Archive for October, 2015

Viewing Record For England Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 15, Drawn 6, Lost 6, Won 3

Another away Test, another defeat. You do this following England malarkey out of hope, rather than expectation you know. Bracing myself for a leg-locked eight hours aboard the Airbus, I begin dib-dabbing away on my iPad. Glancing around the two-thirds full cabin I see curled up tracksuit-bottomed, replica-topped Aussie and Kiwi rugby fans halfway through their big journey to London and this weekend’s big game. I know through experience that it’s the hope that kills but also, so I’m told, its the hope that sustains. Yesterday, our little group joined other familiar looking little groups of England fans as we shuffled wearily into the Dubai National Cricket Stadium like hen-pecked spouses being dragged into one of this desert state’s life-sapping gaudy shopping malls. We expected the worse, and, belatedly though inevitably, we got it. 

  The winning moment. Rashid c Babar b Shah, 61. Pakistan celebrate, cue dancing on the streets of Lahore, Sialkot and Bur Dubai (among others).

What we also saw was terrific fight from this improving England team. Rewind ten years ago to similar circumstances, and an England team, also recent Ashes winners, rocked up in Pakistan and copped a wake up call as a result. That great team would be broken up just over a year in the most humiliating circumstances in Australia. This England team is different. This team, mostly inexperienced though brimming with youthful endeavour, will get better and grow more resilient together. Mark Wood was England’s man of the match in Dubai. The pick of the bowlers through his work rate and intelligence, Wood’s heroic two hour vigil with the bat almost got England out of this sticky situation in the sand. As it was, his departure effectively put paid to England’s scant hopes of drawing the second Test Match. He’s got nous and spirit has the big daft lad from the North East and will surely be the mainstay of this England team in the years to come. 

Batting wise, well, it was all a bit horrific, wasn’t it? A nightmarish third morning effectively decided things. Yasir Shah and Wahab Riaz were the pick of the Pakistan bowlers as Shah’s ingenuity and guile and Wahab’s searing pace prompted England’s muddle-headedness as their last 6 wickets yielded only 36 runs. 

Hurting now, England will be back, and led by Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor, this middle order will surely come back from this latest debacle and complement the continued excellence of England’s captain at the top of the order. All Alastair Cook needs to do is learn the art of winning the toss and his latest team could be among his greatest….

The real tragedy here wasn’t the setback of England’s defeat but the fact that their opposition, this passionate people still aren’t allowed to play cricket in their own backyard. For five days the local Pakistani community came in their droves to give their team their uniquely passionate support. Pakistan also have a team that is capable of doing great things. Witness and treasure Younus and Misbah (who both enjoyed magnificent matches here) while you still can. Hopefully, within the next five years, international cricket will be back in one of its spiritual homes. 

  Batting for the other team? Nah, just sharing the love with ‘Uncle T20’ and his equally marvellously moustachioed mate on the left. Top lads.



Next for England? A trip down the road to Sharjah. They will put defeat in Dubai behind them and they will put in a good performance. Whether it will be enough to tie the series, we shall see, but they do have the steel and the skill to do this. Then it’s off to South Africa for another huge series in December.

Next for me? After a busy couple of months at the grapeface, I’ll be there to support Cooky and the boys in Cape Town. It’s the hope that sustains, you see….

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Souk You Sir!

In an area renowned for its ultra-conservative values, to see this on my walkabout in Dubai earlier was a great surprise. I was led to believe they didn’t go in for ‘that sort of thing’ around here….

  

Phnar, phnar. 

Any road, here’s some more pictures of Dubai. I’m hoping the cricket doesn’t finish early, as there doesn’t look like there’s too much else on offer (that doesn’t involve shopping).

   
   

Tooth Serum

It’s a damp, chilly morning in early October and I’m on a long overdue visit to see Pete, our affably accommodating and rather wonderful family dentist. After the chummy preliminaries have been dispensed with, I resignedly take my place in the chair. As much as the next ten minutes are going really bally well hurt, time in Pete’s company is always well spent, as the matters of the day, particularly cricket, are covered in great detail (well, as much detail as they can before the next patron starts kicking off about missing their bus to Lower Shelton, anyway).
The dentist’s assistant rolls her eyes as the pre-scrape n’ suck chat inevitably turns to Pete and I’s favourite topic, with England’s imminent, and similarly long overdue, visit to the United Arab Emirates and an encounter with Pakistan second on the agenda behind mine host’s revelation that he had a walk on part in last August’s Twenty20 Final’s Day awards ceremony. It’s a credit to Pete that in addition to all the wealth of dentistry based knowledge this young lady will gain from her well-spent time in his employ, she’ll be a font of all knowledge on great Northamptonshire cricketers from the 1980s onwards, as well as a world expert in explaining the lbw law too.
‘Dubai?’

‘Pah! Oh no, you couldn’t pay me to go there.’ ‘What? Milton Keynes On Sand? Ha! Perish the thought. No way.’
Fast forward to two weeks later, inexplicably here I am billeted up in my hotel room in Bur Dubai overlooking the neon-lit midnight cityscape (the less glamorous part) pondering what I’m doing here. A combination of keenly felt push and pull factors have jettisoned me to a destination, much coveted by some, but undisputedly nowhere near the top of my holiday list. Indeed, in complete frankness, I would place this bloated burghal of bling one or two places off the bottom of said list. However, listed in terms of the places to visit with England, the UAE is comfortably the least appealing. Even less appealing than Australia in fact. 
I couldn’t help myself though. Last week sat on the sofa watching the first Test Match from Abu Dhabi and the thought occurred. Farmer John’s text gave me a hurry up. Then a glimpse, on telly, of Eric, minus the inflatable swans and instead with his lovely companion on his arm, then Andy trying among a good field of contenders to be English cricket’s foremost beard, singing away amidst bemused locals in an under populated, over heated concrete bowl furthered my urgency. Cooky’s magnificent innings did the rest. 
Yes it’s hot, yes it’s apparently charmless, and apparently cheerless too. But England are here. England and every win, lose, draw or tie that following them around the world entails. I had to get out to Dubai. (Who knows, I might even enjoy it.) And thanks to some very understanding and accommodating colleagues here I am (Cheers fellas!).
To the regiment.