The pre-match anthems are usually a dirgeful experience, a yawn inducing run through of some of the dullest tunes on the planet. But today we were treated to ‘Flower of Scotland’ followed by ‘Nikosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’. For the quality of their anthems alone, South Africa should meet Scotland in the final. But it isn’t going to happen. In crushing the Scottish dream, the Proteas showed all the sensitivity of a steamroller flattening a daisy patch. Such was the ruthlessness of the operation that in his post match interview, Graeme Smith didn’t even mention the men in blue.
Still, the Scots did give us one moment to cherish, besides the swirl of bagpipes ringing in our ears. For most of the tournament, they had fielded with all the sprightly elegance of retired Sumo wrestlers. Enter the explosively named Kyle Coetzer. In pursuit of yet another South African boundary attempt, he executed a backward turnaround leap with extra twistiness as the ball screamed over his head and smacked firmly into the centre of his outstretched palm. I hope his video recorder was working.
We were all hoping for similar jaw-dropping moments in the second game where the incompetent but undeniably desperate English took on the rusty Pakistanis. The Oval was throbbing with noise and vibrant with colour. Storm clouds were gathering overhead as the floodlights blazed down on the coliseum. When Ravi Bopara holed out in the second over, the resultant roar nearly rattled my television off its stand. England surged ahead; Pakistan pegged them back. Pietersen launched the ball skywards. Umer Gul splintered Shah’s leg stump. Surely this was all building to an unbearable, coronary inducing finish?
Well, no it wasn’t. Salman Butt came and went, Boom Boom Afridi was at least one Boom short and Misbah arrived at the party just as the last guests were leaving. Throughout, Younis Khan batted with such Zen-like calm that I began to wonder whether he had something extraordinary up his sleeve. Perhaps a photo of Paul Collingwood in a compromising position with Giles Clarke? But no. It turned out that the poor old chap had simply forgotten that this was a twenty over game. It all petered out drably as the rain-sodden England players high-fived themselves silly.
And finally, a piece of consumer advice. During his commentary stint from the Oval, legendary fast bowler Ian Bishop suggested that anyone visiting the capital must go for a ‘tinkle’ on the London Eye. Should you be tempted to follow his advice, I must point out that the City of London authorities enforce a strict ‘no tinkling’ policy on the Eye and that you are instead advised to use the toilets situated near the ticket office.