By Sam Blackledge
“Dad,” my kids will say one day, leafing through Wisden 2016. “Do you remember 444-3?”
I will smile and gaze off into the distance, before answering: “No…not really.”
The radio squealed out from the kitchen. “There it is! England have broken the world record!”
I nodded and raised my eyebrows, before turning my attention back to Thomas the Tank Engine.
It was snowing on the island of Sodor, and Thomas was stuck in an avalanche.
I remember all the others. Gooch’s triple Nelson at Lord’s. Robin Smith’s forearms biffing the Aussies for 167 at Edgbaston, a record which would stand for 23 years.
Then came Lara, Hayden, Lara again. I even felt a tingle on hearing the logic-defying scorecard from Johannesburg in 2006.
But 444-3. There in black and white, forever more. It has quite a nice ring to it. But what does it mean? Where is the context?
In 10 years’ time, who will remember this game? Those who were there, maybe. And the statisticians. But no matter how sweet the taste, there are only so many jam doughnuts one can devour before one starts to feel tired and bloated.
England will not get a chance to officially prove their worth in this form of the game for another three years. Anything could happen in that time.
“Why have England never won the World Cup, dad?”
“Well son, they smashed it in bilateral ODI series between 2015 and 2019. But when it comes to the crunch they tend to fall apart.”
444-3. It’s ridiculous. Inconceivable. Extraterrestrial cricket. When he was on 60-odd, Alex Hales hoicked one straight up in the air and was dropped by third man. It was a horrible shot. I shook my head and whispered: “What are you doing? Play properly. Plenty of time.”
Then I remembered the world we’re living in. This is just how things are now, like it or not. Go hard or go home. There is no in-between.
Maybe it’s because I’m a bowler, but I don’t necessarily think ever-increasing totals and buckets of sixes are the best form of entertainment, or even particularly good for the game. Give me a low-scoring arse-nipper on a wet Wednesday in Derby any day.
I hate to be a killjoy. It was a wonderful performance from what is surely the most talented and exciting England team in history.
God knows, we’ve earned it. We put in the hard yards when Neil Smith and Phil DeFreitas were the best we could muster in the way of pinch-hitters. Even as recently as 18 months ago when Peter Moores and co were trusting the data to tell them 250 was a decent score
Where will it end? 500 from 50 overs can’t be far away. How about a boundary off every ball? Perhaps the money men – who must have wet themselves with delight when India and West Indies shared 480 runs in a T20 in Miami last week – will raise the stakes. Eight runs for clearing the sightscreen? Ten for out of the ground?
Maybe it will reach a tipping point. Perhaps a score like this will eventually stand in perpetuity, as bat widths reduce and the regulations are weighted towards the bowlers. Don’t count on it.