Monday, 28 June 2010

The World Cup may be coming home

If you like sport and are English, yesterday was a great day. I never thought I'd live to see the day when a very real possibility dawned that England may actually win the World Cup, but today that possibility feels real. Yesterday we beat Australia, thereby winning a series against the old enemy for the first time in, well, several decades. In fact last year I think it was 7-0 to Australia, and that flattered us.

Admittedly we scraped home by one wicket, most of Australia's best players are injured, and it needed the ECB to deem that being English now means having a grandparent who knows what a Yorkshire pudding is so that we can fill the team with South Africans and Irishmen. But still, a victory is a victory. And in fact, in some ways, England are already the holders of the World Cup, but that was in the 20 over version of the game and I still haven’t got round to thinking of that as a proper sport.

So strangely, 50 years after inventing the limited-over game it now finally seems that England have worked out how to play it. We've had moments before. There was that time in 1975 when we had Australia at 39-6, but then Gary Gilmour (not the serial killer) strode to the crease and stuffed us. Then in 1979 Boycott and Brearley forgot they were playing in a limited-over match and ground out a painstaking 50 odd in about 30 overs. And nobody can ever forget Mike Gatting proving conclusively that the reverse sweep doesn't work 25 years before Pietersen decided it would be his chosen method of getting out. But since those glory days of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory we've never really had another sniff of getting anywhere in limited-over cricket. But now suddenly Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter and a couple of token English players to make up the numbers look like they've formed a team to be proud of. So next year we could be in with a shot at the trophy that has so far eluded us. Presumably this optimism will die next week when we take on the mighty Bangladeshis, but for now there's reasons to be cheerful.

Footnote: I've just spotted that apparently yesterday England lost in some other game involving fake tans and designer hairstyles, but I'm not sure that one really counts as a proper sport.

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