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


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!