Saturday, December 29, 2007

Seven Ball Over

- An excellent result in Port Elizabeth. I've said it here before, but it's well worth repeating - international cricket needs a successful West Indies side. Admittedly one swallow doesn't make a summer but there are hugely encouraging signs in this, unexpected, victory. Although they'll never win many fans for entertainment, South Africa are never a pushover - especially on their home turf.

- Has someone told Chris Gayle that they aren't playing 20/20 anymore?

- File this under 'They Shoot Horses Don't They?' - By the end of the third test, South Africa and West Indies will have played 15 days cricket in 20 days!

- For the Jaapies, sudden signs of aging. Pollock is 35 -and we may have already seen the last of him. The loathesome Hershelle Gibbs is 34, Kallis a year younger. They are going to be entering a time of transition pretty soon - and it's going to take more than Graeme Smith abusing opposing batsmen and glaring at the umpire for ten minutes if a decision doesn't go his way to paper over the cracks.

- At home, another News Years Honours List is published and somewhere in Yorkshire, Geoff Boycott just became ever so slightly more bitter...

- Congratulations to KP and his new wife Jessica Taylor. Like all celebrity hook-ups, it's bound to last for decades.

- I can only think of two England test players who have postively enhanced their reputation in the past 12 months - Cook, who is increasingly looking like a good bet to break test match run records before he's through, and Ryan Sidebottom.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

99.94

John Arlott narrates some Bradman highlights.

It doesn't Arlott's mini-masterpiece describing the last at bat, so for completeness sake, here it is: -

"Hollies pitches the ball up slowly and ...he's bowled...Bradman bowled Hollies nought...bowled Hollies nought...and what do you say under these circumstances? I wonder if you see the ball very clearly in your last Test in England, on a ground where you've played some of the biggest cricket in your life and where the opposing side has just stood round you and given you three cheers and the crowd has clapped you all the way to the wicket. I wonder if you see the ball at all."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

These are a few of my favourite things...

Two albums, two films and two books.







Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two for the Show

Two things to get off my chest...

1. Ravi Bopara is NOT a test cricketer. He may become one eventually, but at the present time - 22nd December 2007, he is not of sufficient quality to justify his place in the England side. Neither his batting or bowling are up to test standard - so why on earth did Moores persist in picking him ahead of Shah, especially when you have other batsmen in the side (Collingwood for example) who can bowl the bits and pieces overs equally effectively as Essex-Boy.

England need to accept that we haven't got an all-rounder to replace Freddie, stop trying to pretend that we have and balance the side accordingly.

When Bopara was batting and bowling I was reminded of Ian Greig - and that's not a compliment.


2. Everyone has fallen bigtime for the Monty Panesar schtik now, so it might seem a bit churlish to start slagging the guy off - but should our 'hearts really be in our mouths' (Copyright - every Sky commentator) every time a catch goes in his direction?

Yes, his primary skill is his bowling, so he can be forgiven for a certain level of incompetence with the bat - but fielding is something that you can improve with regular practice. it was all smiles when he held the skyer, but in the field he still comes across like Bambi on ice.

Duncan Fletcher made the point in his recent book - what were Northants playing at in letting him reach the England squad without being able to field?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Drugs Don't Work

America's Pastime takes a BIG hit.

A lot of the respected journalists (Peter Gammons for example) who you'd normally go to for insight and decent comment about this, are coming down on the players side - 'guilty without trial' etc. Which means that either: -

1)The report is a total and utter fabrication from start to finish. (Unlikely)

2)Those reporters have been wandering around clubhouses with their eyes shut for the past twenty years. (Unlikely)

3) They knew what was happening and couldn't bring themselves to report it because they thought it might threaten their future access to the players, and they were quite happy to collude in a scandal that's going to cause Baseball irreperable harm. (Sadly, very possible)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

War and Peace

The following is an unedited transcript of the BBC Home Service news from 6th August 1945.

Before reading it, it's worth bearing in mind that at this time the BBC was effectively the authoritative voice of freedom throughout the world. During the war, families and friends had religiously gathered every evening around wireless sets to listen to, and digest, each news bulletin. (No reality TV in those days) People across Occupied Europe had done likewise, risking a one-way trip to a concentration camp or even a bullet in the back of the head if they got caught. All over the world it became an umbilical cord to liberty and a beacon of light for millions of people enduring darkness.

Good Evening,

President Truman has announced a tremendous achievement by the Allied scientists. They have produced an atomic bomb. One has already been dropped on a Japanese Army base. it alone contains as much explosive power as two thousand of our great ten tonners. The president has also foreshadowed the enormous peacetime value of harnessing atomic energy.

At home, it's been a Bank Holiday of thunderstorms as well as sunshine. A record crowd at Lords has seen Australia make 286 for five wickets
.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Viva El Presidente!"

Excellent article by Mike Atherton on the newly appointed MCC President, Mike 'Ayatollah' Brearley himself!

Third Eye

It's surely only a matter of time now before a batsman sees the replay of his dismissal on the big screen on the way off the park and refuses to leave the field until the umpires consult the third umpire.

KP came very close to that today. I can only assume that he must have had some sort of signal from the England dressing room along the lines of "get off the field now or your match fee goes up in smoke", which would have persauded him to continue on his way.

I liked Ian Ward's suggestion from the Sky Studio - fit the umpires up with some sort of buzzer that the third umpire can use if he feels there should be a referral. I also liked Rob Key's comment about making it a cattle prod! Alistair Cook will doubtless concur that Daryl Harper could well do with 50,000 volts coarsing through his veins after his LBW shocker.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Building the Perfect Beast

Soon after his retirement, Fred Trueman was asked who he thought might break his test wicket record of 307. "I haven't got a bloody clue'' he is alleged to have replied (and actually continued to prove in any number of subsequent TMS radio stints) "but whoever it is will be bloody tired!" For reference, it was Lance Gibbs, who bowled about a million overs to do it - admittedly off of about three languid paces.

I'm not sure if anyone's asked the current record holder - but I'd suspect that his response would be similar - if slightly less bluff.

Of those still active, Pollock and Kumble are closest, but you can't see either of them getting close - especially given that HWAMNBQ has vowed to press on to even greater heights. Beyond that, it's something of a lottery, In all honesty, there are no outstanding bowlers who make you think 'Wow, he's going to pick up a stack of wickets'. Good bowlers, yes - but no one really outstanding.

Having said that, I don't agree with some commentators who have effectively written off the possiblity of anyone ever getting to the record.

Don't get me wrong, it's not going to be a cinch - but the number of tests played these days means that it's surely not that much of a stretch. England, like most teams, average 13-15 tests in an average calendar year. Averaging five wickets per test, 150 tests is a 10 year career - an incredible achievement sure, but not totally far-fetched. Not as far fetched as, say, someone averaging more than 99.94 in their test career.

Shane Warne's career lasted fourteen years, so has Murali's. If you start when you're 20/21, to still be wheeling away when you're 35 isn't beyond the realms of possibility.

However, the bowler would have to be something slightly out of the ordinary. He'd have to have a pretty good USP to use some Marketing-speak.

Quick bowling and limitless stamina will get you so far - Walsh and Ambrose each got over 450 wickets. Metronomic accuracy and consistency will get you rewards too - 500 or so of them given sufficient fitness - vis. Kumble, McGrath and (eventually) Pollock. But it takes something exceptional to take you into the stratosphere. Warne turned leg spin into an artform by effectively approaching it with a quick bowlers attitude, huge turn, mixed with miserly control of line and length normally associated with finger spinners. As for Murali - well we all have a different ideas of what his USP is...

So what sort of bowler will it be? Here's a chance for the famous TRSM crystal ball to enjoy an airing. Admittedly it's the same crystal ball that predicted England getting a draw in last winter's Ashes series and that Roy Keane wouldn't last a month in charge at Sunderland but, hey, no one's infallible.

- It'll have to be a spinner. Unless genetic engineering makes massive advances, there's no way a fast bowler will last long enough to reach 800 plus wickets.

- Most likely from the sub continent, possibly Australia.

- They'll have to be a superb athlete.

- They'll have to be seen as a bowler only - nowhere near an all-rounder. It's to Warne's huge credit that he actually became a pretty useful No. 8 over the course of his career - at one stage in Summer 2005 he was carrying the Australian's bowling AND batting!!

- He'll have to drop out of ODI cricket fairly early.

Maybe, then, a tall leg spinner, bowling leg breaks with uncommon accuracy - capable of varying pace, to the point of being able to deliver fast leg cutters - possibly a version of Kumble with about half the number of ODI appearances.

Never say never.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Question Time

A lot of sensible cricket commentators (and Bumble) are suggesting that HWAMNBQ's record will never be broken.

