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Saturday 22nd May
South Africa's new secret weapon ...Alan Donald's pants
England v South Africa is the big one of this opening phase in Group A and with the FA cup final falling on the same day Tail-Ender orders in an extra large crate of beer and settles back into his sofa to enjoy the spectacle of sport. Despite a century opening partnership between Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten, England's seam bowlers take the fight back to the SAF's and restrict them to 225-7 and Tail-Ender spends a nervous lunch time pacing up and down, plagued by self doubt and loathing, but in the end manages to convince himself that the boys can do it. It's just a question of keeping their nerve.
A short while later Tail-Ender is wrenching his hair out as Stewart falls to a marginal LBW decision, Hussain is strangled out by a wide, and the rest of the batting folds like origami in the face of some admittedly decent bowling. England subside with a woeful batting performance which is straight out of the Great Collapses of the Nineties text book (why not order the complete boxed set which includes volumes for the sixties, seventies and eighties?) and the SAF's cruise to an overwhelming victory which rapidly deflates the Team England balloon.
But how can things come to such a pass? Tail-Ender rapidly has his answer as South Africa reveal (though fortunately not literally) their new secret weapon, Alan Donald's pants. Ever willing to embrace the white heat of the technological revolution, SAF have embraced a breakthrough in pant technology and equipped ol' White Lightning with a space age, turbo powered pair of shreddies. The esoteric inner workings of this miracle of the modern age are thankfully a mystery to Tail-Ender, but a pants-powered Donald fair steamed through England's top order to record figures of 4-17 so clearly they had a significant impact. Whatever next Tail-Ender wonders? Bionic implants for Jacques Kallis, prosthetic steel springs for Jonty Rhodes' thighs or scariest of all, a Terminator powered Lance Kleusener who mutters "I'll be back" as he flays the ball for another six?
And then of course realisation dawns as Tail-Ender comprehends that the truth has been staring him in the face all along. That big inverted gold symbol adorning their shirts could be mistaken for a peace sign, but Tail-Ender knows the sinister truth, the South African's are obviously in league with pant manufacturer Y-Front who have provided the South African quick men with a complete set of experimental pace pants. Those damn Springboks, is there no end to their fiendish ingenuity?
Before he retires for the day, there's just time for Tail-Ender to indulge in one of his favourite sports at the moment, a spot of Robert Croft baiting. The Taffy Spin Wizard / Useless Welsh Druid (delete according to preference) bowled a miserable two overs at the Oval and conceded 13 runs making yet another compelling reason for his inclusion in the squad (Not). Croft who seemingly couldn't turn a corner let alone an off-break, was apparently selected because he's regarded as a bit of an all-rounder by the England hierarchy and yes he did save the day against the SAFS scraping the draw which set up the our epic series victory blah blah blah. But even in the one-day game you don't pick a spinner because he can bat a bit, you pick him to take wickets and provide variation and Croft is starting to look about as redundant as a Welsh miner trying to find work in the valleys.