And a cricket game runs through it…

Last night, I watched the cricket.

Put my feet up on the desk, put on my noise cancelling headphones, cracked a Fulton, and watched the cricket.

It was brilliant.

And I mean that.

There are few things in this life that give me more pleasure than watching test cricket.

And I mean that, too.

And by “few” I mean, like, 50. Which sounds like a lot until you start to think about all of the things there are in the world that give me pleasure.

And 50 is high. It could be as low as 25, or even 20.

But when Willow is streaming, and the outfields are green, and the uniforms white, I feel this supreme sense of calm wash over me. I am lulled not to sleep, but into this lovely zen like state where nothing matters outside of my relationship with the game.

It is not like other sports. I rarely exclaim, or groan, and I rarely watch a match while standing (I am a notorious pacer during Arsenal games). Instead it is like taking a warm bath after a long day.

In my house, during the Australian summer anyway, it is dark and drafty with winter roaring away outside, and life roaring away inside my mind; but on the computer it is warm green sunshine peace.

Cricket can be a violent sport. It is of course not nearly as pastoral as this is making it seem. But even the violence feels like part of the game’s rhythm. And of course everything is ruined when Willow TV gets the hiccups, and occasionally I step out of my meditation zone to discuss the match at cricket’s virtual pub (Twitter), and sometimes it rains, but last night, for the most part, I was positively 100% content to watch Hashim Amla quietly pick apart the Australian attack, Fulton in hand, at peace with the world, and all of those in it.

*

“Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.”

Start Your Engines

All right, here we go. My month long, and entirely hackneyed, previews of Australia versus South Africa are finally over and we are less than 24 hours away from the first match of the former series.

Brisbane. Amla. Ponting.

I can’t wait.

I will of course continue with some previews of India versus England as their first test at Ahmedabad is still a week away, but I must say that the series down under, despite being only three matches, could very well be the more entertaining of the two.

To wit: Of Australia’s last 20 matches, only four have produced draws; and of South Africa’s last 20 matches, seven have produced draws. 11 draws out of 40 matches.

Meanwhile, of England’s last 20 matches, four have produced draws, which is the same number that India’s last 20 tests have produced. Eight out of 40.

Wait a minute. What was I saying?

Please ignore the previous three paragraphs, and let’s take a look at my prediction above from a different angle:

Of the last 20 test matches played in India, six have ended as draws.

Meanwhile, of the last 20 matches played in Australia, only two have ended as draws.

There, you see, that’s better. 30% versus 10%. A 20 point gap. Barack Obama would murder for that kind of mandate.

Also, honestly, my gut just tells me that Australia versus South Africa is going to be attacking and aggressive and fun; while India versus England will only provide one of two scenarios: England remorsefully accumulating runs, or England getting buried by Indian spin. The latter is preferable to the former, but neither really gets me all that excited.

Furthermore, last winter, we saw Australia destroy India, and last summer, South Africa gave England a rather decent hiding, the same England that had shattered India in 2011, so based on recent form alone, we can reasonably expect BOTH series to be close, but the recent South Africa v Australia series in South Africa was an absolute belter; it was Arsenal versus Manchester United in 2002; while England versus India in England was Arsenal versus Manchester United in 2012; that is to say: yawwwwwwnnnnnn.

Anyway, enough of that, I am looking forward to both, but there is just something to be said about the Australian summer….

*

All Tomorrow’s Parties

As you may or may not be aware, tomorrow is Election Day here in the United States.

Trying to relate American electoral politics to cricket has turned into a bit of a fool’s errand.

Only one cricket match ever has been played on the same day as a US election: an ODI between New Zealand and Bangladesh in 2004 at Chittagong. The Kiwis won by a 100 and some odd runs. It was nothing to write home about. Chris Cairns steered his side to 224 all out with a score of 74 off of 83, then New Zealand bowled out the hosts in just 31.5 overs thanks to Kyle Mills’ 4-14.

That said, if the rain holds off, tomorrow we shall see the second cricket match to take place on an American election day, as New Zealand are set to play Sri Lanka tomorrow at Pallekele.

*

The big story for tomorrow of course is Obama versus Romney, but there are other races here locally that are just as important: the 6th and 8th districts, for instance, plus two potentially very destructive constitutional amendments.

I have very, very few Minnesota based readers (my wife doesn’t even read me anymore), so I won’t bore you with the details. But I will say that I am nervous as hell. Completely on edge and distracted and just want nothing more than to go vote and then start drinking.

Which, of course, in a lot of ways, is exactly how I feel before a big Arsenal match.

Sport and politics; politics and sport. Two twins, separated at birth.

Winners, losers, cheerleaders. Opinion, polls, cable channels. Flags, slogans, and lots and lots of frothing at the mouth.

Books have been written on the subject of course. I am not the first to point this out. And I am not the only one who watches poll results like others watch batting averages. And I am know that I am not the only person sitting on pins and needles today.

