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Playing Against Yourself: The CLT20 Final in Chennai: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indian.

It was just a game of cricket. You know the kind of thing: a few mates getting together and a couple of sides get picked by some settled system.  Maybe everyone standing around while the captains take it in turns to choose.

– I’ll have Chris.

– OK, I’ll have Lasith.

The poorest shepherds with time to spare were doing this five hundred years ago on the breezy uplands of Southern England; kids on the village green do it; workers at lunch time.

Two hundred and fifty years ago England was beginning to undergo an industrial revolution.  The old aristocracy found their land – and they had lots and lots of it – could be used for other things than farming. 

Some of the most worthless wastes had fast running streams that could power the new processes driving industry. Some had coal, black gold, scattered across the fields  And there were plenty of trading opportunities secured by a navy that ‘ruled the waves’.

Riches were gained. Others inherited.  Gambling was rife.  Fortunes won and lost on whether the next man through the door would be wearing a hat or not, or on which raindrop would reach the bottom of the window first.

Cricket proved a perfect vehicle for these gamblers.  A bit of fresh air, a lot of fun, the chance to rap your rival on his ankles with a hard ball or watch neighbours barging into each other when one tried to run and other tried to stop him.

So, the ‘Gentry’ or ‘Quality’ as they were known started to form their own teams and put the whole thing on a higher level of organisation.

– My house in the first week of August.

– A bet to make it interesting?

– Sure. How much?

– One point two million dollars?

– A million a man and one for the boss?

– And the loser pays for the fireworks.

– You’re on!

The Royal Challengers Bangalore came to Chennai having chased down a total of over 200 not just once, but twice in a row.  In Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Virat Kohli they had the in-form batsmen.

But that was in Bangalore and those were the quarter and semi-finals.

This was Chennai and a wicket as slow and stubborn as an arthritic mule. This was the final of the Champions’ League.  This was cricket.

The Mumbai Indians set a paltry target of 139.  For RCB seven an over – little more than a run a ball – would win it.

Yet, as they say, the runs were ‘on the board’.

Pressure makes time accelerate.  It erodes the quality of thought.  RCB set off in a dash like the hair racing the tortoise in old Aesop’s fable and, after four overs, they were going through the formalities at 38/0.

Then, when Harbhajan with little alternative had deployed his principal weapon for a third consecutive over, Dilshan, gambling, played across the line to Malinga. Now another gamble, as Bhaji pressed into the attack himself.

Gayle in deep concentration played all six balls with caution.  But the second delivery had been a wide and with the extra ball the MI captain came around the wicket to the left hander, bowled one that went on with the arm and struck Gayle in front of the stumps.  Goliath fell to the sling-shot. 

It was at that moment, with the score on 42/2 and 92 runs required from 78 balls (of which Malinga had only 6 left), that RCB needed to change tactics.  But they could and they did not. 

Pressure and fast running consciousness prevented them from knocking the ones and stealing the twos.  They swished and they swiped in vain as if they were still at home in Bangalore. The ball got slower and lower, the target steeper and more distant.

It was any kind of cricket match, it was this special match.

It was the mistake of the least experienced, and made by the most experienced.

It was why cricket continues to entertain, to amuse, to frustrate, to bewilder and to illuminate the human experience.

It was, as it always is, team against team, one against one, you against yourself.

MI 139 all out , beat RCB 108 all out in 19.2 overs in the 2011 Champions’ League T20 final in Chennai, 9th October.


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It’s A Long Way to Shepton Mallet – – – It’s A Long Way to Go

For Somerset the dream is over.  And so is their long, long season.  The Mumbai Indians proved a step too far in the 2nd semi-final of the 2011 Champions League T20.

In the end, individual brilliance purchased with millions of dollars – for the game now deals and measures everything in US Greenbacks – won the day. 

With the slightly above par score of 160 to defend, the mighty Lasith Malinga  in his first spell of two overs for the Indians removed the dangerous pair of Trego for nought and van de Merwe for 10.

Kieswetter and Hildreth sensibly and skilfully reconstructed the innings from these ruins and carefully built a platform from which Somerset could push for victory in the last four overs, but into their deliberate calculations they had always to factor that Malinga would return to bowl two of these.

The Indians’ captain Harhbajan Singh chose to play his ace in the 18th over at the end of which Somerset, despite scoring only 7 from it, needed an obtainable 22 from 12 balls.

At this point Harbhajan of the volcanic ego had to still his mind and make the key tactical decision of the match; who should bowl over 19?  He, as captain, and as Super Ego must have felt under enormous pressure to take the responsibility to himself without further thought.


