Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smells Like Team Spirit

Based on the new selection criteria that anyone picked for the England team has to either be a 'good bloke' or at least mustn't upset the sacred dressing room chemistry, here's the TRSM England team for the 4th test at The Oval.

The first seven will bring that all-important jovial air of bonhomie to the cosy knitting circle, whilst the tail enders all add a certain 'something' that will do wonders for team morale.

1. Detective Jim McNulty
2. John Noakes
3. Des Lynam
4. Jimmy Tarbuck
5. Alan Johnson
6. Howard Marks
7. Stuart Barnes
8. Fiona Bruce
9. Paris Hilton
10. Abi Titmuss
11. Keira Knightley

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Apparently they can't replace anyone because it upsets the rest of the poor darlings in the side - and upsets the team chemistry.

Collingwood can't be dropped again because he's fantastic in the changing room and is a good man to have around, so he's required to play himself back into form in test matches rather than for his county.

It must be a real laugh in the changing room - a veritable cauldron of happy smiling faces, witty banter and top notch jokes.

Vaughan thinks it's 'only a matter of time' before he starts scoring runs again - although we aren't told what specific timeframe he's working to.

A couple of weeks ago Ambrose was considered good enough to bat six. Now he's only good enough to bat at eight.

Broad is 'rested', but then sent off to play for Nottinghamshire.

Sidebottom still doesn't look fit - though he's healthy enough to call Monty out on his fielding... it's about time someone did.

All a bit of a mess really.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Hard Days Knight

It'll soon be time for one of our regular reviews of the Sky TV cricket coverage, but as a teaser, here's a gem from this evenings viewing...

I'm paraphrasing slightly here, but this is comment from Nick Knight towards the end of the game.

"The big problem the players here tonight have is having to come back tomorrow at 12 o'clock and start a county game. It just shows how much cricket players are having to cram in."

Now why would that be Nick, eh? Could it possibly because those people at Sky who pay your salary have instructed that they want a 40 over game to televise almost every evening, and it therefore seemed a good idea to have the same two teams who were going to be in Leicester for a county game on the Wednesday play a 40 over game the day before?

Travelling Man

Here's Mike Atherton, in this morning's Thunderer, on the recall of Steve Harmison -

"His selection is as uninspiring as his recent record in international cricket and his attitude.

"Surely, it sends a terrible message: that it does not matter if, time and again, you do not so much cherish and nurture your talent as abuse it; and that it does not matter if, time and again, you turn up unprepared, there will always be another chance."

Have to say I do have some sympathy with Athers on this - although you can't argue with the fact that Harmison has done exactly what the selectors told him to do on the way home from New Zealand in order to get back in the side.

I don't think the story ends happily here though. A suitably motivated Harmy will likely bowl well at Edgbaston and The Oval - enough to book his ticket on the plane to India... which is where the homesickness problems could start to rear their head and we'll be back to square one again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Down the Middle

Yesterday wasn't the first time Kent have lost on the last ball to Middlesex in a One Day Final.

There was the one in 1984 where Tavare took off Derek Underwood too soon.

And two years later there was the one where it was so dark you could hardly see the wicket from the Compton Stand.

We console ourselves with the thought that Allen Stanford probably hasn't realised that Middlesex doesn't actually exist, and therefore has all the geographical relevence of Brigadoon. Once the billionaire finds out, he's bound to withdraw their invitation to the big party.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Chairman of Selectors, Geoff Miller, announces an unchanged England side for the third test at Edgbaston.

Looking Back in Anger

(Rant alert....)

The normal reaction to an England test defeat is 'one step forward, two steps back', in that there's normally a silver cloud hidden away somewhere. Headingley 2008 was such an unmitigated disaster that you have to look at this along the lines of 'three steps backwards'. Things haven't felt this bad since Adelaide.

We were out-batted, out-bowled, out-thought and out-played. Most scarily, we seem to have totally forgotten how to play test cricket.

With the honorable exceptions of Alistair Cook, Broad the Younger and Jimmy Anderson, the batting was totally clueless in both innings. I'm not going to go as far as some numbskulls and call for his sacking, but KP needs to have a serious think before the next test, and decide if he's playing for England, or - in the words of Harry, an occasional poster here, 'Kevland'. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to dominate an opposing bowling attack, but there's a time and a place - that wasn't either. You do wonder, however, who's going to be the one to tell him that. Might be worth someone having a word with Duncan Fletcher....

Jimmy Anderson must have wondered why he bothered to put up with such a thorough going over from Steyn when one of the front line batsmen does something that dim-witted and utterly avoidable.

South Africa piled up a huge score because they set out to bat at three an over and to grind England down - and followed that plan to the letter. The whole Australian '4 an over' target that England have slavishly been trying to follow works in certain circumstances - but surely not in overcast conditions against a good attack, nor when you're batting to try and save the game on the fourth day. There's a balance to be struck between outright aggression and strokelessness - England couldn't find it. .

The fact we only had five front line batsmen meant that a certain amount of circumspection was surely called for - yet the batsmen seemed totally unable to change their approach. Don't tell me it's difficult to adapt your game to changing circumstances - we've got a lot of players who manage to switch between 20/20 and test cricket without too much adjustment.

