Monday, December 28, 2009

Ask the Expert

"You don't want to waste a review on this" - Ian Botham, as Andrew Strauss called for a review of Graeme Swann's rejected appeal for LBW against Mark Boucher.

Two minutes later, Strauss was vindicated when Boucher was given out by the third umpire.

We're still waiting for Beefy's admission of fallibility!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Bennite revival

OK, it's Sulieman rather than Wedgie, but in these grim days of neo-Conservative backlash, we need to seek solace in the most unlikely places:-

JRod's on the case.

So is The Old Batsman.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Days of the living dead

In the past twelve months England have been involved in seven tests that you could reasonably describe as memorable.

v India - the fact this test took place at all is worthy of note. That it went five days with 'any of four results possible up to the middle of the last day is icing on the cake.

v West Indies (1) Memorable for 'root canal work' reasons, but I doubt whether many will forget it.

v West Indies (2) Again, the backstory - this time of official incompetence and arrogance, is what initially makes this memorable but another five day game that went down to the final ball amid unbearable tension.

v West Indies (3) A delayed declaration that had Sreean climbing the walls, and another last over finish after five days fun and games.

Then, in the summer just gone there were three more -

Cardiff - Down to the last ball again.

Lords - 75 years of hurt ended and another fifth day finish.

The Oval - Champagne time at The Oval - though only four days long this time.

Add in the game just finished down in Durban (another five day, last over finish) and that's seven test matches played by England out of a possbile thirteen that won't be forgotten for a long time.

Now - how many England ODIs over the past twelve months can you put in the same category? I'll even make it easier and let you choose from any ODI played anywhere in the world over the same period. Some fun and games at the T20 World Cup (though the fact that there's another T20 World Cup due next year surely cheapens any memories there) and India nearly chasing down 400 plus come to mind, but I can't go much beyond that without checking back through the archives.

Ok, I'll accept that One Day International pay the bills, and that you only ever see decent sized test crowds anymore in England, and wherever England are playing - but reports of the demise of test cricket, whether by accident or design, are surely misguided.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ups and downs

I think we can now agree, after nearly five years and fifty test matches, that Ian Bell does not have the mental strength or attitude to be a top quality test batsman and that England should now start looking elsewhere to fill the gap at number six in the order.

On the plus side, however, is the performance of Jonathan Trott at number three. Hard to believe that this was only his second test.

Given the lack of alternatives on offer, I suppose Wright for Bell is the logical move for Durban, Unless you move Prior up to six, and put your faith in Swann and Broad.

But who opens with Strauss?

Random thoughts

Some thoughts from the Centurion Test: -

- First Cardiff, then this. So much for test cricket being 'dead'.

- The expression 'world-weary' might have specifically been created for Jaques Kallis.

- Either Sir Geoffrey spent every session behind the microphone chewing toffees, or his dentures don't fit.

- Mark Boucher is one of those 'players you hate, but would love to have on your side'. A sort of Robbie Savage in flannels.

- How do ex-England skippers decide whether they are BBC or Sky? Vaughan, Gatting, Gooch, Stewart - The Beeb. Nasser, Atherton, Gower, Botham - Sky...`

- During a three way discussion with Gower and Bumble about the review process on the 4th day, Sreean came close to ripping off his microphone and storming out of the box. 'Let me finish what I'm saying, you always do'...

- Talking of the review process, what does it honestly add to the game? Why not simply copy rugby union and give the umps the right to ask a question of the TV umpire if they aren't sure of something ('Can I give him out?') rather than have an appeals process.

- Memo to Graham Onions - Fast bowlers aren't meant to have opinions beyond moaning about spinners taking cheap wickets after the batsmen have been softened up by the quicks. If someone sticks a microphone in your face agan, just mumble platitudes about taking each session as it comes and so on.

- AB De Villiers is in the Michael Clarke and VVS Laxman mode of being one of the batsmen you actually enjoy watching score runs off the England attack.

Alistair Cook and Ian Bell. Discuss...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paying through the nose

Ninety pounds for England v Pakistan at Lords next summer.

Even in the Compton Lower,which is the spectating equivalent of sitting in a fridge looking through the letterbox, is sixty five pounds.

I know they're trying to save up for more redevelopment work, but still - it still seems pretty extortionate.

Tickets for the neutral test look a bargain though.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Obnoxious is as obnoxious does

If you don't already subscribe to the Guardian's 'Spin' weekly cricket newsletter, well - you should. The link is here - it'll take you about two minutes, and make you look forward to Tuesday lunchtimes more than at any time since 'Mary Mungo & Midge' was the 1 o'clock treat for pre-school kids.

The juxtaposition of comments in this week's communique about Mark Benson’s retirement and Doug Bollinger ‘fessing up to being 'obnoxious' could well be related.

After all, it can’t be easy for an umpire to give a 'not out' to an LBW appeal and then to see the bowler (and most of the fielding side) totally spit the dummy at the decision. Asad Rauf had to put up with the Australian team channeling a bunch of sugared up kindergarten kids on the 4th day at Adelaide when he gave Brandon Nash the benefit of the doubt. I’ve occasionally got a bit annoyed when a bowler queries one of my umpiring decisions in such a blatant manner – and that’s at the ‘Sunday afternoon friendly’ level – so I can only imagine at the state Mark Benson got himself into if that's what he was putting up with.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with being ‘obnoxious’ to the opposition – but when it stretches to such boorish behaviour for the benefit of the umpire, then surely it’s time for the match referee to step in. I’d say it’s also down to the captain to lay down the law to his bowler, but Ponting’s reaction was pretty lamentable too.

I could go on and talk about the example this sets to kids watching on TV – but am afraid that that particular horse has well and truly bolted.

And while we're at it, the incident raises the issue of replays as well. Australia had run out of their mandatory appeals, so it became a moot point - but, despite Mark Nicholas instantly declaring it to be 'out', all the Channel 9 replays showed was a ball that would have just about shaved the top of off stump, based on the assumed trajectory mapped out on the screen.

It might have been out - but it certainly wasn't as clear cut as Nicholas immediately concluded, so what would the TV umpire have called? Call it 'not out' and Channel 9 would presumably have thrown a collective hissy fit, even though something that might have hit the off bail (based on the TV trajectory) would have created reasonable doubt and thus not out would be a justifiable result.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Politics of Envy

According to this article, Eton College has twenty seven cricket pitches.

The college is also letting Langley use its cricket pitches of which it has an amazing 27, all of which can be in use by Eton at the same time.

TWENTY SEVEN!

For comparison purposes -

There are six all-boys comprehensive schools in the London Borough I live in. One is a 'sports college' so we'll assume they've got a couple of pitches. The school my eldest son attends has one pitch, which is a single artificial strip sited about twenty yards from the goal area of one of the football pitches - which must make fielding close to the wicket interesting during the summer.

The borough I live in is pretty affluent, so I'd guess that the situation is actually better here than in most of the other London Boroughs.

Blame Game

Monty is doing his best to set the record straight about his move from Northants to Sussex.

That's fair enough - you never want to burn too many bridges and leave any employer under a cloud.

One thing that doesn't ever get raised though - apart from on 'scratched record' sites like this one and by Duncan Fletcher, is how on earth Monty managed to reach the England set up without being able to field. You can blame Monty himself for that, but I'd suggest that Northants are equally culpable.

When I first started this blog, back in August 2006, I seriously thought of Monty as being the linchpin of the England attack for years to come. He seemed to have the potential to become the English Anil Kumble - able to bowl long spells, tie up an end for long spells giving the quicker bowlers the chance to work in bursts at the other end, and just generally provide an invaluable level of control - whatever the conditions.

The failure of that to come to pass could probably easily be blamed on my over-inflated sense of wishful thinking, but more knowledgeable cricket commentators than me were having similar thoughts, you do wonder where it all went wrong.

If the move to Sussex, and first division championship cricket, puts Panesar back on track, than it has to be seen as a good thing.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Grinning and bearing it

JRod's got another book out.

Link

It hasn't been published yet - available for pre-order on Amazon, but when it does finally hit the shelves I'm sure it'll go up to eleven.

You tacky thing

Remember this quote -

"I can't deny that fifty thousand pounds tempted me to join the English cricket rebels on their tour of South Africa. But one thought kept flashing across my mind: I could never have looked my mate Viv Richards in the eye this season..."

It was the quote that sealed Ian Botham's status as a hero amongst an entire generation of cricket fans in the early 80's - yet after it was published in The Sun, Botham was livid and said that he never authorised its publication, and Sir Geoffrey described the quote as 'puke-making' and said he'd never trust Botham again.

This is just one of a whole series of juicy revelations in an excellent new book by a bloke called Peter May (no, not that one) called 'The Rebel Tours - Cricket's crisis of conscience'. (Amazon link here)

The word conscience in the title is telling, because what soon becomes clear when reading it is that not one of the England players who went on one of the rebel tours (John Embuery went on both of them) had any conscience whatsoever, or at least were quite happy to sell it for the Krugerrand on offer.

