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Soup of This Day #336: Well Isn’t This Nice

September 26, 2013

Colossal octopus
The Kraken came in from the deep, crushed some toes, uprooted the stumps, disturbed the furniture and left its opponents floundering, all at sea – Image: Pierre Denys de Montfort, 1810. Pierre Denys de Montfort is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Dear Alanis Morissette,

In the past I’ve kind of gone in a bit tough on you.

This is in part because you were in Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma, and that was 1 of my least enjoyable experiences in a cinema. You played God in that 130 minutes of my life that I’m not getting back, so I pretty much hold you responsible for the whole thing in a blaming-it-on-an-act-of-God kind of way.

I’m also not the biggest fan of your music. Mostly in truth I’m ambivalent about your tunes, neither turning the radio up or down when they come on. There is however 1 of your songs that has left me feeling cheated – It’s called Ironic and at 1st read, it’s just not.

Because the lyrics are full of scenarios that aren’t technically ironic. 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife? a. That’s just poor planning, and b. Why the @#$% have you got 10,000 spoons anyway? Rain on your wedding day? a. Pretty damn common, so maybe think of a back-up venue with a roof, and b. I’ve heard that this just means good luck for your future life together.

Although now that I think about that it does sound like the kind of thing well-meaning friends and relatives tell you to console you as your garden reception drowns in a torrential downpour. Seriously, it rains a fair bit in most places so go ahead and organise a marquee or something.

And these are just 2 of the many scenarios raised by your song, none of which are ironic. They in fact range from being mildly annoying (A black fly in your Chardonnay) to a bloody tragic indictment on capital punishment (A death row pardon 2 minutes too late). Possibly that is the great irony of the song – That it’s about irony but none of the examples are ironic. Maybe you’ve just presented us with a wry take on irony – A sort of lyrical sly wink.

Which gets me to thinking that I could have been wrong – Maybe I’ve been taking this thing too seriously. We’re big on irony down here in Australia and so it’s possible… no, probable, that I’ve had too much emotion invested in the analysis of your song.

So as a sort of apology to you I thought this post could pay sporting homage to your own brand of irony. The kind that is the misstep at the end of a mazy run, that results in a scuffed poke dribbling harmlessly the wrong side of the post. Or maybe it’s the line-drive caught on the warning track, leaving runners stranded at the end of the 9th. Perhaps even the pole vault bar, rocked by a wash of trailing air on the 3rd attempt at a qualifying height, that edges off its lofty supports and crushes aspirations below.

No wait… I’ve got it…

It’s the 5th Test Match of the 2013 Ashes Series ending 4 overs early due to bad light, after a sporting declaration opened the contest to a thrilling and unambiguous conclusion.

Yep, that happened.

Going into the final day of the final Test of the recent 2013 Ashes series, England sat on a ponderous 4 for 274 in just their 1st dig. That they had got to such a paltry total after 4 days was down to rain and an England batting line-up absolutely intent on sacrificing runs for solidity. Still Australia showed up on Day 5 with intent – By lunch they had had the Poms at 7 for 350, still 142 in arrears of their own 1st effort and shortly thereafter they had cleaned up the tail – England all out for 377, 115 behind Australia.

This would ordinarily be a good position for Australia to work from – A lead of 115 is a good foundation, particularly when batting 1st on a pitch sure to wear. Offsetting this advantage though was that it was Day 5 and just 70 or so overs remained for both teams to complete their 2nd innings. Given that the time left was just over half a day and it had taken 4 and a half days to get this far, the likely outcome would be a tame draw.

Unless Australia made a game of it by being generous.

Generosity is not something that you’d associate naturally with professional sport, at least not on the field of battle. In Test cricket though there exists some conventions that allow for it and arguably even encourage it, all in the name of a good contest. Chief among those mechanisms is the declaration.

A declaration is made when a batting team decides that they have got as many runs as they need and that they would like to get the other lot to have go. Test matches are limited to 5 days and if 1 side just can’t be got out then the match could fizzle into a pointless draw. A good declaration is 1 made so that the match is kept interesting – Declaring your 1st innings closed at 8 for 754 after 3 days at the crease is hardly likely to get turnstiles clicking in the remaining days of play and crucially, it’s not going to get the opposition to take risks in pursuit of runs – They will instead just shut up shop and try and block their way to a stalemate.

Obviously though there is a flipside – You’d not want to declare at 1 for 25, leading by just 20 runs with ample time for your stunned opponents to saddle up the gift horse for a ride in the victory parade.

So a declaration is a balancing act – The best of captains aim for a target that challenges, promoting entertaining cricket and producing a clear winner.

Australia’s Michael Clarke is 1 of the best of captains. A ranking he justified on this occasion by sending his team out to hit runs quickly, scoring without regard for individual totals such that they could maximise the time for England to bat. This allowed Clarkey to declare his team’s 2nd innings closed at just 6 for 111, setting England a target of 227 in 47 overs.

This was a generous declaration. It was the kind of offering that you’d get in a game of park cricket, where having a result is more important than what the result actually is. But this was not park cricket – The consequences were greater, the rewards richer and the losses harder – If anything this was a buccaneer’s declaration. If Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow played cricket then this would have been his call. Sure the kraken might pull you down to Davey Jones’ locker but what the hell, we’ll give him a couple of overs of toe-crushing yorkers with a shiny new ball.

Assuming that krakens have toes.

And it’s ok if they don’t because we’ll still run out the cannons and take a shot at him. Or her. Because sometimes in order to be a pirate you need to find a way to do what pirates do – Anything else and we’re false pirates and are we going to be that me mateys? No of course we aren’t – Instead we’re going to reef the decks, swab the sails and offer up a sacrifice to the gods of cricket.

That’s right Alanis, we were generous to a kraken.

Except that krakens have too many arms, no legs (so no toes to crush after all, or leg before decisions to be won either) and a lot of them are expat South Africans who are fairly decent with the old willow. So England (aka North South Africa) made a pretty good go at chasing down the victory target and with 4 overs remaining needed just 21 runs with 5 wickets in hand. Basically the kraken had its tentacles around the good ship Australia and was pulling it under.

And then things got really interesting.

See, England had previously, across their 1st innings, tried to play out for a draw by batting slowly and taking every opportunity to leave the field. For instance, at the 1st hint of bad light they’d dive for the boundary, leaving an inky cloud in their wake that further reduced the chance of meaningful cricket being played because nobody could see the ball.

Only on this last day, as they pulled down Australia into the vortex of another Ashes Test loss, those prior dark moments came back to scupper them.

Because, with precedent set as surely as a sea anchor, the umpires checked the light and ordered everyone off deck – The kraken had to settle for a draw.

There’s some irony for you.


Well Isn’t This Nice

  1. You need to be famous, so this gets read widespread!

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