Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan has announced today, to widespread astonishment, that Chelsea's upcoming Premier League match against Wigan has been cancelled. Well, almost. In lieu of the traditional football match to decide the tie, the ageing grappler has announced that both teams will decide the fixture with a cricket match.
In the BBC's weekly Premier League predictions competition, Mark Lawrenson competes against a host of celebrity guests to predict the football results. This week, WWE legend Hulk Hogan is the guest chosen to compete. While most of his scores were fairly reasonable, he stunned the football world by announcing that, in lieu of the traditional football match, the Chelsea - Wigan Athletic fixture would be settled by a special one-off T20 cricket match. In addition to springing the surprise of the millennium on football fans everywhere and declaring his secret love for the game of cricket, Hogan predicted that Chelsea would rush out to a quick score of 40 for the loss of just one wicket, before Wigan, seeing the futility of their efforts, would concede the match.
Given the entirely-unprecedented nature of this event, the media, the football authorities, and other clubs have been left scrambling to understand how this match could possibly stand in for a normal football match. Apparently, though, there has always been a loophole in the Laws of the Game allowing two clubs to complete a fixture with a match of a different sport, which has thus far been relatively under-exploited. The only previous use of this loophole also involved Wigan, who played a game of rugby in an FA Cup Third Round tie against Hull City in January 2010. The fact that the match was played under a different code of football had evidently gone unnoticed for three whole years, before being uncovered yesterday.
There are very few reports on the availability of the Chelsea squad for this match, but it's understood that the club are attempting to get clearance to add cricketers Dale Steyn and Kevin Pietersen to the squad in time for the match. Both are known to support Chelsea, and are said to relish the opportunity to represent their club in its time of need. The same reports suggest that despite their lobbying, the decision has only 30% chance of being favourable to Chelsea. If Chelsea are successful, expect Pietersen to open the batting with Frank Lampard, and Steyn to form one half of a formidable pace attack with Ramires. If, however, they aren't given clearance to play, John Terry or Gary Cahill will step in to open with Lampard, and surprise-choice Cesar Azpilicueta will replace Steyn in the attack.Petr Cech will also be a late fitness test with a broken little finger. Ross Turnbull will take the gloves if he doesn't pass.
Little is known of Wigan's planned lineup, but Chelsea are expected to put out the following side:
FJ Lampard (c), GJ Cahill, D Ba, JM Mata, O Emboaba, E Hazard, P Cech (wk), DL Moreira Marinho, R Nascimento, A Cole, C Azpilicueta
With this lineup, Chelsea should do rather well against Wigan. Reports say Chelsea have been honing their cricket skills in training for months ahead of this match, and explain the hiring of Rafa Benitez as a cricket-motivated one. The Spaniard is said to have developed a keen love of the game in his time with Liverpool, and was preferred to Roberto di Matteo, who had virtually no experience with cricket. There has been no word on Roberto Martinez' fondness for cricket.
All in all, Chelsea should win this quite easily. I predict a nine-wicket win for the Blues.
[Alternate explanation: Hulk Hogan is a total loon who predicted a 40-1 score in a football match.]