The name Cameron Delport might not be immediately familiar, but his exploits last week could mean more for the future of cricket than the electrifying events of the World Cup final. Delport is a burly, well-inked British-South African from Durban, and a few days ago he smacked 129 off just 49 balls to steer Essex to victory over Surrey in their T20 Blast encounter at Chelmsford. More specifically, at the Cloudfm County Ground; once the home of Graham Gooch, Keith Fletcher and Nasser Hussain, now happily sponsored by a facilities management business. (I don’t really know what that means either, but it’s what the ‘fm’ stands for. Not a radio station.)
Delport is now one of those itinerant T20 players of no fixed abode, but plenty of air miles. At the last count he had played for, to list a few: KwaZulu-Natal, Sydney Thunder, Trinidad and Tobago, Lahore, the Dhaka Dynamites, Kolkata Knight Riders, Guyana Amazon Warriors and Islamabad Unite, not to mention the Paktia Panthers in the Afghanistan Premier League, which was new to me. From Chittagong to Chelmsford, Delport and the myriad other well-travelled T20 mercenaries will be pouring into England next summer for the new The Hundred tournament. The future for T20 Blast is unclear and the 50-over contest looks set to be downgraded, so quite where this will leave cricket remains to be seen; but that feelgood explosion which came with England’s bizarre win over the Kiwis may be a long time coming again.
The Russians have decided not to recognise cricket as a sport: they might have a point after the World Cup win which became something like It’s a Knockout! as Lord’s was treated to the remarkable sight of elderly MCC members swaying their arms while ‘Sweet Caroline’ blared out of the speakers. The game of Neville Cardus has travelled a long way.
Though he might have felt more at home at Taunton where England and Australia played out a draw in a four-day Women’s Ashes Test, large parts of which were unwatchable, one England player taking nearly 50 balls to move into double figures, another scoring off only one of her 36 balls. The match did the women’s game no favours: T20s and ODIs are fine but they shouldn’t play Tests. Of course it is great that women’s sport is getting so much coverage, but we should be careful — we are beginning to reach peak sport. There’s a limit to how much more we can take. The netball World Cup has been going since 1963 but now we are asked to care obsessively about it. Good for Tracey Neville’s girls, but one commentator described their semi-final disappointment as ‘breaking a nation’s heart’. Er, no. It’s netball, get a grip.
It’s hard to care too much about a bloke with a man-bun, especially a staggeringly rich bloke, but you’ve got to feel a bit for Gareth Bale. He may have bagged a roomful of trophies, including four Champions Leagues, two of them with the winning goal, but he’s still getting the cold shoulder from his manager at Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane. Bale wants to stay put, amid wild rumours of offers from China of a million quid a week to join their fledgling big money league. I can’t think of anyone less likely to enjoy the bright lights (or not) of China than Bale. It’s not just Zidane who’s gone off him: clearly there’s a general disaffection, and not only because he likes golf and hasn’t bothered to learn Spanish. To be a true ‘galactico’, it seems, you don’t just have to be a great footballer, you also have to strut your stuff like a peacock on steroids, and Bale just isn’t that kind of guy. He’s a boy from the valleys where show-offs aren’t lauded, they’re beaten up. Come back to Wales, Gareth: Swansea needs you.