Monday, April 30, 2007

More run madness.

Surrey scored 496-4 against Gloucestshire in a Friends Provident Trophy to set a new world-record for a score in a 50-over match. The innings beat the previous high of 443 set by Sri Lanka in 2006.

Clearly, the Oval is a belter this year. But this “successful batting” business is troubling me. I worried about the ECB explicitly pursuing a pro-batsman line. I just hope this doesn’t go too far. Have pity for the poor bowlers.

Anyway, maligned Spinner, Chris Schofield took three wickets. Which was good. But not as good as Ali Brown’s 176 off 97 balls, with 20 fours and 8 sixes. A-mazing.

Australia and God win World Cup

Well. I suppose I ought to write something about those Ozzie blokes.

Apparently, they won a cricket game the other day. Although, I’m not sure; it was too dark to make out much.

I listened to the fag-end of the Sri Lankan innings on Test Match Special. I was monitoring progress on the internet intermittently whilst watching a rubbishy film on Channel 4. At 100-1, I thought that Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara were well set to chase down the huge Australian score.

Sadly, I knew all too well what was going to happen. Also, the strange gravity of crap films started to pull. What is it with bad movies? Why must you watch the end? First of all, you don’t care what is going to happen and secondly you already know how it’s going to end.

Anyway, the weather conditions changed. The ball started swinging (which it didn't for the Lankans), clouds came and crucial wickets were lost. Despite the solid platform that Sri Lanka had built, the pressing demands of the Duckworth-Lewis calculations required them up their rate. Resulting in more wickets.

Eventually, night-time came, but the brave little tail-enders continued. Christopher Martin-Jenkins was left with rather ludicrous scenes to describe:

“In comes Clarke, I think it’s Clarke, only I can’t see his head. And he bowls. I’ve lost it. No idea…oh! I think he’s bowled him! Yes! He’s bowled. Oh no, it’s gone for four.”

This match was so stacked against the Sri Lankans I have decided that God must have intervened. This leaves us with the rather troubling corollary that God, therefore, is an Australian. Fortunately, this revelation goes a long way to explain why my socks always seem to be magically stolen.

Look at the picture. Such was the supernatural ability of Adam Gilchrist, that he was able to smash the ball around without a bat.

Grave times for cricket fans. Worse still for atheists.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

World Cup Final starts! (ish)

This is not soggy London. It is Barbados. A sunny, warm Caribbean island. Just before Sri Lanka play Australia in the final.

It is 15:32 GMT and it is, according to the bloke on Test Match Special, it’s “hosing it down”.

So, the Final has been delayed. The Ozzies, up to their usual cheating tricks, “won” the toss and elected to bat.

Everyone is very worried about this match. Partly because 95% of the population of the cricketing public want the Australians to lose. But also, they’re concerned that they’ll see another “steam-rolling” - Sri Lanka sinking in the Barbadian damp without a trace.

Seeing as the cricket hasn’t started yet, I’ll have a bit of a ramble. Please bear with me.

Now, some of you may have noticed my name. This denotes a philosophical position. I justify this stance by pointing to the Australian Cricket Team. These players have been dominant in international cricket for over a decade, maybe even two decades.

They have probably played a form of cricket most opposed to the original spirit of the game (with the exception of Douglas Jardine 1932 touring side). They have bullied opponents, intimidated them and sledged heavily. They are, in short, bastards. Yet they have won.

Why does God reward bastards?

If I was the All-Mighty, I’d make a team of decent, good-natured chaps win. Like Bangladesh. Now, although they are young, they are a nice set of blokes it seems. I’d let them win. They would grind the Australians into the dust. Every time. Every. Time. Divine Justice, is that.

Surely, the Australian nation is the greatest proof that atheism must be true?

Anyway, it’s still raining. Maybe God is softening up the pitch and slowing the outfield…?

Oh dear. Such is the rain that there’s talk of this match turning into a twenty-twenty. That would be a truly terrible end to a rather disappointing World Cup.

