First shots fired in phony war

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Richmond

THAT the first shots in the phony war on England’s tour of SA emerged from a popgun in Potchefstroom on Saturday will resonate with Anglo-Boer War buffs.

Potch and Centurion are 162 kilometres apart. Centurion is where the Titans and the Dolphins contested the franchise T20 final on Saturday. Potch is where England insisted on holding their arrival press conference on Saturday – albeit five-and-half hours before the first ball was bowled in Centurion.

And that despite the English being asked to change their plans because every cricket reporter in SA worth his or her freebies would be on their way to Centurion, or would balk at making a detour of 324 kilometres to cover both events.

Which effectively restricted England’s presser to their own travelling hack pack. Ah, well – at least no-one would have heard them mention the war.

That’s if they did at all, what with the navel-wringing – that peculiarly English anguish that happens when navel-gazing meets hand-wringing – that happens before every England tour.

Good thing they lost their previous test series, against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October and November. Otherwise they would have to invent reasons not be cheerful.

The sub-plot is the omission of Ian Bell and his 118 test caps, which means Joe Root is the only member of the middle order who can be sure of his place. That triggered a torrent of typing that was in full swing when England embarked for SA.

“We will miss (Bell’s) experience but he would be the first to admit he hasn’t quite scored the runs over the last couple of years,” Cook said.

“But, certainly, you might see him score them again. It’s a weird thing – missing a tour might do him the world of good. He’s been on pretty much every tour since 2000, whether it’s with England Under-19s, the Lions or the full side. So a bit of time away from the game might do him the world of good.”

Spoken from a thoroughly wrung navel. And, yes, anguished Englishmen really do say things like that. But hang in there: the phony war ends at Kingsmead on the sweaty morning of December 26.

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