On the Front Foot: Patel feels weight of expectation after tipping scales in his favour


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The Independent Online

Samit Patel: the fat issue. It seems that no matter what England's affable all-rounder does on the field, he is destined forever to explain what he gets up to off it.

There are the beginnings of an obsession with what Patel eats and how long he spends in the gym, which may be in danger of undermining his obvious talent. After performing with some aplomb in England's opening win in the one-day series, he was invited to speak about it. Of the 30 questions posed in a 12-minute interview precisely half were about his weight, his diet or his fitness. Twice when it seemed the subject had been exhausted, some of his interlocutors insisted on returning to it.

A convention of dieting gurus at a health farm could not have been more fixated. There is legitimate curiosity in Patel's bodily state, though those who remember Colin Milburn batting for England at 18.5 stones will wonder what the fuss is about.

Patel was left out of the team and missed a World Cup because he was deemed too fat, not fit and had gone phut. Andy Flower, England's coach, rekindled the issue when he said, before the one-day series began, that Patel was inching in the right direction but that the management expected a serious push on the physical side from him and others. This opened floodgates of fat and Patel's breezy 17 not out and 3 for 26 could not stem the tide.

Patel is a chunky chap and Flower is doubtless dispensing tough love because he wants him in his team. But the attention is on Patel while the others remain anonymous.

Cook and Bopara reunited

On a glorious September Saturday in 2005, Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara knocked the Aussies for six. The week before the decisive Ashes Test at The Oval, the pair of 20-year-olds put on 270 for Essex against the tourists in a youthful blaze of unfettered strokeplay. It was precisely what England, 2-1 up in the series, needed.

Their efforts in the first two matches of the one-day series – partnerships of 131 and 78 – have not been quite in that category but they demonstrate how knowing someone a long time can influence sporting liaisons. Cook and Bopara have looked easy together because they are. They have known each other since they were 12 and they know each other's mannerisms and foibles at the crease inside out.

It works. In no form of the game for Essex is their average partnership less than 46.92 and overall it is 50.69. In 48 innings together they have shared 11 hundred stands and 13 above 50. It looks now as if it could continue for England.

The balm after the storm

The England Physical Disabilities side are also in the UAE. They were having a hard time of it against Pakistan, losing two Twenty20s and the first of three ODIs, but pulled back in unlikely circumstances on Friday.

The match was delayed by a sandstorm and the teams were already packing to leave when conditions eased sufficiently to allow a 20-over thrash. Led by James Williams, who was captain of Poynton Seconds in Cheshire last season and hit 35 in 29 balls, England squeezed out a five-run win.

The decider in this pioneering tour is today.

More Sind against that sinning

Danish Kaneria, named but not apparently shamed in the spot-fixing trial at the Old Bailey on Friday when the former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield was jailed for four months, was captain of Sindh in a first-class match earlier in the week.

It put some people in mind of one-word telegram sent by General Charles Napier (no relation to Essex's all-rounder Graham) when he annexed the province in 1843. It was in Latin and read simply peccavi, translated as "I have sinned".