Here’s a final thought or a rather rambling blog: of the six matches played in the Kensington Oval so far, four have been won by the side batting second. Perhaps this and this post might have the final word in this World Cup. I hope so.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cricket and constructivism

So the whole world thinks the England cricket team is rubbish. Why is this? The power of the press is never greater than when a team is losing. It can force changes, like the removal of a coach or a captain; it can call up players; it can drop them; it can even change the batting order.

These are examples of recent changes within the England camp, precipitated by an angry media. When the team is winning, however, there isn’t much to criticise, and therefore the influence of the papers is limited. But here’s a thought: the press practice mind control.

Constructivism is an epistemological theory in which knowledge comes from a discourse between agents. A conversation, as it were, between two people help to “construct” concepts. This dialogue sets the meaning of words and the provides the content to knowledge and a way of perceiving the world.

If you and I agree that this object in my hand is a “cat” it automatically becomes, in our shared understanding, a cat. There is no law of science, mathematical argument or logical proof that can dictate otherwise. Similarly, constructivists argue all knowledge stems from such intersubjective discourses. A “table” is a table because we say it is.

Those partaking in these discussions actually define the way listeners perceive the world. They are, in Hilary Putnam’s term, epistemic “experts” that give the broader community a way of understanding their environment.

In the modern world, it is the media that serves this function. They report the facts, but also frame them in a particular way, which tacitly influences our own awareness.

Take the English cricket press. It is universally acknowledged in all papers that England is endowed with a pitifully poor team. Yet, let us examine the facts:

  • We are ranked seventh in the ICC rankings, and managed to come fifth in the World Cup.
  • We are one of only four not to lose to a minnow.
  • We have come the “closest” to beating Australia.
  • We have had some tight games against other major sides.
  • Four batsmen have scored over 300 runs, and one over 500.

All in all, I don’t think this tournament has been too bad for the English, especially considering their thrashing in the Ashes. We also managed to get through to the second round, which is an achievement in itself.

Yet, the all-pervasive discourse of the press is inescapable, and we all seem to think we did terribly. This seems at odds with the facts.

However, as noted above, once the team seems “weak” the relative influence of the press to affect the management of the squad is increased. A conspiracy...?

Just thought I’d share that little thought with you.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rampant canneries eat impotent springboks

The biggest anti-climax to hit the World Cup so far saw Australia thrash pretenders to the throne South Africa by seven wickets.

Useless Saffers totally misread the conditions and decided to go quickly onto the attack after they put themselves in to bat. Ignoring the swinging ball, Glen McGrath’s accurate bowling and all common sense, the South African top order swung merrily away only to lose their wickets repeatedly.

Just Herschelle Gibbs and Justin Kemp showed any steel against the Ozzies. Andre Nel provided some valiant resistance until the end.

Nel is a compulsive competitor. He tried to take the Ozzies on, at eight wickets down. There was slegding between himself and to the world in general. “Bring it on”, he said to the bowler. The Australians just laughed.

This was a pathetic performance and, to be honest, stupid. I think a combination of being labelled “chokers” and Ricky Ponting’s insistence that six-hitting is the way forward in modern cricket saw the end of the Proteas. They were at sea.

A more traditional, slower approach was needed in that innings. The slogging should have waited until the introduction of Shane Watson. There were still seven overs to spare and with a bit of upper-order nurdling, the SA’s could have posted a challenging score. But they were, it seems, totally incapable of changing their strategy.

This, like England's dodgy approach, was daft. One-day cricket is about adaptability and a lightness of foot. The South Africans seemed like a stodgy one-trick pony. And they paid the price.

Now I’m annoyed because only England have pushed the Australians. Let’s hope they get at least one game before they lift the trophy. This is bloody ridiculous. Bloody universe.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kiwis show their rubbishness

The deep flaws in the New Zealand cricket team were finally exposed by Sri Lanka yesterday. The Lankans eased home by 81 runs, in a match in which the Black Caps were outclassed in all departments.