My thoughts to follow. Yours?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Separated at Birth?


Rock legend Carlos Santana


Umpire Rauf

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

JK Rowling meets JK Lever

It seems to me that Murali has now become the 'Voldemort' of the cricketing world. A Hogwartian scenario where there's almost an unspoken vow of omerta surrouding 'He whose action must not be questioned' (HWAMNBQ for short) as though even the merest reference to a 20 degree plus bend in his elbow will result in the perpetrator being exiled to Azkerban without delay - or Glamorgan CC as it's known on the county circuit.

Keep a close eye on the Sky camera angles when hostilities commence on Saturday - expect lots of long shots from about a mile and a half away, mixed up with close ups so you can see the hairs on the back of his hand. Nothing, in other words, that can be slowed down, using the modern camera technology they have available, to give the impression of anything untoward.

On the same subject, the TRSM Prediction Competition is now closed. You'll recall that we asked you to guess how many times any of the normally fiercely outspoken Sky commentators would refer to 'the action'. The most popular entry by far was 'one', which almost everyone predicted will be made by Nasser Hussain, followed by the sound of a muffled struggle in the commentary box, chairs overturning and Nasser being gagged, hog-tied, put into a sack to be carried away by the ICC goons on duty.

Anyway, if you can ignore the 600 lb gorilla in the corner of the room, it promises to be a fascinating series. Sri Lanka got a good pasting from the Australians, although they'd have taken some heart from the Sangakara rearguard on the final day of the series, so it'll be interesting to see how they fare against an England side whose last test foray abroad was equally abject.

Happily back on home soil, it's unlikely that HWAMNBQ will have to toil to the extent that he did in Brisbane or Hobart - in fact the whole bowling attack will be much more comfortable, and thus threatening, than they were Downunder.

You have to suggest that this will be the last time England have to face Chaminda Vaas - It's a measure of how the increased number of tests over the past twenty years or so has skewed our reality of cricketing records that we took for granted. It's still extraordinary to think that he's picked up more test wickets in his career than Fred Trueman.

For England, there was an incredible sense of predictability in the warm up game headlines: -

Cook makes runs - check
KP stutters, then comes good - check
Ditto Matty - check
Harmy suffers some sort of twinge - check
Another of the quicks breaks down - check
One batsman struggles and has to go into the first test with few runs to his name - check

Finally, you really have to pick Shah over Bopara - at least for the first test. A decent bat coming in six is far preferable to an all-rounder at this stage, especially as England have Collingwood, Bell the Skipper and KP who can turn their arms over if a four man bowling attack struggles or one of the four pulls a fetlock.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Colin Cowdrey's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The good folk over at Holding Willey have asked contributors to suggest the most important dates in cricket history.

Here's my suggestion....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Alternative TV

Nice piece by Tony on AGB regarding the state of cricket TV coverage Down Under.

In case you're wondering, 'Spanky' is ex Somerset skipper Peter Roebuck. Why? Well.... let's just say he spent time as a school teacher, and may have got slightly over-zealous on the 'discipline' front at times.

Good Behaviour

Lords is to keep it's unique alcohol exemption.

Lord's will be allowed to keep its exemption from the alcohol rule, having won the right from the International Cricket Council to be considered as a special case because of its long tradition of spectators bringing wine-laden picnic hampers and its reputation for well behaved crowds.
(Guardian 21/11/07)

'Well behaved'? I suspect Dickie Bird and David Constant would beg to differ. After all, they still remain the only two umpires to have ever been assaulted by spectators in a test match arena - by MCC members on the steps of the pavilion at Lords no less.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Iron Heel


Lest we forget, 15 years later, he's under house arrest and things are looking decidedly 'wobbly' in Pakistan.

Of course, it's not like other test playing nations are free from civil upheaval. After all, the day after this game finished in 1975 the democratically elected government of the hosts was overthrown in a coup as equally effective as that in Chile two years before.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Day the World Turned Dayglo

Oh, for heavens sake.

Why not go the whole hog and put a flashing light in them - play all ODIs at Club 54 in New York.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Never Mind the Bouncers

I’m going to see the Sex Pistols at Brixton on Wednesday

I suspect that roughly the same number who’ll see them on this tour (@ 100,000) say they saw them at the 100 Club in 1976.

To be honest I was initially in two minds when offered a ticket, and have to confess it was a rather halfhearted ‘yes’ when I accepted. Then I went back and watched ‘Filth & the Fury’ and appreciated again the incredible impact of the huge turd they laid in the establishment punch bowl.

The famous images of crusty old God Squad leaders in Caerphilly ‘protecting their children’ from such a thing – obviously the ones sending the same kids to Catholic schools were happy with the attentions they were getting from the priests there….

Then there’s the famous story of the lorry driver who threw an ashtray threw his TV screen during the legendary ‘Grundy’ appearance, because didn’t want his kids to see or hear such filth. Presumably he then swore at his wife because his dinner wasn't on the table, and got upset because the TV was busted and the family couldn’t all sit round and watch such highbrow entertainment like Bernard Manning on The Comedians' or Love Thy Neighbour.

When you hear about all the abuse Rotten put up with throughout the Summer of ‘77 and consider that he was probably vilified more than the Yorkshire Ripper, who was pretty active at the time, and you think that you’re quite happy to slip a few bob into his retirement fund.

Then there was the clincher – I listened to the ‘four singles’ – Anarchy, Vacant, Queen, and Holidays (yet) again. All of them pack a punch that the likes of the Gallagher Brothers and other subsequent ‘rock Gods’ can only dream about. God Save the Queen is still far and away the best rock single ever made, and all four of taken together are a remarkable canon of work that any rock band would be proud of.

If they can create a tenth of the energy that comes from listening to those songs, then it will be a worthwhile evening.

Of course, it’ll be a gig with a twist. After all, there’s no point the crowd shouting out requests for their favourites – almost uniquely you know exactly what the set list will be!

So what’s this got to do with cricket? Well, how about these: -

Pretty Vacant
This should really be the Barmy Army theme song.
‘Stop your cheap comments – we know what we feel’ and so on.

Liar
After the five England selectors sat down and picked their side for the 1968/69 tour to apartheid South Africa, Basil D’olivera was not chosen, yet three of the five subsequently told Bas’ that they voted for him. The two who never commented were Don Kenyon (his former Worcestershire county colleague) and Gubby Allen.

‘Never trust a hippy’? Never trust an MCC member.

God Save the Queen
Talking of Gubby Allen…

No Fun
Famous cover of an Iggy Pop classic – obvious prescient reference to the impending ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ period of West Indian fast bowler dominance.

No Feelings
“You better understand it,
I’m in love with myself
my beautiful self.”

Theme tune for Sir Ian Botham anyone?!

Can't Afford a Cannon...

A wonderful timewaster.

Basically it's billiards with a Chinese accent.

Try it!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Bends

Well played Yobbo.

(Thanks to Tony for the heads up)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Asterix



Hand in Glove

"The wicket-keeper has got to be in the batsman's ear now and again - that's
what all great wicket-keepers do."

(Duncan Fletcher)

Actually, what all the great ones do is hold catches, keep byes to a premium and generally inspire the rest of the fielding side with their performance behind the stumps.

You could argue that if you're busy questioning a batsman's parentage, or picking holes in his technique or lifestyle, then you aren't properly concentrating on the job in hand.

That's not to suggest that keepers should suddenly come over all Trappist, but surely there's a balance to be found - and a selection criteria where gobbiness counts for as much as glovework and batting ability is plain wrong.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Leader of the Gang

Ok, lets see if I've got this right: -

After 2005 Duncan was the most popular boy in the school and had seemingly mastered all the dark arts, like turning Fosters into wine, and curing the sick. Everyone said that he was the 'proper leader'.

Then things started getting messy. Freddie got injured and hit the bottle again. He and Steve started spending too long with Ian, who filled their heads with all sorts of rubbish and convinced them that because he could function ok on five bottles of claret and two hours sleep a night, so could they. Duncan got worried that Freddie and Steve might sulk if Andrew was made 'proper leader' so he made Freddie 'proper leader'- but only for this one fight. He told Freddie that he thought Steve would act like a big girls blouse if Freddie was'nt made leader - only to find that he had already decided to act like that anyway - regardless of who was 'proper leader'.

David listened to Ian too much too, and even though he was another 'proper leader', twatted around when a big decision was called for and let all the journalists make up his mind for him.

Duncan wanted Monty and Saj in his gang, but the others still wanted Ashley, who hadn't been seen with the gang in months, and Jimmy - who had a nasty habit of fouling himself before the gang got into any big fights.

Duncan also wanted Matt, but was told he had to have Chris.

The other David (who could also be seen as the 'proper leader') stayed friends with Duncan but didn't back him up when the rest of the gang teamed up against him.

