Greetings from the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. OTFF can think of no better place to be. Australia v England, 1-1 in the Ashes series, the urn on the line, a sledging war being conducted, the ground full: name a better place to spend the holidays. So with the spirit of the season in mind, this column comes bearing gifts to the game from the MCG, known to locals in a wonderful display of one-upmanship simply as the G. In keeping with the times, the sledge of the year so far has to be Kevin Pietersen's attempt to intimidate Mitchell Johnson by asking for his phone number. Johnson subsequently called our Kev a smart arse, our Kev said he was merely trying to be friendly and "we're in cricket to make friends". There was, however, a twist when Kev was asked about his relationship with Mitch and, thinking he was off tape, said he had no relationship with Mitch. "I'm a bloke."
'Pitch switch' was a real turkey
The ramped-up non-story of the year, in a field fuller to bursting than tummies after Christmas lunch, also has a seasonal flavour. The tale of the switched pitches gets the nod. In the wake of England's heavy defeat in Perth, it was said by some fanciful sections of the UK press, the sort who think Santa Claus doesn't exist, that the pitch would be switched at the MCG on the orders of Cricket Australia to replicate the pace and carry of the WACA and play into Johnson's hands. This was wrong only for three reasons. First, the pitch wasn't switched because the groundsman, Cameron Hodgkins, always begins to prepare two strips on a "just in case" principle, which as it happened came into play. Secondly, he never spoke to Cricket Australia, mostly because groundsmen hate outside interference. Thirdly, there is more pace and carry in Santa's walk than at the G.
The G at Christmas is a long way from Barbados in May but it was there that the fondest cricketing memory of the year was made. England won the World Twenty20 and did so with a style, panache and hunger that should have made them team of the year in every award going. Defying sceptics, some of whom came from a quarter extremely close to this column, they picked a team for purpose. It batted, bowled and not least fielded to perfection. The England T20 team of 2010 performed the trick that is perhaps most helpful to any team: it was greater than the sum of its parts. By the end, they were the best team in the tournament by a mile and in the final they showed the cleanest pair of heels possible to Australia.
Tait and smile
The sight of the year, and it still makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, was provided by an Australian. It might have been only another one-day international but on a July Saturday late afternoon, Shaun Tait brought Lord's to its feet with a destructive spell of pure fast, full bowling that reminded all who saw it of the sheer thrill of outright pace – unless, of course, you happen to be on the receiving end. Merry Christmas, happy new year to lovers of the great game everywhere.