Whistle blows. Come on kids, playtime is over. Get yourself back inside for another day of excruciating cricket lessons. Oi Keith I said playtime is over! Stop playing kiss chase and get your sorry butt inside my classroom. Otherwise you’ll be spending tomorrow lunch on the naughty mat; a prickly punishment that will leave you squealing in pain. Excellent – that’s a proper deterrent. All inside? This week we have a rare treat for you as the cricket lessons are taught through the magical world of animation…

1) Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

Following the journey of a wild, rambunctious stallion as he journeys through the untamed American frontier, Spirit remains unbroken despite suffering at the brutal hands of man. This is a tale of courage, friendship and love, as the noble horse becomes one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Old West. Defying the odds he retains a sense of compassion and comradeship with a Native American, attempting to bridge the gap between man and beast. Spirit possesses true loyalty and embodies the meaning of his name.

Unlike Ravi Ashwin.

A player who this week has carried out an action which has thrown the spirit of cricket into jeopardy. Bowling for Kings XI Punjab in their first match of the IPL against a star studded Rajasthan Royal batting line up, Ashwin performed a sneaky act which caused Twitter and the cricketing public to gasp in horror. He mankaded Jos Buttler!

No, that’s not the phrase used when you pull someone’s pants down. Or anything to do with the genital region. In fact, ‘mankad’ means you run the non-facing batsman out, as you (the bowler) come in to bowl. Hence it will occur if you see the batsman attempting to gain an advantage and move down the wicket before your delivery is released. As Ashwin sauntered into bowl he noticed Jos was slightly out of his ground and WHAM knocked the bails off before he had a chance to react. Butter was furious. Is the protocol not to warn the batsman? What kind of example does that set to kids? Which coward would ever do such a thing?

The answers: yes, atrocious and Ravi Ashwin.

Totally against the spirit of the game…

2) The Incredibles

Forget the two Incredibles movies produced thus far, this cricket lesson proposes the dawn of a new series, centring on Mrs Incredible. Because this week England Women completed their ninth victory in a row, a thrashing of Sri Lanka by eight wickets. Not only does it mean England take an unassailable lead in the series but it’s also a superb consecutive achievement for Heather Knight’s incredible ladies.

Chasing just 108, Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones pulled together a brilliant 79 first wicket partnership, meaning the result was never in doubt. Since a consolation victory in the last match of the ODI series against India, England have not been beaten. With elasticity they whitewashed India 3-0 in their T20 series, before smashing Sri Lanka in the ODI’s by the same score line. A force field has sprung up around this side, controlled through the captaincy of Knight. Despite fielding a weakened side in Sri Lanka, with no Ecclestone, Cross or Hartley, the victories demonstrate a positive depth in the squad, allowing debuts for the likes of Winfield and Dunkley. Yes, Sri Lanka women may not be the trickiest opponent but it’s been an incredible tour for England Women as their level has been lifted.

With Mrs Incredible saving the day over the winter and having a glistening trophy in her cabinet since 2017, it’s now over to Mr Incredible to triumph in the World Cup this summer. Were England to hold both trophies at the same time, it truly would be an incredible achievement.

3) Walle:E

A lonely robot who’s been left behind and spends his time wishing for female company, before being given a second chance and beginning a whole new adventure… which cricketer does that sound like?  Why Cameron Bancroft of course! This week it was announced Australia’s biggest wally has been gifted the captaincy of Durham. Yep, that’s correct. The guy who was peer pressured into stuffing sandpaper down his pants, is going to be Durham’s captain for the 2019 season. What a leader!

Coach James Franklin believes Cameron to be the perfect choice as ‘we’re confident he has the attributes to lead.’ Lead Durham where, into the nearest B&Q? Goodness me, what an appalling example to give the younger players. Who, by the way, know exactly what kind of character Bannie is. It’s not like their heads have been stuck in the sand; how can Bancroft expect respect when he was part of the most heinous controversy in cricket?

Franklin (who Cameron must have dirt on) continues, ‘Cameron has incredible experience at the top level.’ Incredible experience? At doing what – receiving a ban for your country?! This is a guy who only played eight times for the Aussies with an average of 30.9. It’s a kick in the teeth for promising youngsters at Durham, like Steel and Lees who could have grown and developed as leaders with the captaincy.

Instead it’s gone to a cheat. We’re all for redemption at HFAL HQ but this is a bit much. You wouldn’t allow your wives lover to carve the roast turkey would you? Cameron has been rewarded far too soon.

Durham, you wallies!

4) Madagascar

Escaping the cage of winter this week are Surrey, who roam free in the wilds of Dubai. Taking on an MCC selected 11, it’s the annual curtain raiser as the county champions whet their appetite on a youthful rump of steak. With the thermometer showing heat warmer than Madagascar, the first three days have proved exotically exciting. Not least for young lion cub Ollie Pope whose mane growth over the past season has been exponential. Making his debut for England last summer and in the squad over the winter, 2019 may see Pope reach giraffe like heights.

Certainly Ollie has caused a hippo like splash in the first innings with a mesmerising 251. Moving like a lemur around the crease, he struck a whopping 23 fours and 6 sixes in a dynamic display. Nothing cute or cuddly about this kid, as he left Dom Bess with figures of 1-159. Even wise owl Stuart Broad spent more time swivelling his head to gaze at a disappearing boundary ball, than penetrating the defence of Pope.

Ably supported by debutant Jamie Smith, the pair put on 266 crashing Surrey’s total to 520. Whilst Pope’s 251 is the highest total by a Surrey batsman since a certain KP back in 2013. Many have Surrey down as retainers of their title this summer but if Pope disappears to England duty they’ll be losing a key cog in the side. Let’s hope they don’t turn south like the penguins in Madagascar…

‘You like to hit it, hit it. Pope likes to… HIT IT!’

5) Despicable Me

Eurgh, I feel disgusted with myself. This last cricket lesson is nothing more than a sickening dose of self-publicity. An attempt to increase popularity and yes, take over the cricketing world. How despicable! Well let’s get it over with then…

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We bring the laughs, Cricshop bring the laughable discounts! Go and check out the deals in preparation for the upcoming season… https://cricshop.com/

Here end our lessons learned. Animation may bring magic but it doesn’t make your homework disappear. This week purchase one item on Cricshop, create your own superhero and visit the zoo. I’m off to animate the pumps at my local. Class dismissed!