Then there was Michael - who was yet another who thought he was the 'proper leader'. He got injured too, and when he tried to help Duncan, Duncan told him that he was the 'proper leader' Michael wasn't, and Michael should sod off.

In the meantime Duncan had written a book after the 2005 fight which told how he made a complete prat out of Ricky - the leader of the opposing gang. Ricky got rather narked about it, showed it to all his mates, and they all told him not to worry, they'd make Duncan pay big time. Even Shane and Glenn decided to give it one more go to get Ricky his revenge.

In the real world, thousands of England fans spent huge amounts of money and time following the team Down Under in the passionate belief that this time things would be different and that we wouldn't slink back into Heathrow with our tails between our legs after another good Aussie shoeing.

Just shows how wrong you can be sometimes.

Thanks to the childishness and pathetic behaviour of the squad and the so called management, it was all time and money wasted.

'Proper leaders'? Proper Charlies.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bunnies

Aussie cricket blogs seem to be breeding faster than their rabbit population famously did all those years ago.

Here's another good one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Boys of Summer

Stuart's excellent club cricket soap opera prompted these four thoughts from my own personal archive of memories: -

Exhibit A - We went out after tea, defending a small target - around 120. Our skipper opened the bowling. (and the batting, and fielded first slip for that matter - but anyone who's played the game knows that rank egotism occurs at all levels) He exhorted us from the start of his run up - ''On your toes lads, keep it tight, make 'em fight for every run'' Down came the first ball, a rank long hop that was ceremoniously knocked out of the ground, over the South Circular dual carriageway and into the park on the other side of the road, causing picnic parties to scatter.

Cue much hilarity on the fielding side, and the old favourite of 'something travelling that far in the sky normally has a stewardess on it' getting another welcome airing.

In the pub later, some bright sparkworked out it ended in a different London Borough to which it started.

Exhibit B - One of our regular opponents had a couple of batsmen who were very competitive - they used to compare averages, which is always a dubious practice in my book - a bit like school kids behind the bikeshed comparing the size of their tools.

At the end of one season, Batsman A had a 20 run lead over his rival. He happily went off on holiday a week later, only for Batsman B to arrange another game, in foul autumn conditions that even rugby players were dubious about playing in, to allow himself to score the required runs to top the averages.

The following year Batsman A got his revenge by creating a mythical game in the scorebook when Batsman B was on his travels.

Exhibit C - Playing our local rivals who we rarely came close to beating, on this occasion we were surprisingly on top. They were 70 odd for four chasing 150. One more wicket would probably clinch it.

Then their umpire took a hand and gave a batsman 'not out' after being BOWLED, saying the ball came back off the keepers pads. Said keeper then had to be physically restrained by three colleagues. Meanwhile the rest of us became forensic experts, looking at the bails at least three feet behind the stumps, and the off stump pointing backwards towards first slip.

Next over from that end, the bowler deliberately walked over and gave his sweater to the square leg umpire rather than to the one with the white stick and dog at the bowlers end! The kicker was after the game (which we lost) when we asked the batsman why he didn't walk. 'My Dad's a good umpire - he always gets it right'.

Exhibit D - I was bowling. The skipper put a fielder at short leg. I'm never sure why we do this. Most of out cricket is played on pretty placid wickets where the ball hardly ever gets above stump height, and none of us can fling it down at anything above medium/quick. Following the gameplan, though, I dropped one in short in the vain hope that it might rear up into the batsman's chest. Instead, his eyes lit up and the ball came off the bat like an exocet - smack into the skull of the fielder three yards from the bat.

The batsman then came out of his ground to join the concerned ring round the prone figure, at which point our keeper ran him out. We subsequently withdrew the appeal - round about the time the ambulance turned up.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Things to do in Denver


Is it a bird, is it a plane.....???

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crying of the Chappell

Thanks to Tony at After Grog Blog for pointing this out.

It's common knowledge that there's no love lost between Both' and Chappell (I). There seem to be so many conflicting stories and theories surrounding the famous night in the Melbourne bar in 1977 that you expect to hear next that Chappell was standing on a grassy knoll when Beefy lamped him - 'back and to the left' indeed...

As for Chappell's comment about 'skeletons in Botham's closet', are there any more that could come out that would really shock us? Unmasked as a member of the Socialist Workers Party, or co-author of a vegetarian cookbook with Alan Lamb perhaps.

Maybe what really rankles with Australians is Botham's Ashes record - played 33, won 17, drew 10, lost 6.

Ricky Just Lost That Number

Scene, a Test Match sometime in the near future. Australia have lost the toss and are fielding. They get an immediate psychological boost through being back in white clothing, rather than the figure hugging 'Asda check out girl' one day garb, but gradually that positive feeling starts to recede as they struggle in the field.

Let's pay a visit to the cavernous cerebellum of Ricky Ponting for a verbatim transcript of his thoughts...

Hmmm (chew gum) - 232 for 1, and they're going at five an over (chew again). Time to put (chew) the brakes on. (Chew, chew again, chew, poke gum out of mouth, chew, chew) Stuey's buggered (chew), Bretts been spraying it around (chew chew) like a drunk pissing in an alley (chew chew chew - swallow saliva build up, chew chew) and Bracken's not getting a (chew) look in 'til he gets a f***** haircut. (Chew, chew, chew, roll gum into ball with tongue, chew, chew, chew) Now (chew) where did I hide (chew) McGrath.... where is he, where's the (chew) bugger hiding? (Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew chew.....)

"Hey, Gillie - has Glenn gone off for a slash?"

Gilchrist looks perplexed - "Sorry Skipper, Glenn retired last summer.... remember?"

Shit, I'd forgotten. (chew chew, poke gum out of mouth, chew) That's a bit of a blow - I reckon we're really going to miss him. Oh well - I suppose there's always (chew, chew, grind teeth, chew) Text-Boy....

''Start getting loose Warney''

A baffled Gilchrist again "Erm, that's Matty Hayden at slip Skipper - Warney retired last summer too...."

Damn, forgot again (chew, chew, chew, chew, swallow saliva, roll gum between lips like it's a cigarette, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, keep chewing, chew.....) Now we're screwed.....

There's a strong rumour doing the rounds in Australia that a lot of players were tipped off years before the event and collected a fortune after the Sydney Test by having bet that McGrath and Warne would retire at the same time. All except Punter who, based on a tip from Merv Hughes, had staked the farm and trebled it up with the Pope appearing naked in St Peter's Square on Easter Sunday with a daffodil shoved up his arse.

The Ponting family have been looking for a new (cheap) home ever since.

Monday, October 22, 2007

King of Clubs

I recently found this excellent Aussie cricket site.

I'd highly recommend the 'Diary' feature currently running. Just proves that the wonderful invention of 'club cricket' is the same, wherever it's played.

Kismet

Maybe this -



Was ultimate payback from the Sporting Gods for this -


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Elected!

Phone transcript - Giles Clarke, at the time candidate for the vacant chairmanship of the ECB, phones one of the eighteen county chairmen.

GC - "Mr County Chairman, this is Giles Clarke"

Mr CC - "Morning Gles, how can I help?"

GC - "I'm just having a quick ring-round, seeing if I can persaude you to vote for me for ECB Chairman."

Mr CC - "What's it worth?"

GC - "What did you have in mind?"

Mr CC - "Well, here at Nottingham/Edgbaston/Manchester/Durham/The Oval/Southampton/Bristol/Cardiff we rely heavily on income from international matches to keep our head above water (unlike Worcestershire who relied on water wings most of the summer...) Seems a bit unfair that Lords gets two tests and at least two ODIs each summer, whilst the rest of us have to scrap over the remains."

GC - "I see what you mean. Vote for me and I'll see what I can do"

Mr CC - "Will do!"

Looks like the Chairmen are calling in their debts. Scroll down to 'Grounds for Concern'

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Upstairs Downstairs

There much speculation in the media at the moment that Peter Moores may bring back Mark Ramprakash into the England fold. Have to say I'm pretty neutral on this, if he's good enough to do the job, and form suggests he patently is, then why not. But at the same time, it's hardly a 'step forward' and it's a bit sad that there's no one younger to do the same job.

There's never been any doubt of Ramps' pure talent, always the questions about his mental state and attitude, whereby in less enlightened times he might have been described as 'uppity'. It also makes you think of how badly he was managed by the likes of Bumble.

The potential recall also raises a interesting point.

Ramps has publically attributed much of of his continued form, desire and sharpness to the competitiveness in the County Championship under the new divisional structure. He piled up runs when Surrey were in Division One, continued when they went down, and then carried on again when they came back up last year - responding to the challenge that Division Two runs were 'cheap'.