Very few people come out of the story well - apart from Michael Holding and Vincent van der Bijl. It's a tale of venality, hypocrisy, blindness and cynicism, which is illustrated as early as the first paragraph of the Acknowledgments where there is this gem of a line -

'Numerous players across all tours were invited to contribute but ignored or declined my enquiries; only one offered the unimprovable, irony-free response, 'What's in it for me?'

Friday, December 04, 2009

Screen Test

I'm still not convinced, either way, about the 'we've got the technology, therefore we should use it' argument when it comes to second-guessing umpires decisions.

I can see both sides of the coin, but having watched the recent Watson/Chanderpaul dismissal at Adelaide, I would suggest that the replays viewed by the third umpire aren't simultaneously broadcast on the big screen in the ground.

There's pressure, and pressure, and that does seem to be ramping things up a tad too far. Go any further down that road, and you might just as well put it to a vote of everyone in the ground.

'Group of Death'

1. Roberts
2. Holding
3. Marshall
4. Garner

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Health and Safety

Sir Vivian gets up on his high horse, obviously without a saddle or helmet...

"The guy who got hit and still tried to get in line, then gets hit again, that's the guy I will take with me on the field every day."

Unless he's laid up in hospital with a fractured skull of course...

"There are individuals out there who use the body protection as a form of staying power, to go on as long as possible. That's the worst way anybody can be thinking, that you should cover yourself in a suit of armour, to make yourself brave, or to enable you to hook – when you never hooked in your life – just because you've got a helmet on. That's rubbish. Even though they say cricket is a gentleman's game, it's a man's game."

Right on, Viv! And whilst we're at it, let's do away with pads - they just encourage batsmen to push their front leg down the pitch. And those gloves can go too, they're for wimps. And real men shouldn't need to wear a box should they Viv?

Some Fantastic Place

Lords already gets at least one test match a year - it also gets more than its share of one day internationals, plus any one day finals that happen to be taking place - international and domestic. The only exception is 20/20 Finals Day which, perhaps explains why that is one of the liveliest and enjoyable events in the cricket calendar.

In the coming summer, Lords is getting a third of all the days of international cricket taking place in England, based around the rather tired premise that 'all international touring sides want to play at Lords' - which ignores the obvious retort of 'tough, they can't.'

Yet, the MCC still aren't happy.

Actually, the MCC will only be truly happy if the whole world is put in a time machine and transported back to 1895. But I digress...

I'm not suggesting that Lords be denied a test match in any summer - a Lords test is an integral part of any sporting year, but lets please lose the assumption that they have to host every side that pays a visit, and have to have more than their fair share of ODIs dolloped on top of that.

Other venues around the country have lashed out big bucks on improving their facilities - all without the 'guarantee' of future internationals.

As a venue, yes, Lords is a special place, but it's not that special.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Too Many Cooks

I wonder if the thought ever crossed Alistair Cook’s mind that maybe he shouldn’t have opened England’s innings on Sunday?

To have any chance when chasing a big score you need to give your best T20 batsmen the chance to score as many runs as possible. Eoin Morgan has proved he can steam along at two runs per ball – so logic would dictate that you need to let him face as many balls out of the 120 available you can.

Spare me the nonsense about openers needing to face the quick bowlers first up. Morgan’s not na├»ve enough to think he would be able to blast away from ball one, but by the end of the first over he’d have had a couple of sighters so that by the time he’d faced half a dozen balls he could well have be ready to put his foot down in the third over – half way through the powerplay, rather than chewing on his bat handle in the dugout.

It’s probably a moot argument when you’re chasing 240, but another time it might be a 200 run target where a few extra balls for Morgan, or KP for that matter, could mean an extra ten or fifteen runs and the difference between victory and defeat.

It’s a simplistic way of looking at things, but percentages are, by definition, simple things. You look to do as much as you can to give yourself the best possible chance to win the game based on the statistics you have available. Statistics are surely more relevant in the shortest format of the game where there are fewer opportunities for random chance to have an effect. Of course, Morgan could have opened and been out to the first ball he faced, which would have killed the theory stone dead, but at least he would have been in the position to have received as many balls as possible in the first place.

Actually, I doubt the idea of dropping down the order ever penetrated Cook’s mind. He’s been an opening batsman ever since school, so he’s not going to change now. Plus he’s already been anointed ‘next England captain’ so doesn’t need to demonstrate any radical tactical thinking – 'his future is as good as sealed…'

Let’s save the arguments about whether he should be in the T20 squad at all for another time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Five Alive

Five Ashes Tests...

Five main, free to air, terrestrial TV channels...

Seems obvious to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Closure

Not entirely unexpected news in the Grauniad this morning confirming that Observer Sports Monthly is going to be closed.

With the current state of the economy, plus the fact that buying a daily paper is a fast fading habit, it’s hardly a surprise, but this is very much opportunity squandered over a period of years.

When OSM first launched it was an absolute revelation. A good quality read, not overwhelmed with adverts like, for example, the Guardian Weekend Supplement which is virtually unreadable. Topical, in depth, analytical articles where the quality journos in the Observer stable were given space for longer articles than you’d get in the paper itself.

Alongside these were some jokey features, the right level of nostalgia mixed in with good quality action photography and the all-around feel of a quality product. It was the nearest thing I’ve seen over here to Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News in the US, and was compulsory reading on a monthly basis.

The quality was such that for the first couple of years, it could have easily been sold on the newsstands as a standalone publication.

But then, bizarrely, it went downmarket at such a rate of knots that you could only assume that they’d got the editor of Loaded in to run it.

The long quality features disappeared and, instead, we were treated to a series of badly written pieces about nothing at all, and a bizarre over-concentration on dangerous ‘sports’ – like cliff diving or running with the bulls in Pamplona – which is as much of a sport as bear baiting or cockfighting.

Typical of the direction it was going in was a new feature - ‘how I got my body’ where a sportsman was given the opportunity to preen himself in public whilst the rest of us wondered how soon it would be before someone dropped the word 'steroid'.

Then there was the gratuitous sexism. Every time they published a photograph of a female sportsman, the woman in question was wearing as little clothing as possible – and in the case of Victoria Pendleton on the front cover for heaven's sake – nothing at all. Any sportswomen appearing in the pages seemed to have to be party to a Faustian pact where the deal seemed to be ‘we’ll give you some publicity to help you attract sponsorship, but in return you need to get ‘em out for the lads’. Leaving aside the fact that they were talking to some of the most successful and committed sportsmen in the country – to quote Adam Faith (Spinal Tap) ‘sex sells’.

From a cricketing point of view the pre-Ashes analysis consisted of asking the England squad the most anodyne series of questions imaginable and little else, and then photographing them in dinner jackets, whilst whoever wrote the post series review decided that Andrew Flintoff had beaten the Australians single handed.

The descent to the gutter has proved terminal and a decent product has been ruined and I still don't quite understand why.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Colourfield



It’s one of the famous cricket photos – so famous that you really even have to look at it to be able to describe it pretty closely.

To begin with, it's always a colour memory, even though the picture is in black and white. That's down to the TV coverage being in colour – so it's probably the first recognised colour Ashes memory. That may sound odd, but consider. Think of Bradman batting - you think in black and white. Likewise any thoughts you have of Hutton, Miller, Lindwall, Benaud bowling out England in 1961, Trueman's 300th test wicket - all black and white images or snippets of film in the mind. Even after this memory, Ashes thoughts are still in black and white - Snow cuddling the fan at Sydney, Jenner getting beaned - black and white. Things only really started going properly technicolour when Lillian Thompson started flashing her bouncers around – better to see the blood on the wicket I suppose.

Anyway, back to the picture. Underwood has bowled, left arm round (something I watched him do either live or on TV thousands of times)

The fielders are playing ring-a-ring-a-roses around the batsman. Everyone is in shot, apart from the square leg umpire. I can see Colin Cowdrey at first slip (and probably second slip too…) Edrich in the gully, The aforementioned John Snow is at short leg.

Sawdust litters both ends of the wicket – so redolent of circuses, you expect to see a clown’s car go across the pitch, with bits falling off every five seconds. Bearing in mind the MCC committee were in the pavilion at the time picking the side to go to South Africa that winter and thus bringing us the D'olivera affair, 'circus' and 'clowns' are apt images.

The ball has hit the batsman in front – though from the still photo it looks as though Inverarity has been hit on the backside whilst facing point and waving his bat at someone on the boundary at third man...

Deadly is appealing, as is Knotty, and every fielder, including Milburn at square leg – though how the hell he can tell whether it’s out or not is totally beyond me...(A pet hate – indulge me!)

The umpire's finger is going up. I think it was Arthur Fagg - like bowler, keeper and slip, also of Kent and England – no neutral umpires in those days.

Of course, it’s the back story that really makes the picture. After all, England beating Australia at the Oval isn’t a rare occurrence, but we’ll remember this picture for longer than we will the latest incarnation of it, which is Cook catching Hussey a few months back. Even though the Underwood wicket didn’t actually clinch the Ashes, but merely tied the series.

It’s the big clean up that makes this what it is – hundreds of supporters helping Cowdrey dry the wicket. A lake at 3pm, play ready to start less than two hours later.

