Rob Houwing

The ball that baffled Bumble

2011-03-18 09:00
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column

It is not that uncommon for certain bowlers to offer a bit of devilish eccentricity during their run-ups in cricket matches.

I, for one, can recall a Proteas player like Shaun Pollock turning his head blatantly and disarmingly (for the batsman on strike, anyway) to mid-off sometimes as he cantered in, and occasionally the maverick Andre Nel - still lumbering away heavy-footed domestically for the Titans - doing that elephant trunk impersonation en route to the bowling crease.

But I was as gobsmacked on Thursday as the on-air commentators David Lloyd and Mike Atherton when West Indies’ Andre Russell feigned (or didn’t he?) “losing” his run-up in the key World Cup game against England at Chennai.

The seamer offered all the traditional mannerisms of a bowler pulling out of his delivery as he reached umpire Steve Davis who, replays showed, even began instinctively with the dead-ball signal to on-strike batsman Luke Wright.

Instead, however, Russell simply carried on, and sent down a decent enough delivery outside off-stump to a bemused Wright, who was caught somewhere between maintaining his normal stance and giving up his guard.

It went past his outside edge to the wicketkeeper innocuously enough, so the delivery duly “stood” – it would have been mightily interesting to see what would have happened if it has knocked back the off-stump instead.

Even “Bumble” Lloyd, very seldom short of a witty statement or retort (at least half the reason for his popularity behind the mike) struggled to sum up the quirky little event.

“Now then, Baldrick ...”, said Bumble, gloriously passing the buck to co-commentator Atherton but at least capturing the Blackadder-like comicality of it.

Former England captain Athers did manage to describe it as one of the most bizarre balls he had ever witnessed; ditto so many of us, I reckon.

The game was moving along quickly enough for the matter to be quickly dispensed with as a topic, so there was disappointingly little further “but was it cricket?” sort of discussion.

My guess is it’ll get some healthy hits on YouTube for a while. If it’s there and you missed it live on SS2, check it out ...

Rob’s awesome foursome:

1. Cobras v Warriors, Standard Bank Pro20 cricket final
Cape Town, Friday 18:00, SS6 & CSN

The strange thing about the final of this competition these days is that the main objective has already been achieved by both sets of combatants: getting into the T20 Champions League! But that consideration apart, we should be in for a treat of a game as the rock-steady Warriors, who have dominated the domestic limited-overs landscape for the last couple of years, visit the home of the mercurial (think Gibbs, Shah, Levi, Kemp ...) Cobras. The late-summer sundowner weather is apparently set extremely fair for the picturesque ground on Friday, so enjoy the boom-boom before a full house ...

2. Bangladesh v South Africa, World Cup cricket
Mirpur, Saturday 05:30, SABC3, SS2, CSN & SHD

With their quarter-final berth already assured, the Proteas can probably play this match – always considered a potential banana peel from the moment the fixtures for the tournament were released – in a slightly more relaxed frame of mind than might otherwise have been the case. That is not to say they can collectively hang their feet from the edge of a deckchair, as it were, because it is still important to guarantee top place in Group B. I believe well-oiled South Africa will do the job, and also have a sneaky suspicion Graeme Smith will recapture some much-needed batting lustre if he truly takes on the new ball from the “off” to banish his insecurity and get that priceless feeling of it coming off the meat off his blade again. Note the pre-dawn start, telly folk!

3. Ireland v England, Six Nations rugby  
Dublin, Saturday 19:00, SS2 & CSN

Can Ireland deny hitherto unbeaten England the Grand Slam on the final day of this year’s programme? I have a hunch they will, even if the visitors do still secure the basic Six Nations title. Dublin is no easy place to have to go and complete the Slam for Martin Johnson’s charges, and coupled with that is the lingering Irish indignation over the controversial “wrong ball” circumstances behind their defeat to Wales last weekend – it will make Brian O’Driscoll and company dangerous foes. Plus the England of 2011, while tenacious enough, still don’t really have a true Grand Slam aura about them, I’d suggest ...

4. Bulls v Stormers, Vodacom Super Rugby
Pretoria, Saturday 19:10, M-Net, SS1 & SHD

Ah, there’s nothing quite like the old North v South whiff of gun-smoke, is there? The fact that this is a fresh rendezvous of last season’s finalists only adds to the traditional tension. I would have given the Stormers a big shout here had the Bulls not lost at home to the Highlanders before their bye weekend (another advantageous factor for the blue-jerseyed side, maybe?). It ought to mean that Victor Matfield’s men come out particularly amped, and I believe they will do enough softening in the engine room to deprive the Capetonians of regular, good field position despite the various strong, well-coached qualities the Stormers do offer. So it’s Bulls by five, for me.

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