Speaker by Various Artists

8

Part 3: Grating Expectations

by Aye Calypso

In the last of our looks at teams in the Black Caps' group, Hamish profiles the England team, while Macca comes to grips with the opening ceremony.

Just as the English believe they invented cake, gin, massage, kittens, Aretha Franklin, thumbs, Oktoberfest and the gear stick, they also believe they invented cricket. Their expectation of victory at the World Cup is based not on past success, but on copyright. The Barmy Army in all their cartoonish tribute to contracting scurvy and skin cancer, are simply enforcing their Intellectual Property Rights. It's our game. We expect to win. Or we'll take our bat home.

Two of the most frightening words in cricket are England Expects. It comes with so much sneering defiance, so much unfocussed faith that it is like watching witch-trials. And it isn't the expectation of foolhardy heroism like the Charge of the Light Brigade. Or Oates going out into the blizzard for "some time". It is with the attitude of entitlement that England wore as they colonised India, most of Africa, and the wee cul-de-sac in the South Pacific. It is with the superiority of Imperialism that you can see every time hooligans head through Europe, or Oasis release another album, or you try to enter the mother country at Heathrow with a passport at 6 a.m.

Unfortunately England now have a certain swagger. Its seems so wrong to watch an Englishman swagger, like watching your grandmother krump. But they beat Australia three times in a row (as if that's hard) and won the Commonwealth Bank Series and now approach the World Cup with some sense that they might win this tournament.

Luckily England are hopeless, and always have been. They have the second worst record of all major test playing nations at the World Cup. Finals - three. Wins - zero. Only New Zealand can claim a more dire record.

Normally England are a bunch of talented (more or less) individuals held together with string and ceiling wax. Individuals like Laker, Underwood, Hammond, Gooch have performed marvellous feats, but rarely does an England XI all pull together in the same direction. England are, bizarrely, always less than the sum of their parts. The question that the next fortnight will answer is whether the talented individuals in the England squad can rise above the morass. So let's examine the team

THE MORASS

Jon "Bonjovi" Lewis and Jamie Dalrymple are the very definition of bits and pieces. Neither do anything well. Then there is the wicketkeeper Paul Nixon, selected on the basis that he was Tourette's. Jimmy Anderson, Saj Mahmood and Liam Plunkett run in and bowl with enthusiasm and will all take wickets, but they haemorrhage runs. The batting is mostly designed around the grafters and the placers. Good for test cricket, bad for chasing 110 in the last ten overs. There is not one dasher among Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan. Ravinder Bopara meanwhile is 14 years old and can only play if it's not a school night.

TALENTED INDIVIDUALS

Michael Vaughan is a majestic batsmen in test cricket but has knees made of poppadom. He doesn't seem likely to be the one barrelling down the pitch to convert two into three. Monty Panesar is almost as good as the hype which surrounds him. He can bowl accurately, but you can't help but wonder if batsmen will flail him on the small West Indian grounds where a top edge will head into the next postcode. Paul Collingwood is a very useful operator in all departments, a bit like Rod Latham and Roger Twose rolled into one. But thinner.

And then there are the two men who could pull England further than they deserve. Andrew Flintoff can inspire the country with his feats with bat and ball. He has the Henry V factor that England seems to need. But the real star is Kevin Pietersen, the best one day batsman in the world. To watch KP in full flow is to watch how cricket would have been played had it been invented by Vikings. If England progress KP will have had something to do with it.

He's not English at all though. He is cricket's Zola Budd. He's South African.

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