It couldn’t happen today. Player safety is much more of an issue (remember what happened at OT for a 20/20) Then, rather pathetically, we’re not allowed on the outfield - so some officious jobsworth would probably make the players do it on their own, and finally, and most obviously, it doesn’t need to happen. If some much as a pigeon wees on the pitch the the covers come charging on.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shapes of things

In the first half of the 1970’s, when the words ‘John Player League winners’ seemed to be a permanent prefix to the county name, we regularly used to go down to Canterbury to watch the mighty Kent deal with their Sunday foes.

One time, Gloucestershire were the visitors. We were ensconced near the old elm tree when, in one over, the sublime Asif Iqbal hit three shots through midwicket, all in our direction. The first stopped just short of the rope and was gamely chased and returned by the fielder Gloucester were hiding at mid – on – David Shepherd. The batsmen took a comfortable three. After a single, Asif hit one there again, and this time they ran four – and then off the next ball he repeated the trick and they might well have run nine had the ball not trickled over the boundary – likewise Shepherd.

Someone stood up and offered him a beer – he looked up, face as purple as the proverbial beetroot, dripping with sweat and, according to the guy whose can it was, polished off most of the can.

It’s an odd thought, that through the typical English obsession with eccentricity, he’ll be remembered, not for being one of the most respected umpires ever, but for standing on one leg.

The Ian Anderson of cricket?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chunder!

Andrew Hilditch, the erstwhile 'happy hooker' and now Australia's chief of selectors reckons that their loss this summer gone was simply a 'hiccup'.

A 'hiccup' of the Pete Townsend variety perhaps: -

I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bubbling Under

Due entirely to our refusal to ever appear on Top of the Pops, we don't quite make the Top 20 cricket websites run down in the Telegraph. Tone does though.

We do, however, get a nice mention in dispatches - thanks to regular commentor 'AndyBatt' for the testimonial.

Feudalshire

As soon as I heard the news about Matthew Hoggard's unceremonious dumping by Yorkshire, I had a deja-vu style flashback to something I'd read years ago about a similar situation involving another ex-Yorkshire international.

I racked both brains and bookshelves, but couldn't find the reference, but now - thanks to the Guardian, here it is -

"John Nash, the Yorkshire secretary, had phoned the previous evening to ask me to go to county headquarters the next day. I had no idea what the meeting was going to be about. I assumed it was some sort of routine matter connected with the team. When I arrived it was a bit of a surprise to find Brian Sellers, The Crackerjack, Mr Yorkshire cricket himself, sat at the end of the table. He looked at me and said 'Well Brian, you've had a good innings.' As soon as he had said that I knew something very funny was going to happen, but I still wasn't prepared for the next bit.

The committee had had a meeting said the chairman. They said my services were no longer required and I had a decision to make whether to resign or be sacked. It happened so swiftly, I had been bludgeoned. Through the blur of battered emotions I heard myself saying 'How long have I got to decide, because I'd like a word with my wife?' 'You've got 10 minutes,' said Sellers. 'Before you leave this office we want to know.'

The full story hasn't come out yet, but Hoggy isn't exactly backward about coming forward (read his autobiography if you need evidence - particularly a revealing insight into what players actually get up to no tour...) so it'll be an interesting read - to say the least.

The Old Batsman has an interesting take on the affair.

Serious point is that Yorkshire have done this to a guy who's been at the county his entire playing career, and who has never given less than 100% when he's been sporting the White Rose. If someone like that can be cast adrift with such limited notice, what about the players at the other end of the spectrum?




Monday, October 12, 2009

Beat on the Brat




















With a cricket bat...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cross Dressing

Thanks to Harry for this thought...

'So, they've added Cook and Saj to the ODI squad. One to give the run rate a shot in the arm, and one to slow it down.'

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Toto, we're not in Newcastle anymore"

"Over the last three years the idea of Harmison was always so much better than the reality. At his worst he seemed to resemble all three of Dorothy's companions from the Wizard of Oz, a bowler without a brain or a heart, a big ol' cowardly lion of a cricketer."

(Andy Bull, The Guardian 8/10/09)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Spoils of War

The Champions Trophy.

'Champions' of what? Heck, since a rainy evening at Lords last summer, England aren't even champions of Europe.

I suppose you could get all semantic, and say that they are playing for the trophy that currently belongs to the present champions, but if that's the case, then who decided who the original champions were?

Furthermore, in that scenario, 'Champions' needs an apostrophe.

'The Apos Trophy'



Sorry - I'll get my coat...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Never a truer word

Overheard at The Oval last week: -

"Why would Rob Key want to join us? We're shit!"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Home Advantage

Forgive me for sounding like a worn out record here.

There will be 55 days of international cricket in England next summer - of which EIGHTEEN will be at Lords.

That's three test matches (England v Pakistan and Bangladesh, and then the neutral Australia/Pakistan game) and three one dayers.

It's always said by defenders of this sort of monopoly that touring teams always want to play at Lords. Well, that may be the case, but sometimes you can't always get what you want. Bangladesh played at Lords back in 2005 - a game which lasted about two days, and haven't done much to suggest that they actually deserve another one quite yet. That's not to say that they don't deserve full tests - just not at Lords.

And surely what touring cricketers want to do is play against England at Lords. So why the Pakistan/Australia game?

Grounds around the country are being encouraged to improve their capacity and facilities to become international grounds. Surely the other side of the deal is that they are actually granted internationa cricket to give them the opportunity to recoup some of their costs.

Too Much Pressure

This is a very troubling article.

After all, you always think of Paul Collingwood as one of the most resilient and mentally strong members of the England set up, so to read something like this really does put things in perspective.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Andrew Flintoff plc

To my mind, 'freelance' means self employed, going it alone and, effectively, managing yourself.

The omens aren't good.

After all, the first time Freddie managed himself, he ballooned up to 18 stone and had to have Bobby Simpson read him the riot act.

The next time he had any managerial responsibility, he stayed up drinking all night and turned up at nets the next morning still under the influence.

And finally, even with a reduced management role, he then nearly drowned himself in the West Indies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Fredo, you're nothing to me now."

Call this a somewhat hard-nosed, uncaring reaction if you want, but any mention of Andrew Flintoff in the press these days is accompanied, at TRSM Mansions at least, by a stifled yawn.

We’ve had the operation, the recovery, the DVT, the planning for the future and now the turned down contract.

Then we’ve had Chubby Chandler saying that Freddie is going to play for teams in, respectively Australia, South Africa, West Indies teams. Oh really? On one leg or in a wheelchair? Chandler’s bizarre statements remind me of one of Saddam Hussein’s spokesman during the Iraqi invasion, totally out of touch with reality. The guy has just had, what, his fifth surgery in the past six years, and yet here’s his agent mapping out a worldwide mercenary tour that someone fully fit and ten years younger – and with no family, would find arduous.

I hate to say it, but the ‘stifled yawn’ is rapidly heading up to dial to a more outright ‘why should I care’ reaction.

Yes - he was instrumental in England winning back the Ashes – but in the cold light of day one fantastic bowling spell at Lords, and a decent 70 at Edgbaston hardly measure up to the heights of 2005, nor the apparent heights that retrospect appears to be bestowing on the series. If I’m being picky, I’d say that the staged celebrations ever so slightly too staged – a bit too much about Freddie thinking about his place in history and not about the team.

So he’s now retired from test cricket, and is unlikely to be playing ODIs in the near future, if at all.

Maybe all this is a bit strong; maybe I should temper it slightly by saying that it’s the antics of his agent that have prompted this outburst. From promoting himself to the committee of selectors at Headingley, to mapping out a fantasy career for his client, Chandler is approaching Scott Boras in the popularity stakes of agentdom.

So ultimately I wish Freddie well – and I’m sure we’ll see him back on TV soon – some guest appearances on sports TV – and some sort of special award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shindig.

But I happen to think his cricketing days are over, the final act the immortal run out of Ponting – a dismissal right up there with Strauss’s catch of Gilchrist and Warne’s ball of the century in the Ashes pantheon.

Not a bad signing off really.

Sweet Home Ally Bamma

Another vignette from the Oval visit referenced below was the sight of Alex Tudor opening the bowling for the Brown Stuff.

Tudor is just one of a long line of ‘might have beens’ in English test history, and is now having one final go-around. At least you like to think it’s a final go around, though with Surrey’s record it’s likely he’ll be forming a seam attack with Robin Jackman and Peter Loader in 2018.

The lovely flowing action is still there, but that’s about it. No threat, no bite, no aggression – an empty shell.

Although whilst he was bowling, there was plenty of noise. Not some Sharapova-esque grunting from Tudor, but incessant rabbit from his team mates. Every ball – regardless of whether it beat the bat (one did) or get thrashed through the covers by Ricky Wessells (plenty did) there was an continual babble of vocal support from the Surrey fielders – almost to the point of self-parody.

What may have contributed to Tudor’s disorientation, and ultimate figures of something like ten overs for seventy four, was the series of nicknames bestowed on him by his mates… and the non-stop parroting.