In the same vein, there were the comments from Justin Langer a recent Grauniad interview. The gnomic one is coming back for a second season at Cidershire, specifically for the challenge of Division 1 cricket. Apparently no lesser authority then Warnie has told him how tough it is.

Which begs the question, If Division One is rapidly becoming the most competitive domestic league in the world, how long will Bopara and Cook stay at Essex all the time they are in Division 2? Along the same lines how long will Monty stay at Northants?

More importantly, how long will any borderline test player stay at a Division 2 county if he feels that he needs to step up a level to improve his game and make the further jump to test status? Stuart Broad has already made the transition - carefully waiting until Notts were certain of promotion before commiting to a move to Trent Bridge. He won't be the last.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hand Job


If Argentina do reach the final, we need to do better at the line-out that we did in 1986...

Deckchair

It's official - Freddie has been formally shut down for the winter after a fourth operation on that pesky ankle. Time for a call to Dr Rudy Wells I reckon.

Maybe we should change the nickname from 'SuperFred' to 'Garden Furniture'. You know - only brought out in the summer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

'No Corporations for the New Wave Sons...'

Letter in today's Grauniad...

Dear Sir

We spent three horrible booze-sodden years in a big, damp, gale-lashed, icicle-hanging, foot- and-mouth infested hellhole of a manse on the Northumberland fells, nursing our big liberal-leaning son Stuart through his classics Phd at Durham University.

I used to be a trade union official (albeit only for other NUJ hacks at the Sunday Times) and now I read in the Guardian letters page a letter from Dr Stuart Dunn pissing on the postal workers.

Where did we go wrong?

Peter Dunn
Bridport, Dorset

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Roots

When it comes to writing the history of mankind, you can forget Athens, Rome, the Incas or the Aztecs. All right thinking people know that the South London/North Kent area is the real cradle of civilisation. Even better, the 'new enlightenment' movement at TRSM Towers is right at the hub of the universe. Consider the evidence: -

Oldest cricket club in the world - Mitcham CC

Second oldest test match ground in the world - The Oval

According to Cricinfo.com, the site of the oldest recorded cricket match -Sevenoaks Vine

Oldest rugby club in the world - Blackheath RFC

Second oldest football club in the world - Cray Wanderers FC

Also, resting place of WG Grace, the first world famous cricket celebrity - Elmers End

Not forgetting it's also home of 'Rotherhithe Rita' - responsible for introducing Shane Warne to the delights of text messaging (amongst other things) on the Aussies 1993 tour.

"Mark Anthony, Brutus, Plato, Montezuma, Aristotle - your boys took one hell of a beating!!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Home Front (Part 1)

(First of a two part overview of the current county scene from a financial perspective. In part one we look at the growing divide between county 'haves' and 'have nots' - Part Two to follow shortly)

Of the eighteen first class counties, eight are current England international hosts. Of those eight, six will be in the County Championship First Division next season - and the other two are probably the ante post favourites for promotion next season - Warwickshire, who were relegated at the end of this season and Middlesex who finished a close third in Division 2.

It looks as though there may be a pattern developing here, and we might soon come to a situation whereby some counties in Division 2 cease to be financially viable. Effectively the number of counties could be reduced by a Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' process - especially if the ECB ever change their county funding policy . Giles Clarke certainly seems like the hard nosed businessman who wouldn't bat an eyelid if the odd lame duck went under - or maybe semi-professional.

Current financial data is difficult to get hold of, but I've previously posted here about how up to 50% of a non-international host county income will come in the form of the 'hand out' from the ECB. For example, all counties got around £1.5m in 2006 - Worcestershire's total income from all sources in that year - sponsorship, membership, gate receipts etc, was just over £3m.

I think we can safely assume that the situation at New Road didn't get much better in 2007, when you bear in mind the financial hit they took through most of their home '20/20' games being rained off. Their two solutions so far appear to be asking the ECB (successfully in this instance), for an additional hand-out, and an Elton John concert planned for next year - desparation indeed!

It's very much a given that being an international host gives a county a big financial advantage. Beyond the obvious benefits of the clicking of turnstiles, membership at test county grounds will be higher due to the accessibility of test match tickets. Additionally it's easier to attract companies to your corporate boxes, and you can charge a higher premium for on-ground advertising. Your 'cut' from concession stands will also be higher - and local businesses (hotels, restaurants etc) will be happier to get involved in county activities knowing that they'll have a captive test match audience at least once a year.

Increased revenue means you can attract better quality overseas players - thus increasing interest in the county, bolstering your chances of staying in, or getting to, the top flight - and giving you an advantage in the cups. Then you get to a 'success breeds success' scenario - evidenced by Stuart Broad's move from Leicestershire to Notts.

More revenue also means a better coaching structure, and a better chance of indentifying future stars - before they get frustrated and either drop out of the game and move off to another county.

It's instructive at this point to look at the three counties in Division One next season who are bucking the trend.

1. Somerset. Very well organised county structure and have the advantage of being the 'only game in town' sportswise in the region. If any county could say that they had a 'fanatically loyal football style supporter base' it's Cidershire. Also had the advantage of a whole year of Trescothick this summer - plus a highly committed overseas pro in Justin Langer and an evergreen (evergrey?) Andy Caddick.

2. Kent. Two words - 'Robert Key'. Effectively voted 'captain of the year' by his fellow professionals, Key lead from the front all summer. Scored almost half as many first class runs again as any other Kent batsman and generally cajoled, inspired and sweated blood to keep them in the first division. The 20/20 trophy was a nice surprise - and a 'nice little earner' to boot, though having to repair the Edgbaston dressing room after Key trashed it on finals day must have eaten into the profits somewhat!

To stay up in 2008 however, they'll need a slightly better overseas pro than Van Jaarsveld - who's certainly useful - but not quite in the 'class' category. Now might be a good time to dig out Dwayne Bravo's phone number again. Also, Canterbury is looking on the shabby side - the Wooley and Ames Stands look like they were built before the said players started strutting their stuff under the Elm tree, and the whole place could do with a bit of a facelift. It'll be interesting to see how they handle and fund redevelopment.

3. Sussex - Simple. A few years ago they got a 12 million pound inheritance from a rich member. That's almost four times the annual income of some counties, and meant that they could invest for the future and pay for a virtual phalanx of high class overseas recruits to bolster their one day efforts. At one stage they had Rana Naved, Saqlain, Mushtaq Ahmed and Murray Goodwin in the same line up - shades of Kanhai, Kallicharran, Gibbs & Murray!

No wonder Chris Adams did his abrupt about turn!

Obviously being a test host doesn't automatically guarantee continued success - Nottinghamshire have only just come back to the first division, and even Surrey had to slum it down with the riff-raff for a short time up to last year, but it could well become an increasing demarcation line as counties start having to look at their balance sheets more closely when considering strategy to reach, and maintain their position in, the first division. Which was probably the unstated objective all along.

Many activists for change, such as Bob Willis, Mike Atherton and the Cricket Reform Group, have long lobbied for a County Championship based on a reduced number of counties at the test grounds on a regional basis. The CRG was keen on an immediate change to the first class structure - maybe advance by the slow lane will prove to be just as effective.

(In Part Two we'll look at the prosepcts for the counties in the 'have not' category.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Question Time

A somewhat spiky interview with Monty Panesar in yesterday's Grauniad.

Obviously you can't expect all professional cricketers to be bubbly extroverts, always ready with a hapy quip and anecdote for the guy with the microphone - but then Monty has got an autobiography, and a very naff looking DVD to flog - so you'd have thought he might have made a bit more of an effort.

Then again, who cares? If he'd rather channel his charm and personality into his bowling, then he can come across in an interview like Harpo Marx for all it means to us.

The unwritten subtext to this is that the interviewer, Donald McRae, was the one who dropped Michael Vaughan in it over the skipper's denial that he used the expression 'pedalo' in an earlier interview.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Don't Like Mondays

What sort of lunatic organisation schedules a grand final for a Monday lunchtime?

Maybe there are sinister right-wing ICC forces at work that fancy going up against Gordon Brown's speech from Bournmouth!

The only other final I can ever remember being played on a Monday was the Gillette Cup Final in 1974. Scorecard here. Read it and weep Lancashire fans! 118 all out off 60 overs?! These days India would fancy their chances getting over 500 in that time.

Look at some of the bowling figures. Norman Graham was a pretty useful quick bowler, who could bring the ball down from Garneresque heights, but 12-6-14-2 for heaven's sake! That makes Derek Underwood's performance look positively profligate!

What were Lancashire doing - playing for a draw?

