BY Pete Starr
Cricket is bloody brilliant.
For me, it's right up there with sitting down for tea just as a double bill of The Simpsons starts on E4+1, forgetting to buy a ticket but finding the barriers are down at your destination or malevolently farting near a mortal enemy - it's as good as it gets.
But not everyone has the time or patience to follow one of the more bewildering and occasionally archaic sports out there.
As a result, we've compiled the answers to a few key questions the casual fan may have ahead of this summer's Cricket World Cup.
What version of cricket it this? The one where games are a week-long or the breakdancing and fireworks one?
Neither, One Day Internationals (ODI). The version in between that plenty of people were quite keen to kill off a few years ago but actually we all like now.
Why Should I Be Interested?
By now it’s pretty clear what people like about cricket - it’s getting binned with their mates, spending half an hour arguing with stewards for confiscating their beer snake and the constant threat of heavy projectiles being bludgeoned directly at them from 70 yards away.
Whilst Test matches offer fans an unrivalled 5 full days to get banjaxed on piping hot ales and Battenberg, they’re notoriously low on boundaries, action or any kind of conclusive outcome.
T20’s offer great excitement, an actual result and far more opportunities to fall down a set of stairs attempting a bungled crowd catch. This, however, is tempered by a frankly outrageous 3 and a half hours in which to get excessively grogged up.
ODIs, however, deliver the best of both – snazzy kits, regular crowd catches and enough time at the crease to really build yourself a quite exceptional hangover. Try and tell me this sort of jazz isn't the best thing in the world, I dare you.
Who’s hosting it?
England and Wales are, 20 years on from their last disastrous stab it.
Which stage are they crashing out in disgrace then, groups?
Erm, they’re probably not, actually. This is pretty much England’s best ever side. They’ve been the world’s top-ranked team for the last 11 months, chasing once terrifying totals down with ease and looking stronger at home than Chelsea under Jose Mourinho Mk1.
Right. I thought they’ve been worse than cholera at the last six World Cups, what makes them so good now?
Remember Stick Cricket? When it gets harder and logging anything under 28 an over is an utter catastrophe? Yeah, they basically play like that now.
Key to this, they’ve found a top order capable of attacking from the word go. No more watching Jonathan Trott turn down singles for 30 overs before Ravi Bopara got the signal from the balcony to hole out in the deep.
Jason Roy and Johnny Bairstow’s gleeful assaults on the opening bowlers is backed up by two experts in pacing an innings in Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. England then have the option of unleashing a bruising pack of finishers in the final 20 overs.
With the ball, a wicket-taking spin option in Adil Rashid makes a hell of a difference and the days of the dibbly dobbly trundler are over. Whilst there are quiet concerns about their economy rate – no one’s conceded scores of 300 more often than England in the last two years – their seam attack boasts express pace throughout and best in class control in swinging conditions.
Finally, England have evolved into a properly quality fielding outfit. Look at these Bobby Dazzlers:
Where might they fail?
Injury to either of the openers would be a significant blow with backup James Vince representing the world’s most handsome croissant – a luscious treat for the senses but ultimately flaky as hell.
The man is painfully familiar with the following scorebook entry:
!(/imagenes/userfiles/images/Screenshot 2019-05-29 at 11_04_15.png) Likewise, should anything happen to Rashid, England have no like for like replacement in the squad and would find their bowling attack hugely diminished.
Ultimately, they’ve got the strongest and longest batting line up, home advantage and several key players in the form of their careers.
Who’s going to get wankered and capsize a man-powered marine vehicle in the Thames at 2am?
For once, England's squad is looking squeaky clean.
Despite having no criminal case to answer for his part in the Bristol nightclub palava, Alex Hales, the most likely man to do something daft, has since been cut from the team for doing something f*cking daft. The Notts opener may be a world-class white ball opener but captain Morgan deemed his second failed recreational drugs test a blunder too far and culled him last month.
Having escaped said West Country disco drama by the skin of his teeth, punchy all-rounder Ben Stokes will no doubt be under lock and key the second England finish each game.
Who else could win it?
India and Australia are the main threats to England’s dominance. India are blessed with the peerless Virat Kohli whilst they’ve finally unearthed a competent seam unit to back up their excellent spinners.
The Aussies have quietly sloped back from their time in cricket’s morality doghouse, still boasting the finest pace pairing around in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins as well as the most belligerent top order since Ian Botham and Geoff Boycott used to hiss at each other from 22 paces. Steve Smith's deadpan ton on Saturday will have sent a shiver down plenty of bowler's spines.
Finally, perennial shady nags New Zealand can’t be ignored – Trent Boult is properly box office, splattering India’s top order this weekend with 4-33, whilst Ross Talyor is second only to Kohli in terms of unfussily chalking up great piles of ODI runs.
Who’s not looking great?
Traditionally contenders, South Africa look a weaker proposition here with any chance hanging on the fitness of their two star slingers, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn. The latter, unfortunately, looks properly shagged and is already ruled out of the opener with England.
For once, the Proteas also look light with the bat as well. In an era of explosive scoring, they’re alarmingly dependent on whether David Warner’s bezzie mate, Quinton De Kock, ignites or not, whilst a lean spell of runs for their once shining jewel, Hashim Amla, is a big concern. Now 21 years without a white ball series win on these shores few are predicting they’ll trouble the last four.
Likewise, Sri Lanka are in a sorry state of rebuilding following the breakup of their great side the 00s whilst Pakistan’s recent 4-0 bulldozing at the hands of England shows how much ground they have to make up on the top sides.
Where am I watching it?
With tickets for all the serious games long gone, the chances are you'll need some kind of bar with a TV. And boy do we know an app for you...
We've got a fully searchable list of pubs showing Cricket World Cup 2019 on TV right here. Simply follow the link, select your fixture and search by location.