Who are these jokers masquerading as England?
BURNLEY beating Manchester United, Kim Clijsters winning the US Open, Tom Watson nearly winning The Open.
All of these have been usurped as the year’s biggest sporting surprise by England’s victory over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy.
When Andrew Strauss won the toss (the lone one-day skill England are quite good at), he sent Sri Lanka into bat.
At this point it was expected Sri Lanka would score more than 300, before skittling England for less than 200, Strauss top scoring with 60, but no-one else making 20, Owais Shah wiping out the middle order with a series of comedy run-outs.
But instead James Anderson and Graham Onions demolished the Sri Lankan top-order, dismissing four of the world’s top batsmen, including Tillakaratne “Scoop” Dilshan before the score reached 20, the Sri Lankans needing Angelo Mathews to drag the innings to a respectable 212.
Have a first name and a surname ever suited each other less than Angelo and Mathews?
Shah and Paul Collingwood played yet more not quite match-winning innings, but Eoin Morgan guiding England home with an unerring calmness.
England were helped by conditions akin to Headingley in April, but even so this result turns the form book upside down.
Sri Lanka had comfortably beaten pre-tournament favourites and hosts South Africa in their opening match, while England arrived hot off a 6-1 series defeat against Australia.
But if cricket’s tournaments were awarded via the same points scoring system as conkers, then England would now be the world’s number one side.
In the popular autumnal game conkers, the victor acquires the value of their opponent’s conker.
For example if your conker defeated a conker worth 27, you would add 27 to the total of your own conker.
By defeating Australia in their last encounter, England’s conker score was already quite high, but by adding Sri Lanka’s score (itself heavily bolstered by defeating South Africa) England’s value is the best in the world.
It is then the fault of the ICC’s scoring system that England are not given more credit in the 50 overs format.
It was the same in the Australian series, in which England were the clear winners under the “winner stays on” rule, commonly used in pub pool.
In the ICC’s anti-England format England must beat either South Africa or New Zealand to make the semi-finals.
Which they won’t.
But after this match the Champions Trophy will be a success for England either way.