Another Day, Another Game, Another Retirement

I haven't posted anything original for a few days and already the ever-evolving cricket world has moved on. England have subsided to their worst defeat of even this dreadful tour, West Indies have knocked off a cool 270 to beat India in Chennai, South Africa have completed their second 2-1 series win in a matter of weeks, and New Zealand, without the retired Nathan Astle, have pushed Australia all the way, losing by just eight runs amid a welter of typically powerful strokes from the bat of Jacob Oram.

I've only managed to see isolated bits of all the games, but while I have no doubt that England are still trying their damnedest, it's obvious, not least to Michael Vaughan, that their collective confidence level has hit rock bottom, and, with New Zealand's surely going in the opposite direction after their gallant showing today in Perth, it's becoming increasingly hard to see England getting anything out of the CB Series, while the World Cup, which follows hard on its heels, is a long-lost cause. They had little or no prospect of winning the thing even before the events of the past few weeks. Now even Kenya and Canada must be rubbing their hands and fancying their chances.

South Africa will be happy with their latest series victory, Pakistan, of course, less so. In the end it was fitting and unsurprising that South Africa's two soundest batsmen, Jacques Kallis, to whom unwavering technical probity is second nature, and the rock-solid Ashwell Prince, perhaps the most improved international batsman in the world over the past year, should have seen them almost to victory. Pakistan were ultimately let down by a lack of effective support for the virile excellence of Mohammad Asif and the effervescent aggression of Danish Kaneria. With Shoaib and Umar Gul gone, only Mohammad Sami could offer anything in the way of experience, but the chances of the under-achiever's under-achiever translating his experience into wickets on the scorecard when they were most needed were always remote.

New Zealand have always relied on a stable coterie of senior players to see them right at the top level, and Astle had occupied a seat at their top table for more than a decade. His sudden retirement apparently came as a surprise, but, with his once infallible eye starting to fade a little, he perhaps saw the writing on the wall a little earlier than some of his compatriots. Although I always enjoyed watching him bat on TV, I can't remember seeing him make many runs in the flesh, so the most vivid image of his career in my mind will remain that of Andy Caddick and his England fielders craning their necks upwards to see the ball hurtling out of Lancaster Park, seemingly destined for orbit after one of the purest and most reverberatingly powerful lofted drives ever played.

There's more at Mike on Cricket.

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