotteries are only any fun if you win. And this tournament is shaping up to be a memorable one regardless of who triumphs at Lord’s on June 21.

Ireland’s victory over Bangladesh in Nottingham yesterday, although impressive, barely counts as a shock. Certainly not when compared to the Netherlands’ opening night triumph over England (which they couldn’t follow up against Pakistan today) and – surprise of all surprises – Australia’s failure even to reach the Super Eights stage.

Ricky Ponting has come to be haunted by his comment, after their opening-match defeat at the West Indies’ hands, that: “We’ll have two weeks in Leicester if we have an early exit here – that won’t be good for anybody.”

Some wag in the crowd had already mocked up a banner with the message ‘Enjoy Leicester, Ricky’ as Australia’s bowlers failed to stop Kumar Sangakkara and Co smashing them to all corners at a Trent Bridge that looked as if it was rocking. (Talking of Sri Lanka, I still can’t get my head around Lasith Malinga’s bowling action – he looks as if he should be throwing a discus, not delivering a cricket ball.)

I would have done a quick Google search on Leicester and come up with a list of amusing ways for Ponting and his team-mates to fill time during their two weeks holed up there before they travel south to face Sussex. But given that several national newspapers and websites have already done that, I’ll offer some more practical advice: “Practise your bowling.”

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2 Responses to Enjoy Leicester, Ricky

  1. Shane says:

    Nice piece Mike.

    First time on your blog but it won’t be the last.

    I too have wondered about Malinga’s action. Surely there must be something illegal about it? It’s pretty close to unplayable too, particularly for dodgy tail-end sloggers in Twenty20.

  2. mikewhalley says:

    Malinga has certainly had a fair bit of joy against tail-end batsmen in this tournament! As far as I can tell, his action is legal because he releases the ball above shoulder height and doesn’t straighten out his elbow (beyond the ICC’s 15 degree limit) when he bowls – and therefore isn’t a chucker. But it is a complicated area, and I can’t pretend that I fully understand it.

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