July 12th, 2008

England V South Africa

Cricket is the only game I get nationalistic about. I don't support the underperforming English football team or the misbehaving English rugy team, but I do support the English cricket team- no matter what.

I should add that I'm talking Test Cricket here- the five day game. The one day game and 20/20 may be a whole lot of fun, but  they're not serious. Test match cricket tests everything- not only skill and strength, but  intelligence, character, patience. It's more than a sport, it's a rigorous examination of the human condition.   

We were babysitting for Samina next door yesterday and she has- oh joy- Sky Sports- and we were able to watch Bell and Broad put South Africa to the sword (Which rhymes). We don't have Sky ourselves (I refuse to put money into the pocket of that bounder Murdoch) so  when I'm at home, writing my novel (which is steadily getting bleaker and blacker) I keep flipping to the Guardian Online's regularly updated, over by over, test match coverage- which not only gives you the facts but is also charmingly funny.  

England had a bad time last season, this season they're having rather a good one. They beat New Zealand (which wasn't too difficult) and now they've posted this huge first innings score in their first match against South Africa- with big centuries from Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen.

Ah,  Pietersen! Pietersen is the kind of player who comes along once in generation- if that. The last English batsman to be as dominant, charismatic and compulsively watchable was Ian Botham- and he left the pavilion a quarter century back. Ever since then I've been looking out for his successor. I've admired Gooch, Stewart, Vaughan, Flintoff and others- but none of them was ever quite the quintessence of Boy's Own heroics I'd been hoping for.  Then along came Pietersen- a terror to the opposition- routinely hitting sixes, inventing new strokes, always beautiful in action- and the long wait is justified.