Andrew Radd - The ‘Collapse of the Millennium’ was not worth such weeping and wailing

Andrew Radd
Andrew Radd

To oust the 45th President of the United States from the headlines at the moment requires something pretty drastic.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – England’s cricketers managed to do just that, courtesy of their performance in the third-and-final T20 international against India in Bangalore.

Chasing an admittedly pretty distant 203 to win, our gallant chaps were at least still afloat at 119-2 in the 14th over with skipper Eoin Morgan and Joe Root in possession.

Just 19 balls later it was all done-and-dusted.

England 127 all out off 16.3 overs – having lost their last eight wickets for a paltry eight runs.

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and an earth-shaking admission by coach Trevor Bayliss that his batsmen are “certainly not world-class players of spin”.

A statement of the so-and-so obvious in the Sybil Fawlty class.

At the risk of being branded unpatriotic, I must admit the debacle in the M Chinnaswammy Stadium prompted mixed emotions in your cantankerous correspondent.

Since the England management decided Northamptonshire’s Ben Duckett was surplus to requirements, they’ve presided over three consecutive Test defeats plus series losses in the two limited-overs formats.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that Duckett would have single-handedly prevented such a downbeat set of results – but not selecting him for the ODIs and T20s was just plain stupid. End of.

So it’s hard to avoid the feeling entirely that they deserved precisely what they got.

But there’s a wider issue too. Put simply, is ‘The Collapse of the Millennium’ really that big a deal?

When T20 started back in 2003 we were told it was first-and-foremost a means to an end – something different to tickle the fancy of the short-attention-span “entertain me!” generation and plonk a few more bottoms on seats, or even in the jacuzzi.

Those of us brought up on evening cricket (same joint, different gravy) before it was sexy could have told the marketing types that whilst it can be huge fun it also throws up some pure ‘Fred Karno’ moments.

Modern professionals have developed an astonishing skills-set for the ‘short-course’ stuff – and Northamptonshire supporters, happily, know that better than most.

But whether it’s the Geddington Midweek League, the Garnett Cup of blessed memory or the Kreemy Krispo T20 Thrash Thwack Biff Bang Mega-Cosmic Premier Cup Ltd (copyright ECB) – there is always scope for cricketing bathos, especially if the side batting first has posted a huge score.

What do you do? Stick or twist? Accept the inevitable and settle for a bit of respectability, or go hell-for-leather and hope the opposition panics?

In England’s position at Bangalore – needing 84 off 39 balls (just shy of 13 an over) against an international attack in the deciding match of a series – there was precious little room for manoeuvre.

No, it wasn’t pretty. But what if they’d pootled along, batted out the overs and finished on 150-9?

The outcome would have been exactly the same – a heavy defeat.

But I strongly suspect the bowlers would then have copped the flak for allowing India to score so many, rather than the batsmen for not getting closer to the target.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why a lot of us worry about adopting a

‘win-lose’ format in our Saturday afternoon league cricket.

Yes, the better side will almost invariably win. Nice and neat and tidy.

But for every good, well-contested, right-to-the-last-ball game it’s Trump Tower to our groundsman’s hut you’ll have two or three ropey over-by-halfway ones.

The amount of space dedicated to England’s demise in Bangalore proved, I think, the lurid fascination of a spectacular batting collapse.

My favourite stat of the year so far is that the ‘eight-for-eight’ slump of Morgan’s men was the worst effort in international cricket – Test, ODI or T20 – since New Zealand slithered from 37-2 to 42 all out against Australia at Wellington in March 1946, the first Test match after the Second World War.

Ernie Toshack and Bill O’Reilly harvested eight wickets for five runs, the Black Caps then crumbling for 54 in their second innings to lose by an innings and plenty.

A few weeks later, at Brentwood, Northamptonshire were going along nicely against Essex thanks to a 96-run opening stand between Percy Davis and skipper Peter Murray-Willis.

Then Davis wandered out of his crease and was run out – and in rapid order the County were dismissed for 106, losing all ten wickets for ten runs.

The pond full of ‘ducks’ that day included Frank Chamberlain, future chairman of the TCCB, and Wellingborough Priory stalwart Bob Robinson.

It was not, of course, Northamptonshire’s most catastrophic Jenga-like topple.

On that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon at the Spa Ground in June 1907 it was all progressing reasonably well at 6-1 – only for Pete Tong (and Gloucestershire’s George Dennett) to intervene.

We were bowled out for…well, you know. A dozen. Not even a baker’s dozen.

Contemplating collapses I’ve witnessed at first-hand, thoughts immediately return to Wantage Road on August 10, 1977.

Sarfraz Nawaz (‘unplayable’ according to Wisden) and the late Alan Hodgson had Lancashire reeling at 7-6.

And I knew that was the correct score because Richard Beeby and I were manning the small scoreboard next to the West Stand.

Polish them off quickly and Northamptonshire could lose that unwanted record, we thought.

Well, 33 all out was a pretty good effort – but not quite good enough.

Statistically, though, my personal ‘best’ came at The Meadow, lush-lovely headquarters of Brigstock CC, seven years ago.

Oundle Town had battled to 194 all out with half-centuries from Phil Adams and Harry Ramsden – and the hosts had six runs on the board when Mohammed Qadeer nipped out Trevor Erskine.

Within an hour, Brigstock were all out for 11 – ten wickets tumbling for five runs to ‘Q’ and Cameron Wake.

And here’s a funny thing. Even though my team was doing the destroying, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to watch.

Today it was them but tomorrow it could be us. A troubling reminder of our cricketing mortality.

Feel better now, Eoin?