Suffering from two poor umpiring decisions, Sri Lanka still went on to post a formidable 289, aided by an intelligent century from Mahela Jayawardene. In response, the New Zealanders looked at sea against the impressive swing and pace bowling of Chaminda Vaas (1-25) and Lasith Malinga (1-21).

However, at two wickets down, Dilhara Fernando decided to make the game more interesting and single-handedly attempted to lose the match for Sri Lanka. Conceding 45 of his five overs (at the point when the Kiwis only had 90 on the board) Fernando was all over the place. His yips probably arose from Rudy “Harsh Bastard” Koertzen giving him two warnings for running on the pitch in his first over. That’s right. Two warnings in his first over. Nevertheless, I was starting to worry, as the Kiwis had moved ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis trajectory.

However, such is the depth of the Sri Lankans attack, Muttiah Muralitharan was brought on. Now, there are some certain lessons that come from cricketing history. Don’t bowl bouncers to Devon Malcolm, don’t rise to Shane Warne’s challenges and don’t slog Murali. Unfortunately, Jason Oram did not heed this lesson and for the fifth time on the trot against Sri Lanka, fell to the off-spinner. Murali eventually took four further wickets (in about five minutes) to pull the Lankans out of reach.

Sri Lanka really showed the importance of an all-round, quality bowling attack. Clearly, Fernando was a major liability. But there was something in the air that night. The stars were bright, Fernando. And this weakness was quickly taken off and covered up. There's no regret. If I had to do the same again. I would, my friend, Fernando.

The Kiwis, on the other hand were just as rubbish as I have always said. Bizarrely an attack consisting of one good bowler, a twirler and an army of dibbly-dobblers didn’t do the trick against world-class opposition. This team would have been annihilated by the Ozzies. I hope this episode has proven the point that New Zealand are not, and never were, “good”.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Competency testing England's captains

There has been a lot of discussion about the England captaincy, with the usual focus on the form of the captain fuelling the fire. Michael Vaughan’s one-day form has been unimpressive, with an average of only 20-odd, his place in the batting line-up has been a free wicket for opponents. Does this mean we should sack him? Well, no, I don’t think so.

The Ayalac minions have busily worked out criteria that could provide a competency test of the England role.

Scores will be given, out of ten in the following fields:

  • Performance in tests.
  • Performances in ODIs. All three disciplines are taken into account.
  • Tactical awareness. Comprising innovation and nouse.
  • Authority/leadership skills.
  • Media management: how they deal with the press (out of five).
  • Insight: what they say to the press (out of five).
Results
Player Tests ODIsTactical Authority MM Insight Total/50
Vaughan 8 4 8 8 4 4 36
Collingwood 6 7 5 6 4 3 31
Strauss 7 5 7 7 3 4 33
Bell 76 4 4 1 1 23
Flintoff 8 8 5 7 2 2 32
Pieterson 9 9 4 7 4 1 34
Bopara 0 6 4 3 0 0 13

These are some names that have been suggested for the job – I’ve also thrown in Kevin Pieterson because I have, in mad moments, pondered such a possibility. Judging by these numbers, he might be one to watch, too.

Strangely, and despite the heavy performance weighting, Vaughan comes out on top. This happens to the outcome that out-going coach, Duncan Fletcher, also favours. And in the terms of achieving stability and continuity in a notoriously unsettled role, this might not be a bad thing.

I would also suggest that England, if they are to change a captain, to do so in both versions of the game. England tried the two captains route a while ago: Michael Atherton took charge of the test team and Adam Holioke led the one-day side. It was a disaster. No one knew what was going on, and created further instability in the squad.

So, with this in mind, and the results of my scientific survey, it’s probably best to stick with Vaughan for another year or so. He’s a pretty good bowler, too. Keep him as an all-rounder. Stick in at number seven. No problem!

Monday, April 23, 2007

I miss the cricket

Throughout the World Cup, people were moaning that the tournament was going on too long. “Two months!” They exclaimed, “That’s far too long!”

I didn’t think that. I thought it was great – I was going to have cricket coming out of my nose they’d by so much of it. And lo! It was everything I thought it could be.

