I’ve worked it out. Australia’s problem, that is. In England, in 2005, the Australia cricketers arrived in England with foils, streaks, earrings, blow waves and fancy boots (and not a moustache among them). It was obvious that they had spent more time at the salon than in the nets. A bunch of poofters and movie stars. And they paid the price. This summer, I did notice a return to a more natural look. Of course, Warne will be Warne, but others such as McGrath seemed to lose the dye and return to using a comb. Until now. They’re at it again. I don’t know if it was the lights on Friday night, but you could see that McGrath, Hogg and Gillie (at least) has a lovely reddish chestnut rinse. Perhaps they all used the same bottle. Well that’s my explanation for the sudden loss of form. Thanks to Friday night’s loss, there is a red and white golf umbrella at the office waiting for me to be eaten. Yes, Lorraine won the bet (and it’s not even my umbrella).
The reason I’m looking for explanations for Australia’s loss of form is that there is a lot of talk about match fixing. Claims of match fixing have always plagued one day cricket. Some people I know say that every game of one day cricket is rigged. I never believed it. One day cricket lends itself to boil overs. Conditions can vary from innings to innings, teams can’t recover from half an hour of bad play, the pressure is intense, run outs abound and how could you orchestrate many of the freak incidents on a cricket field. And then, a few years ago, thanks to Hansie, Salim, Azza, Herschelle and many others, I had to believe it. It was shattering but everyone had to believe it. Even our own saints, Junior and Warnie were forever tainted. But the game was cleaned up, right? And now Marlon Samuels is in the poo with his very own “John the bookie story”.
Many of the sceptics are saying that Australia and New Zealand played England into the finals. Not to help bookmakers and themselves (but of course, that could be a perk) but to assist the promoters and authorities. Sorry Kiwis. It’s a fact that it’s better for business for Australia to be playing the ancient enemy. I’d like to offer firm evidence to the contrary – I don’t believe it for a minute – but let’s look at what happened. England managed just over 100 in consecutive matches against England and Australia. In their next match against Australia, Lee and Ponting are “rested” and Australia played like rubbish to not only lose, but concede a bonus point. Then, New Zealand, who had pushed Australia all the way and had already beaten England twice, had the game sown up. The captain, while scoring a century, inexplicably batted slower and slower, squeezing the life out of his side, while dynamos such as Oram and McCullum were sitting in the sheds, cooling their heels. It’s hard to fathom.
That brings us to the finals. For the first time ever, the third final, if required, will be played in Adelaide. It will be on a week day, but who cares? There will be a full house. But of course, it’s a moot point. Australia will stop messing around with the team and messing around in general and clean up old England in two matches. After all, the World Cup is on our door steps. But a miracle occurs and England wins. I don’t want to detract from England’s performance. Collingwood was a pillar (again) and Flintoff bowled like a champion. However, for the sceptics, there is a mountain of “evidence”. Australia had a 300 plus score in the bag with 15 over of their innings remaining. Then, inexplicably, there was self destruction. The catalyst was Clarke running himself out. He thought he looked like he was trying but everyone could see he was watching, judging his demise to perfection. Anybody could see that if he simply put his head down and ran, he would have made it. That was one run out of two for Collingwood and he was given two other clear chances. The rest of the batting was rubbish. Hogg and Watson looked like they hadn’t played in weeks or months. What is that you say? They hadn’t. Perhaps the selectors are in on it, as well. And Hodge got a terrible lbw decision. So now the umpires are implicated. Where will it all end? Bring back Darrell Hair!!
Then we came to the English innings. At 3/15, all seemed to be back under the control of Australia. With the score on 33 and the critical partnership of Bell and Collingwood in its infancy, McGrath dropped Bell. It was the easiest of easy catches and McGrath is a very good out fielder. Was he receiving a little extra, on the side for his 37th birthday? Sure, he ranted and raved admirably but some say he over acted to cover-up his slip up. And how can you explain Gillie’s failed run out of Collingwood? He had the ball in his gloves, all he had to do was break the stumps, but he chose, with Collie well short of his ground, to whip of the glove and throw to the bowlers end. Flintoff should still have been out, but Gillie elected to narrowly miss the stumps and Lee and McGrath were on hand to botch it up. But they were convincing enough in trying that the 3rd umpire were required. And then with three overs to bowl, and the match still in the balance, Ponting allows Watson another over. Why? Watson, who hasn’t played in months and has taken some stick. And Bracken, his best bowler, has two overs left. Why? The first two balls went for four and it was all over.
Most of you won’t read this until Monday. I guess the best way for the match fixing sceptics to be silenced would be for mighty England to bury the Aussies today in Sydney, weather permitting.
I’ll be back with something more sane in a couple of days.