A double dose of disappointment

England woke up on Saturday 19th June to a dark cloud hanging over most areas.  The events the previous evening in Cape Town had taken the wind out of the sails of those horrible car window flags and the press had sharpened their knives in preparation to cut down another promising tournament.  I had taken Friday off, a rare break from the stresses of work.  So what did I end up doing?  Of course, working and then watching sport – a typical TBIR day off really.

Don’t feel too sorry for me though (no please really – I don’t want medals, or even money for such dedication).  The joys of the World Cup meant that by 12.30pm I was watching the Germany v Serbia game in the pub with a cold glass of Fuller’s Honey Dew beer.  A great game thanks to some bizarre refereeing but made even bizarre by the commentary on the TV being at least 10 seconds behind the picture.  It would have been rude not to have stayed for one more and of course the first half of the Slovenia v USA game, which as you will know USA won again (don’t believe me? Look here) before I headed down to the Oval.

Surrey Lions beat Kent Spitfires by 15 Runs on D/L – The Oval – Friday 18th June 2010

Celebrating another fan coming in

Ah The Oval.  So many happy memories.  I just have to close my eyes and think back to last summer and that fantastic day at the World Twenty20 Super Sixes, or even possibly the best ever Twenty20 game back in July 2004 when Kent fell just 3 runs short of a huge 185 total despite an unbeaten 66 from Robert Key which included 6 sixes.  On that day the ground was a sell out, with tickets exchanging hands for over £50.

Fast forward six years and I wandered into the ground at 4.01pm, one minute after the scheduled start time and took my pick from the thousands of empty seats in the arena.  With England playing Algeria at 7.30pm, Surrey had decided to start this early or basically in the working day for many.  They had dropped the ball big time of this.  £20 was £10 too much for a game starting at this time on a work day.  Add in some crap almost winter weather, beer at £4 a pint and you can see why people were staying away.

The dancing girls are impressed by his wood action

However, I was making the most of my day out and after some networking with the girls from Virgin Atlantic (flirting, chatting up and innuendo is classed as networking in my book if you are wearing a jacket) I settled down with Mr Grumble for some action.  And what a start we had.  Kent ripped into Surrey, with Stevens taking the three top order batsmen for just seventeen runs quickly followed by Younis.

Symonds goes at last

So 35 for 4 off seven overs saw the Spitfires on top.  And then out came ex-Kent and Australian big hitter Andrew Symonds to join Walters and over the next 60 balls they put on 95 runs, including 9 sixes.  Symonds hit 7 of them in his 62 runs from just 32 balls before he was bowled by Azar Mahmood.

Kent had let Surrey off the hook after a fantastic start, and after a swift bet on the final race at Ascot we headed off to the bar.  But not before picking up a real bargain.  Buy any Surrey or England shirt in the shop at the Oval, and you pick up 2 free Twenty20 tickets.  So to summarise, spend £34.99 on a shirt, get £40 worth of tickets free.  Or in my case, spend £34.99, take receipt to ticket office, get voucher then take shirt back to other shop and get 2 free tickets.

Anyone know where I can get a beer from?

Kent got off to a crap start.  Robert Key run out on the fourth ball of the innings for just 2.  Then his fellow opener and big hitter van Jaarsveld went the same way and it went down hill from there.  Northeast, Jones and Blake all followed in quick succession, leaving Stevens as the only one interested in trying to win the game who got a quick fire 33 in just 20 balls before the rain started in earnest.  There was never a chance the players would come back out with the football on later in the evening even with Kent some 15 runs short of the target according to our chums Duckworth and Lewis.

So shall I sum up the thoughts of the nation?  Not really.  I was one of the fortunate ones.  If my work schedule would have allowed, I would have been in Cape Town, enjoying the beer, the culture and the football.  Instead I was on a Southeastern train following the game on Twitter.  Eight years ago in South Korea I travelled from Daegu to Busan, a journey of over 300 miles in just 2 hours for the same cost of my 20 minute journey into the suburbs.  I sat in reclined luxury and watched Cameroon play Saudi Arabia beamed live to my seat whilst a pretty hostess brought me a beer.  Technology advances saw me sit on a broken seat whilst a drunk girl, intoxicated by the excesses of Royal Ascot throw up into her handbag, whilst her mate reminded her that her “G-string was in there”.

I feel sorry for the children.  The World Cup was hyped up so much that they were treating it like Christmas, except nobody was delivering any presents.  The fayre served up by England couldn’t even be hyped up by the poor  ITV coverage and Rooney’s outburst at the end summed up the spoilt pampered attitude of the modern day game.

So Saturday morning dawned and I was due to take Lolly to her first ever football tournament.  Fresh from the England performance the night before it was good to see that the kids had little to copy apart from passing backwards to each other and moaning at the reaction from us parents on the sideline for not showing any “loyalty”.  For the record Lolly Leaf ended the tournament as top scorer, despite their school team not reaching the final.  However, I did have a say in who did.  Whilst standing watching the game on the pitch behind a shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced on the line.  The referee looked across to his linesmen, then realised this was under11’s girls 7 a side and so he didn’t have one.  So he asked me.  The girl had hit the ball from a good 15 yards and most boys, nay men would struggle to hit a ball so cleanly so of course I said it went in.  Queue abuse from one set of parents, and an offer of a cup of tea from the others.

