This weekend there was lots of great sport on TV. BBC America had England against France from Twickenham in the Six-nations championship, this was a great game and a wonderful advert for rugby. Both sides played flowing rugby and while there was only one try, it was a game that could have gone either way.
Then there was Liverpool getting beat by West Ham (on any given day…), Manchester United hammering Wigan and of course Arsenal getting beat by an inspired Birmingham City performance.
But there was one that stood above all others, and I get that I’m in a minority here.
I purchased the Willow TV package for the cricket world cup, I’m not going to get a chance to watch many of the games live, but I did watch the England-India game Sunday morning from Bangalore and it was worth every penny. England looked very ordinary against Holland last week and did what good teams do on their off days, Just about enough to win, but it was unconvincing at best.
Ultimately the England India game was not an incredibly important game, both sides should progress to the second round with out too much trouble. However, if you don’t watch or follow cricket you may as well move on now, it’s going to get a little “masturbatory fanboy” here, deal with it.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this may have been one of the best limited over games ever, not just in the World Cup. This game went back and forth, either side could have won comfortably. The England captain said “These are the kinds of occasions cricketers dream about”. Although I think when he imagines this while laying in bed he does see a slightly different ending.
On one side you had an England team led by Andrew Strauss, on the other India captained by the legend Sakin Tendulkar. These were two great teams who had a little form coming into this and this looked to have the makings of a good game on paper.
When someone gets round to making a cliff hanger movie about Cricket, this game will mirror the way that story will unfold. The captains were at the center of things, each played a wonderful innings and led the twists and turns of what was a remarkable game. In 30 years of following and watching this game I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
England did not do well in the recent one-day series against Australia, but that was something of an afterthought to the Ashes victory every Englishman (and at least one Scot I know) cared about. However they played good consistent cricket over the winter and looked about as settled an England team as any I’ve seen. They have the players and in Andy Flower the manager that has worked out how to get best out of this team.
Arguably India is the best one-day side in the world at the moment, and as hosts for this world cup clearly the favorites to lift the trophy.
India batted first and it seemed to be about Tendulkar, he did what senior players are supposed to do in the one day game and led by example. He scored 120 off 115 balls, with 15 boundaries. This was the innings all of India knew he could play and if he keeps up this form for the next three weeks India may just be unbeatable.
The ball was hit all over the ground on what was a totally benign, flat wicket that made great bowlers look very ordinary, there was no movement in it. And India duly put together a huge total for England to chase, and chase they did. The experiment of Strauss opening the England batting seemed to come good, he scored 158 off 145 balls to lead the chase.
After 99.5 overs of enthralling cricket it came down to the final ball. England needed two off the final ball to win, nothing and India collects the three points. England of course did the sporting thing and only got one.
Eight hours, two magnificent batting displays and it was a 338 to 338 draw. It was not just the result that was remarkable, it was the twists and turns over the proceeding 100 overs that made it so enthralling.
This was not just cricket at it’s best, this was sport at it’s finest.