I counted eight different nom-de-bowlers in the space of four overs -

Tudes
Big Fella
Big Man
Ally
Bambi
Bamma (Ally Bamma?)
A.T.
Ally Boy

As a bowler, I find this sort of thing can be utterly self defeating. ‘Come on’ ‘at the stump’s, ‘get us an early one’ ‘put it up there’… – if your mind isn’t right you end up thinking ‘damn, why didn’t I think of that.’, or ‘just f***** shut up and let me get on with it, ok?’

Monday, September 14, 2009

Missing in Action

With summer clinging on by its fingernails, I cleared some space in the diary for a quick trip down to the Oval to see the hapless Surrey take on promotion hunting Northants - my first view of the Cobblers in the flesh since the days of Alan Lamb.

The most notable sight of the day was the everso depressing one of Monty Panesar wandering around at third man and mid on like a lost sheep. It was the end of the Surrey innings, there were cheap wickets to be had, yet he was second choice spin option behind Nicky Boje - one of a crop of Saffies in the Northants line up.

Monty has now, presumably, been overtaken by Adil Rashid on the selectors spin depth chart – so there’s another person of Asian extraction for Bumble to patronise during his commentary stints – viz, the constant references to the ‘little lad’ in the Sky box during the Oval ODI'er..

The patronising meme still has its followers among spectators too. Even at the Oval with no more than a couple of hundred of people in, someone was still shouting ‘Montee’ in that horrible sub ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ voice – and a few goons were even applauding the most mundane bit of fielding.

Panesar is very unlikely to feature in the South African series (you don't take three spinners there). Swann and Rashid can both bat and it's hugely ironic that Monty's last memorable act in an England line up is going to be a batting rearguard.

It's clear that since his debut in 2006 he's been practicing his batting and fielding - and has made advances in both. Evidence the fact that not only did he hold out at Cardiff, but actually looked comfortable doing it. But in the meantime he seems to forgotten to upgrade his bowling. Shane Warne’s '30 test debuts' comment still carries weight.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Selfish Gene

Odd game at the Oval today.

Australia had eleven men on the field, England had ten - and then there was Ravi Bopara...

All Rounders

'David Beckham's occasional off-breaks'

A blog well worth getting to know by the way. And that recommendation is irrespective of the fact we used to play for the same team...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

'What a catalyst you turned out to be...'

Alongside the frustration caused by the Old Trafford ‘wet patch’, was the equally frustrating behaviour of the Sky TV coverage.

To begin with, as the story broke, they did everything right.

There were suitably grave faces on the three panellists. I haven’t had the same love affair with Bumble enjoyed by most other England fans but you could see he was genuinely livid and verbalised his mood well, Nick Knight, by contrast, was trying to sit on the fence – but because he’s genuinely intelligent and seems to be natural commentator, it was a nice contrast to Bumble’s pent up rage. With Ian Ward as the host it was a decent studio line up, unfettered by the Botham ego or the Blewett ‘rabbit in the headlines’ expression.

There were interviews with a suitably embarrassed Paul Collingwood, and a rather touchy Michael Clarke, then Alittle had a word with an incandescent Jim Cumbes who was understandably hacked off, but his comment about the pitch ‘sweating’ seemed rather odd. Just sweating in a two metre square area then Jim?

The crowd got a namecheck too - ‘’they are going to be very angry and who can blame them’’ said Bumble, and Wardy made reference to some booing – although to me it was more akin to the sound of a discontented cow mooing in an adjoining field.

They called for e-mails and, apparently, had over a thousand – though fluffed it slightly by admitting that they couldn’t read them because they are next door.

But just as things started getting interesting, Ian Ward made some comment about English cricket shooting itself in the foot, and it was all over.

Stunning.

Any journalist will tell you that the best time to get opinion that is genuinely worthy of the name is immediately after the event – before the PR teams and spin doctors can get hold of the story and weave it the way they want it to go.

By this morning you had the ECB coming out with the usual – ‘we’ll have an investigation to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again’ blandishments and that’s it – lid firmly on the story, time to move on chaps.

Here’s what they should have done –

- Vox pop some of the crowd. After all, you’ve told us they are angry – well prove it. Make sure you don’t simply get the drunken ranters, but some people who can string a sentence together. Be cynical if you want and get someone with a human interest angle like ‘my ten year old son has been saving his pocket money for six months to come here – it’s his first ever international game’.

- Then put that to an ECB official. If Sky couldn’t get one in front of the camera initially then they should have simply reminded them who pays their bills and put the request in again.

- Also put Shane Warne’s idea of only bowling from one end to them. Alongside that, suggest that the game could have gone ahead with bowlers with short run ups bowling from that end. Before anyone suggests that this would have turned it into a farce, remember that a lot of games take place with external conditions having an influence on who bowls from which end – short boundaries, two paced wickets, wind direction, the ‘blind spot’ at Edgbaston which Andrew Flintoff used to torment Jaques Kallis last year. What’s the difference?

- Put the thought that 99% of the pitch is playable, so how farcical is it that the crowd won’t see any cricket

- Also make the point that it was a ‘one off’ 20/20 game with no long term implications, so they could have easily stretched the rules slightly to facilitate some sort of game.

- Then go back to Jim Cumbes and suggest that no pitch should ‘sweat’ selectively like that, and maybe we’re looking at Old Trafford incompetence here – especially in the wake of the £600,000 present they had from the ECB last year to improve covers and drainage…

- Finally get everyone’s opinion about Nick Knight’s good point/future exam question – “20/20 – cricket or entertainment?”

Intersperse all this with some e-mails from viewers – (after all, why ask for them otherwise?) and you’ve got a decent hour’s viewing. Instead, we got another re-run of the ‘How the Ashes were won’ programme. Very watchable, of course, but something that’s been on a seemingly permanent loop since last Monday.

Sky had a real story, the airtime to fill, the cameras and all the important characters in place, and ignored it.

(PS – Why wasn’t there a bowl out?)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Mackem... or Magpie in the nest?

Throughout the summer we've grown used to hearing the new Australian verbal tic in all its glory - every answer to a question prefaced with a "Oh, now look..." a "Hey, listen..." or a variant on the theme.

Odd, though to hear Paul Collingwood coming out with the same thing last night when Paul Alittle thrust a mic up his nose.

Then you start thinking that the evidence is starting to mount:- Steve Waugh saying that Colly is the 'nearest thing England have to an Aussie', the original VFL surname...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Everything under The Sun

'40 Million see historic Ashes victory on TV' (The Sun, 24/8/09)

The first reaction is 'Wow, forty million - that's almost two-thirds of the population!" - which is the reaction they want you to have, and want you to repeat to your mates down the pub.

Read the whole article though, and you find that 'forty million' was the total worldwide audience, which, although quite impressive, really doesn't justify the sort of prominence given to it by the Sun. After all, in a cricket obsessed nation like India, with a population in the billions, there must be millions of fans who would tune in to watch any live cricket, let alone an Ashes decider.

In fact the total British TV audience was only 1.92 million. They didn't mention that.

I wonder why?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fashioning a famous victory

Tempting fate somewhat, those purveyors of fine clothing over at Philosophy Football appear to have had their 'Ashes 2009' apparel ready for distribution even before Hussey pushed forward and edged off his pad to Cook at short leg.

Got to admire that sort of foresight... (Order details below)

















Freddie, Swannie, Malfoy, Skipper Strauss, they did us proud. Incredible draws, a crushing defeat, historic wins with the odds stacked against us, and at the end the little 'urn is coming home. Wear your celebration in style, with full match details of each episode in this extraordinary series printed below the flags. Strictly unofficial.

Click here for more information, and ordering details.

Lazy Sunday

Here are my, verbatim, recollections of yesterday at the Oval -

The thought of Katich and Watson still batting after lunch had me waking up in a cold sweat at 5am earlier in the morning.

We need two wickets by lunchtime, five by tea time, then the next one after tea could see them thinking ‘might as well have a swing’ and it could all be over by six o’clock.

Forgo the first pint of the day – it’s been a long hard slog since Thursday morning and the liver needs a few hours to recover its shape.

After a few overs Katich pads up at a straight one from Swanny, and they’re one down. What is about Australians and straight deliveries? Are they stuck in the 2005 time warp and playing for non-existent reverse swing?

Next over, it’s Broad getting Watson. (Still think he looks like one of the German guards in the Great Escape – the one Steve McQueen nicks the keys from on his first visit to the ‘cooler’)

Warm applause for Ponting on his way to the wicket – nice to see and hear, but surely no chance of him doing a Bradman and getting a second-baller today. (Fate actually has something far more painful in store for him)

He and Hussey dig in – not looking in much trouble, although Broad bowls a nice spell for the first hour or so – reducing his pace and bowling cutters.

Lunch – we’re on schedule, but not sure where the three afternoon wickets are coming from. Despite all the puffs of dust coming up every time the ball hits the deck, the track looks dead.

In front of us on the edge of the square, Shane Warne is giving a leg spin masterclass to a couple of young England hopefuls. I listen in on the Sky earpiece - it’s utterly mesmerising. When you think about the pantheon of Cricketing Gods – Hobbs, Bradman, WG, Sobers – it’s mind-blowing that there’s a real live one in front of us casually bowling in a pair of shorts and a T shirt as though he’s on the beach playing with a couple of mates.