I had tickets for the final, and spent the Saturday up in St Johns Wood staring forlornly out at a very wet Lords. On the Monday my parents agreed to me playing hookey from school to go and watch SuperKent finally give the northern upstarts a hiding - and get some revenge for 1971 (the Asif/Bond final) and 1972 (Lost the semi at Old Trafford)

On the way over to my grandparents - who were taking me that day, it started hammering down again so Dad made the unilateral decision that it was going to be rained off a third time and took me to school instead... When I got home at 3.30 and put the TV on Lancashire were 80-5!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Crash, Bang, Wallop

Random thoughts on a week of international 20/20.

- What on earth did Flintoff say to Yuvraj before Broad's fatal over. Obviously there's a future for Freddie on the 'motivational speaking' circuit once he's finished playing.

- If I'd have been Broad I'd have thrown the sixth one waaay down the legside - hit that for six then! Trouble is, Yuvraj probably would have done.

- Some of the six hitting reminds me of the Crash Davis quote in Bull Durham - 'Most things that fly that far normally have a stewardess on them'

- Talking of stewardesses, the new Australia kits look like they've been designed by the same person who came up with the Easyjet uniform.

- Are the most EXPENSIVE tickets for the final really only eleven quid? If that's true, it would actually be cheaper to attend the 20/20 final than the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris, even including travel costs!

- Talking of tickets, the SA sales policy has certainly created a fantastic atmosphere - to the extent that the loud music seems a bit un-necessary. So loud that you can hardly hear them booing KP.

- The four people dressed in combats and vests, apparently high on a cocktail of kick-ass drugs, dancing maniacally on the roof of the dugout at every opportunity. What's that all about?

- Like to see them try that in front of the Peter May Enclosure.

- Fred is now going to miss the Sri Lanka one day series - but Peter Moores is still clinging to the idea of getting him back for the test series. So the gameplan now seems to be, damage the ankle, let him have a couple of months to recover, then damage it again, then recover - lather, rinse repeat.

- It was pretty clear in last five overs of the South Africa run chase that a 'six hitter' was required, yet Mascarenhas went in after after Jeremy Snape - who spent eleven balls scoring seven. Imagine what Mascara could have done with those eleven balls? Then, against India, England managed to contrive a situation where he went in after Shah and Luke Wright, and didn't face a single ball.

- File this under 'extremely worrying'... Charles Colville is talking a lot of sense.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Achilles Last Stand

There's been quite a lot of publicity this weekend over an interview Ricky Ponting gave to the Observer in which he suggested that England were wrong to be picking Andrew Flintoff and that he would benefit greatly from an extended period of rest.

There's something of a history of Australian skippers trying to tell the England selectors how to do their jobs. Just after the war, Don Bradman kept saying that DVP Wright was the best leg spinner he'd ever faced - so England kept picking him and Bradman kept carting him all over the shop. Then once the selectors had wised up to this typical dastardly colonial trick, Richie Benaud applied some reverse psycology when he kept recommending various players to the England selectors through his newspaper column in the News of the World - banking, correctly, on the fact that they would avoid his suggestions like the plague.

With Ponting, however, I don't think there's anything Machiavellian going on - I reckon it's simply a case of genuine respect from one professional for another. After all, a well rested, fully fit Flintoff roaring in to bowl in the summer of 2009 is about the only thing that might be giving Ricky and his Merry men the occasional sleepless half-hour at the moment.

Peter Moores has said that England need to 'manage' the ankle. What the hell does that mean? Either Flintoff is fit enough to bowl, or he isn't. If continuing to bowl on it is going to cause irreperable harm - then he should stop. Watch Flintoff's movements at the moment - you can tell that he's treading carefully - so why is he still taking the risk? Is it really fair to play Russian Roulette with someone's livliehood?

England don't NEED him this winter. There are enough all-rounder options to give the selectors some flexibilty when picking the sides for Sri Lanka & New Zealand. For example, call it a long shot, but I don't think Stuart Broad would let anyone down if you stuck him in at six.

In fact the next series when Fred's presence could be described as 'crucial' isn't until next summer when South Africa pitch up and you'd really like to see him wiping the sanctimonious grin off of Graeme Smith's face.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mouth Almighty

Question... try to think of the most unlikely person, alive or deceased, to ever come out with a quote about cricket.

Stalin? Possibly - but remember that 'cricket' is often used as a convenient shorthand for 'Anglo Saxon eccentricity' along the lines of 'games last five days without a result' or 'half way through everyone stops for tea' - so there's a good chance that Uncle Joe may well be on record someone with a quote about the great game.

A Kalahari nomad who might not have heard of Shane Warne? I doubt there is one.

How about Linda Lovelace? That'll do: -
"Cricket is like sex films, they relieve frustration and tension."

Ich Bin Ein Zimbabwean

If a population ever deserved something like this, it had to be Zimbabwe.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rock around the Clock

A huge day of sport yesterday - all three internation teams on show - plus other assorted televisual feasts to help you wear a groove in the sofa.

So, how did it go?

6am

Up early to watch Hawthorn beat the Adelaide Crows in the AFL elimination finals (effectively the quarter finals) The Hawks first 'post season' since 2001. They trailed by as many as 25 at one stage, and at the end of the third quarter seemed on their knees, but came back to win by three. So the Richie Vandenberg farewell tour isn't quite over yet.

8.30am

Sorted out all my household chores whilst listening to a re-broadcast of the Red Sox/Orioles game from earlier in the morning. The Sox won 4-0 behind another strong start by Jon Lester to maintain their seven game lead over the MFYs in the AL East.

11ish

Tune into the cricket - which remains on through one medium or another through until 5pm.
Anderson continuing where he left off in the previous games of this series, giving Ganguly a real roughing up. Tendulkar gets a shocker, and stands there as though he's about to use the 'these people have paid to watch me, not you' line - first attributed to WG Grace.

Having so many different sports on in such close proximity gives you the chance to compare and contrast the players reaction to official decisions. For example - compare and contrast: -

Exhibit A - The aforementioned shocker from Aleem Dar. Tendulkar looks nomplussed, but eventually toddles off. Even for that five second pause at the crease, hoever, he's likely to be fined half his match fee.

Exhibit B - The continual whining to the referee in professional football over every decision, and surrounding him every time a big decision goes against their team. Why bother? You can count the number of times a ref has changed a decision on the toes of Fred Titmus's right foot.

Exhibit C - Critical Heineken Cup match last winter. Llanelli are three points down in the last minute. They have a penalty twenty yards from the posts which will tie the game if they kick it. Fly half asks the ref (using the words 'How long left Sir?') how long to go, and the reply suggests that there's time to kick to the corner for the line-out and drive. Player therefore kicks, and the ref blows up for time! Result - some mild protests, and a few cross words in the press, but that's all. Imagine the toys that would have flown out of the pram had it happened in the Premier League? You'd have been talking legal action...

1pm

Back in the cricket, Fred is having more problems with his ankle (Should we be calling him Achilles by now?) and looks like he's going to miss the 20/20 championship, but on the plus side Mascara bowls himself onto the plane with a superb spell.

2.30pm

This exchange on Sky: -

Botham (after a disagreement with Hussain) - "We haven't got any more time to discuss this now Nas. We can debate it later, but you're not going to change my mind."

Hussain - "Not going to be much of a debate then is it."

3pm

Throughout the afternoon England turn in a clinical display. A few minor blips (what was Luke Wright doing?!) but otherwise, very encouraging - much like the series as a whole.

4.50pm

England clinch a well-deserved series win - ten minutes before you'd have had the unique scenario of all three teams playing simultaneously!

5.00pm

Rugby & Football kick off. Time for some nifty remote control work.

England score early in the football, which effectively ruins it as a contest. They look surprisingly competent (absence of Lampard helped there) and have it all safely tied up by early in the second half.

Usual struggle in the rugby, though to be fair, the USA looked defensively very competent. England score enough points to make the game safe - but rather alarmingly weren't able to pad their lead in the last twenty minutes.

6.00pm

Two other alternatives come into play: -

1) Full repeat showing of Collingwood/Sydney Swans

2) Live coverage of Oklahoma v Miami in NCAA Football.

7.30pm

Cricket highlights on Channel 5.

8.30pm

Oklahoma hammer Miami, and then Oregon v Michigan starts.

... and so on!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pointing the Finger

I blame Dmitri Mascarenhas.

After all, when you're setting a target against such a strong batting line up like India, you should really be looking to score off every ball , so blocking that first delivery of Yuvraj's last over really wasn't good enough.

It might even cost him his place in the squad for South Africa...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fortune Teller

There was a certain, depressing inevitability about this news.

Allan Donald has suggested that he and Flintoff get together and try and re-work Freddie's bowling action to put less stress on his left ankle. At the moment his foot points towards midwicket in his delivery stride, putting immense stress on the ankle itself and whatever the name of the bone is that runs up the outside of your calf. At the very least it should aim for long leg.