As for the bowling, the whole choice of Pattinson deserves investigating - with suitable checks of Geoff Miller's sanity and bank account. Leaving aside the 'horses for courses' arguement, what sort of message gets sent to those waiting in the wings that an Australian, an Australian, who harboured no ambition to play for England gets a call up ahead of far more suitable candidates.

Freddie had to bowl far to many overs, and by about Saturday lunchtime I reckon Vaughan was having regular wistful thoughts about having Hoggard in his line up. Someone who can bowl long spells and keep the ball in the slot, taking advantage of any swing or movement on offer. I get the impression that his reaction to being told that Pattinson was in the side for the game was similar to the rest of us - 'Who?' or Harmy's excellent 'I thought he was Australian'!

It was pretty clear by Saturday Broad and Anderson were absolutely knackered - so hats off to the latter for having the guts to come out all guns blazing on Sunday. Again though, I bet he's wondering why he bothered.

The problem is one of strategy and outlook - and therefore the problem starts with Peter Moores and the skipper. Whilst there are questions to be asked about his batting - more added to the list with each passing test, Vaughan normally gets a free pass on his captaincy. Before this series we took it as a given that he'd be able to out-manoevre Graeme Smith - but I wouldn't mind betting that he's thought more than once in the past day or so about 'doing a Nasser' - or even jumping before he's pushed, especially taking into account his post game comments which went as far as it's possible to go to publicly disagreeing with the team he was given.

Pissed off.... very, very pissed off.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Madcap Laughs

So let's recap -

Cook gets a horrible decision, clearly shows his displeasure when walking off to the extent that he's liable to get fined - only to have the TV replays confirm that he was right to be displeased. Sadly the SKY replays were shown after he'd crossed the ropes.

Strauss edges to slip, De Villiers claims the 'catch' only for Strauss to hold his ground, prompting the umpires to refer the catch upstairs- even though this test isn't being played under the referral system.

Amla gets caught by Vaughan, is happy to walk but gets told to go back out to the middle by his coach before he crosses the rope, because Sky have shown the replay which prompts an element of doubt. The umpires decide to refer this one upstairs too. Result - Amla is not out. The umpires justification for doing this is that they hadn't given Amla out.

I don't blame the South African coach for doing what he did on the Amla 'dismissal' - I'd want Peter Moores to do exactly the same thing. I do think De Villiers might regret his emphatic claiming of the Strauss catch, when in retrospect he wasn't even close to completing the catch. (He might want to review the Lords tapes and see how Ian Bell clearly says 'I'm not sure' when he took a couple of half-volleys) If De Villiers was 'sure' the Strauss effort was a fair catch, then he's either a cheat or an idiot.

What I do object to is the authorities incompetence on the issue, which leaves cricket looking like a laughing stock. Whilst the umpires have been made to look indecisive at best, it's really not their fault - bearing in mind how strangled they are by technology and their masters pusilanimousness.

There's not much that can be done now, but Sky might want to consider how quickly they show replays in future.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Boy's Own

Years ago I read a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called 'Spedegue's Dropper'.

Time clouds the memory, and I can't recall every detail, but it basically told the story of a young club cricketer who perfected a bowling technique which involved launching the ball over 50 feet in the air so that its trajectory meant it landed on top of the stumps.

He was discovered perfecting the technique by the chairman of selectors in a clearing in the middle of the New Forest.

To cut a short story even shorter, he was drafted from total obscurity, having never played any first class cricket, into the England squad for the final test against Australia. He then took fifteen wickets, and promptly retired from the game on medical advice because of a congenital heart defect which meant too much excitement of the kind generated by beating Australia in a test match would kill him.

For some reason, I was reminded of this story at about 11 o'clock this morning...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Final indecision

Tony is spot on regarding the ICC changing of the result of the 'forfeited' Oval Test.

The precedent this now sets is scary when you start to think about it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Me and my Shadow

"I've got an alter ego called Gunther. When I start bowling, he takes over."

I came across this very late on Wednesday night, and thought it was pretty extraordinary stuff.

The next morning, I'd forgotten all about it. it only re-entered my thoughts once I'd got to Lords and started chatting to a couple of South Africans. I started telling them about the article, and was greeted with total derision and advised to maybe take more water with it next time (or words to that effect), and to 'pull the other one, it's got bells on it'...

By the time I got home, I was actually starting to doubt I'd ever read it.

Happily not!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Southern Man

Cricket-wise, South Africa have always struck me as being very much like Australia, but slightly less so - almost like Australia's less talented younger brother. They have the same brash attitude, but without the skill or the cojones to back it up. There's also a slight character flaw which causes them to 'bottle' it which the chips are down - Gibbs dropping Steve Waugh, the two World Cup farces and Boucher dropping Hussain at Trent Bridge. So maybe they are the younger brother who was conceived when the mother had a quickie with the the insecure door to door encyclopaedia salesman.

