Monday, January 25, 2010

Wellington v Northern Districts, 20/20, Basin Reserve, 23 January 2010

The weather in what the ground announcer described as “the city that summer forgot” relented sufficiently for a visit to the Basin for the final home 20/20 of the season. This was an advance on last Sunday, when I sat in the car outside the ground for three-quarters of an hour waiting for the drizzle to stop (an unnecessary reminder of the English cricket-watching experience), and Friday when the threat of rain borne by a southerly wind sent me home to watch the game on television. There was a time when watching coverage from a ground at which I could have been present would have caused me anguish. Not any more.

The main attraction of this match was the opportunity to see Tillakaratne Dilshan, Northern Districts’ overseas signing for the 20/20 (though the late decision to hold a superfluous triangular tournament in Bangladesh has curtailed his appearances). More particularly it was to see him execute the dilscoop.

Unless there was a Mr Hook, or Captain Drive of whom I am unaware, or nobody before Geoff Pullar played the pull, the dilscoop is the first shot to bear the name of the player who devised it, so the chance to that player make the shot was too good to miss. The only equivalent experience I can think of would have been to watch BJT Bosanquet bowl the bosie.

To play the dilscoop the batsman kneels on his back leg and looks the ball firmly in the eye until it is inches from his nose at which point he flicks the bat up, sending the ball over the wicketkeeper’s head to the vacant boundary beyond. Because it assists the ball in its established direction it will result in a six as often as a four. When successfully played by its originator and those few of equal skill it is delightful in its impertinence, and deeply frustrating for the bowler and his captain. More often, when imitated by those of lesser ability it is to the profit of dentists across the cricketing world.

In fact, Dilshan’s only attempt at the dilscoop was unsuccessful, though he played a variant that was half scoop and half sweep, placing the bat at an angle almost on the ground awaiting the ball’s arrival, then assisting it on its way with a slight flick of the wrists over the fine leg boundary for six. He followed this by driving Jeetan Patel on to the roof of the RA Vance Stand, a rare hit. His partnership of 115 for the second wicket with Daniel Vettori settled the match.

More and more, Vettori’s batting puts me in mind of Alan Knott. Physically, they are most dissimilar. Vettori is tall, left-handed and moves like a marionette whose strings have been cut, each joint a little looser than it should be. But they bring the same kind of anarchy to the crease, moving across the stumps and back again, purloining runs in a manner that challenges the laws of probability and geometry.

Wellington, who had little trouble in knocking up 205 on Friday, were at sea from the off. At 18 for five after six overs they were well past the point of no return. This is the great weakness of all one-day cricket of whatever length. An early collapse by the side batting second means extended anti-climax (the same thing happened to Pakistan in the ODI in Sydney later that evening; two dead innings in one day).

Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket

In the same package as this year’s Wisden , there arrived Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket , co-authored by Stephen Fay ...