There was also available the hugely experienced Pollard.  But as Baji mentally scanned the bowling figures, he would have seen that Franklin’s figures of 2 overs for 9 runs reached up in supplication like a child’s hand in a class room eager to answer. The decision was taken.

This proved the pivotal point of the match – the moment, as Third Man wrote recently, which only Chaos Theory could fully explain. Franklin’s first ball was full and Buttler smeared it towards cow corner for a two or a four.  By a millimetre and a nanosecond the four was saved by a frantic, sprawling, sliding Pollard.

His second ball was equally inviting and as it travelled towards Buttler, Franklin, Harbhajan, his team, his dugout and thousands of Mumbai Indian supporters will have closed their eyes and seen behind the lids their chances of remaining in the tournament rapidly recede.

Had they looked they would indeed have seen Buttler slap the ball hard back down the track on its way to the straight boundary where it belonged. No fielder could stop it.  But nor could the non-striking Kieswetter get out of its way.  It struck the Somerset opener squarely above the elbow, to make it a dot ball. (One day an Umpire will be killed in a similar incident.  Could a Billy Bowden duck such a return?)

The counterfactual scoreboard stood at 147/3, with 14 to win from 10 balls.  The ‘small difference in initial conditions’ (the minute disparity between a ball missing or hitting Kieswetter) yielded, in the chaotic system which is a cricket match, the widely divergent outcome of  Somerset being required to score 20 from those self same deliveries with their major batsman carrying a deadened top arm. 

There was no way back through the gate of time for Somerset – a butterfly had beaten its wing somewhere in the world and this was the consequence in Chennai.

Buttler was bowled next ball.  The 19th over went for only 7 runs with Compton steadfastly improvising a four from the last ball. But this still left Somerset to make 14 to win (or 13 to gain a super over play off) from a 20th over to be bowled by the immense Malinga.

There would be no further widely divergent outcomes from the six balls that remained.  They brought forth only four more runs and entailed two further wickets to leave Somerset 10 runs short – a chasm – and Malinga, with figures of 4 – 20, all clean bowled, the powerful claim to be the best-value player in T20 cricket … bar Gayle or bar none.

Best value?  Yes, for that is now the key measure in this form of the game. The difference between winning and losing this match was $800,000.  The beaten semi-finalists take home $500,000, the runner up $1.3 million, the winner $2.5 million.

That is a lot of ammunition with which to build a team for next year’s domestic T20 competition and the prospect of another campaign in the Champions League 2012.

The Man Ufication of cricket has begun.  

 Mumbai Indians 160 – 5 beat Somerset 150 for 7 by 10 runs in the 2nd semi-final.

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The New Meaning of Club Cricket – RCB v NSW CLT20

The six foot three inch, colossus, Christopher  Henry Gayle, his club shaved clean of decals bludgeoned the New South Wales Blues attack until they were cudgled senseless with an innings of 92 in 41 balls brimful of 8 vertiginous  6s and 8 effortless fours.

Gayle was joined in knightly fellowship by the more orthodox but no less merciless sidesman, Virat Kholi, who prefers the long sword to Gayle’s mace with which to dispatch an opponent and who duly pierced ten fours and three sixes in a 49 ball innings of 84 not out.  

This strike-force  enabled the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a second match in a row to meet the quest to hunt down a score of more than ten runs an over  and to do so with nine balls to spare.

Once again, for NSW, the gauntlet had been thrown down by that other clubman, the diminutive 5ft 7in David Warner who commanded an innings of 123 not out with eleven sixes and six fours battered in only 68 balls. 

T20 has developed rapidly, but in the shape of Gayle and Warner this order in the chivalry of cricket has surely found its apogee: tiltyard strength that maximizes the combination of bat-speed and weight, a solid base from which to swing as well timed as a golfer and a mental approach that mimics that of the best baseball hitters.

It also brings a new meaning to ‘club cricket’.

CLT20 Ist Semi Final: NSW Blues 203 – 2 lost to RCB 204 – 4 (18.3 overs)

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The Operation of Chaos in T20 Cricket: Or Why You Shouldn’t Bet against Plain Ol’ Somerset

As untipped as a Senior Serice cigarette, Somerset have upset an apple cart or two by reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 Champions’ League T20 Tournament and they have done so by topping their group and without a single epithet to help them.

Unparallelled, Somerset have shunned the marketing speak that would wish them known as  The Somerset Sabres and now compete as free from artifical additives as a Pennard cider apple.