Every afternoon, I’d snuggle up to the computer, just me, my work and Test Match Special wittering away in the background. The quality of my output rapidly slumped and my eyes got square – it was like my childhood all over again.

But, another innocent period of magic and hope has been ripped away from me. Today, there was no cricket. Not even county cricket. Not even weird Indian games that I only pretend to follow.

I feel lonely.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Last Tango in Antigua

So the Irish have finally exited the World Cup. They didn’t leave us empty handed though. They left us with two great gifts: The Ferret and The Chicken. A splendid addition to my list of World Cup Dances.

Apparently, the Irish players have been practicing their celebrations. Which is understandable, if you sneak Lara’s wicket, you better have some dynamic moves prepared otherwise you’ll look a bit daft. If I got a wicket in the World Cup I’d run about like a maddy, swinging my arms about and giggling like a lunatic. Not cool.

But Ireland have practiced hard, and are now the polished image of suave. The captain, Trent Johnston has led from the front. I previously gave you a glimpse of his stlye, but here's the chicken in its full glory:
The captain explains his epiphany when creating these elaborate moves:
"The chicken dance came out of when I am out on the dance-floor, the guys say I look like a chicken so that's just a celebratory dance I've given to the guys."
Not just the team, a gift to the world, Trent. The world. Why aren't there more dedicated cricketers like this?

The true star of Irish celebration, however, has been Dave Langford-Smith. Legends have it that Dave was hopeless at dancing, but needed something for his wedding. Thus, in a panic, he invented The Ferret (see right).

The Ferret differs slightly from the Chicken. Instead of the rhythmic flapping of “wings” the arms are stationary in the shape of a heart in an appreciative nod to the beauty of the Riverdance. The dancer also emphasises his Grove by an awe-inspiring hop from one foot to the other.

As beautiful as the Gap of Dunloe.

He’s an Ayalac reconstruction of the wedding disco, where the magic began.
The coolest thing to come out of Ireland since Michael O'Leary's heart.

Bye bye Brian

What a cracker-jack game! England just managed to scrape home against the Windies, with only a ball and a wicket to spare.

This was what the World Cup was supposed to be about. The match had passion, stroke-play, inspirational fielding and tension. Both sides played out of their skins to produce the best game of tournament, and the relaxed regulations resulting in the best atmosphere so far.

Everyone was left feeling: why now? Perhaps they thought that the World Cup really started now? Perhaps the released pressure allowed the players to relax and to “express themselves”. This is precisely what Chris Gayle did, by striking 79 off only 58 balls. This set the tone for the match, and put to bed any ambitions of the English openers to “build an innings”, and indeed Michael Vaughan positively struck 78 also, from 68 balls. Kevin Pieterson scored a match-winning 100, and Paul Nixon chipped in with a vital 38 at the death.

Michael Vaughan showed us he can bat in ODIs, that’s why I think they should keep him as captain, but with the instructions to Play His Shots. He’s alright really. Leave him alone.

There was some sizzling fielding, by both sides. Paul Collingwood took a stunning catch to dismiss Dwayne Smith, diving high to his left to snatch a bullet from the air. We also saw a total of six run-outs, some better than others, but a string of West Indian throws from the edge of the circle to put the English middle order in disarray.

The main occasion of the game was, of course, the seeing off of Brian Lara in his last international appearance. Unfortunately, after a sprightly 18, Marlon Samuels ran out the Great Man in rather unseemly circumstances. This put a dampener on the game, and the crowd was considerably quieter for the rest of the innings, acknowledging Samuels’ fifty with rather icy applause. It was a pity to see such a player felled in this fashion – but that’s cricket, I suppose.

To be honest, I wanted the Windies to win. I’m all for the underdog, even if it is against my own team. I was sad for the rest of the game, and I vindictively willed the English to lose wickets, just so Lara would get something out of a well-fought contest. I know I thought him a bit of a bastard the other day, after my personal run-in with the batting legend, but I do have some soft spots. And not where you think, either.

Cheerio Brian

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Early season madness.

