Is Afghanistan Better Than Australia At Cricket Now?
Remember cricket? It's the sport the whole of Australia used to love, and that we might all love again one day.
The events of this weekend should help that happen. This really was an amazing weekend of cricket. Where to begin? Let's do this in reverse chronological order.
1. The Great Escape
So last night in India, Australia won a final-ball thriller in the first of two Twenty20 matches we're playing over there, before five One Dayers.
The hero for Australia? None other than Allan Border medallist and all-round good guy Pat Cummins, who hit a four, then a two off the final two balls to secure victory in a tense, low-scoring thriller.
Man-of-the-match for Australia was Nathan Coulter-Nile, who took 3-26 in a spell which was key to restricting India to 7/126.
Glenn Maxwell was the pick of the batters, steering the Aussies toward victory with 56 before getting caught in the deep -- in the sort of dismissal which made the glass-half-empty Maxwell-haters completely overlook the fact that, yet again, he had put his team into a winning position.
2. A surprising Ellyse PERRY milestone
Ellyse Perry has done everything in cricket and plenty more. Or so you might have thought.
But the 28-year-old allrounder had in fact never scored a One Day International hundred. Twenty-five times she'd topped 50, but never had she raised the bat a second time.
Until yesterday. Perry scored 107 not out as Australia reached 7/247, a score the Kiwis didn't come close to chasing as they fell behind 2-0 in the three match ODI series.
They scored HOW MUCH??? REALLY???
Afghanistan just scored 3/278 in a fully-fledged T20 International against Ireland, which was a world record. It beat the old record of 3/263 which Australia held. You can see the full list of big scores here.
The huge total included a world-record opening stand of 236, and also broke several other records. And before you say "oh, it was just Afghanistan vs Ireland, that's hardly a real international match", consider this:
In 2017, cricket's governing body the ICC announced Afghanistan and Ireland as the two newest Test cricket nations. This didn't mean they'd be up to Test standard immediately, or that Australia would soon be playing five-match epics to rival The Ashes in places like Kabul and Kandahar.
But it did mean, in very real terms, that these two nations don't totally suck at cricket. Which they don't. Indeed, anyone who watched the Big Bash this year would be well familiar with the work of Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan -- both of whom played in the Afghanistan/Ireland T20I current series -- which by the way, Afghanistan has now won 3-0.
4. SRI LANKA DID THE UNTHINKABLE
Last month, Australia brushed aside Sri Lanka like a farmer swatting flies in the two match series in Australia.
For an Aussie team that hadn't played well all summer, Sri Lanka were the easy kill they needed.
Sri Lanka continued their southern hemisphere sojourn in South Africa. And you thought, OK, now they're really going to get slaughtered. But they didn't.
First they won the first Test with a record last wicket partnership of 78 in a match which is being hailed as one of the great modern classics of Test cricket. Then they won the second Test quite comfortably, thanks very much.
No one saw this coming. And here's the big question. Actually there are several questions:
Is South Africa so bad at the moment that they made Sri Lanka look good?
Or is Australia better than we think?
Or is sport this essentially random thing where results can be predicted to some degree but not with certainty, and that's why a) we love it and b) sports bookies exist?
We think the answers are no, no and yes, in that order.