Afternoon session – I start on the beers because there’s no valium handy.

Ponting and Mr Cricket looking more and more confident – and we’re getting quieter and quieter. Apart from the Aussies in front who are getting louder and louder. Rather childishly I ask one of them for 'three pints of lager, a gin and tonic and three packets of salt and vinegar crisps' and feel better for about ten seconds, until Ponting crashes Anderson through the covers for four.

It’s been obvious throughout this test that Anderson isn’t fit. Sidearse tried playing like that at Edgbaston last summer and it cost us the game.

200 up and our bowling attack is an unfit Jim, Freddie on one leg, Harmy sulking and Broad and Swann…

Then mayhem – Freddie creaks to his right, picks up the ball and throws an absolute rocket to hit the stumps as Hussey calls Ponting for a single. As we wait for the decision I switch on the radio and Jonathan Agnew is going berserk – and a few seconds later, so do we.

Someone invokes Gary Pratt.

How many will Hussey have to make to make up for that? We decide on 250 plus.

Now it’s Clarke. I’ve previously gone on records as saying he’s one of the few Australian batsmen I’ve actually taken real pleasure in watching, but not today though.

I bend down to pick up my pint, and as I come up there’s a commotion out in the middle. Clarke has gone down the wicket and Strauss has fielded it and thrown down the stumps. Again, it’s referred, and again I tune into Aggers, who is now going out of his mind – “it’s out, no it’s not out – that angle looked in. here’s the third angle – and IAN BELL’S BOOT IS IN THE WAY SO WE CAN’T SEE IT.”

Hang on – it’s OUT.

We’re going mad now.

On the radio Tuffers takes over in the analyst chair from Matthew Hayden, and congratulates him on picking up two wickets for England. Steam emerges from the TMS commentary box…

Soon afterwards, it’s FIVE DOWN as Prior – who has kept pretty much faultlessly since Lords, stumps North. From 100 yards away it looks a borderline decision, but Billy Bowden is happy to raise the crooked digit without any referral.

I turn round for a high five from the bloke behind me, who misses my hand and slaps the bloke next to him round the face.

That’s the three I wanted this afternoon – with time to spare.

Now comes the final bump in the road – Haddin and Hussey.

At tea – we’re still on track, but need that sixth wicket to start breathing a little easier. I go for a lap of the ground to steady the nerves, and start making plans for the fifth day…

Typically Australia refuse to submit that easily and the batsmen are seemingly picking runs off at will. Swann is obviously going to have to bowl until his arm falls off, but it’s a toss up who could have any impact at the other end.

There’s a telling moment at drinks, an hour into the last session. Strauss rushes off the field, to either have a slash or more likely to ask his manservant to start running him a bath and press his dinner jacket. The England huddle looks rather bedraggled, a couple of players are sitting down and Cook seems to be wandering around in a daze. Within threee seconds of Strauss getting back to the group, he’s got them all up on their feet and listening with rapt attention to what he’s saying.

Ten minutes later, just as things start to get really edgy Haddin has a rush of blood and skies to midwicket. At that point we know.

Pockmeister next to me confesses he’s worried about a Mitchell Johnson hundred, but before I have a chance to come up with a suitable simile to that (‘Worried about being hit by a meteorite’ perhaps…) ‘Super-Mitch’ is caught by Colly – atoning for his previous drops.

Harmy is back in the attack by now – bowling very fast, as hostile as I’ve seen him since 2005. This begs the question of why the hell he hasn’t been doing that for England for the past couple of years. After the game he apparently had a monumental whinge to the Sky cameras about the criticism he’s had from ex-England internationals – but today really just proves their point.

Siddle then gets a leading edge to Freddie at mid off. That’s 8 and we’re all standing now – then we’re leaping up and down on each other as Clarke goes first ball. That’s 9.

Harmy is now on a hat trick to win the Ashes.

At the other end Hussey is holding firm – and I’m thinking that we simply need to target Hilfenhaus, but finally it’s Swann getting the Hussey BP to Cook and we go utterly mental.

The rest is a blur – speeches, trophy, fireworks, confetti, lap of honour, and we end up outside the White Bear as motorists hoot their horns as they drive past down Kennington Park Road.

Better than 2005? We decide ‘different’. A draw was enough in 2005 – whereas we had to win this one.

And glory be, we did!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Style Council

Because of what's at stake, I find it very difficult to actually enjoy any innings by an Australian in an Ashes Test.

Before that sounds too one-eyed and blinkered, let me qualify it by saying that I've admired a whole series of Australian innings - from Border, Steve Waugh, Taylor, Boon, Martyn and Ricky.

Only on a few occasions has admiration transcended the line over the enjoyment. Chappelli a couple of times in the 70's, Kim Hughes in the centenary test at Lords - and, more recently, anything by Mark Waugh. In facT, I'd guess that the 'forgotten Waugh' would make the simple act of boiling a kettle a memorably stylish act.

Coming more up to date, I'd add the innings of Michael Clarke in the current series to the list.

In fact, to paraphrase the immortal Cardus, the one thing I'd love to see on the first day at The Oval is a hundred from Clarke... out of an Australian total of 127 all out.

Setting Sons

A recent favourite cricket question of mine is this - Of the 16 teams at the last World Cup, why were Holland unique?

Leaving aside some red herrings like matting wickets, the answer is that Holland are the only ones who were never part of the British Empire.

It's not much of a stretch from there to say that an integral part of the history of cricket is the history of empire.

I was originally going to say 'early history of cricket' - but then thought of what's going on in Zimbabwe, which still has its roots in decisions taken when 'the sun never set...'. - so is the reason you could fill Wembley Stadium for five days on the trot for an India/Pakistan test match.

When you're growing up, these things tend to pass you by. I suppose I must have wondered by Pakistan only start playing test matches in the 50's, but it never concerned me enough to ask. Same goes with why did India only played their first test in 1932, and why did Pakistan and India play each other so infrequently.

Then there was the lack of South Africa from the international arena - another story entirely.

Then pushing the envelope a bit further, why did the MCC play tests abroad rather than England (for some time I thought the MCC were some sort of touring organisers - a bit like the Barmy Army)

It was only when I read Beyond a Boundary that the coin started to drop, and I started to realise that there was a whole rich history of the game out there - one that seemed to run in a parallel universe to the one I was used to.

It's an ongoing catching-up process, which is why one of my poolside books this summer was 'Corner of a foreign field - the Indian history of an English game' was high on my reading list.

It's not as good as 'Beyond a Boundary - then again, very few sports books are. It's not as overtly political as it - probably because the author, Ramchandra Gula, has grown up in post-imperial India, rather than having to rail against existing iniquities as CLR James was doing.

It has a fascinating hero in Panwankar Baloo, and as many stories of British ruling class idiocy as anyone could need.

And it does ask some pertinent questions about India and Pakistan today, that really do need answering.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blogging by the Pool

- I surely wasn't the only one who was looking around for the 'resety' button at 2pm on Friday afternoon was I? "Ok - let's start again - it's 11am, and Australia are going to bat first."

Of course, England would probably still have been as utterly inept as they were when the game was played in this universe, rather than a parallel one - but at least the game might have lasted beyond tea on the third day...

- All the claims from the England camp about Fred's fitness, and then the counter-claims from his agent/publicist yesterday suggest only one thing - Freddie has an incredibly inflated level of his own place in cricket history, and a rather tactless approach to ensuring that that place looks better and better by the day.

- It must have been nice being an England quick bowler over the past four days - not having to let anything like logic or realism enter your tiny little brain. Bang it in short - get clobbered to the boundary - go back to your mark and run in again. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

- Wonder if we'll be singing 'Super Mitch' at the Oval, like we did at Edgbaston....

- As for the eleven for the fifth test - the selectors, maybe with a slight nudge from the ECB, need to simply pick the side that they think gives us the best chance of winning the game. That means batsmen who don't look as though they'd rather be any place else than out in the middle, and a bowling attack that can take twenty wickets.

So that means Key and Ramps for Bell and Bopara.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pope's religion questioned!

Every morning in the Grauniad Sport section, they ask a 'referendum' question on a topical sporting issue of the day to which readers are invited to e-mail a yes or no response. Normally the result is quite close, but I don't think the 'nays' will have it on today's poll -

"Andrew Strauss claims Australia's cricketers are no longer as feared as they were in the days of Glenn Mcgrath, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden. Is the England captain right?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

St Swithin's Day

The forecast for the next week for Birmingham is pretty dire. Rain, rain, rain -and then when you get bored of all the rain, heavy showers.

Actually, did I say 'dire'?

A mis-statement. After all, four more weeks of this, and it's 'game over - cheerio Ricky!'

Bell is in for KP. Could be a positive move actually -after all, Bell - more than anyone, is likely to get a huge psychological boost through not having Warne and McGrath bowling at him.

Assuming the floods do recede at some time over the next seven days, here's a quick thought. That it, bearing in mind how foul the weather predictions are, and the comments from the groundsman about how the wicket is going to be as soft as jelly, might it be an idea to hold Freddie back for Headingley?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Favourite Shirts

See the quote above - the one below the title of this blog? Well, those frightfully nice people at Philosophy Football have stuck it on a T shirt.