The big difference however is that while political elections can have very real and very lasting affects on ones life, sport is nothing of the sort. Sure, I get down a little when Arsenal play like shit and lose to Man United, but if Obama finds a way to lose tomorrow we could very well see another war and the most conservative Supreme Court in our history; and if the marriage amendment passes I will all of a sudden have good friends and good neighbors that will be constitutionally discriminated against.

Despite the similarities sport is the antidote to politics; it’s what we will all use to forget about tomorrow’s results, whether they go our way or not.

So I am looking forward to enjoying Arsenal v Schalke tomorrow to ease my nerves, and I am looking forward to Australia versus South Africa in just four days to help me recover from the election season.

*

Win or lose though, life goes go. That’s the important thing to remember. Whether it be Arsenal or the Ashes or an election. Life goes on.

Time Zoning

As a commenter mentioned in yesterday’s post, those of you in England (or thereabouts) are going to have a difficult time watching  Australia versus South Africa, because of the time zone issue.

First ball for those of you in GMT will be at midnight for Adelaide and Brisbane and 02:30 for the Test in Perth. The match in Perth will actually be okay, as the middle of the second session on will be at not-so-unGodly hours.

As I have mentioned over and over and over and over again, while being an American cricket fan can be frustrating at times, there are times when it is just great, and one of those times is when Australia is hosting a Test match. First ball at 18:00, and you are in bed by 02:00 at the absolute latest.

And it doesn’t get any better for England fans on 15 November with India versus England: first ball at 04:00 (or even earlier).

No matter what, however, cricket fans will be in heaven when the second Test at Adelaide overlaps with the second Test at Mumbai: non stop cricket for twelve straight hours (with about four hours worth of overlap).

I am not going to lie to myself or to my reader and say that I am going to be able to watch a great deal of India v England. I have good intentions, as I always do, but getting past midnight on a work day even with copious amounts of coffee is difficult. But I am going to do my best to watch every minute possible of Australia v South Africa – as this happens but once a year for American cricket fans: Test cricket in Prime Time.

*

South Africa of course is two hours ahead of England, and so South African cricket fans are going to have a bear of a time watching their team in Australia. First ball at 02:00 in Adelaide and Brisbane means they will only comfortably be able to watch the final sessions of each day, except for Perth where they will probably be okay seeing everything after lunch. And by “comfortably” and “okay” I mean at normal waking times of a normal day.

*

None of the above really takes into account work, or kids, or life getting in the way of the cricket. Because, sure, the West Indies are just one hour ahead of me, and sure England’s Test matches are for the most part taking place during a normal waking times, but they are not in prime time. You can’t relax with a beer and Twitter. You are instead at work following on Cricinfo and listening to the BBC or sneaking in a few minutes with Willow over lunch. It’s not the same.

And really, people in my hemisphere are among the few cricket fans in the world who get to enjoy Test cricket in such prime viewing hours. The only folks that come close are those India/Bangladesh/Pakistan/Sri Lanka when their squad happens to be playing in England. But that is only once every four years or so, while I get TWO Australian Test series every single winter.

All of this makes it sound like I am an Australia supporter, but I am not. Not in the least. I find the vast majority of their cricketers, past and present, really difficult to stomach.

They have great fans though, and great venues, and they always seem to be interested in playing attacking, aggressive cricket; so that in concert with the time zone thing is enough to forgive the general disagreeableness of their cricketers.

*

Like I mentioned above, my intentions are always good, but this time they are better. Instead of kicking back with a beer in hand, I am going to try the coffee route and really give it a go. We shall see what happens. I am not in school anymore so my responsibilities have technically been halved since India toured Australia last winter, so the odds really are better this time around.

*

This post has been shit. I know. I could have summed up everything in 50 words but whatever. I wanted to get a post out.

*

The Waiting

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am for Test cricket to be back. Only five more days until Australia versus South Africa.

Five measly more days.

Totally doable considering it has been almost two months since the last Test (India versus New Zealand in Bangalore).

The longest wait between Test matches was of course during World War Two.

I have written about the last match before the war previously, but I have never explored the first match to take place after the fighting was over: New Zealand versus Australia at Wellington on 29 and 30 March, 1946.

It was Australia’s first Test match in New Zealand, and the visitors won the one-off match by an innings and 103 runs.

The hosts won the toss and chose to bat, only to collapse for only 42 all out. The highest score for the Kiwis was a measly 14 for Verdun Scott. Australia went on to amass only 199 before declaring (I think) and forcing the follow on – and promptly bowling out their hosts for only 52.

The match was a disaster for New Zealand, and there is really not a whole lot more to say about it.

The match did feature Walter Hadlee for the Kiwis, who would go on to be one of the most powerful men ever when it comes to cricket in New Zealand until a poorly thought out recomendation in 1980 that South Africa be granted Test status put a black mark on his legacy.

Mr. Hadlee was also, of course, the father of Sir Richard Hadlee, the greatest New Zealand cricketer of all time.

*