Having been shivering my way through England and Scotland these past couple of weeks, with the only cricket news being that monumentally cool (if on another level ineffably sad) Stanford scandal all across the front pages – one I’m gonna try and approach that this weekend – it was something of a culture shock to arrive back to last night’s Twenty20.
Our friends over at Short of A Length have challenged us to something of a blog war over the course of the series, so I suppose it would be remiss of me not to have a good long gloat at the result of the match, one which went decidedly against forecast, and hopefully sets up a fine battle over the coming weeks. The thing I find most pleasurable about the outcome, from a very parochial perspective at least, is the extent to which I see the same gnawing issues in India’s play that plagued them during that infamous series last time they toured here.Obviously this is a vastly different outfit, one with depth, backbone and determination in spades over Ganguly’s bad-attitude glory boys, who admittedly had to play on some of the worst pitches ever prepared for international cricket. But there was an arrogance to their approach, one that suggested that not only were they too good to be playing these antipodean oiks, that they were beneath exerting themselves in this environment.
There were all those stories of internal dissent, or Ganguly traveling in his own luxurious RV with his family, in blatant contravention of team protocol, and of a team gorging itself on the fame and the power, without pausing to consider the results. The tour was significant in more ways than one, as Snedden used it to precipitate a review of our appalling pitches, which have been largely fixed, and I’m of the belief that the batting talent which has sprung up in the past few years is directly descended from that one calamitous debacle of a tour in 02-03.
In any case, returning to last night’s match, it seems the Indians just got greedy. Can you blame them? Playing on a postage stamp, with one of the more hittable attacks in world cricket trundling innocuously in… You’d have a lash, right? Sehwag’s terrorising 26 off 1o kinda sums the whole thing up, incredible hitting halted too soon. As a result they fell far short of a defendable total, on a ground which would concede more sixes than ever before hit in an international Twenty20. The Indians seemed just pumped to be playing a side they should be dismantling, and got to work a little too industriously. By comparison New Zealand were positively restrained, maybe even clinical in their approach.
The way McCullum went about his business was particularly gratifying, a strike rate of 114 in Twenty20 is almost a crawl by his standards, but it was exactly the innings required, and the way he and Oram waited and pounced through the closing overs was exquisite.
Ultimately it’s only a game of comedy-pyjama-party hit-and-giggle, meaningless save for the messages it sends for each side heading into the more important fixtures. Whether it is a blip on the way to expected transimission being resumed or a portent of a cracking series to come remains to be seen, but either way New Zealand have drawn first blood in what has the makings of a worthwhile war.