Second in Group B were the double epitheted Royal Challengers Bangalore who, two matches before, had been bottom of the table with zero points.

Group A perhaps more predictably was topped by New South Wales Blues with the Mumbai Indians as runners-up. So NSW will play RCB on the 7th October and MI will play Somerset on the 8th.

Young people of today might describe Somerset, with grudging respect, as ‘Random’ by which they seek to express their recognition and approval of that team’s traditional manifestation of their beloved ‘wad ever’. 

But even if the result of a cricket match and especially a T20 match is impossible to predict, is it right to say that it is random?

Back in the Nineteen Eighties, the Squire insisted on inviting Benoit Mandlebrot  to guest for him in a match his team was playing in at the small Somerset village of Chewton Mendip.  

Mandlebrot’s selection was not without criticism.  He was certainly not the ‘quick’ he had been, but the Squire was positive that his unconventional action would still surprise the unwary and the over-sure. 

And so it had proved that morning when a young city dealer Down From Town with his bright red braces and infernal new mobile phone the shape of a Stuart Surridge Jumbo, opening for the visitors, had been comprehensibly yorked, believing in, with blind faith until the moment of his utter ruin, his unquestionable ability to forecast the future.  

However, the intellect of Mandlebrot was indisputable and when their own openers went out to bat, he and the Squire took a turn round the boundary to speculate on the regular roughness of life.

“Have you ever marvelled, my dear Mandlebrot,” considered the Squire, “that no cricket field is ever actually a circle?”

“I have been working on this recently, your Grace,” replied the mathematician.  “Neither for that matter are those darkening clouds above us strictly spheres, nor the Mendip Hills perfect cones nor is apple bark smooth, nor for that matter did that flash of lightning over there travel in a straight line.”

“And neither does a cricket match ever take the expected path,” said the Squire, breaking into a trot to regain the Lodge before the heavens opened.

Those with an obsessive interest in the subject will have recognized that these thoughts were later developed in that important work, The Fractal Geometry of Cricket and their meaning made evident in the set of points explored below.

A cricket match is indeed a chaotic system.  Small differences in initial conditions (the hair’s width between a ball missing or hitting the out side of the off-stump) yield widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems such as cricket matches, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general.

As the Squire’s librarian and wicket-keeper P. Dia, noted when an early tea was taken, “An arbitrarily small perturbation of the current trajectory (a fine edge to the ‘keeper for instance) may lead to significantly different future behaviour.”

“This happens even though a cricket match is deterministic, by which I mean that its progress is fully determined by its initial conditions, with no random elements involved.

And so, wad ever, the deterministic nature of a cricket match does not necessarily make them predictable.

You can be sure that whenever and wherever Somerset play, not for the first time nor the last, the words of Dasher Denning will ring out across Chewton Mendip. “It’s bloody chaos out here.”


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Are We All Somerset Supporters Now?

We are Somerset”, the cricket club’s marketing department proclaims boldly on its website.

Third Man is in reflective mood. The weather continues  unseasonable.  Yesterday was warmer than any day in high summer as if September were the new July.

Squares have been put to bed, dressed in the finest loam, but no-one has thought to tell the fast growing grass that the cricket season has ended.  Old Dobbin may be required for one more cut.

The question arises, should all English cricket lovers be turning their attention to the Nokia Champions League T20 and getting in the cool cider and doorstep cheese sandwiches in time to turn on Channel 410 at 2.30 GMT on October 1st to support Somerset when they take on South Australia at Bangalore?

Yesterday in the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk,
,  with the luxury of two balls and four wickets to spare, the CSKs chased down the 145 runs set by the Cape Crusaders Cobras.

The Cobras’  total had included a 45 from their number four, the Karachi born Owais Shar, whose major teams Cri Info  lists as: England,Cape Cobras, Delhi Daredevils, England Lions, Essex, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Kolkata Knight Riders, Middlesex andWellington.

Third Man is in no position to knock the itinerant life of a modern cricketer earning a crust in the Global Village.  He admits that in the Swinging Sixties he was loaned out to the Somerset hamlet of Shapwick  for their campaign in the Bridgewater Evening League T20.

At the time he also took the field with six others in the Morland’s Sevens, a competition played on the company’s own ground in the pre-festival but no less mystical settlement of Glastonbury.

There were great prizes to be won thanks to the sponsorship of the Town’s leading employer.  These included a then trendy sheepskin coat for longest hit and a pair of carpet slippers for most wickets in an over. 

This was of course before super-hero Brian Close (above) brought all that Yorkshire Bitter to the Cider County.

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