Alas, poor South Africa

In addition to everything else, South Africa also needed to deal with the umpires telling Faf du Plessis there was too much pink in his gear Christiaan Kotze/AFP via Getty

The playground harassment
South Africa are not in a good way. They've recently lost Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla, two of their greatest players ever. They had such a poor World Cup campaign last year they didn't even get the chance to pull off a high-comedy choke. Their board was in turmoil as well. It was sad to see them struggle on so many fronts, many felt. The sport can't afford for South Africa to dip so drastically, the cricket world agreed. Then England showed up, and like bullies picking on the weakest kid in school, kicked South Africa in the groin in Cape Town, stole their lunch money in Port Elizabeth, and rubbed their faces in the dirt in Johannesburg. On top of which Jos Buttler called Vernon Philander a fatty in Philander's last series ever, and Ben Stokes called a South Africa supporter a "f**king four-eyed c**t".

The triple-trip tour
Is Pakistan safe? This is a question the Bangladesh Cricket Board pondered for months. Or at least this is the question they said they were pondering. There was nothing they didn't supposedly consider - whether limited-overs games are a safer option than Tests, whether the team should be flown back to Dhaka in between matches, whether rising tensions between the US and Iran would make it more risky, and probably whether this kind of sports engagement is even appropriate following the planet-shaking revelations that Meghan and Harry will be stepping away from royal duties. Then, after weeks of insisting they just wanted a simple in-and-out T20I tour for security reasons, the BCB's president met with the PCB's head honcho and confirmed that they would be coming not just once, for T20Is, but coming back for a first Test, and then a third time for a second Test, in the most convoluted touring schedule in recent memory.

The karma black hole
How many hearts can one team win until that team gets sick of winning just hearts? On Wednesday, New Zealand were on the wrong side of a Super Over result for the third time in eight months, having of course cruelly lost the World Cup in similar fashion, before being beaten by England in a Super Over again last year. As the undisputed nicest fellows in the world they are generating industrial amounts of good karma, but clearly this karma is being misplaced. Somewhere in the world a monster who never indicates in traffic keeps winning lottery.

The long-term prank
Angelo Mathews knew that former coach Chandika Hathurusingha wanted him to lose weight. In fact, back in October 2018, Hathurusingha even suggested publicly that Mathews needed to work on his fitness, after he was part of the decision to sack Mathews as captain and drop him from the ODI team. Mathews, though, was publicly defiant of Hathurusingha, and never quite lost all the weight.

Then, last month, just as SLC finally got around to terminating Hathurusingha's contract as head coach, Mathews turned up for the T20Is against India rocking a flat stomach and exactly the slim physique Hathurusingha had wanted.

Show some respect
In the last week of January, Kevin Pietersen launched a two-part Twitter tirade at the "cry babies" criticising Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, suggesting that their detractors should "keep it zipped" because these men are in positions of authority. Wait till he hears about the guy who seriously undermined the captaincy of Andrew Strauss that one time.

Next month on the Briefing

- The England team spot Faf du Plessis (who averaged 18.86 in the Test series) on the side of the road. They all jump out of their bus and give him a wedgie.

- The Bangladesh Cricket Board wonders if the fallout from Brexit could put their tour of Pakistan in fresh jeopardy.

- New Zealand endure another close heartbreak. Cigarette stocks soar worldwide.