As they say in their blurb -

"A great historian, GM Trevelyan had a touching belief in the ability of cricket to quell the revolting masses and keep the guillotine at bay. Given that large parts of the former British Empire combine independence with beating their past colonial masters at cricket (Australia currently excepted of course) GM perhaps need to do more work on his cricketing recipe for class collaboration."

Follow the link here.

And while we're at it, they've also committed some of the words of cricket's greatest ever commentator to cotton too.

''Say that cricket has nothing to do with politics and you say that cricket has nothing to do with life'' - John Arlott.

You can order that one here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Special One



Awesome.

So many flashbacks to the Oval 2005. Totally driven, reaching a different level and getting wickets through sheer will-power, feeding off the noise of the crowd and we fed off him.

But today, he was bowling on one leg.

And we won this one!

You could almost imagine him telling the rest of the team to climb on board and he'd take them to victory.

How long can it last?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Membership Rights

There's something wonderfully counter-intuitive about MCC members starting to queue at 3am before Day 1 of the Lords Test.

After all, they would all have had to wait at least twenty five years to join the 'blood and pus' brigade (cf John Arlott) - paying an initial fee, an annual retainer to stay on the waiting list and then an annual fee once the actuarial Gods had granted them membership. Finally joining the club gives you free access to probably the best viewing position in world cricket -

So to then queue up seems totally insane.

And why didn't any of them get their butler to queue for them?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Master's Voice

Drop everything you're doing right now, unless it's breast feeding or something, and read this.

You seriously won't regret it - it's awesome.

A taster -

"I have been asked to say a few words - well more than a few. “You’ve twenty minutes to fill,” I was firmly told by the organisers. 20 minutes. Not sure how I’ll use all that time up. Perhaps in about ten minutes or so Andrew Strauss would be kind enough to send on a a physio, that should kill a bit of time."

Read it all.


Gold Diggers

This from the BBC online commentary today -

1741: 340-6 A charming sight on the England balcony. Alastair Cook, deep in conversation with Paul Collingwood, sticks a long finger up his nose, has a little rummage and pulls out a prime specimen. He stares at it for a while, rolls it between thumb and first finger and then flicks it dismissively over the edge of the balcony. Good luck down below.

That'll give the G&T a bit of an edge...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Temporary, like Achilles

So that's that then.

Only it's not.

Typically, there's no clean break. It's now the natural order of things that sports fans are kept hanging on, the drama played out for as long as possible.

So we're left with a 'will he won't he' six weeks. Maybe he'll miss Lords and Edgbaston, and then return at Headingley when we're one down to smash a match-winning eighty, or take a couple of key wickets.

Or maybe he'll simply break down after a couple of overs at Lords, and that will really be that.

There are two positives. The first is that, at last, all the uncertainty is over - or at least it will be by August 25th. The second is that, because there is now a final cut off point, he's liable to play when he perhaps wouldn't have done if he thought he could prolong his career at bit further.

A selfish view - but we are talking about Australia here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Philosophy Football are a company who, for over 15 years, have been producing T shirts on a football theme. If you have a look at their website you'll see that the idea is to take a well known historical characters pronouncement on football, and create a unique T shirt style out of it. Somewhere I still have one of the first they produced, based on Harold Wilson's comment - 'Have you noticed that we only win the World Cup under a Labour Government'. Incidentally, that's still the case, even if you include Rugby Union!

The reason for raising this now is that, not before time, they've branched into cricket, and are sending CB Fry in to open the batting for them. Here's their full sales pitch: -

"The self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' at Philosophy Football find quotes from philosophers about football and slap them on a T-shirt with name and squad number added. This summer they have launched a their philosophy cricket range with opening bat CB Fry's musings on cricket as a philosophy.

As a cricketer CB Fry captained both Sussex and England. A gifted footballer too, he played professionally for Southampton and Portsmouth, making his England debut in 1901. For a time he was also holder of the world record for the long jump. A superbly gifted cricket writer and academic off the pitch CB politically managed to combine standing unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Liberal Party candidate with the bizarre idea ideas that if Germany could be persuaded to play England at test cricket WW2 might be avoided.

The T-shirt is available from www.philosophyfootball.com with the search now on for other cricket quotes for T-shirted immortality.
"

What they don't mention is the popular pub-quiz question, that CB Fry was once offered the throne of Albania! Heck, no one's prefect...

As you can see, they are after suggestions for other cricket related shirts. Leave your ideas in the comments section, or contact them direct via the webiste.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Smells Like Sour Spirit

Have to say I have some sympathy with Ricky Ponting over his complaints about England’s time wasting tactics in the last hour at Cardiff.If only because the whole ‘substitute running on the field five minutes after being on before’ ruse was pretty lame – and the excuse from Andrew Strauss was too, so pathetic in fact that you started to think it might actually be true under the 'conspiracy or cock-up' theory.

What’s wrong with a cramp, something in the eye or a missing contact lens?

It’s hard to take lectures on the ‘spirit of the game’ from Australia though. People in glasshouses, and all that...

For a supposedly excellent fielding side, the number of times Adam Gilchrist had to run down the pitch to gather in errant throws from the outfield, thus roughening up the pitch for Shane Warne bowling from the other end, was ever so slightly suspicious for example.

You could also throw the McGrath/Sarwan and Symonds/ Harbajhan handbags into the equation too.

In any event, the time wasting was probably unnecessary. Anderson and Monty looked remarkably comfortable during those last eight overs or so. The fact that most of them were bowled by a knackered off-spinner and a part time one probably helped. Speaking as a tail-ender myself, I can vouch for the fact that what is most unsettling to a non-batsman playing out time is raw pace – regardless of how slow the pitch is. Why Siddle wasn’t bowling at the batsman’s ribs with two men at short leg beats me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tom, Dick... and Monty!

Bullet well and truly dodged.

Australia batted better, and bowled better - and Ponting was streets ahead of Lord Snooty in the tactics department (though I'd have tried to bounce Monty out at the end rather than sticking with Hauritz)

Yet it's all square with four to go.

Lords will be a quicker wicket, which will suit the way the England bowlers performed more than the Cardiff track.

Too soon to start planning the Trafalgar Square party, but at least this keeps things more interesting for a bit longer.

Don't Believe the Hype

There'll be a lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking after today - regardless of whether England succumb to defeat or manage to scratch out an unlikely draw.

My two-pennorth, for what it's worth, is that England have gone into this game over confident in their own abilities and falling hook line and sinker into the 'it's 2005 all over again' scenario - complete with endless Sky re-runs and the 'rousing' anthems before each days play. There has been a 'fix bayonets' attitude to their cricket, starting with the batting on Wednesday, where no one was prepared to settle down and play a long innings, through to the bowling on the following days where there didn't seem to be a Plan B - or, if there was, no one seemed to be able to follow it.

The bowling attitude was one of continual aggression, slamming the ball into the track and trying to make something happen. On a fast, bouncy pitch like Lords, it might have worked - and still might come Thursday, but on a flat docile creation in Cardiff, it was doomed to failure.

There's nothing wrong with a positive attitude, but it has to be tempered with realism.

It's probably slightly too soon to start writing the obituaries, and burning tickets for Headingley and The Oval, but it's going to be a heck of a long road back - and I don't think England have an up to date map.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pie Throwers?

Talk before the series started was centred around how our bowlers were going to take 20 Australian wickets.

Well, so far they've got five, and there are still four tests to go. So at this rate they'll get there on around day three at Headingley...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Flaming Lips

Who is 'Tammy Tucker' - and why does Mitchell Johnson keep shouting her name at Ravi Bopara?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Can the can

For years, the word was 'could' - backed up with a whole list of caveats and ifs, whereas for Australia it's been a continual 'should', inevitably followed by a resigned 'did'.

In 2005, it started as another 'could', which became a wonderful English 'did'.

Eighteen months later, it was yet another 'could' that descended into a farcical 'didn't'.

The absence of Brett Lee has started me thinking of a subtle shift in the mood, and a change from from 'could' to 'can'.

It's time - bring it on.

Battle Royale!

The biggest confrontation this summer? Forget KP v Johnson or Flintoff v Ponting - it's Hussain v Warne in the Sky commentary box... that's the one to watch.

Originally I thought that it would be the mighty clash of egos between Beefy and Shane that would set off the fireworks, but on further review, I think Botham is ever so slightly laid back enough to brush off the inevitable barbed comments that Warne is going to throw out there. After all, in his career Botham had a good records in Ashes series, so he's got plenty to fall back on when it comes to the sort of 'banter' we're liable to witness.

Nasser, however, is a different matter. Warne wound him up something rotten when they were 22 yards apart, and there's no doubt that Nas is perfectly happy to rise to any bait offered when he' behind the microphone.

Expect some sparky exchanges when they are on air together.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Papering over the cracks

For the paper that boasts Neville Cardus and John Arlott in its sportswriting heritage, the Guardian's cricketing coverage can be pretty lamentable.

