It’s time to stop trying to build a paper aeroplane big enough to set off the surface to air missile on top of your neighbour’s roof, tear up those handball tickets you bought in a drunken haze and embrace the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy Fever gripping the nation. It may not have a torch, but it’s about to set the world alight. OH YEAH!
England have prepared for their most important series against South Africa in at least two years by easing past the West Indies and humiliating Australia, victories which taught us precisely nothing about any of the teams involved. Ravi Bopara, penned in to start the summer at number six before having to be hastily tipexed out as his body saved England the trouble of dropping him again for a little longer, will return to that role in South London this week. Barring the mother of all selectorial swerveballs, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will also come back in after being rested at the Midlands Marshland formerly known as Edgbaston last month.
So we are left with the same argument everyone has been having for all eternity (give or take a few years); will it be Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn, or Graeme Onions who fills the final spot in the team? If we had any money we’d place it all
in the man who runs the off licence’s hands in exchange for gin on the former continuing to get the nod: Bresnan keeps taking wickets, keeps getting runs, and England keep winning.
South Africa have prepared for their most important series against England in at least two years by capitulating to both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, defeats which taught us a great deal about the depth of talent in their squad. They will, of course, be without the services of Mark Boucher after he was so surprised at Imran Tahir taking a wicket that one of his eyes literally popped out. In his place comes Thami Tsolikele, veteran of three Tests nearly eight years ago, although it seems AB de Villiers will keep wicket at the Oval – with the management team clearly feeling his workload isn’t high enough already. Also out of the tour is Marchant de Lange (back) who has been replaced, to the sound of hysterical laughter, by Albie Morkel.
This encounter has been billed as the battle of the pace attacks, but in reality it’s the under-pressure batsmen who may end up making the difference. There is a question mark the size of a small country beside the name of Bopara, while Alviro Petersen and Jacques Rudolph – heir to the Neil McKenzie ‘will bore crowd into a coma in exchange for runs’ throne – are not guaranteed their places in the South African side as yet. They could well have been let off the hook by de Villiers taking the gloves and thus meaning there is an extra batsman in the side, but probably need to start well to nail down their places for good.
For every England series since 51allout was born, we’ve got all our
friends acquaintances drinking partners together before it kicks off and asked them all for predictions. These have, largely, been an unmitigated disaster. In an attempt to reverse our fortunes, this time we left a piece of paper next to the alcohol cabinet for each member of the team to, anonymously, tell us the score and their men of the series.
It turns out our fellow cricket fans are just about the least imaginative group of people in the world. Virtually everyone went for either an England win or a draw, with no-one foreseeing a whitewash either way. Neither of the South African fans we dragged off the street to make it look like our survey was fair thought they would triumph, and indeed only one person of the thousands we asked fancied them at all. We should never have added the second question about top performers on each side; it was well beyond the mental capacity of most of our friends. We took note of all the people who either failed to name two players or picked two from the same side and threw their invitations to our end of series party on the fire.
So, without further ado, the 51allout collective believe the series will finish 1-1, with Kevin Pietersen and Dale Steyn excelling. You heard it here first.