Sunday morning and for the first time in years I was spending Fathers Day in the UK.  CMF didn’t disappoint, arranging a picnic with TBIR senior and my Mother at Beckenham for some more Twenty20 action.  Last year we did exactly the same, although it was a week later due to my enforced travels to Oslo and saw a cracker as Kent for once actually beat Surrey.  This year it was the turn of the Somerset Sabres.

Kent Spitfires  lost by 85 runs to Somerset Sabres – Beckenham – Sunday 20th June 2010

The Spitfire Sweethearts looked interested

There are tonkings and then there are real tonkings.  In a twenty over contest the chances of a big win are actually quite rare but in this game we saw one of the biggest victories in English Twenty20 history.  Quite how Kent allowed a poor Somerset team to score 189 in the first place is a mystery, but to bat so poorly that you only score 104 on a flat batting wicket took some doing.

Beckenham is also a strange venue for Kent to play cricket in.  It is actually further away from the county ground in Canterbury than Calais is, has a London postcode and is closer to London Bridge than TBIR towers is, and we are definitely in London.  But it is very convenient for us – 15 minutes from home and we were in the midst of a double Fathers Day treat.  I was treating my Dad, and the Little Fullers were treating me.  So CMF pulled out all the picnic stops and provided a feast for a king for us all, washed down with pints of Spitfire.

We bagged some front row seats, got our scorecards from the scary Spitfire Sweethearts ( not employed for their looks or their figures CMF quipped) and settled down for some action.  Cricket warm ups these days feature everything else apart from actually using a bat and a ball and the paying public were treated to a 6 a side football game by both teams for twenty minutes.

I was back on home turf, so to speak having hit 3 fifties myself on this very wicket for Lloyds Bank back in the 1990’s and as the afternoon wore on I could have done a better job than the Kent batting order, especially after Robert Key won the toss and put the Sabres into bat.

Jumping over the ball is not a good tactic

Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick was an early casualty, caught by Blake off Azar Mahmood, and Compton followed with the score on 67 after some fantastic Kent fielding that led to his run out.  Somerset were 109 for 4 with just 7 overs left when Buttler came to the crease.  Twenty year old Buttler was only in the team as a replacement for England’s new wicket keeping star, Kieswetter but his partnership with Hildreth was worth an unbeaten 80, of which he contributed 48 off just 22 balls.  189 was a challenging total, and was only 2 short of the total I had called (well, after 167, 176 and 183).

The sun was shining, the beer tent was open and it was a strangely World Cup free venue, although mutterings of a New Zealand upset were reaching the teams, with a couple of the Somerset fielders asking for score updates when they were on boundary duty.  Kent’s problem is that they have few “big game players”.  Robert Key is three seasons out of date for the Twenty20, Martin van Jaarsveld is a potent weapon on his day but is a shadow of the player he was this time last year, and Darren Stevens can blow hot (as he did at the Oval on Friday) or cold (as he did here).

Chasing 190 means you have to score 9.5 an over.  That really means you need a fair share of boundaries.  So Kent’s haul of eight in 18.5 overs gives you an idea as to why they lost.  Poor choice of shots – Key was an example with a miss timed hook that nearly took out a circling BA flight waiting for clearance to land at Gatwick.  Somerset eased to victory.  We started the second innings with some fantastic chicken, bacon and mayo rolls and by the time they were polished off Kent had their top five batsmen back in the pavilion, and almost making the Spitfire Sweethearts redundant as they only actually got up to dance when there was a boundary.  Second course was a pork pie and some fantastic chicken, chorizo and red wine pasties accompanied by attacking batting for all of three overs thanks to Mahmood and Northeast who scored a quick 30.  But that was the highpoint of the afternoon.

Salt and Vinegar crisps.  What is that all about these days?  I counted 11 (eleven as James Alexander Gordon would say at this point reading out the final scores) different makes in Tesco yesterday.  Is there really a difference between “malt” and “Balsamtic” vinegar, and “sea” salt?  Nobody has yet brought out “sweat” salt which is a bit disappointing.  Surely the marketing team at Tyrells, Kettle, Salty Dog (guys – what inspired you for this one????) et all must at some time pointed out the market is a tad saturated? Well, anyway that was my accompaniment to the collapse of the Kent middle order.  Mahmood was bowled all ends up, Northeast holed out to deep mid wicket and then Coles was bowled first ball – 101 for 8 with 3 overs to go – could I still squeeze in an apple pie?

So what time is the Brazil game on?

Just.  As the final crumbs of the Marks and Spencers Bramley Apple Pie (made in England – which is comforting as Bramley apples are only found in England!) fell to the floor Malinga Bandara, Kent’s new overseas player gave a simple catch to man of the match Hildreth and Kent had lost by a whopping 84 runs.

A cracking Fathers Day, and I would like to that my fantastic girls for all of their effort in making the day so special, and also to my Dad for coming to enjoy it with me.

twitter / theballisround

More pictures from the two games can be found here

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