They gained a few bonus points for having Duncan Fletcher as a columnist over the past few years, but then promptly lost them for inflicting the thoughts of Ian Bell on a unsuspecting readership Thus we were forced to endure such Wildean phrases like 'it's the first test of the series, so the lads are all pretty keyed up and ready to go' from the batting scribe - pretty lame bearing in mind Warwickshire was the county that gave humanity Shakespeare, and the Electric Light Orchestra.

Sometimes you get the impression that the cricket writers, Selvey included, are trying just a bit too hard to live up to the Guardian's pinko lefty reputation by almost editorialising about issues close to the game during match reports rather than simply providing a decent analysis of the days play they've just seen. 'Sidebottom plays his county cricket for Nottinghamshire, a county irrevocably scarred by the actions of the scabs - heirs to Judas Iscariot the lot of them, who sold out the brave legions of the NUM by crossing picket lines during the 1984 Miners Strike' Actually I made that up, but you get the idea. You agree with the sentiment, well - I do, but you're left wondering what on earth it's got to do with an article about quick bowling.

Their coverage of the county championship veers from 'desultory' to 'f*** all' depending on how much coverage they're giving the last Premiership transfer rumours.

Sometimes, though, they do pull the odd rabbit out of the hat, like these descriptions from the special 'Ashes Pull Out' from todays paper -

- Alistair Cook is the one who has the look of an ever-so-slightly deviant choirboy.

- KP is the one who challenges stereotypes about masculinity and campness by blending them all into one strapping lump of charisma.

(True story - At The Oval test in 2005, my wife and I were sitting next to Stephen Fry. We exchanged the usual pleasantries whilst a few people sitting round us asked for autographs -his, not ours. When KP walked out to bat just before lunch, my wife said to Fry that she didn't realise Kev was so big, having only ever seen him on TV. Fry leaned over, and in a conspiratorial tone, said 'Well, I wouldn't kick him out of bed!')

- Andrew Strauss is the one who would come across as posh, even if he was wearing a shell suit and had an Embassy Regal dangling from his mouth.

- Matt Prior has the unsettling appearance of a villian in a dystopian horror movie.

And, the best of all -

- Tim Bresnan looks as though he's won a pub raffle to play for England.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Life in the fast lane

Brett Lee's five wicket haul at New Road, coming immediately after getting bawled out by his skipper for fraterizing with the home fans, sets Australia something of a conundrum for the first test.

All the evidence suggests that Cardiff is a slow wicket - from the matches played there so far this season , to the fact that Steve Harmison has stated that he doesn't want to play there, but would rather play on the quicker pitch at Lords, which tells you all you need to know about Harmison, and must come as a huge relief to the selectors...

Yet Australia now seem ready, almost by default, to go into the game with a four-pronged pace attack, leaving the spinning to North and Michael Clarke.

Admittedly, if your main spinning option is Hauritz, then this could be seen as addition by subtraction, but it's a handy little boost for England, just FIVE DAYS before the game starts.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Country

"Before I crack on with my eulogy to Michael Vaughan, there is one thing I've got to get off my chest: he ain't a Yorkshire lad, he's from fricking Lancashire!"


- Matthew Hoggard, cricinfo.com

Days of Future Passed

Maybe the post below was ever so slightly churlish – possibly a reaction to the incessant speculation and media circus that has surrounded every Vaughan move since his resignation as England captain less than a year ago.

It's symptomatic of the fact that we’re still clinging to 2005 like an umbilical cord. The underlying implication from some seems to bw that if we can pick the 2005 side, we’d all live happily ever after. Hey, people get older, people lose form and never regain it to the same extent. Vaughan only went over 50 once in that series – in ten attempts - something that got lost in all the champagne bubbles and Alka Seltzer.

The players are exactly the same – Collingwood’s comments about wanting Vaughan in the squad of 16 for example – not exactly a vote of confidence in the current skipper, bearing in mind Vaughan could hardly buy a run, so presumably Colly was referring to Vaughan’s leadership skills.

Even in the cold light of day, it does seem odd that ‘the knee’ wasn’t an issue for Vaughan all the time there was a chance of a place in the squad, but now the door seems to be shut the knee is the excuse for a retirement. Presumably he’d have risked the knee?

His retirement, thus closing the door on any 'bring back vaughan' calls when we go a test down and Bopara is averaging 6.73 is a bit of a wrench, but as KP said - it will help this summer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Over

Mixed emotions here, as Michael Vaughan announces his retirement.

I've seen no one bat better for England that Vaughan did on the 2002/03 Ashes tour, except perhaps David Gower in 1985 - and his captaincy was at another level right up to The Oval four years ago.

But then there's the second paragraph confirming that the state of his right knee is behind the decision. So, he felt his right knee was ok all the time he was angling for a place in the England squad, but as soon as his was left out, suddenly the knee deteriorated and he's going to give up the game...

Someone is being very cynical here, and I'm not entirely sure it's me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When the Levee Breaks

First day overcast, second day rain due in the afternoon,

Which, based on Cardiff's reputation means the ground won't dry out until after tea on Day 5.

A draw then!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Coming Struggle for Power (1)

The Old Batsman has a few pertinent thoughts about Ricky.

Well worth a read.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black Propaganda

The ‘turd in the punchbowl’ award of this T20 World Cup goes to New Zealand for their crass accusation of ball tampering against Pakistan – soon after they’d been skittled by Umar Gul for 99 in a particularly inept batting display.

- Forget the fact that the umpire automatically gets to inspect the ball after each dismissal, plus is allowed to demand an inspection at any other time during the game if he feels there is a suspicion of foul play

- Forget the fact that there are at least fifteen cameras trained on the players during play, so a bowler could hardly pick his nose without images being thrown up on the big screen, let alone rough up the ball

- Forget that the ball had landed on concrete a couple of times earlier in the innings – something that tends to have a roughening effect to say the least

No, they’d been bowled out cheaply and got stuffed in a game that a lot of neutral observers (this one included) had tipped them to win – therefore Pakistan must have done it illegally.

The match officials promptly exonerated Pakistan, but it’s all now gone very quiet as we wait for anything approaching an apology from New Zealand. You’d like to think that they might end up on the end of a ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ charge after this sort of bullshit, but you’re not holding your breath. For a sporting nation who reacted like a maiden aunt accused of vivisection after the Brian O'Driscoll ‘spearing’ incident on the 2005 Lions Tour it’s all a bit rich.

In fact, it’s offensive and pathetic.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slowhand

Yuvraj - st. Foster... awesome!

Begs the question, if spin is going to be a big weapon for England later this summer, who wears the gloves?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Marine Boy

When was the last time you heard the word 'flipper' used in relation to an English international bowler - as Chappelli did for Adil Rashid this evening?

Maybe if someone had an off the wall answer to the 'favourite TV programme' question in one of those Q&As that seem to be coming increasingly prevelent.

Flatlining

Increase in Chris Gayle's pulse rate during his batting assault on the Australians on Saturday at the Oval? Nil.

At one stage I got the impression that if he hadn't had a bat to lean on he'd have descended into a narcoleptic coma.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tears of a clown

There's plenty of entertainment in a T20 match - the daredevil running between the wickets, balls flying into different postal districts, fielders throwing themselves around like excitable puppies - not to mention the earsplitting PA and the bizarre gyrations of three escapees from a lunatic asylum.

So I can't quite get my head around why Stuart Broad unilaterally decided to introduce an element of slapstick farce into the proceedings during the last over of Friday night's game.

Not once, but four times!

Friday, June 05, 2009

"Wrong" said Fred

There's a bit of a kerfuffle going on over some comments Andrew Flintoff has made in an interview with GQ magazine about immigration, multi-culturalism, and the state of Britain today.

The Daily Liar have, predictably, picked up the story and are running with it under an equally predictable headline - Link
"I have no problems with a multicultural society, I think that is to the benefit of the country. But you have to be careful what levels you take it to. 'It annoys me when I phone a hotel receptionist in my own country and they don't understand what I am saying because they don't speak English."
Well, the fact you've got people who can't understand what you're saying isn't a result of multi-culturalism. If you want to blame anyone for your room service problems, blame the hotel manager who is paying East Europeans the minimum wage (or less) and is happy to put them, and you, in that position.
"I see Manchester on a Friday night and I would be horrified seeing my daughter going to the bars.

'There are places I wouldn't go to now. You see these reports of stabbings, bottlings, shootings, and you think, "What is happening to this country?"

'I think rap music has a lot to do with it. It makes it sound cool not to conform, and to be violent. That's why I think sport plays such an important role. Cricket kept me away from trouble."

Well - yes I can see why you wouldn't want your daughter seeing what goes on in Manchester town centre. Pissed up people on 24 hour benders making an arse of themselves are never a pretty sight are they? (See the picture the Liar use to illustrate their story to see what that sort of person looks like) They end up doing silly things like putting their lives in danger on a pedalo, or turning up to nets/work drunk after a night on the lash when they are the team captain and supposed to be setting an example - I can see why you'd want to shield her from that sort of thing.

