Cow Corner

What Australia’s 34 and out means

Cow Corner

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34 World
Cup wins in a row.

It is one
of those ludicrous records which will likely stand forever, and have a unique, unmovable
place in cricket statistic history, like Don Bradman's Test batting average of
99.94 or Sachin Tendulkar's  hundred
international centuries (admittedly he's only made 99 of those so far, but
you'd have to be madder than a Shahid Afridi swipe to long-on to think he won't
reach the landmark).

Even Gavin
Hamilton's rather special Test record (played one, scored no runs in two
innings, took no wickets in 15 overs) has its own place in statistics history,
and so too will Australia's 12-year unbeaten stretch in World Cups find its own little corner in the books.

But defeat
today was about more than numbers and figures.

Australia,
despite cruising unbeaten through five matches in the subcontinent, are not the
force they were.

But so long
as nobody beat them, the aura could remain, almost unchallenged, as sides fell
away, exposed by their own limitations and vulnerabilities.

Few teams
do vulnerability quite like Pakistan, but equally few have a knack of pulling
out an extraordinary result.

As such,
the match never felt won despite the men in green being ahead of the game from
start to finish.

Only once
Abdul Razzaq, who nearly half his lifetime ago was a member of the last side to
beat Australia in a World Cup clash at Headlingey in May 1999, struck the winning runs, did the enormity
sink in.

Australia
have made a habit of winning from any position. Occasionally they wobbled, but
they always managed to fix it before it was too late.

What other
side could have come out smiling from the position of being 1 run and four
balls away from losing the 1999 World Cup semi-final?

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Or put on a
partnership of 73 for the last wicket to beat England in Port Elizabeth with
two balls to spare?

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Or have
part-time spinner Michael Clarke take three wickets in the penultimate over of
the Sydney Test in 2008 to win a 16th straight Test match?

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That's the
way of the men in gold - they can always snatch victory even when all logic says the game is up.

Today they
threatened to repeat that trick, with Brett Lee bowling majestically, defending
the unbeaten streak as if it was the One Ring.

But for the
men in yellow, there was no Fellowship - although it would be mean to say that was in spite of a supporting cast of hobbits.

Still, with one or
two more of the bowling attack extracting half what Lee found in the pitch, perhaps
Australia would have been sitting on a 35th successive win.

The only
relics of the all-conquering era that remains is the World Cup crown, and
Ponting himself. No trivial things, admittedly - a win and two successful
defences of their title, and one of the finest (and most under-rated) batsmen
of all-time.

Having seen
this defeat, though, will Australia still have either of those by the time the
tournament ends two weeks today?

+++++

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Cowers
doesn't know about you, but I reckon England should be mighty thankful for
South Africa's role in the English team's cricketing success.

Jonathan
Trott has scored more runs than anyone else in Group B, and Johannesburg-born
Jade Dernbach has been sent for as a replacement for Ajmal Shahzad.

What's
more, South Africa also contrived to lose to England, the only game they slipped up in during the round robin, and the result which kept English hopes of qualification alive in the
group.

But just to
be sure, they kindly guaranteed England's qualification by skittling out
Bangladesh for 78, which, lamentably for the co-hosts, is only the second-worst
capitulation they've had in this tournament.

Proteas
captain Graeme Smith didn't seem to mind - look how happy he was when he realised
that England's safe passage to the quarter-finals was assured.

And Kevin
Pietersen had the courtesy to thank the South Africa side - in Afrikaans, of
course. 'Baie dankie hoor!' he tweeted. Or, to translate, 'Thanks hey!'

+++++

SHOT
OF THE DAY:
 In a day of relatively few boundaries, the award is
ironically awarded to Shahid Afridi. So bad was the heave to long-on when his
side needed some sensible batting that he was moved to apologise in his
post-match interview for it. But you suspect somehow that if he
has not learnt after 317 ODIs there's no hope for him.

STAT
OF THE DAY:
 136
for 20 - Bangladesh's last two accumulated efforts in front of a home crowd in
Mirpur. Remind us: how on earth did they manage to beat England?

TWEET
OF THE DAY:
 "You wouldn't want
Afridi in your pub quiz team.. not the brightest" (Michael
Vaughan
takes a rare break from tweeting about how many
curries he's eaten and Sheffield Wednesday to lament the Pakistan captain's
batting)

USER
COMMENT OF THE DAY:
 "By now surely it's
obvious that there are NO sure­ things in 50 sloggit. Anyone can beat anyone,
so to­ claim Team X is 'clearly superior' to Team Y on­ any given day is crazy.
Any of the qualifiers can win­ it, and I'd hate to have to pick a winner. If­
forced to pick, I'd go with India ONLY because they­ have home
advantage and vast support, but would not­ risk much on it." David summarises the brave new world of
ODI cricket where Australia are no longer the unquestioned best and
not-entirely-coincidentally the tournament has been more exciting than it has
been in years.

COMING
UP:
 Zimbabwe and Kenya
kick us off with the final Group A game which will decide approximately
three-eighths of not very much, before India
play the West Indies in Chennai
which will confirm the quarter-final line-ups. England fans - back India in
that one if you want to play Sri Lanka in Colombo, and back the Windies if you
fancy Pakistan in Dhaka. Play starts at 9am UK time.

CAPTION COMPETITION: What did
you make of Sachin Tendulkar examining his sunglasses?
The
best suggestion came from rudeboy_246 who suggested "hmmm I won't
need these when i play the West Indies, won't be out in the field or in the sun
for 2 long."

The
challenge today is to come up with a line for this troll doll of a Pakistan
fan. Do your worst!

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