What a remarkable innings that was in Johannesburg earlier this week when South Africa’s admirable Hashim Amla carried his bat throughout the 50-over match against West Indies for 153 off just 142 balls. Or perhaps you didn’t notice. Coming in at the 39th over after the dismissal of R.R. Rossouw (for a mere 128) was A.B. de Villiers, who proceeded to smash endless one-day records with 149 off 44 balls. His reached his century (31 balls) in just 40 minutes: I’ve seen people take longer to get their pads on. De Villiers completely overshadowed Amla’s pedestrian 153, and if the rest of the South African team had scored at the same pace as De Villiers, the team would have scored more than 1,000. Presumably they have had to do extra nets for not applying themselves.
This is in the same vein as India’s Rohit Sharma, who has been scoring huge double centuries in 50-over cricket. The upcoming World Cup could be where scores of 300-plus become standard. And when you need at least one of your top order to start getting big hundreds, England may well begin to find the absence of Kevin Pietersen more than a little uncomfortable.
So here’s the thing: is scoring sixes every ball entertaining, or does reducing cricket to a video game become a bit tedious? Give me Monty Panesar hanging on to save a Test match any day. England’s easy win over India, thanks to some great bowling from Stephen Finn, was actually pretty dull. Still, at least they’ve got Andrew Flintoff to help them in the nets. Though is Fred quite the stardust England need? All that ‘look at me, Jesus’ posturing after he took a wicket with a long hop could get irritating, and his figures, a few bursts aside, never really backed up his talent. And let’s not go into the pedalos, the boozing, and the Test record as captain. It makes you slightly feel for KP: he worked hard, never got drunk, and won a rack of matches for England on his own, but was ostracised just for being a prat.
Good news earlier this year from New Zealand, where Kumar Sangakkara, one of the most graceful and heaviest-scoring batsmen of the past decade, has decided not to end his Test career just yet. He made his 11th double-hundred in Test matches, putting him one behind Don Bradman’s record, and fancies having a crack at it. And why not? He may be 37, but Sangakkara made almost 1,500 Test runs last year. In Wellington a couple of weeks back he made more than half his team’s first-innings runs against New Zealand and was so dominant that by the 100th over he was able to bat with the pleasing sight of most of the opposing fielders on the boundary. No one wants to see someone scratching around in pursuit of a record, as happened in the final two years of Sachin Tendulkar’s career, but while Sanga is still able to unwrap the most beautiful cover drive in the game and punish bowlers almost half his age, why stop?
It’s not often the world of women’s super-G skiing hits the front pages, so how cheering that the wondrous and beauteous Lindsey Vonn of America has brought it to a wider public. The reason: at the weekend she became the best female skier in history, with her 63rd victory in a World Cup race, beating a record held for 35 years by Annemarie Moser-Pröll. It is an amazing performance: only two years ago Vonn tore her knee ligaments in a horrific accident that you can still barely watch without looking away. Her boyfriend is Tiger Woods, by the way, who was in Cortina d’Ampezzo to watch her triumph. He wore a mask to disguise a broken tooth, but let’s hope that’s the only reason the old champ likes to go unrecognised these days. For Lindsey’s sake, if nothing else.
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Roger Alton is executive editor of the Times.
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