On being on the back foot

I occasionally hear reporters and commentators (usually in politics) in the US speak of someone being “on the back foot” by which they mean on the defensive. This always takes me by surprise since, although it is an idiom that I am familiar with, it comes from cricket, a game that few Americans have even the faintest idea about.

Its origins lie in the fact that a cricket batter who steps forward to meet the oncoming ball (i.e., plays it “on the front foot”) is seen as being aggressive, advancing to meet the attacker (the bowler) and taking greater risks since they are reducing the time available to decide how to play the shot. Here is Joe Root, the cricket captain for England, demonstrating one front foot shot.
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Test cricket is back

All you cricket fans out there among the blog’s readers (yes, both of you) will be pleased to learn that Test cricket has begun again. In the US there are a lot of debates going on about when and how to bring back professional sports, discussions that struggle to keep up with the changing rate of covid-19 infections. I had assumed that cricket was also on hiatus and so was surprised that a Test match, the highest level of international cricket that lasts five days, had come back with the West Indies scheduled to play three Tests in England. The first Test began on Wednesday and ends today this article explains what changes have been made as a result of the covid-19 virus.
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Sports addictions during the pandemic

While addressing the needs of drug addicts is an important concern during the pandemic (and I have discussed earlier coffee and alcohol, and other drugs), there are others whom we sometimes also label as ‘addicts’ because they are incredibly devoted to something, even though this may not be due to ingesting anything. One major category among these types of addictions is sports.

Rhiannon, from over at Intransitive who lives in Taiwan, knowing that I am a cricket fan, sent me a link to a Taiwanese media news item about efforts by cricket fans in India trying to get Taiwan to broadcast their games so that they can be watched in India, even though Taiwanese cricket would have been utterly scorned as a fourth-rate cricket power just a month or so earlier. This is because cricket is apparently still being played in that country and these fans, who are some of the most fanatical fans in the world, are suffering due to being deprived of watching live cricket matches. (I was surprised that Taiwan is allowing games during this time, even though the games are being played in empty stadiums with fans told to stay away.)
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England beats Australia in an astounding Test match

I have made no secret of the fact that when it comes to cricket, I like the long form of the game that lasts for five days rather than the shorter forms that last for one day (50 overs per innings) or that utter abomination, the three-hour version (20 overs per innings). The reason is that the longer form allows for all the skills and strategy that make the game what it is (or should be) to be brought in to play. With the shorter forms, the need for many of those skills is eliminated in favor of mainly big hitting and defensive bowling.
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England win cricket World Cup in wild and crazy final

I cannot really do justice to the incredible game that was just played. England won in the end after a tie-breaker within a tie-breaker. It was really wild, with fortunes swinging this way and that, and with some freak plays at the very end. You can read a comprehensive report here. In short (and this summary comes nowhere close to capturing the drama that took place on the field) , what happened was that New Zealand batted first and scored 241 in their 50 overs (300 deliveries) for the loss of eight wickets. England also scored exactly the same number of runs in their 50 overs, losing their last wicket off the very last ball, making it a rare tied game.
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English cricketer Jason Roy behaves badly and stupidly

In the semi-final game against Australia, English batter Jason Roy let loose with a fiery tirade against the umpires when, as was clear from the replay, he was mistakenly given out.

Roy, leading England’s chase of Australia’s 223, was batting on 85 when he attempted to pull Pat Cummins’ short delivery and missed by a fair margin, as replays later confirmed. Alex Carey dived to his left behind the stumps and pulled off an excellent collection and went up in appeal along with the bowler and some of the Australian fielders. Umpire Dharmasena looked uncertain but raised his finger, and with Jonny Bairstow having wasted England’s review earlier in the innings, Roy had to go.

He stood his ground at first and then walked off clearly unhappy, remonstrating with the umpires – Marais Erasmus was the other on-field official – on his way out and making his displeasure obvious. The stump mics even caught a furious Roy yelling “that’s f***ing embarrassing”.

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England beats Australia in second cricket World Cup semi-final

In the second semi-final game played today, England beat Australia. It does not really count as an upset since there is not a whole lot of difference in the skill sets and rankings of the two teams. But England had lost badly to Australia in their first round match and even lost to lowly Sri Lanka. Meanwhile Australia had won seven of their nine matches, most quite easily, losing only to the strong Indian team and to South Africa in their last game when they had already clinched a spot in the semi-final and the pressure was off. Australia was the in-form team and had also never lost a semi-final game in their seven previous appearances in the 11 tournaments held before the current one.

So Australia was favored to win this game but not overwhelmingly so. The real surprise was how easily England won.

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Sensational win for New Zealand over India

In an upset win in a rain-interrupted game, New Zealand beat favorites India in a thrilling first semi-final game in the cricket World Cup. New Zealand batted first and scored a very modest 239 runs in their 50 overs. Given the powerful Indian batting line up, it seemed like India would win with ease even on a difficult pitch but their top order batting collapsed, leaving them reeling at 92 for 6 before a stout rearguard action by M.S. Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja threatened to completely turn the tables by taking them to a score of 208, leaving them with just 32 runs to make to win.
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Cricket World Cup update

The preliminary round-robin stage of the ten nations in the tournament ended yesterday. India, Australia, England, and New Zealand ended up qualifying for the semi-finals. Since each team played nine games, with two points for a win, one point for a tie or no decision or abandonment, and zero for losing, the maximum points a team could earn is 18. These four teams had 15, 14, 12, and 11 respectively. The top three positions were filled by the pre-tournament favorites.

India will play New Zealand on the 9th and Australia plays England on the 11th. The final will be on the 14th. I will naturally be cheering for New Zealand to win because not only do they tend to play the game in a good spirit, the other three nations form a cartel that is using their financial muscle to squeeze the other nations to the detriment of the game worldwide. I would love to see them get their comeuppance on the field.
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Stunning upset in cricket World Cup

Against all odds Sri Lanka, whose performance in the tournament so far can only be described as utterly pathetic, today beat England, a team strongly tipped to win the tournament, in an exciting match. This was the first real upset so far in the tournament where the favorites have tended to win easily, the closest contender being the victory by Bangladesh over the West Indies though in that case it was an upset when viewed as a relative newcomer to Test cricket beating a Team that has been around for a long time. But Bangladesh has been surging recently while West Indies has been uneven and so the result was not really stunning.
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