Why life on Mars could mean trouble for Atherton and co

Adam Szreter searches for sides England might have an earthly against

With Zimbabwe seemingly poised to join the select band that consists of every other Test-playing nation - i.e. those who routinely humiliate the game's inventors on a regular basis - the search is on in English cricket. Not to find a batsman capable of playing a decent innings, or a bowler able to take a wicket or two, but to uncover a nation small enough and inexperienced enough to grant England a morale-boosting victory.

To most intents and purposes, England's participation in the World Cup this year was a complete waste of time, but it did at least give us the opportunity to weigh up potential Test opponents in the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya.

Kenya's victory over the West Indies probably means they're a bit too good for England, which is a pity because it's a nice place to spend the winter. We did beat the other two, just, and games against them should be arranged forthwith before they lose interest in playing anyone as bad as England.

In 1975, during the very first World Cup, England hammered East Africa by 196 runs at Edgbaston. Four years later, at Old Trafford, Canada were bowled out for just 45, and even though Mike Brearley managed a duck England still won by eight wickets. Neither of these two teams has made particularly great strides on the world cricket stage since then, so they would seem to be ideal opponents, as long as East Africa don't include too many Kenyans.

Otherwise, pretty much anybody would do providing their country meets the usual requirements: warm weather, sandy beaches, at least one field that can be used to play cricket (preferably two), warm weather, sandy beaches and great food. Climate, leisure facilities and nutrition will also be taken into account, as will warm weather and sandy beaches. It is believed the TCCB has already established contact with tour operators in the Seychelles, the Maldives, Mauritius, Hawaii and Fiji, with the Cook Islands an each-way bet.

TCCB officials are also thought to have taken considerable interest in the recent discovery of microfossils on Mars, suggesting there was once life, and probably therefore a cricket team. However it is believed that some of the TCCB's own fossils would object to a full five-Test series being planned, as Mars has not yet been accorded full Test status.

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