Hit the rewind and return to a time when the Australians were still merely mortal

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Last Monday, to paraphrase Rolf Harris, 11 chaps had a mishap. By the end of the Twenty20 match at the Rose Bowl, Australia's cricketers, who had arrived at the ground in the morning as bouncy as Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, had utterly lost the spring in their collective step. It was all rather disorientating, as if Crocodile Dundee had come out as gay and Germaine Greer had offered to do my ironing. And if I can think of any more appropriate Antipodean imagery, be sure I will find room for it.

Last Monday, to paraphrase Rolf Harris, 11 chaps had a mishap. By the end of the Twenty20 match at the Rose Bowl, Australia's cricketers, who had arrived at the ground in the morning as bouncy as Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, had utterly lost the spring in their collective step. It was all rather disorientating, as if Crocodile Dundee had come out as gay and Germaine Greer had offered to do my ironing. And if I can think of any more appropriate Antipodean imagery, be sure I will find room for it.

England's comprehensive victory has plainly given Michael Vaughan and his team a significant psychological fillip going into the more important business of the summer. It could have been French cricket on Blackpool beach; the fact is, it offered a timely reminder that the Aussies can still be humbled in a game involving a bat and a ball. And yet for all that, Twenty20 has yet to win my affection.

It is thud-and-blunder cricket, almost devoid of the subtlety and guile that graces even the 50-over game, let alone Tests. Ironically, it poses the same threat to the one-day game as the one-day game was once perceived to pose to the five-day game; the worrying notion that those who get used to the convenience of fast food might lose their appetite for haute cuisine.

Still, I probably should not pontificate before attending a Twenty20 match in person. So far I've only watched it on television, and unlike most other forms of instant sporting gratification, it does not particularly lend itself to small-screen coverage. I reckon you need to be there, drinking in the atmosphere. Or merely drinking.

With Test matches the opposite applies. Thrilling as it is to be there, in some ways it is more fulfilling to watch on the telly, scrutinising the replays and marvelling at the curious equation, let's call it Gower's Law, which holds that the most exhilarating cricketers make the most arid commentators, and vice versa. David Gower on one side, and Geoff Boycott on the other, are the supreme examples.

Having said all that, there was one moment during Sky's coverage of the Rose Bowl match that made it worth watching on the box. A moment, to be more precise, that made it worth watching on Sky, pace those who believe that praising Rupert Murdoch is akin to devil-worship.

I was at the home of my cousin Stuart, who has that fiendishly clever Sky Plus device enabling punters to rewind live television. I have often thought that a device to wind live television forward would be more useful, but on Monday I discovered the thing's worth. Just before Jon Lewis had Damien Martyn caught at slip by Marcus Trescothick, Stuart reckoned he had spotted some sneaky semaphoring between bowler and fielder. We rewound, and sure enough, Lewis had surreptitiously waggled a finger to which Trescothick responded by skipping two or three paces to his right, where Martyn duly holed out. Whether the commentators noticed all this during their own replays I don't know; we were too busy with ours. Anyway, I asserted earlier that Twenty20 cricket is almost devoid of subtlety and guile. At least we found some.

There will be plenty more before this summer is out, as well as the macho physical stuff, of which I saw plenty on Tuesday at Lord's, although none, regrettably, from Englishmen. I was a guest, at the tsunami benefit match between MCC and an International XI, of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and should have seized the opportunity between mouthfuls of poached salmon to ask someone in a blazer why there was not a single English cricketer on show. Still, with Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Jacques Kallis, Shoaib Akhtar and Stephen Fleming bestriding the great stage, it hardly mattered.

Moreover, I had the great pleasure of sitting in the ECB box nattering to David Frith, founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly and one of those extraordinary cricket cognoscenti who can tell you how Victor Trumper reached his 50 in the first innings of the fifth Ashes Test in 1909.

He also told me that he was present at a meeting of cricket grandees in Sydney in January, and that, as an England-based Aussie, he was asked how he thought the Ashes might unfold. "I fully expect England to win," he declared, whereupon men groped for the backs of chairs to keep themselves upright and the room fell completely quiet except for a distant rumbling, which was the sound of the Opera House falling into the harbour. David was slightly rueful on Tuesday; I think he had rather enjoyed his status as The Aussie Who Expected England To Win The Ashes, but the Twenty20 result had produced a few more. Maybe the one-day series, which begins in earnest tomorrow, will restore his singularity.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Comments