Initial reports were that Flintoff was receptive, but then the news was that his thinking is now along the lines of 'too late to change now' - and 'changing that will upset the entire process'.

Well, someone (Vaughan perhaps) needs to sit Fred down and 'tell him his fortune' - along the lines of - "Now the ankle has been damaged, it's never going to be as strong as it was before - therefore this problem is going to continually re-occur unless you do something about it."

Flintoff reportedly wants to be seen as a batting all-rounder. England need him as a bowling all-rounder, but unless he bites the bullet and takes some advice he may not play for England again.

Trouble is, it may already be too late.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Canterbury Tales

The Times are running an interesting feature online at the moment, asking eighteen selected correspondents to pick their respective 'all-time county Xls'.

It's a well known game you often play when rain stops play - the only problem with this particular survey is that the person who has picked the Kent side has seemingly misunderstood the criteria.

Ok, maybe that's a bit strong - but three of the top fifty English players in history have been wilfully omitted, and the sole rationale for doing so is explained thus: -
Tich Freeman, Les Ames and Frank Woolley were more prolific in terms of the record books but their names are generally shrouded by the mists of time and it is so difficult to judge exactly how they might have fared in the present era.
Mark Bristow's reasoning is as explained above in terms of potential performance in the modern game - even though that isn't actually one of the given criteria for picking a side. The Hampshire correspondent has picked Phillip Mead, Jack Hobbs has made the Surrey line up, and only two of the Yorkshire side played after 1970. Interestingly the Glamorgan representative has selected a side entirely from overseas players - an interesting approach to say the least, especially as Viv Richards is included! (I'll let any Welsh correspondents take issue with that!)

For some reason Bristow has limited his choice to players that he has actually seen - seemingly a period from around the early 70's onwards - yet there's an immediate contradiction in his methodology when he chooses Colin Cowdrey. 'MCC' was past his prime by1970 - so surely the decision has been based on reading record books and second hand accounts of Cowdrey's early career - so therefore why not rely on these for the other glaring omissions.

Ok, I'm not advocating a descent into the nineteenth century and the selection of such legends as Fuller Pilch and Lord Harris - but at least there should be some recognition that cricket does have a pre-modern era history, especially so in the case of a storied county like Kent.

Let me declare my interest as a lifelong Kent fan - and offer up my own eleven, with some explanations as necessary.

Bristow's team is - Luckhurst, Denness, Cowdrey, Woolmer, Asif, Shepherd, Knott, Ellison, Underwood, Alderman, Dilley.

My changes would be -

- Wally Hardinge to open - Passed 1000 runs in a season eighteen times, hit 75 hundreds and missed out on international recognition because his prime coincided with that of Hobbs & Sutcliffe.

- Les Ames in for Woolmer - A career average of 43 and 102 centuries means that he's just playing as a batsman, and was good enough to justify the number four position rather than the usual 'keeper at seven' routine. With Knotty available he won't need to don the gloves.

- Frank Woolley for Shepherd - Woolley is considered to be one of the greatest left handed batsmen ever, and is second on the list of ALL TIME runs scored for heavens sake - but Bristow didn't see him play so he's ignored. If the sun rises in the morning but Bristow doesn't see it, does he keep the lights turned on?

- Tich Freeman for Ellison - If Woolley has to go in, then 'Tich' has to be in too. Second in the list of all time wicket takers, over 3700 at an average of 18 - not bad for a leg-break bowler.

Finally, I wasn't sure about Dilley - but then he really has to stay in as there's a dearth of homegrown Kent quick bowlers in the history books. To partner him with the new ball, Alderman is a worthy choice, but I'd rather stick closer to home if possible so we'll go for a fit Dean Headley, who's still piling up the runs in the Kent League by the way!

No place for Godfrey Evans or Doug Wright or Colin Blythe or any of the whole host of recent overseas stars like Carl Hooper, Rahul Dravid, Aravinda Da Silva and Steve Waugh!

Final Eleven

Luckhurst
Hardinge
Cowdrey
Ames
Woolley
Asif
Knott
Headley
Dilley
Underwood
Freeman

I'd back that side against anything any other county can come up with - especially on an uncovered pitch after a cloud burst - 'cos we've got Deadly and you haven't!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Wingnut Enigma

Mention of Andy Caddick in the previous post set me thinking about the issue that's always thrown up whenever his name is bandied around - the fact that his bowling was so much better in the second innings than first time up.

It's only when you start digging around in the statistical dirt that you start to realise just how much better it was. To begin with, here are the bald figures: -

234 test wickets at an average of 29.91
103 second innings wickets at an average of 20.84

That's a differential of 9.07 between overall average and second innings average.

Now, consider this. Only one other bowler has an average differential any higher than 7 (Bishen Bedi at 7.4) After that come Lance Gibbs (4.73) Courtney Walsh at 4.68 and Derek Underwood (3.79) No other bowler has a differential rate above 3.

(Note for all comparison purposes that I've only considered the 37 bowlers who have taken more wickets that Caddick in test cricket.)

But wait - there's more - though not quite as startling.

44% of his wickets came in the second innings. Only six of the bowlers in this study have a higher percentage than that; -

Warne 50.7%,
Underwood 48.8%
Gibbs 48.2%
Marshall 46.8%
Walsh 46.2%,
Kumble 45.7%.

All of those are pretty easy to explain - all played, or in the case of Kumble still play, in strong batting sides where there were a lot of opportunities to bowl at large totals in the second innings where the wicket was deteriorating, whilst Gibbs and Underwood also had the advantage of uncovered wickets for at least some of their career. Caddick noticably didn't play in a very strong side - of his 62 tests, England only won 21, compared with Warne's record of 92 wins out of 145 tests for example.

That earlier second innings bowling average of 20.84 is a better second inning average than everyone except Murali, Walsh, Marshall and Curtly Ambrose - and NO bowler has a better overall career average than that. Marshall is closest at 20.94, Garner at 20.97 and Ambrose at 20.99.

Bottom line is that - on second innings performance, Caddick is one of the best bowlers in history.

So what's the explanation for such a discrepancy?

Buggered if I know...

He had, and still has, a wonderfully economical run up and delivery - and on his day could make the ball talk - moving it all over the place through the air and off the pitch, and all from a great height thanks to a nice high action. On occasions he was unplayable, the crowd got behind him and all was perfect in the world. At the Oval in 1997 when he and Tuffers bowled Australia out on an ecstatic Saturday, at Lords in 2000 when Windies were skittled for 54, short bowling rearing in at the batsmens ribs in a frightening fashon - then at Headingley in the same series. (All second innings performances - no surprise there)


But then there were the 'issues'...

He dished out a lot of talk, but was a real softie if anyone stood up to him...especially those in green caps. And he tended to 'go missing' if given any tap.

He wasn't the bravest batsman in the world and at times he made legendary 'bottle job' Chris Old look like Brian Close. Maybe, when bowling in the first innings he was slightly scared to let rip with the rib balls because he knew that retribution would follow, but felt slightly safer second time up.

Otherwise he was a psycological nightmare for captains and coaches to sort out as best they could. Atherton tried hard, whilst David Lloyd called him a 'nerd' and gave up. (Good people skills there Bumble) Hussain and Fletcher probably got the best out of him, but it all really came to an end when he backed out of touring India in 2001.

Beyond the mind-games there was the dress-sense. He used to button his shirts right up to the collar so he looked a total dork. A quick list of other people who do this: -

1) Ricky Ponting
2) Brad Hogg ('Bring out the Gimp')
3) Dustin Hoffman in Rainman
4) Ralph Wiggum
5) Forest Gump


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time of the Month

I've had another communique from 'Harry' - who regular TRSM devotees will recall has made occasional guest appearances on this site.

It's a general litany of comments, observations and (it must be said) total b******t, about the current ODI team, the full details I'll spare you on the grounds of brevity and the blasphemy laws. However, it does contain this gem of a quote: -

'Under the keen tutelage of Shane Warne, Tremlett has developed an 'attitude' which is, effectively, a mean look on his face at the end of his follow-through. Sometimes his bowling justifies this - but for the most part it just makes him look like Andrew Caddick with PMT and a heavy cold.'

Monday, August 27, 2007

Holidays in the Sun

Three cricket books were on the reading list when the TRSM caravanserai moved to Andalucia for a fortnight:-



This brought back memories of an extraordinary long hot summer. Good on the statistics and some decent anecdotes, but rather stereotyped and missed out on explaining the huge social and political implications.



Secondly, this - because you really need to re-read it every couple of years, and I was overdue.




Finally, this gave (and gives) me the opportunity to ask one of my favourite 'open' questions again... has ANY sportsman ever dominated to such an extent that Bradman did - and still does? 45 is now a good test average, 55 is excellent and anything above 65 is considered extraordinary. So where does 99.94 stand in the scheme of things? That's half as good again as any other batsman.

