Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nine thoughts for '09.

1. The most noteworthy thing about the Saffies two recent victories has been that, on each occasion, they've conceded nearly 400 in the first innings - the figure most well regarded brains around the game consider is a 'safe' first innings score.

2. Just think - if Monty Panesar had been as good as everyone thought he should have been last summer, we'd have probably beaten South Africa.

3. There have been a few comments in the press about the 'vile abuse' that Matthew Hayden has been dishing out to Graeme Smith this series. Obviously Smithy is well capable of taking care of himself, but let's hope we'll get the chance this summer to raise this with Hayden - with specific reference to how this denigration and disrespect for opponents and the game fits in with his much-trumpeted 'born again Christianity'.

4. What odds KP walking out to toss up at Cardiff in July with Michael Clarke?

5. And this summer's series is starting to look like a 'battle for third place'.

6. Is Ryan Sidebottom actually fit?

7. One possible solution to the central contract farce - incentivise the contracts so that players get a basic wage just above that which they'd get on the county circuit based on their experience and skill - and then they earn the rest through appearances and performance.

8. Did anyone else notice how insanely close Neil Mackenzie was fielding at silly point to Ricky Ponting at one stage. I mean, we're talking so close that Ponting seemed to think Mackenzie had come up to 'have a chat' - or maybe pick his pocket. Presumably somewhere Brian Close was nodding in approval -whilst Mrs Mackenzie was rifling through the drawers for the insurance policies. Better still, he was wearing precisely NO protection - some sort of forfeit for his miserable run of scores with the bat. Ian Bell take note...

9. Talking of Bell- his batting averages by position in the order are -

No. 3 - 32
No. 5 - 47
No. 6 - 54

So England are going to bat him at 3.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Vaughan to return?

If Moores is talking about it, he's obviously been given permission by KP, therefore there must be an element of truth to it.

Based on what, precisely? The fact that he's given some good interviews and made a lot of positive noises since stepping down as England captain? Or the fact that he's still a paid up member of the 'inner club' - and the selectors still find it very difficult to drop members of the 'club'?

I'd love it to work, and for him to make a triumphant return in the Caribbean followed by a summer smearing the Australian attack to all parts - but in my heart of hearts I think a series of failures and the subsequent unnecessary distraction of 'do we drop him or do we give him (yet) another chance' is the last thing England need.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two Tests Bad

I’ll try not to turn this into yet another lament at the decline of West Indies cricket, but suffice to say here’s something awfully jarring about seeing them slated for just a two match series early next summer – effectively the warm up act before the Australians arrive. Actually, let’s amend ‘summer’ to ‘spring’, as both tests and the one-dayers will be done and dusted before the end of May.

Less than fifteen years ago West Indies tours were as eagerly anticipated as those of Australia, but now if you take the 20/20 World Cup into account, they are actually third on the bill.

Two match series are a horrible idea in any event. You can get away with single test matches as one-offs – normally based around some kind of celebration or anniversary, and three match series can work – especially as they lend themselves to the ‘split summer’ format, but two tests really do nobody any good. Series develop there own themes, sub-plots and rhythms that any cricket lover can savour almost as much as the results themselves.

For example, wouldn’t you love to see the current Flintoff/Yuvraj/KP ‘filth and the fury’ ménage-a-trois continue over three more tests.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

''There once was an ugly duckling...''

Question now is if England only play one spinner, as you assume they'll do in the West Indies and at home next summer - who do they pick?

It comes down to what job(s) you expect your spinner to do. In English conditions, I'd list the requirements (in order of importance) as: -

- Provide an element of control, ideally in a long spell, which gives the quicker bowlers the opportunity to work in short bursts at the other end.

- Exploit whatever turn there is in the pitch.

- Bowl a batting side out on a wearing pitch on day five, if the opportunity is there.

- Score useful runs down the order, or at least hang around to support better batsmen if the situation calls for it.

- Be effective enough in the field so you don't have to be hidden.

As things stand, based on that job description, I reckon Swann is a better bet than Panesar. I reckon Pietersen is starting to think that too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thick as Thieves

Loved this exchange between Charles Colville and Bob Willis on Sky, Sunday evening, during which Colville went way up in my estimation. Admittedly it's all rather relative though...

To set the scene, they’d just shown highlights of Sehwag's blitz, which for a time seemed to be a three second clip of his cutting a long hop to the cover point boundary on a permanent loop. Cutting back to the studio, there were all the usual platitudes about what a wonderful innings it had been – then Chas posed the big question -

Why were Anderson and Harmison continually feeding Sehwag’s cut shot and, more importantly, why didn’t they adjust their line?

Willis’s response totally ignored the question and was the predictable Sybil Fawlty ‘ooh, I know Charles’ act, with some flannel thrown in about them used to having batsmen let those sort of deliveries go by rather than thrashing them into a different postal district.

This is when it got interesting, for Colville stood his ground and wouldn’t let the Mad Aunt fob him off. 'That’s not what I said. Why did they pitch it wide and short? Shouldn’t they be able to adjust?'

Back came Sybil Willis again – ‘Ooh I know Charles, maybe they should have put Flintoff on, he’s the master at getting the ball right up in the block hole and cramping the batsman’

Fair play to Colville here. By the stage most of us would have had Willis by the throat, screamingly ‘answer the f****** question for f**** sake!!’ but Colville kept his cool and came back with a slightly acerbic but pointed 'Flintoff can’t bowl both ends, why can’t anyone else bowl like that?’

Willis was obviously flummoxed by this so, to avoid complaints from the RSPCA, Colville moved on to matters less taxing.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stick a Cork in it

Wednesday 3rd December – Dominic Cork reported in the Guardian saying he's adamant that five or six of the England squad have told him they will not be touring India.

Thursday 4th December – The Guardian reports that the whole England squad, including even Steve Harmison, who gets the yips if he ever has to travel south of Sheffield, fly out to Dubai.

Sunday 7th December - Vic Marks in The Observer expresses some surprise that the whole squad are ready to fly on to India, 'bearing in mind the comment Cork made about how five of them were ready not to tour'.

Well, actually Victor, it's pretty simple really... Cork wasn't telling the truth.

I’ve got no huge problem with any ex-cricketer setting themselves up as a ‘pundit’ and giving everyone the benefit of their opinion when a journalist gets on the phone or someone pushes a microphone up their nose – we’ve all got to earn a living, and to give Cork his due he occasionally dispenses a pearl of wisdom when used as a studio analyst on Sky which suggests that he’s quite thoughtful about the game. But in this case he’s so wrong that it’s ludicrous.

Either Cork was lying when he said that a third of the squad won’t travel and he didn’t think through the consequences of being caught out by the truth, or a third of the squad were lying to him.

Truth be told, I’ve long had the feeling that Cork is a blowhard who often claims to have the inside track on what’s going on in the England dressing room, but at the end of the day is simply a bull*****er of the highest order. Like I say, nothing wring with that if someone is daft enough to pay you for it – but rather embarrassing when you get caught out!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Here Comes the Summer

Want a ticket to see the Ashes series next summer...




The Oval