Normally, the start of the season sees chilly breezes, rusty batsman and dodgy pitches. This year, the Championship has been broached with a bursting stream of runs.

So far, in terms of team performances, I count five 300s, three 400s, three 500s, one 600 and one 800. In just seven matches.

Justin Langer has again scored a triple hundred for Somerset, bagging 315 against Middlesex. Even Jason Gillespie scored 123, at number ten. Strangely, exactly one year ago, he scored a double hundred. 19 April: the Golden Day for Dizzy, clearly.

Anyway, the poor old bowlers. I hope this sort of batting frenzy won’t continue all season, but I have a horrible feeling about the direction of English domestic cricket.

Here’s a quote from the ECB website:

“In one-day cricket, the pitch should be one that allows batsmen to have their day, and thus provide the entertainment that as spectators we have all grown to love.”
I hope that grounds men aren’t applying the same logic to four-day pitches.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Ayalac news round-up

So much news! So little inclination.

As a blogger, and not a reporter, I must comment on current affairs, not try to present them in some dubious light as “fact”. Therefore, I’ll round up recent “goings on” with a comment and my stance on the issue: for or against.

BONG! Shoaib Malik appointed captain of Pakistan

At the age of only 25 and after only 18 test matches, the reliably prescient Pakistan Cricket Board has backed young Shoaib Malik for the captaincy role. Although he has a test average of only 37, his decent off-spinning and all-round adaptability has meant that this chap is probably going to stick around for a while. This is pretty much the only criterion that the PCB uses, as far as I can tell, considering recent craziness, it’s understandable.

Even though he seems perfectly moulded for ODIs, I’m not sure about his test match ability. Perhaps no one cares? I’m sure he’ll do a grand job. But I’m pleased that Pakistan has picked someone young. Stability is what Pakistan need right now. Bring on the Shoaib era!

He is a bit on the sweaty side, though. Perhaps that makes him more endearing?

So, I’m FOR this one.

BONG! Fletcher not brought back

In a surprise move, the ECB has not begged Duncan Fletcher to return. Instead, the ECB wants an “inspirational leader”. Ayalac happens to think that not such thing exists in the world, but we can let them dream.

Personally, I think we should appoint Ricky Ponting to the position, with immediate effect. Perhaps chuck in Mathew Hayden and the rest of the Ozzies as assistant coaches. This would almost certainly improve England’s chances of winning. Anyway, “moving on” is usually a good thing, especially when you have no choice.

So, I’m FOR this one.


BONG! Brian Lara decides to call it a day.

Brian Lara, the hero of many millions, has resigned from all forms of international cricket. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Although he is the still the best batsman in the world and has a decent claim to the best batsman of all time, he still has great innings left in him. And I was rather looking forward to seeing him play in England this season. Yet, apparently, he’s a bit of a bastard in the dressing room, and his team-mates might be glad that smug bloke with all the runs has gone.

Also, Lara came to Twickenham once. He was signing cricket paraphernalia during the launch of his new cricket bats (they were called “375” and the lusty “501”. Shame they were rubbish. They probably won’t have lasted 375 balls before the handle fell off) I got him to sign my sun hat. That’s right. I met Brian Lara. I looked at him, and he looked at my hat. I said “…” and he signed away. He moved my hat to the far side of the desk, and the next kid pushed me out of the way. It was over. He didn’t even look at me. You couldn’t even read what it said. Maybe “Brlarn” or “Dr Larson” not sure what exactly. Damn you Lara. At the time, I was dwelling vengeance. Little did I know that it could be so easily realised.

So, I’m FOR! Ha! Take that no-job man!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fletcher arrowed

Well, this morning I was going to write a big post about the English leadership, addressing both the coach and captaincy issue. But such was the momentum of the anti-Fletcher witch-hunt that Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, has finally jumped before he was pushed.


Oddly enough, I was going to identify instability as the main problem in the England camp. I was going to bang on about how the coming and going of captains, and changing of leaders generally was going to make English cricket worse.