As for the 'rap music' criticism - in case you hadn't noticed, people have been running scared of one sort of musical genre or another since around the time Bill Haley shaking was his quiff.
'There's knife crime, gun crime, homelessness, the financial crisis. So many things need fixing. But when you go to somewhere like India you realiise we're not in that bad a shape. We have a tendency in Britain to talk ourselves down."

Wow - India sounds really awful doesn't it, but not quite awful enough to make you turn down the opportunity of going there and earning half a million quid eh?

As for talking the country down - why not leave that to the Daily Mail and it's friends, and stick to your day job. As you say yourself, cricket keeps you out of trouble.

Silence is Golden

When Paul Ince was playing in the Premiership, it was pretty common knowledge that his nickname was the 'Guvnor'. What's not so widely known is that he actually bestowed said moniker on himself - even going so far as having a car numberplate made up and, presumably, christianing his house 'Chez Guv'.

You wonder how he sold his team mates on such arrogance - in particular Roy Keane during his time at Man Utd.

'Hey Incey, pass me a drink'

'It's Guvnor'

'Eh?'

'It's Guvnor - everyone calls me Guvnor'

'Do they?'

'Yes. It's Guvnor.'

'Well I'll fecking well call you what I fecking want. Now pass me a fecking drink.'

'Er, OK'.

I was reminded of Incey's chutzpah by the recent comments from Peter Siddle when he said that he wanted to take over the mantle previously held by Merv Hughes and Shane Warne of being the butt of English crowd abuse.

The kneejerk reaction to that is 'Ok mate - no problem. You asked for it'. But you'd like to think that there could be a bit more subtlty built into the response. After all, if Siddle uses such abuse to motivate himself, why give him the pleasure?

My suggestion is to therefore greet him with absolute silence when he arrives down on the boundary. No jeers, no waving, no middle-fingers, no nothing. If there has to be a song (and we know how the Barmy Army love a good song - even if it's the same one all bloody day long!!) then how about a quick rendition of Bjork's "Shhhh, Shhhh".

Or even John Cale's 4' 33''.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sloppy Seconds

Ricky thinks there's something odd about the ECB making the Lords test the second in the Ashes series, unlike in 2005 when it was the opener.

Mr Conspiracy comes down off his grassy knoll, and says it's a deliberate ploy by the ECB. (Would that they were capable of such high jinks...)

Well - let's have a look back through pre 2005 history: -

2001 - Lords Second Test
1997 - Lords Second Test
1993 - Lords Second Test
1989 -Lords Second Test
1985 - Lords Second Test
1981 - Lords Second Test
1977 - Lords First Test
1975 - Lords Second Test
1972 - Lords Second Test
1968 - Lords Second Test
1964 - Lords Second Test
1961 - Lords Second Test
1956 - Lords Second Test
1953 - Lords Second Test
1948 - Lords Second Test
1938 - Lords Second Test
1934 - Lords Second Test (Only England win)
1930 - Lords Second Test
1926 - Lords Second Test

Is that enough...???

If there was a test match venue Down Under where Australia hadn't beaten England since 1934, I reckon it would have been flattened by now!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Claret and Champagne

A rare cross-over into football territory to say 'congratulations' to Burnley for winning promotion to the Premiership.

To any non-Brits reading this, let's just say that Burnley is a small town (pop. 75,000 odd) in Lancashire where they still point at aeroplanes and marvel at the wonders of electricity. Interesting times ahead when they start facing up to the likes of ManUre, London French and Chelski...

On a topical note, the cricket team produced Jimmy Anderson.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smugglers Blues

Yes, drug dealers are the lowest of the low - way down there with child molesters, fox hunters and people who walk behind the bowlers arm and then wave when their image appears on the big screen.

But THIRTEEN YEARS for Chris Lewis??? Talk about pour encourager les autres. It's an astonishing sentence, bearing in mind Lewis wasn't actually the dealer - who is presumably happily walking the streets of London as I write this. yes, you need to send a message to anyone else tempted to try and make a fast buck by carrying a load of charlie through customs - but thirteen years?

Actually, the judge may be being quite cute here. Maybe we should be looking a bit closer at the 'other offences to be taken into consideration' stuff that normally comes out in court. Maybe Lewis is being punished for the far more serious crime of 'criminal waste of an extraordinary natural talent' that he was arguably guilty of during his career.

Serious question - reports say that Lewis was totally penniless and destitute before taking up the offer of being a 'mule'. So where were the Professional Cricketers Association when all this was going? Presumably they were aware of the situation - or was he kicked out of the union after the 'match fixing' allegations.

As Lewis himself said - 'the guy who blows the whistle gets dicked on'. (Link goes to a good article, by the way - well worth a read)

Blistering Pace?

Unplayable balls

(Thanks Harry!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

''No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones..."

Australian touring party

No Warne
No McGrath
No Gilchrist
No Hayden
No Langer

...and no Andrew Symonds either.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sin of Omission

Oh dear. It was such a worthy venture. Get one of the most reknown cricket journos to come up with his top all time 100 cricketers, and then publish the list, with associated write-ups in a new book, to be publshed in an Ashes year.

So far so good.

But then poor old CMJ dropped an absolute clanger. Check out my post below, when I assumed certain names in the top 10 - mainly because they were obvious choices who weren't in the 11-100 already listed. I was right on each one, except Anil Kumble.

Anil Kumble does not make the list of the top 100 cricketers of all time.

You have to assume it's an oversight. There can be no logical reason why CMJ left out the fourth highest wicket taker of all time. No other bowler who took more than 300 wickets (apart from Bob Willis) isn't in there.

Trouble is, the omission tends to devalue the whole exercise.

For what it's worth, here's the top 10, with some TRSM observations: -

Bradman - is there any other sport where one person has been 50% better, statistically, than anyone else?

WG Grace - Top ten, yes, but rather an odd choice for second place. Presumably CMJ thought he had to toss the gin-swillers a bone.

Sobers - Obvious. Unlike any other all-rounder, would probably get into the top 100 on either his batting or bowling alone.

Warne -If not the best bowler ever, then certainly the most important. From the late seventies to the mid nineties, seeing a leg spinner playing club cricket was a rarity. These days, almost every side has at least one youngster doing it.

Hobbs -You can't argue with 197 centuries - on uncovered wickets, with pads made of cardboard and a 200 year old bat.

Richards - The only batsman I can remember in my lifetime who genuinely scared you when he walked out to bat.

SF Barnes - Something of a wildcard pick, but 189 wickets in 27 tests tells the story. A member of the ILP - something you don't read in many of the history books!

Hammond - Obvious, but I wonder if he's in the top ten through force of habit and the power of reminiscence rather than any deep analysis. Ahead of Hutton, Lara, Gavaskar?

Tendulkar - No arguements here - and he's done it all under the most extraordinary scrutiny and managed to maintain his sanity.

Gilchrist - No arguements here either. Worth noting that he and Warne were the only two of the top ten to play together in the same team. They were also joined by the guy at No. 12 (McGrath), which explains a lot.

Paperback Writer

JRod's written a book.

Haven't actually seen physical evidence of this extraordinary feat yet, but we can only assume that it contains words, full stops, paragraphs and all the orthodox stuff you'd expect.

Gideon Haigh has done the foreward, so presumably JRod has pictures of him that Mrs Haigh shouldn't see.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Final Countdown

The Thunderer have done one of the those '100 Greatest Cricketers of All Time' surveys. Rather than let members of the great unwashed have a say they left it up to Christopher Martin - Hyphen to make the choice. CMJ can be a bit pompous, but you can't argue with his knowledge and experience.

So far they've published 11-100 and are making us wait until Monday before they reveal the top 10. You can assume Bradman, Viv Richards, Hobbs, Sobers, Warne, Kumble, Gilchrist, Tendulkar...

It's the sort of thing you can spend hours trawling through and picking holes in. I gave up after about fifteen minutes, with the following observations -

No Willis? He's a whiny old git, but he's the only one with 300 plus test wickets who's been left out.

Is KP really better than Waugh, Gower, Cowdrey and Greenidge?

Is Flintoff better than Courtney Walsh, Holding or Shaun Pollock?

Alan Knott and Ian Healy - but no Rodney Marsh?

No Ian Chappell?

No Matthew Hayden - unless I've missed something, or he's in the top 10.

I'm sure you'll find your own nits to pick. Have fun - I'll post the top 10 on Monday.

Sticky Wicket

It's not looking too good is it?

53 days to go.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scared of the Dark

Isn't it about time KP grew a pair?

You start to think that Jimmy Anderson must owe him a lot of money, or done something utterly heinous to offend him, the number of times Jim has to go out and face the (chin) music because Kev either can't be arsed, or is scared of making a low score.

Last night was another fine example - or horrible one, depending on your viewpoint. Not only did Anderson nearly get decapitated by a pumped up Fidel Edwards, but KP was actually sitting out on the balcony having a good laugh about it with Ravi Bopara. Also note that Kev didn't have his whites on, so presumably had Jimmy got out, yet another sucker would have had to go out to spare the poor lamb from having to do what batsmen are supposed to do.

One final point - how would Pietersen, or the England management, be feeling if Anderson had broken a finger or a wrist, and thus been ruled out of the rest of the game and possibly longer?