Some equivalents: -

1. A Premiership footballer scoring over 40 goals for seven seasons.

2. An MLB pitcher winning 36 games for ten years.

3. Tigers Woods, if he continues at the same rate for another ten years - which is not beyond the realms of possibilily.

Friday, August 10, 2007

One Man Out

Sad news, as The King of Spain has to accept the inevitable and announce his retirement. A very moving farewell speech is here.

All he asks that we remember him 'as a decent bloke'. No problem with that at all.

I'll also remember him like this: -

Thursday, August 09, 2007

After the Jellybean Rush

(Random thoughts after a day at The Oval)

- Shane Warne, allegedly, sorted out Chris Tremlett's bowling by halving his run up. Any chance he could do the same for Ryan Sidebottom. For someone troubling the radar at around 82 mph, it's ridiculously long.

- On the other hand, good to see Sidebottom going round the wicket. Out in the sub-continent, seam bowlers can only thrive if they have another string to their bow beyond line and length. It's no accident that reverse swing was invented by a Pakistani! By taking a leaf out of Zaheer Khan's Trent Bridge book, Sidearse has at least given the batsmen food for thought ,and something to build on before he gets to Sri Lanka. Suggest he goes and has a word with John Lever.

- Not too fussed about who does or doesn't get a central contract, but the news that Tresco and Simon Jones are to drop off the list is extremely sobering, and a reminder of how much we've missed them over the past year.

- Because of it's perennial position at the end of the test summer, there's always a certain poignancy about the Oval Test. Obvious example, Bradman in 1948. Coming more up to date, there was Steve Waugh in 2001, Alec Stewart against South African and the Warne/McGrath farewell in 2005 - which prompted the fantastic comment from a bloke behind me... "Please note that I'm only clapping Warne - McGrath's always been a c**t" (Well, we all pissed ourselves - suppose you needed to be there...) This year, it's Tendulkar...

- Excellent crowd in - at least where I was sitting in Block 20. Family groups, old couples on their 'annual day at the Test', plus a good smattering of Indians. All very knowlegable and friendly.

- When Tendulkar and Ganguly came out after tea, there was a palpable hush - a general realisation that this was a pivotal moment in the match. There followed an hour of top class, tense, test cricket. The hush was only really broken twice: -

1) Unprintable language when Prior spilled the catch. (To paraphrase Steve Waugh - 'well done Matt, you've just dropped the series')

2) Tendulkar hit an exquisite cover drive that was worth the entry fee alone. It ended up just in front of us. The old couple in front of me looked at each other - 'that was wonderful' - 'yes, and the kids will be able to see us on TV tonight!'

- Does Madugalle referee EVERY test match?

- Celebrity spotting, Trevor Macdonald in the Gents at the Pavilion End. ('And finally...')

- The Oval is looking good. New food concessions it so there's a decent range on offer. Seemingly more beer outlets so the queues aren't horrendous, and confirmation that the new development at the Vauxhall End really does work.

- Back on Saturday - to presuambly watch England chase down 550 plus.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

A note from Surrey CCC...

Crowd Behaviour and Control

We have received much feedback about the "new" crowds that the Twenty20 competition has started to attract. We are highly aware, and deeply concerned, that a small minority have created pockets of unsavoury behaviour. Around the country, reports have been made about much greater disruption caused by these crowds.

We are represented on a ECB panel set up to review the way the game reacts to this and at Surrey we are conducting our own in-depth study to ensure that spectators can enjoy the atmosphere of these games in safety and comfort.

To this end, we are considering the introduction of a Family/Alcohol Free Stand for Twenty20 in 2008, which should allow a less boisterous environment for those that would appreciate this.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fight Club?

Mike Selvey weighs in on beamers.
The closest I've ever seen two players come to blows in a Test was the infamous Sarwan/McGrath face off back in 2003. (Details)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sugar Rush

Am I the only one who's starting to think that the Trent Bridge post mortems are more than a little odd.

The suggestion seems to be that there is some sort of equivalence of guilt between putting jelly beans onto the pitch to upset a batsmans concentration and deliberately bowling a beamer at a batsman's head.

What England did was childish and, it transpires, rather counter-productive. What Sree Santh did was incredibly dangerous and totally against the laws and spirit of the game.

There has always been initimidation in fast bowling ever since people started bowling overarm. Everyone accepts that it's a given and very much part and parcel of the game. Bowlers talk about targetting the body by bowling bouncers and shortp itched deliveries, and this is a legitimate line of attack that batsmen can try to plan for and anticipate by where the ball pitches on the wicket. A beamer is a different matter entirely. Normally batsman are trying to pick up the length of the ball, so they are focussing on the bowlers hand, and then immediately on the strip of pitch in front of them. With a beamer, the ball by definition, doesn't land on that strip and the batsman therefore has no idea where it is.

Some are arguing that the beamer was 'accidental'. That's bollocks! Sree Santh knew exactly what he was doing. He bowled around two hundred deliveries in this test and nearly three hundred hundred at Lords without producing anything approaching a beamer. Why should we now have to accept that this was an accident? If it was, it was certainly a incredibly well timed one. As Michael Vaughan said at the time - ''What the f****** hell was that?''

In their inimitable fashion, the British media are going hard on the jelly bean angle. David Graveney was interrogated to a ludicrous extent about 'Beangate' on Radio 4 this morning, with no reference at all to an attempted 'beaning'. It's not exactly scientific, but do a quick search on Google and you find 70,400 possible links for 'jelly bean England India' and only 11800 for 'beamer England India'.

It's seriously being suggested that Alistair Cook, the alleged jelly bean culprit, should be suspended for the next test. Sree Santh has been docked half of his Trent Bridge fee, but that was for a shoulder barge!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Modest Proposal

There's no doubt that in first class cricket, the beamer remains a big 'no no' - the general reaction to Sree Santh's delivery to Pietersen at Trent Bridge yesterday bears this out. You can go to whatever lengths you need to (within the laws of the game) to get a man out, but the head high full toss aimed at the batsman is a line not to be crossed.

There can be no shadow of a doubt that the Sree Santh beamer to Kevin Pietersen was totally deliberate - as deliberate as his subsequent '18 yarder' to Paul Collingwood.

Rather than vociferous protest and an assumption that the matter will be sorted out after the game by the match referee, the beamer is serious enough to require an immediate, and meditated response. The England team should have taken a leaf out of the Major League Baseball playbook.

Throwing at batters in the MLB is more common than beamers in first class cricket. The nature of some pitches means that they can easily 'get away' from a pitcher and strike a batter. It's easy to tell when this is the case, and there is normally little retaliation. It's equally easy to tell when the throwing at a batter is deliberate. In this case, retaliation is swift. Pitchers protect their batters - it's expected of them.

SO, when the Indians came to bat England should have selected the equivalent batsman to KP in the Indian batting line up - most probably Tendulkar. When Tendulkar came to the crease, Jimmy Anderson should have deliberately bowled a head high full toss at Tendulkar. In the resulting furore - with Tendulkar likely taking strong issue with Anderson, Michael Vaughan should have apologised to him, and made it very clear that this was in direct response to the beamer bowled at Pietersen, and as far as England are concerned the matter is now closed.

The chances of Tendulkar having a quiet word with Sree Santh after the game and telling him not to try anything quite so crass again? Very high.

The chances of Sree Santh bowling a beamer at The Oval, and thus putting any of his batsmen in line for another retaliation? Very low.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chairman of the Board

There are two candidates for the vacancy of Head of the ECB...

Mike Soper (Surrey)

Positives - Excellent job on the redevelopment of The Oval, plus some very 'fan friendly' policies like cheap ticket offers and letting ordinary spectators into the corporate hospitality boxes - the first time the seats in them had been turned to face the wicket I'd guess! Possibly immortal, as he was givn six months to live back in 2002 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Negatives - sees no problem with the current amount of internationals played by the England team. In a twelve month period up to April, the England squad had spent over 200 days abroad - that's the sort of level that allows you to apply for tax-exile status.

Giles Clarke (Somerset)

Postitives - Negotiated the recent TV deal with Sky which has resulted in a big windfall for English cricket.

Negatives - Ditto, resulting in over half the population unable to watch live test cricket. Rather 'outspoken' - not exactly Mr Popular with other county chairmen.

As we await the white smoke to appear over Lords, and the name of the new Chairman it's worth reflecting one one particular acheivement of their predesSESSOR. Whoever wins, it's hard to imagine them being quite as effective as wielding power and influence as David Morgan was.

