The Briefing takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the month gone by
An elemental force
For about as long as foreigners have visited England, there have been complaints about the weather. Overcast skies in summer, damp soil underfoot, a general ambience of misery - these are the tropes. In the last week of August, however, cricket celebrated a bowler who has harnessed this gloom better than any player ever has. Wearing his expression of almost devout misery, high priest of the clouds James Anderson played his 156th Test and sent up a 600th human sacrifice to his grey gods above. As reward for this unprecedented piety, the clouds saw fit to unleash their vengeance on the first T20I - a format that has had no place for Anderson since 2009.
Misadventures in misery
If Anderson is the master of misery, Fawad Alam is one of its foremost victims. Alam is so prolific at first-class level that he practically sneezes domestic runs - there's no mask in existence capable of containing these eruptions. In the ten and a half years since he played his last Test, fans in Karachi have protested to the board, pundits have made compelling cases in his favour, and Alam himself has developed a fully front-on stance as if to dare the selectors to tell him which part of this package is not to like. Fate finally allowed him to play his first Test in a decade, then promptly flashed him its middle finger, as Chris Woakes - another disciple of the overhead moisture religion - trapped him lbw for 0. Alam only got 21 runs in his next innings, and was 0 not out in the one after, and then presumably had the flight staff spill a drink all over him and the airline loses his baggage on the trip home.
Claim of the month
Spare a thought for Kevin O'Brien, who hit a six into the back window of his own car, and will now perhaps have to try to explain to the insurance company that yes, although he is responsible for the damage, and that yes, although it was completely deliberate, and fine, he might have even initially celebrated, it would be totally unreasonable for them to have him foot the bill.
The Test king
In the early weeks of this month, Mohammad Hafeez tweeted a picture of himself with a "90+ year-old" woman, standing less than two metres apart on the golf course adjoining the team hotel in Southampton. Almost everything about this story is a little nuts. First, players all have been under strict instruction not to get within two metres of anyone outside the team bubble, so why Hafeez had no issue breaking protocol and even proudly posting this on social media is strange. Hafeez is also 39, which means he is in the demographic to be an asymptomatic carrier, while the woman is elderly and at risk of serious complications, so him calling her "inspirational" is like a safari guide acclaiming the majesty of a lion before driving the jeep directly at it. And you would think that Hafeez, who had returned a positive Covid-19 Test, and had to return two further negative ones to even get on this tour, would be particularly careful. He has possibly been through more biomechanical tests over his bowling action than any player in the last ten years. As he was forced to undergo two further Covid-19 tests following this interaction, he may also lead the cricket world on this front.
The spirit of cricket has been in the news again, with Ricky Ponting stating on a podcast that he would have a "hard conversation" with R Ashwin over the issue of mankading - or running out batsmen at the non-striker's end, if we're going to be politically correct about it. The two have apparently already talked about this, but if Ashwin didn't simply email his coach a compilation video of Ponting's mid-aughts team who, in terms of on-field behaviour, were one of the most controversial (since we're being PC) ever, an easy opportunity to shut this whole discussion down has been missed.