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


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 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.