For almost two summers, Chris Schofield travelled England in search of a game of cricket. He played for four county second teams, two minor counties and a few club sides. Occasionally, he slept in the back of the car and did a spot of painting and decorating to make ends meet.
In the World Twenty20 yesterday, seven years and four months since he had last played for England as a barely-formed 21-year-old leg spinner, Schofield emerged fully from it. His two for 15 in four overs against Zimbabwe effectively sealed the match for England.
If it was hardly the embodiment of the wily old art (not one of the 24 balls turned away from the bat) it was a pretty impeccable example of how to use lack of pace and variety on slow pitches. It enabled England to defeat by 50 runs the team who fewer than 24 hours earlier had vanquished Australia.
Until Schofield entered the attack, there was just a slight chance that his team's 188 might be vulnerable to the suddenly revitalised whipping boys of world cricket. England had reached that total largely because of a beautifully and characteristically improvised innings from Kevin Pietersen whose 79 included three consecutive reverse sweeps bringing a six and two fours.
Undeterred, Zimbabwe had stormed to 74 after eight overs when first Dimitri Mascarenhas and then Schofield were summoned. From the next eight overs only 33 runs accrued while five wickets fell, three of them to the impressively accurate Mascarenhas. The match was effectively done.
England play Australia today and while they are already virtually through to the Super 8 stage because of their superior net run rate, a victory would eliminate their opponents. Pietersen certainly has it in mind.
"We were humiliated last winter by Australia," he said. "We are now in a position of strength where there is a possibility of us pretty much humiliating them. It would be a really good day for England if that happened."
Good old KP, never short of a good soundbite. It can be imagined that Australia will put the quotation on their dressing room wall to spur them on.
Not that it will matter if Pietersen bats as he did yesterday. In at 20 for two when two of England's supposedly specialist Twenty20 top three fell in two balls he lived dangerously early on. But when he became accustomed to the pace of the pitch he was sublime.
* Andy Flower, England's batting coach, tore a calf muscle while playing touch rugby yesterday and may have to return home.Reuse content