World Cup of cricket
After a protracted round robin phase, the World Cup of cricket (50 overs) has its final grid placings. . New Zealand has bolted into the final after an historic and dramatic semi-final win over India. A one day of game epic, test match proportions.
With England in high summer, its women’s World Cup Cricket campaign is now over in familiar misery and there is no apparent chance of a local taking out one of the two tennis singles’ titles at Wimbledon (unlike us). The nation will instead turn its attention to the Edgbaston ground in Birmingham on Thursday for a World Cup Cricket knock-out game with more history attached to it than virtually anything in the world of sport.
England now has Australia in its sights
In England’s sights is Australia. The ground will be full, of course, but not with the chardonnay-sipping theatre goers and celebrity types that like to frequent Lords for big games. Edgbaston on Thursday will be more akin to a soccer ground, with a loud witty crowd that can be intimidating and a bit cruel at times.
Those who report on cricket in England often lament the fact that major international games aren’t available on free-to-air TV, the problem being that the game just doesn’t seep into the consciousness of the general public, particularly young people, in the way that it once did.
An occasion like the one coming up is a chance for the British media to stoke every fire of parochialism and patriotism at its disposal. The prey in this game is the Australian cricket team, with its storied history of hard-bitten competitive players and teams. The sort of opponent that makes you admire and dislike them at the same time.
The Birmingham crowd on Thursday will have one other thing that it needs to really have some fun – a pantomime villain whose name is David Warner.
Warner is the tournament’s leading run scorer so far, a player with so many facets to his game and playing history that make him a TV director’s delight. He’ll be the focus of enormous attention on Thursday and he knows it. Not that it will bother him. You simply don’t survive in cricket at the top and for so long by caring too much about what people are saying about you or to you, though Warner has agreed that his actions in the Cape Town test of last year (sandpaper gate if you don’t follow the game that closely) were indefensibly wrong.
English Summer Classic
In so many ways this cricket World Cup semi-final shapes up as a midsummer classic. England is strong and coming good at the right end of the tournament. Australia clearly has played very well to finish second after the round robin stage, and has more than David Warner to thank for this (Mitch Starc is the tournament’s leading wicket taker as well).
The game this Thursday will be light years away from two teams of eleven playing a gentleman’s game. Many years ago I spent two summers living in the UK playing club cricket. As clearly as yesterday I can recall gathering around a TV perched on a bar in a pavilion in southern England to watch England play Argentina in the quarter-finals of the Soccer World Cup. That was the summer of 1986. History shows that Argentina won that game in Mexico City 2-1. Both goals were scored by the greatest player and pantomime villain of his time, Diego Maradona. One of those goals has come to be known as the ‘hand of god goal’ and was a blatant case of cheating and poor sportsmanship.
‘He’s a great player but he’s a bloody cheat,’ exclaimed one usually mild mannered teammate.
Warner a 'Maradona'
There’s a bit of Maradona about David Warner. Like all top players, he pushes things to the limit. In front of a crowd and a nation desperate to rule the world in a game others have mastered more successfully (just like soccer), the outcome this Thursday will mean more to the home team than perhaps we realise. Which is why it would be such fun to win.
Let’s hope there’s a large transfixed audience, the occasion gets the game it deserves and the result is arrived at fairly. If not accepted graciously…