Thursday, 23 November 2006


Well, one day in and it certainly looks like normal cricketing service is resumed. I have no idea whatsoever what Harmison is thinking but he must be the softest fast bowler ever. These guys are usually renowned for being snarling, aggressive anti-heroes, but Harmison is as easily put off his line as David Cameron. This would be fine if we had other ripsnorting shitbags we could call on, but alas there is only Freddie to carry the fire to the Aussies, while he has to soothe Harmison's troubled confidence at the same time. Truth be told, I only listened to the end of the day's play, as I was waking up; I had been seized by the dread I remembered from previous tours: in 1998-99, though, I had no choice but to watch the horror repeatedly unfold, while last night I could anticipate it and go to sleep.

When we look at such utterly pathetic performances, it should remind us that we do, as the rest of the world thinks, have a tendency to arrogance at the slightest success. While we rationalise it by saying that we lose so often it is fair enough for us to go overboard when we win, everyone else just thinks we are trying to reassert imperial dominance. Growing up watching England losing regularly in all sports, except maybe rugby, it has been difficult for me to appreciate that other countries see England sport as part of the old empire: it just makes me think that if that were true, the British Empire would never have got out of Portsmouth.

And we struggle to maintain aggression in sport: it is as if we think we don't have the right to assert ourselves (for what is it we are asserting when we play a game aggressively?), that we need to be timid and to play with some sense of guilt, almost. England - and Britain - is currently struggling to find a purpose and role for itself, as it has been since 1945. What makes this different is that now no-one really feels comfortable saying "British culture or English culture is....". The only thing anyone wants to say is that it is tolerant. Great. Not much good if you are trying to psych yourself up to bowl at 94mph to the world's best batsmen.

I've written before on the end of the UK. I'm aware that I'm heading for the same extreme I've just criticised England fans for (but the other end) - but would the end of the UK give the England cricket a purposeful and teleological boost?

Geez, cricket can be a depressing sport sometimes. That's why it is the greatest of all sports.

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