Without delving too deep into the psychology of national identity, the overall impression you get is that there's a slight chip on the collective national shoulder. This is probably due to their recent history, which is 'sketchy' to say the least, and seems to run along the lines of - 'yes, yes yes, apartheid was dreadful (dridful?) and we're truly sorry, but what about what you Brits did to the Boers in 1902 eh?' Now, that's fair comment - we all have our historical baggage to carry around with us, but theirs just happens to be far more recent, and was far more public. They were also stupid enough to lock up the nearest the world has ever had to a living saint for thirty years. However many truth and reconciliation committees they have, you get the impression that some still haven't quite left it behind - witness the continual kerfuffle over 'quotas'. What's wrong with having a preset proportion of blacks in the squad - after all, for years they contrived to have certain proportion of whites - it's just that the proportion was 100 per cent...

Then there's the accent. Clive James memorably described sitting between two South Africans on a flight who spent the whole ten hours talking across him, and getting off feeling like he'd been beaten up.

It's difficult to hold any deep loathing of this current touring party - mainly because the name 'Gibbs' is absent from the squad list - presumably he's now doing sterling work for South African diplomatic service. No Jonty Rhodes either - Athers will be happy!

Stalking the squad like Banquo however, is the ever present spectre of Hansie Cronje. What he did is beneath contempt - yet almost everyone who see interviewed, including Allan Donald in the Observer yesterday, talk of what an extraordinary person he was. Yeah, so extraordinary he took bribes, and persuaded young players in his team to do the same. In a recent TV documentary, the late Bob Woolmer spoke of a team meeting in India that Cronje called to decide what to do about an offer to throw the game that they'd received froman Indian bookie - the meeting apparently went on for some time. Some time?! Just how long does it take to tell a bookie to ''f*** off''?

Whatever - it should be a good series. The four South African quick bowlers are being talked up as though they are the second coming of the four horsemen of the apocalyse - you wonder without Pollock, or a decent spinner, who is going to provide the control required on a docile wicket.

Their batting looks pretty strong - De Villiers, Amla, Smith, Mackenzie and the 83 year old Kallis.

Ultimately it probably comes down to the weather, and how long England have to wait before they can bring back Flintoff - presumably once the selectors have finally decided which of the top six batsmen they're going to drop. So around 2012 then!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Send in the Clowns

So thousands of people turn up at Durham expecting to watch a 20/20 quarter final.

There are probably a lot of kids there with their parents, keen to watch their first ever live game so they can tell all their friends at school about it the next day.

There's also a fair smattering of local businesses using it as an ideal opportunity to entertain some clients - and put a few quid back into the county organisation at the same time.

The ground authorities at the Riverside are looking forward to making a tidy profit on the bar, souvenir shop and food concession takings.

We're constantly told that 20/20 is going to be the financial lifeblood of a lot of the smaller counties - and a heck of a lot of the larger, test venue ones too.

Well, this sort of Keystone Cops routine isn't going to help anyone - and the final outcome of no play shows an alarming lack of nous on behalf of the organisers and authorities.

Here’s a simple solution taken from baseball – the game that everyone says is ‘just like 20/20’ (Incidently, everyone who says that has obviously never been within a hundred miles of a baseball game – but we’ll let that pass… for now) The match gets played 'under protest', so that the result can be challenged if it's deemed to be necessary at a later date. This logical, simple, ‘no one gets hurt’ step takes into account the customers who have paid good money to enter the ground and means they see some cricket.

Instead, thousands of people go home having witnessed no cricket, but just a pantomime.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Happy Birthday... the National Health Service - sixty years old.

The greatest piece of social legislation ever.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Said it once before, but it bears repeating!"

I hate to say 'told you so', but...

Through the Looking Glass


Well I was at The Oval that day, and we sat around for about an hour waiting for play to resume. Presumably the Pakistanis couldn't unlock the door to their changing room or something.

Conspiracy theorists may well raise a querulous eye-brow at the timing of this announcement, coming as it does in the same week as the decision over whether England can keep the 20/20 World Cup is made.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Van the Man

In any team game, it's always dangerous to over-emphasise the performance of one individual in a certain match, but you do have to say that Martin Van Jaarsveld's performance in the game against Surrey that finished this morning, borders on 'extraordinary', and is pretty hard to beat in terms of single handedly winning a game. A game that Kent should really have lost.

Consider -

Responding to Surrey's rather laborious first innings of 397, MVJ was the only Kent batsman to get over 40 against Surrey's wonderfully Anglo Saxon bowling attack of Jade Dernbach, Pedro Collins, Abdul Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq. His unbeaten ton got Kent to within 120 on first innings when a follow-on seemed all but inevitable.

He then twirled down his occasional off spinners to extraordinary effect to bowl Surrey out for 128 ending with career best figures of five for thirty three.

He then followed that up with ANOTHER unbeaten ton, on a turning wicket which was seemingly designed for Saqlain - but not, apparently, for Chris Schofield, who mysteriously seemed unable to land the ball on it. Kent won by four wickets.

It's too soon in the season to start talking about turning points and key games, but this win is massive for Kent. A defeat at this stage would have had left them addrift at the bottom staring nervously at the drop into the wasteland of Division Two. Instead, they now have a decent springboard to mount a challenge for the top.

At this stage, I'm rather glad Van Jaarsveld isn't English!