For, fired by loyalty to his home county (he was Chairman of Glamorgan for over a decade), Morgan managed to pull off the extraordinary feat of getting an Ashes Test for Cardiff in 2009 without the new ground developments even being approved by the appropriate local council committee.

An ASHES Test!! One of the biggest money spinners in the cricketing calendar.

Ok, the test was subject to planning approval- but what planning committee is going to be able to stand up to that sort of pressure?

There have been two more orthodox additions to the list of International venues in the past five years - the Rose Bowl and Chester-le-Street. Each has effectively gone through an apprenticeship, starting off with a couple of ODIs and tests against minor opponents. This has been quite a handy process as it revealed, for example, problems with road access at the Rose Bowl - a proboem that is now being addressed prior to any more internationals being allocated.

Cardiff has jumped straight in with an Ashes Test two years from now - no warm ups, no trial runs- just an assumption that everything will be ok by then.

Morgan's new job is as head of the ICC. Their headquarters is currently in Dubai, but on past performance, I think we can expect it to be moved to the Rhonnda Valley before too long.

Incidently, how cool would it have been had Bill Morris been persauded to take the job. Imagine the conversation in the Lords Long Room: -

- 'Who's this Morris fella?'

- 'He's a member of the House of Lords Sir'

- 'Excellent'

- 'A lifelong cricket fan'

- 'Wonderful'

- 'Er, he's an ex trade unionist'

- 'Hmmmm'

- 'Member of the Labour Party'

- 'Grrrrr, you'll be telling me he's black next....'

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Model Army

When it came down to a straight choice at Lords between Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad, I was firmly in the Broad camp. My thoughts were that - based on what I'd seen, read and heard, Broad has the attitude and 'intangibles' to face up to a decent test batting line up - Tremlett doesn't. I still stand by that, admittedly rather sweeping, judgment. It didn't help that Tremlett had apparently been favoured based his performance in the nets on Wednesday afternoon! That smacked too much of the bad old days when that reason was used to justify Ashley Giles playing in a test after only a couple of first class games in twelve months. If that criteria still applies though - I wouldn't like to be a batsman facing Broad in any pre-test net session in the coming weeks. (I've already made a mental note to get to Trent Bridge early on Friday to watch the fun!)

I realise this is very short sighted, and more than a little unfair. Maybe part of the problem is that the trauma of last winter last winter is still very much in the forefront of my mind - and thus everything tends to be focussed purely on summer 2009 rather than the 'here and now'. When a new player, especially a bowler, comes into the frame my immediate thought is 'how will they do against Australia?' - or in India or in Sri Lanka? There have been too many false dawns over the years, too many 'next big things', and too many disappointments and let downs.

Tremlett's body language and performance during the ODIs in Oz were frankly embarrassing, whereas Broad had come in the summer before and shaken up some decent Pakistan batsmen - and given them a mouthful for good measure. Reports from the counties suggested that Broad has 'got what it takes' - and you there's also the fact that Broad Senior was a very good opening bat who had the happy knack of getting hundreds in Australia, whereas Tremlett Senior was a pretty average county medium pacer.

Hats off to Chirs Tremlett, therefore, for his debut performance. With the ball coming down from around ten feet high, you don't have to be lightening quick - though it would help, but he showed excellent control and had a very strong Indian middle order showing him the utmost respect from the word go. On TMS yesterday - Gooch and Ashley Giles were both making the point that he needs to get in batsmens face more. He comes across as almost sheepish though he certainly has a decent teacher to remedy that in his county captain. 'Sheepish' isn't a word in Shane Warne's vocabulary, unless it's describing one of his Aussie teamates girlfriends...

Perhaps it's churlish to carp on one particular point after someone has only played a single test. After all, no one can be expected to set the world alight on their test debut (unless their names are Botham or Trueman) so maybe we shouldn't be so critical, but it's done for the best possuible reasons.

You can only beat what's in front of you at the time. The truth is that, at Lords over the past five days, in old fashioned 'typically English' conditions a very inexperienced attacked exceeded expectations. They bowled as a unit - attacked effectively when they needed to attack, and were disciplined enough to go onto the defensive when necessary - Sideshow Bob especially showed admirable nous, shortening his length when the ball stopped swinging - and the Show Pony was an absolute revelation.

Although one swallow doesn't make a summer. it's safe to say that the biggest positive is that there now appears to be some proper depth to our quick bowling line-up. No one, except perhaps a fully fit Flintoff, can take their bowling place for granted. You have to hope that Saj Mahmood (once he's fit) and Liam Plunkett will take inspiration from this performance and be looking to return to the England set up as soon as they can.

If there's one element of doubt, it has to be that this particular four bowler attack consisted of four number ten batsmen. Although some of what Duncan Fletcher preached seems to have become heresy and sometimes his dogma became a little too rigid (Monty last winter) , you can't argue with his contention of the importance of bowlers being able to bat. Dear old Gilo had his critics, but he was a pretty effective number eight, as he proved many times over the years. it's quite alarming to consider that six down now means that the hutch is open.

Off to Trent Bridge!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Everybody Hurts

Back at the beginning of April I posted this;

Assuming Simon Jones makes a full recovery, the England selectors will have an interesting problem putting a bowling attack together from this summer.

With Freddie presumably a 'given' for one of the four fast bowling places, you're effectively picking the remaining three from the following seven names: -

Harmison
Hoggard
Mahmood
Plunkett
Anderson
Jones
Broad

A nice problem to have I'd suggest.


Updating that list -

Harmison - Injured
Hoggard - Injured
Mahmood - Injured
Plunkett - Learning how to bowl
Anderson - Back from injury - now leading the attack
Jones - On his way back from injury
Broad - Close but (currently) no cigar

Plus -

Freddie - On his way back from injury (again)
Sidebottom - Pleasant surprise
Tremlett - Picked ahead of Broad, but surely not a long term option

Out of ten bowlers on that list, three are currently injured, two are on their way back from injury and one (Anderson) has had extensive injury problems since making his debut.

Now I know that it's a fine balance between keeping players fit and giving them enough bowling to maintain their form between test apperances, but that's a heck of a lot of injuries in anyone's language.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Boots and Panties

Some random thoughts following a day at Lords

The Indian bowling in the first hour minutes was woeful, By all means blame it on the famous 'slope' but shouldn't really take that long to adapt. By the time they finally got their line sorted out, England were well past 50 and the potential weak link (Strauss) was on his way to a hard earned 96, which could very well be the turning point for the Middlesex opener.

Scrape away the teeth-grindingly annoying veneer of the 'establishment at play', and Lords is a fantastic place to watch cricket. Architectually it has kept pace with time without losing the wonderful atmosphere. Extraordinarily, the 'spaceship' actually 'works' in terms of design and location - though when the plans were first drawn up I'm sure a few traditionalists must have had a fit!

Whilst crowds at other English test match keep post-lunch boredom at bay by resorting to Mexican waves and vocal support, the Lords crowd simply put their head down for forty winks. Seriously, the middle session wasn't the most exciting passage of play - although you quickly started to appreciate again how much India have owed to Anil Kumble over the years, but it was played out to a background sound of gentle snoring. From my seat at the Nursery end I saw at least 20 people having a quick post-prandial snooze.

Celebratory spotting - Richie Benaud (much much smaller than I was expecting) 'Boycie' from Only Fools & Horses looking very dapper in blazer and chinos... Goochie and his performing hair-weave... a wonder of modern technology. Dean Headley - the great 'what might have been' of English cricket, and Michael Parkinson.

There are few more magical sights in sport than the Michael Vaughan cover-drive... although his on-drive runs it close.

The lunch scene behind the pavilion still looks like something from the golden days of the Raj.

I've mentioned this before but what is it about MCC members and dress sense? Do they have their 'sartorial sense' gene surgically extracted when they become members? Admittedly the garish 'blood and pus' tie does no one any favours on the colour-cordination front, but when you mix it with a blue shirt, plum coloured trousers and a striped boating jacket you're really asking for ridicule.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'A frightfully nice chap!'

According to Vic Marks in today's Observer, the England selectors will be 'loath' to leave out Andrew Strauss for three reasons...

1) he is a trusted veteran now of 40 Tests; 2) he is a good bloke; 3) there is no obvious like-for-like replacement in the wings so that his omission would cause ripples of change that most teams like to avoid.


1. Big deal

2. For heaven's sake, what is this, 1955? We're talking about the England cricket team here, not a weeks golfing holiday in La Manga.

3. Well, yes, possibly - but England have had to rejuggle the balance of the side because of the absence of Freddie over the past couple of months. Surely it's not beyond the wit of the selectors to come up with a 'Plan B' in circumstances like this - or are they seriously suggesting that Strauss remains in the side until either his lack of runs becomes a total embarrassment, or he finally plays himself into some form?

Good to see Stuart Broad in the 13 though.