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.


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.


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