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Spit and polish with a hint of minty freshness

The cat is out of the bag. Tresco has got the weight off his shoulders and confessed. His main role in the successful Ashes campaign of 2005 was ball preparation. After exhaustive studies, he found that saliva produced while chewing Murray Mints was the best application for swing – it produces a lovely glaze.

We all knew they were doing something to the ball. It was obvious. Bracks new exactly what it was but he was told to button it and apologise for making such outrageous allegations! Reverse swing is all about ball preparation. The Pakistanis were masters of it not because of their incredible skill but because they knew what to do to the ball. Why would it be that in a Test you have six pace bowlers, all with quite different actions and three from one team reverse swing it and the three on the other team don’t?

You would all know that applying any foreign substance to, or tampering with the ball in any way is illegal. Picking at the seam with a thumbnail, gouging the surface with concealed bottle caps or applying brill cream (ref. Keith Miller) are all against the rules. Marion Jones had to give back all her medals because she was a cheat. Michael Johnson gave back his relay gold medal because he didn’t want it anymore – not because he was a cheat but because the rest of his team were cheats. Will England be giving the Ashes back? Oh, Australia’s already taken care of that. Will the lads be giving back their MBEs? Not likely.

Anyway, Trescothick has explained a few things. For a start, it has explained why Marcus had mental health issues (stress induced). Carrying all that guilt around takes a toll. And not only that. He was once again given the job of ball preparation on the doomed 2006-07 Ashes defence. Imagine the stress of arriving in Australia and finding that you can’t buy Murray Mints. What a dilemma. And that explains why England couldn’t swing the ball and lost 5-0.

Casting a wider net on that tour, it also explains a certain incident involving the drunken England skipper and a small water craft. It has believed until now that these were simply alcohol fuelled high jinks. How could we doubt Freddie Flintoff? Flintoff’s drunken maritime endeavour was actually a mission of great nobility. He was trying save the day by sneaking across to New Zealand where he believed that Murray Mints were readily available. For some reason, New Zealand stocks a whole lot of British product (such as Toffee Pops) that you just can’t get in Australia. Freddie had been told down at the pub that New Zealand was “just across the ditch”. Well, how big could a ditch be? He reckoned he could row there and back in a night and not be missed.

And the big winner is Murray Mints. Following Trescothick’s revelation, Murray Mints have just signed an exclusive deal for Coles and 7-Eleven to distribute their wonderful product – guaranteed to make six stitchers seam for up to 50 overs. It’s just in time for the Australian summer. All over Australia, from park cricket, right through grade cricket and Sheffield Shield, first slip will be chewing those magical little white pills. The very best exponent has a chance to go on the 2009 Ashes tour in an advisory capacity as the “Murray Mint Mentor”. The mind boggles.

Man. Talking about magic little pills, I think I’ve had quite enough of them myself.

Twenty20 for 2020

Prior to the Beijing Olympics, there was some beat-up to promote a push for cricket to be included in the Olympic Games. The thinking seemed to be that Twenty20 would be a suitable format. Additionally, there is a nice touch of serendipity with the games being in 2020. In the Olympics that just closed, Australia did pretty well in team sports, collecting medals in basketball, hockey, water polo and softball but none of those medals were gold. Now surely, Australia would win a gold medal for cricket.

Steve Waugh is right behind it. It’s right up Steve’s ally. Steve was a big fan of cricket’s only run at the Commonwealth Games and was bitterly disappointed when Australia could manage only the silver (the shame of silver!). Waugh was greatly honoured to be a mentor for the Australian team at these Olympics. He will be just 55 in 2020 and that could work in nicely. In an effort to keep the premier cricket events belonging to cricket (IPL, World Cup etc) , the ICC is thinking of imposing similar restrictions to soccer, where players must be under 23. Word has it that the ICC is planning to make the Olympics available only to players under 17 or over 45.

Warnie, always with one eye on the girls and the other on the paper, one hand on his editorial pen, the other on his phone (thank goodness he has only two eyes and two hands), is reported to have told New Idea, “I’d welcome the chance to compete in the Olympics. But only if Australia has not found a decent spinner by then and if the captain needs me.” When asked about how his body would be holding up in 2020, Warne was dismissive. “I’ll be just 51 in 2020 and Clarrie Grimmet was 50 when he played his last first class cricket match. And I’m heaps better than he was.”

Let’s hope that the 2020 Olympics are not won by Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi because even if cricket is included in the 2020 Games, it’s highly unlikely that any of teams will show up.

King Pin

KP. Kevin Pietersen. King Pin. Just over three years ago, who would have thought that in 2008, a tall, brash, arrogant, loud-mouthed South African wearing a hairdo that closely resembled a skunk pelt, would be captain over all of England? Tony Greig must be foaming at the mouth.

KP played his first Test for England against Australia in 2005. There were some doubts about his Test match prospects but they were soon dispelled. The year 2005 was a recent high point for England and the ensuing years have been difficult. And now it is KP’s turn to have a go at being skipper. He started alright, too, scoring a neat 100.

Who knows how long it will last but there could be little doubt that KP will lead from the front, he won’t back down and it is very unlikely that a tearful resignation will ever be forthcoming. The fourth Test (a dead rubber) is fairly evenly poised, with South Africa fighting back after England lead on the first innings by 122 runs.

In the crucial third and deciding Test for India and Sri Lanka, it is Sri Lanka, lead by and unbeaten century from Sangakkara who have the advantage after tow days. Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly continue to unimpress with series averages of 16.2, 16.0 and 15.6.

And an update on the umpire referral system. In India’s first innings, Sri Lanka successfully had two negative lbw appeals over turned. India unsuccessfully referred two lbw dismissals. Batting on the second day, Sri Lanka made six referrals with half of them successful. India made one unsuccessful referral. The umpires seem to initially have got quite a few wrong this Test.

Sehwag the Sensational and Smith the Smug

Two excellent Test matches have just concluded. In the first, South Africa has wrapped up the four Test series by winning the third, and taking a 2-0 lead. This is their first series win in England since 1965. Of course, there was an absence of more than 20 years but it is still a long time. South Africa always had the upper hand but Collingwood (135) and Pietersen (94) combined to set South Africa a challenging target of 283. The Proteas did it in style, winning by five wickets, thanks to a matching winning 154 from the captain, Graeme Smith. English captain, Michael Vaughan fell on his sword following the match. Vaughan will not play in the final Test, at the Oval.

In Sri Lanka, India squared the series one all, with one to play. It was a match of twists and turns but it belonged to Sehwag. In the first innings, he carried the bat and scored 201 from a total of 329. He’s a sensation. Sehwag has had his detractors (mostly amongst the Indian selectors) but I don’t understand why. I’m not one of them. India plummeted from 0/167 to all out for 329 and Sehwag held it together. He also hit a quick 50 in the second innings to build a platform for a comfortable win in the end – 170 runs.

The referral trial continues and interestingly, the vast majority have been unsuccessful. In the second Test, there were 13 unsuccessful and 4 successful referrals.