Looking suspiciously like a whale haplessly marooned in the Dead Sea, I contemplated the last two Test matches while spending the past week in Jordan. Yes, I have been indulging just a little too much over the festive season hence my resemblance to Moby Dick. Where Jordan and the Dead Sea gets you is that normally in water you can slink away and hide under the water line but the Dead Sea does not afford you that luxury. You are propped up for all to see. Rice crackers should see me right for the next month.
Firstly, Sydney. How did Pakistan lose that Test? Normally in a Test match when you have a really bad session it makes it very difficult to get back in the match. Australia did not just have a bad session they had a horrendous first innings, the equivalent of using a Dh500 fireworks pack to launch the Burj Khalifa last week. There is no way in the world the Aussies should have got near drawing that match let alone think about winning it.
So where did it go wrong? A bit of everything including lining up Pluto with Saturn. Everyone is talking about how Pakistan lost it and what they could have done and should not have done. I do not believe enough has been mentioned about the mental fortitude Australia showed to keep believing they had a chance in the match. Those eleven guys on the field wearing their Baggy Green were the only people in Sydney, no Australia, actually the world, who thought they had a chance.
I believe you make your own luck and where Aussie sportsmen and women have it a lot of the time is their unwavering sense of fight. I have always loved that about the Australians. Mike Hussey rates a special mention because for some time he has been under pressure. Coming on the scene not too long ago the selectors have stuck with him through his lean period. I remember Craig McDermott [the former Australia fast bowler] telling me once that the reason Aussie cricket started to become successful in that late-80s-early-90s period was the attitude of the players. "We have the confidence to fail," he said.
That is a pretty simple statement but very revealing in a sporting context. Having confidence to fail means you put more on the line. You know when times are tough you can keep playing the way you know. If you do this then your time will come around again. Too often selectors, under pressure from media, will drop someone to appease the thumbscrews being applied to their job. England suffered horrendously due to this mentality in the 80s. Graeme Hick was the biggest casualty of that regime. Had he been playing in this generation then I know we would have seen a better player.
Victory in Sydney was inspired somewhat by Kamran Akmal in a display that really was dreadful keeping, like watching Happy Feet keep wickets. This will be a big psychological victory for the inexperienced Aussie line-up. There is nothing like tasting the spoils of victory from the jaws of defeat. What it gives you is memory recall. Around the globe there will be no thanking Pakistan as I am sure a few teams would have hoped to keep the Aussies pegged down a notch or two. Now these guys are learning how to win.
So, to the previous Test between South Africa and England in Cape Town. The ground there is well documented for its classic beauty, the Mona Lisa of our game. On the back of a Graeme Swann-inspired second Test win in Durban, the English would have been feeling great. Now for those who do not know Swanny he is quite comfortably one of the funniest men I know let alone in the world of cricket. I put him alongside [the former fast bowler] Damien Fleming of Australia as the two funniest men in the game. Flem is more of a Ricky Gervais type satirist, wrestling sarcasm out of every pore whilst Swanny is your witty, accent orientated and highly inappropriate type of comedian.
The English off-spinner is also a talented lyricist who has his own band in the UK called Dr Comfort and Lurid Revelations. True. Check them out online. South Africa have an excellent record at Cape Town and defend the ground as their fortress. This match see-sawed somewhat throughout the first innings of each team and then Graeme Smith decided to enter the series. Now this is an abrasive bloke, a stinging nettle if you like. He is an ugly batter, by that I mean his style. Not for the purist but like any great player, and this guy is a great player, he favours the legside. Stray anywhere near the stumps and you will see the ball ping off to the boundary.
As much as winning games gives you memory recall so too did Collingwood have the experience of Cardiff last year in the Ashes when he batted through to all but single handedly save his side from defeat. Combining with Ian Bell who I am still not convinced about, they blunted the best the Proteas could throw at them for much of the fifth day. But cricket very rarely lets us down and in the last hour England did their best to try and lose it.
Graham Onions has now had some 30 balls to face to help save his team. Had his teammates been asked how many times Onions would be dismissed in 30 balls, the answer would have been 30. After the first Test in Centurion where Onions held on I thought Smith may have tried the spinner Paul Harris for an over in Cape Town and look for the LBW or close catch. This was the only thing Smith should have tried. It was a great Test and England continue to impress under captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower. Watch out for Kevin Pietersen in the fourth Test in Johannesburg. I predict a hundred for him.
The Under 19 World Cup gets under way in New Zealand this week. My father tells me New Zealand have a very good side this year and I am hopeful they can achieve something the full men's side has never achieved, a World Cup win. Good luck to all the youngsters down there in New Zealand and when I scroll down the teams which include Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and America it is a pity to not see the UAE there.