Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. That is, of course, utter nonsense. For those of us who spend our days wallowing in misery, mainly due to becoming addicted to (mostly) metaphorical self-harming during England’s shit period (from roughly 1987 to 2005, with flashbacks in 2006-2009 and for a bit of 2012), it’s the perfect opportunity to complain about how rubbish everything is.
Christmas TV? Rubbish. (Apart from that thing where Noel Edmonds hands out presents to other homeless people, if that’s still on).
Presents? Rubbish. (Apart from that ‘I love spreadsheets’ mug, which will surely have the ladies flocking to our truly filthy kitchen).
T20 Cricket? Rubbish.
Unfortunately, Editor Steve isn’t big on letting us wallow in self-pity, threatening to lock the gin safe once and for all if we didn’t pull our fingers out and update both our readers with exactly what’s been happening in the exciting world of international T20. After spending several hours googling ‘safe cracking’ on the internet we gave up, bowed to his hard-earned authority and fired up the various matches backed up on the Sky+ box. Plus we watched something called Room At The Top for, er, other reasons (i.e. it had boobs in it).
This was the one series where we actually cared enough to do a preview, in which we boldly predicted a 1-1 draw with no apocalypse. Remarkably this turned out to be right, England squeezing home in the second game (thanks to a superb knock from Eoin Morgan) after getting a bit of a humping in the first.
The highlights from the first game were Alex Hales making 56, Super Luke Wright 34 and Jos Buttler 33 from 21 balls, plus Michael Lumb making an epic 1 from 10 deliveries. For India Yuvraj was the star, taking 3/19 and making 38 as the home side strolled home.
The second game saw India make 177, a pretty decent score but one that England overhauled when Morgan (49* from 26 balls) fired the last ball into the stands. The stars of the show this time were Lumb (50, literally his first decent score for England ever), Hales (42) and Buttler (15 from 7) who at last appears to recreating his county form at international level. Which is good news, because we we’re still scarred from what happened last time we pointed out that he wasn’t doing very well.
Yuvraj helped himself to another 3/17 to win a remarkably pointless player of the series award. He didn’t even get a fridge for his troubles.
New Zealand aren’t very good. We feel like we spend a lot of time saying this – it’s basically the entire reason we started doing a podcast – but there was much cause for repeating it after the first match in South Africa, during which the visitors were bowled out for 86 and spanked by eight wickets. Even if Richard Levi did make a duck.
The second game was much more interesting. Dick Levi made 5 – a good innings by his standard – before Henry Davids made 55 and Faf du Plessis 63 as the home side reached 165/5 from their 19 overs. The other over was lost due a little bit of floodlight failure, a sentence that’s as absurd as it is true.
In reply Martin ‘Two Toes’ Guptill bashed his way to 101*, including a boundary from the final delivery of the match to complete an eight wicket victory. Special mention should go to Rory ‘Giant Arse’ Kleinvedlt for bowling the final over in his inimitable comedy style.
Normal service was resumed in the third game, South Africa winning by 33 runs after dropping Levi, batting first and making 179/6. New Zealand’s response was typically patchy, no-one making more than 25 as they finished on 146/9. Nevertheless, both sides were reasonably happy: South Africa had won the series while New Zealand had avoided being whitewashed, pretty much the sum of their ambition for their entire tour.
As if four Tests, two T20s and half a million ODIs against England weren’t enough, India also found time to squeeze in a Christmas visit from their Pakistani chums. In the first of the two match T20 series, played on Christmas Day no less, the hosts continued their patchy recent form, collapsing from 77/0 to finish on 133/9. Gautham Gambhir made 43, Ajinkya Rahane 42 and nobody else more than 10. Pakistan’s bowlers were all rather good, sharing the wickets around, along with a couple of comedy runouts.
In reply Pakistan wobbled like an elderly relative after one too many sherries, reaching 12/3, before a superbly clinical partnership between Mohammad Hafeez (61) and Shoaib Malik (57*) took them to the brink of victory. Pick of the bowlers was undoubtedly debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose fours overs of excellent swing bowling brought him rather splendid figures of 3/9.
The second game was something of a minor classic with Pakistan nearly hauling down India’s 192/5, eventually falling 11 runs short. Yuvraj was again the star, battering his way to 72 from 36 balls in a display of hitting unseen since that time Alan Mullally went apeshit. Umar Gul was the least damaged of the bowlers, finishing with 4/37.
Pakistan’s chase got off to a decent start via Nasir Jamshed (41) and Ahmed Shehzad (31) before a super Hafeez knock (55 from just 26 balls) threatened to drag his side over the line. Eventually Pune legend Ashok Dinda (3/36) bowled two superb overs at the death and Pakistan finished just short on 181/7.
We’re still not exactly massively keen on international T20 series, which rank alongside competitive eating in terms of sporting importance. But they’re probably ideally suited for the Christmas period, where staying awake for three hours is about as much as we can manage. And clearly more than Sri Lanka’s batsmen could do in what was supposed to be a Test match. Happy new year everyone!