Then I decided that I had a lot of work to do, and I’d blog later. When I returned, KA-BLAMMO Fletcher has announced his resignation. I am lost for words. So, I’ll vent what’s left of my spleen tomorrow. But, as a teaser, I’ll just say that the coach, good or bad, won’t make much of a difference.


On a final note, I, for one, will want to see the following features in the new coach.

  • Smiles more.
  • Is physical fit and even, to some people’s eyes, attractive.
  • Makes us win.

Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

England trundle away into a dark hole

So, give or take 100 runs, I predicted the score almost perfectly. I also got Andrew Strauss’ and Paul Collingwood’s scores right. Unfortunately, some marmalade must have clogged inside the old Predictoron, as everything else was way off.

Fortunately, we in Ayalac are a fore-sighted bunch, and we adopted the prudent strategy of making Contradictory Predictions. That’s right, long ago doubts were expressed about the Go-Slow approach to the early innings. Let’s quote myself on the 8th March:


But, what happens when England lose their upper-order cheaply? The sloggers are exposed and, if they lose their wickets, an imperfect start turns into a disastrous end. ... Arguably, the insurance of consequence-free early hitting provides a greater buffer to a side wanting to “play it safe”; obtaining quickly the comfort of runs. Whereas nurdling singles can only succeed if executed over a long duration, and with wickets in hand. Pinning our hopes on preserving wickets might undermine confidence further, and place more pressure on the lower order to “catch up”.

This was exactly what happened. The openers did nothing with the many overs they faced, pressurising the exposed middle order to improve the 1.0 over rate, and this proved too much.

The first 45 balls of the England innings saw four scoring strokes. FOUR! You can’t expect to win a match like that. My original view of playing it slow was to get the singles, nurdle it about a bit. But England weren’t even going slowly, they weren’t moving at all.

Moreover, “playing yourself in” requires the batsman to feel bat on ball. To hit into the gaps, to get a sense for the pitch and the bowling. Shouldering arms for six overs does not do this. As we saw with the wickets of both Michael “I’m in” Vaughan and Ian “I’m seeing it like a beach ball” Bell. The first overs were just, quite literally, wasted.

Perhaps England were a little mesmerised by the Irish success against Bangladesh on the same pitch. The Irish openers stayed in for 25 overs for not much, and managed to launch a successful attack at the death. However, the key to Ireland’s victory was keeping those wickets. England’s failure just shows you how risky and even radical this strategy is.

If a useless blogger could have predicted this why couldn’t an entire team of backroom experts? Why the hell am I better than Duncan Fletcher? What is wrong with the world?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The brooding heavens

The cricket gods, perched high in Mount ICC-pus (Dubai) are stirring up a fascinating contest. Can England somehow manage another win to see their crumbling cadaver of a team over the line in one final, spasmodic throe of twitching energy?

I doubt it. However, the England vs. South Africa game should be an interesting one as, enticingly, this match genuinely could go either way. Both sides are flying in the bi-plane of under-achievement in the skies of unrealised potential: the thuderbolt of failure could strike at any time. However, this is yet another “must win” game, and victory means automatic promotion into the semi-finals.

On paper, the Saffers are a stronger team: recently topping the number one spot in world rankings and having lost to England only once out of their last seven games. They also have the advantage of having better players.

And yet they have looked rather lack lustre. Or, as some have it, a bit podgy. Indeed, England, apparently, have been playing really well in the nets. Whenever the net bowler trundles along, they say, our batsman hit it. Against this fearsome training record, all sides will be trembling.

Let’s see what the Predictoron has to say about it all.


******************************PROCESSING*****************************

England will beat South Africa at Barbados by 35 runs.

Having been put into bat, Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell will share a slow 50 run partnership, before Vaughan gets bowled. Andrew Strauss will chip in with a useful 32, but further wickets will leave England on 98-3. Kevin Pieterson will hit a quick 42, Paul Collingwood 31 and Andrew Flintoff not much. This big hitting, and lively lower order support, will see England post 253 for eight.

