If you thought the first week of the Under-19 World Cup was going to be boring, think again. There's a very good chance that by Friday night, both the winner and runner-up of the 2002 competition might be finished for 2004.
Sixteen games in the first four days of competition, fourteen predictable results. Some of them quite comprehensive. Then on Wednesday, Nepal upset South Africa's applecart, beating the 2002 finalists by one wicket with two balls to spare after earlier in the day having them on the ropes at 62 for 7.
Cricket's global community expanded just a little further on Friday February 6 when the Netherlands Antilles hosted its first first-class cricket match. The Leeward Islands played host to the Windwards in their Carib Beer Series match at the Carib Lumber Ground, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. The Netherlands Antilles is now the 35th country to host first-class cricket.
Zimbabwe departs from the VB Series with their worst record in three outings in the Australian triangular. At least they managed one win in both 1994-95 and 2000-01. This time, a washout at the MCG was the best they could muster.
The sad thing is that Zimbabwe's cricket team is not improving. The upper order batting collapsed on a regular basis and the bowlers suffered some extraordinary punishment at times, most notably at the hands of Adam Gilchrist in Hobart. Only Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle, Grant Fowler and Sean Ervine can really hold their heads up as players of genuine international calibre.
It's not exactly in the same league as selling mail order Via*gra, X[a]nax or p3nis enlargements, but the Zimbabwe Cricket Union's unsolicited email to the eighteen first-class English counties on Monday will go down as one of the daftest acts by a cricket administration in recent times.
The Zimbabwe Cricket Union, stretched for funds in a deteriorating economy and suffering on the field from a drain of most of its best players, is desperate for every scheduled international tour to its country to proceed. And with October's tour by England in serious danger of cancellation, ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka and chief executive Vince Hogg were desperate enough to decide to bypass the ECB and appeal directly to the county administrations.
Bangladesh has just announced its touring team to play two Tests and five one-day internationals in Zimbabwe next month. Namibia has just completed a series of five matches in Zimbabwe against the national under-19 and A teams. Meanwhile, England is fretting over the prospects of touring Zimbabwe in October.
The Zimbabwean cricket team is currently in Australia for the VB Series, making its second trip to that country in three months. The Zimbabwean soccer team is currently in Tunisia for the African Cup of Nations, and lost their opening game to Egypt on Sunday. They had to change their travel plans from Harare to Tunis when the British Government refused to give them transit visas to make a stopover at Heathrow en route.
Last Thursday night, I was watching David Hookes on Fox Sports hosting the one-hour "Inside Cricket" program as he did every week. On Sunday, Hookesy was coach of Victoria as they won their ING Cup game against his old state South Australia. Now, he's gone.
Not since Marcus Trescothick spilled his minties at short extra cover in the Trent Bridge Test of 2001 has cricket seen a lolly scandal such as that which engulfed Rahul Dravid at The Gabba on Tuesday night.
There were 26,190 people at Telstra Stadium at Sydney's Olympic Park for a Saturday night interstate cricket match. In an arena of 80,000 capacity, this was the biggest crowd to see a day's play of a New South Wales home game in more than forty years.
They didn't get a win - Queensland won the ING Cup game with two balls to spare and two wickets in hand - but the popular success of the evening suggests that we will see more such games taken to the former Stadium Australia in future.
It's that time of year again, as I choose my annual World Under-25 XI, my selection of the best players in the world at Test level born on or after 1 January 1979.
My selections, in batting order and including nationality and date of birth:
A little later than intended, my apologies, but here is my selection of the top ten cricket news stories in the 2003 calendar year, presented in reverse order.
As some of you would know, I compiled an annual list along these lines for CricInfo a few years ago in consultation with CricInfo workers and correspondents around the world. This year's list I have done myself.
10. THE RISE OF GRAEME SMITH: