Ball One – A good week, as they often are these days, for Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, whose cool head saw his side secure a 4-1 ODI series win over Sri Lanka, backing it up with a comfortable win in the only T20I. Pakistan’s cricketers usually look unfeasibly young, thrown into the fray when schoolboys (or at least claiming to be schoolboys), but Misbah looks unfeasibly old, well into his 38th year. It’s not just Tendulkar and Dravid who are defying Lord’s famous Old Father Time, dealing with international cricket’s merry-go-round with some success.
Ball Two – Younger than Misbah, but with many more miles on the clock, Ricky Ponting, about whom Old Father Time is certainly showing some interest, also had a good week. With Australia starting their domestic season carrying plenty of injuries, he was never in any danger of being left out of the squad for the First Test vs New Zealand, but a hard fought 62 in the cauldron of the incredible fifth day chase on the Highveld was worth more than many a century on a road, showing the doubters that there’s plenty of gas left in the old streetfighter’s tank. What may also have pleased Punter is the feeling that spread worldwide that cricket fans didn’t want to see his career end in a defeat for his team and at the end of a run of poor personal form. Punter has enraged many an opposition supporter over his long career, but cricket fans are a sentimental bunch with a keen eye for the game’s history and, consequently, Punter’s place in it. I’m not alone in wishing him one last hurrah (at least) before he takes his leave.
Ball Three – Another man whom opposition fans have loved to hate is Yuvraj Singh, a player blessed with a big talent, though not quite as big as he seems to believe. That self-belief has been tested to the limit recently as it has been revealed that he had news of a non-maglinant tumour on his lung, a condition first apparent during his excellent World Cup. That sort of scare is sufficient to put anyone off their game and explains some of his curious, truncated tour to England. All at 99.94 wish Yuvi a swift recovery and look forward to seeing him back on a cricket field mixing it with the Aussies who will shake him by the hand to recognise his personal fight and then get straight into him as if nothing had happened – and Yuvraj wouldn’t want it any other way.
Ball Four – In the ICC Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, West Indies powered to an easy win over Pakistan in the Final with those two teams joined by South Africa and Sri Lanka in securing places at the next World Cup. Stefanie Taylor (yet another Taylor) top-scored with the bat – at 20, she’ll be looking forward to showing her talent on the biggest stage – and team-mate Anisa Mohammed was the pick of the bowlers, running through Pakistan in the final with 7-14. The women’s game has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years and I look forward to a splendid World Cup in India come 2013.
Ball Five – Steven Finn may be as quick as anyone on the speedgun these days, but he’s not having it all his own way in New Zealand. 0-68 in Otago’s drawn match with Northern Districts in 24 overs of toil speaks of a man working hard – and that, as I have mentioned here before, is characteristic of a player seemingly determined to bowl whenever and wherever he can. It’s Finn’s misfortune, and England’s gain, that competition for bowling slots in the England team is as fierce as at any time in living memory – not that he is whinging.
Ball Six – Sponsors’ naming rights deface grounds and cheapen tournaments, but surely anything is better than South Africa’s Franchise 1-Day Cup? Where is Castle Lager, or even De Beers, now that we need them?