South Africa will start brightly, with both the openers passing 30. However, panic begins to grip the Proteas’ ranks as Flintoff (4-38) is introduced into the attack and immediately takes wickets. With Vaughan (0-40) and Monty Panesar (1-37) tying down one end, the South African batsman get increasingly desperate against the Lancashire all-rounder, and quickly succumb to him. The loss of wickets will move them further and further behind the run chase, and, therefore, lose.

******************************END************************************

Well, you heard it from here first. England will win! It’s almost enough to give you a seizure.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ireland rhythmically jiggle Bangladesh

Alright, that headline didn’t work. But you can’t say I didn’t try.

Interesting things happened yesterday. One of which was Ireland beating Bangladesh. Now, whether this is intra-minnow warfare is up for debate, but it was an intriguing match nonetheless. The Irish gambled much by batting first on a bouncy, fast pitch. However, it was a worthwhile risk, as the Tigers pace attack lacked teeth and failed to take advantage of the conditions.

After the openers built a strong platform, a decent score of 200+ was always on the cards. The mature Irish batting strategy put a lot of pressure on the Bangladeshis – they needed to preserve wickets if they were to track down 243. Yet, the lively bowling of Boyd Rankin and David Langford-Smith proved too much for them, and from 48-3, it was difficult to see how the Irish could lose. And they didn't - which stymied by desire to see more of the Bangladesh Bop.

As Ireland have taken this opportunity to beat a second Full Member of the ICC ODI league, they now qualify for the Championship. They are now ranked number twelve in the world, after Kenya. Have a look here for the technicalities.

I’m not sure about this mechanism. Yes, well done for beating teams, but I’m not sure whether, after only 12 one-day internationals, Ireland have done enough. Think about other teams that have been slogging away for years and years. Thinks of the Hollands, the Canadas and the Scotlands. They have been playing at this level for a long time, and yet the Irish, after a few whiz-bang performances, have edged past them.

We all know that ODIs are, to a certain degree, lotteries. Any team in the world could beat Australia on their day, well, except for Twickenham second eleven. Ireland trumped a rather down-beat Pakistan, and, to be perfectly honest, Bangladesh is still a minnow and anyone’s game. Considering the ICC’s promotion regulations, you have to wonder how it has taken so long for a minnow to fluke its way through.

This new status will bring more money to Irish cricket, which is good, but the benefits to world cricket will only be seen in the very long term: they may possibly achieve test status in 50 years, but in the interim, more records will fall, standards will drop and international cricket will no longer have the pull as the “elite”, the cream of the sport. Who would want to watch a series of the Ozzies against the Irish, it would be almost as predictable as the Ashes.

Ah well, the ICC usually make the best decisions though. I stop stop worrying.

In other news, Prince William split-up with his girlfriend Kate Middleton and I am, quite frankly, gutted.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tossing


Here is Graeme Smith tossing the coin before he lost to New Zealand. Observe his technique:

  • Strong base, with feet a shoulder's width apart.

  • Feet also athletic, allowing the body to stretch and extend.

  • The tossing arm is raised and bent to maximise spinnage in the coin.

  • Thumb erect for more accurate placement.

  • Left arm shielding the eyes, in case of unexpected "spin back".
Poetry in motion. This man is an expert.

Compare with Michael Vaughan against Bangladesh.

This is a much more flamboyant technique.

Notice his left leg is slightly cocked, to allow maximum reach towards the stars. Moreover, you will observe that, unlike Smith, Vaughan's arm is not bent, it is erect. This is to ensure a greater elevation of the coin. Spinnage is sacrificed for height.

Furthermore, you will see that Vaughan does not use the "thumb" technique, but he extends the index finger, to pinpoint the exact trajectory of the coin.

Lastly, as opposed to Smith steady gaze at trained on the horizon, Vaughan is ascendant, glaring directly at the heavens. Indeed, his entire body is moving, urging him in an upwards. This is to make him look more like a fairy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Old men dispatch Kiwis

“Kiwis” as in New Zealanders, not the fruit. Old men don’t like exotic fruit; it frightens them. Give them a corned beef sandwich any day.

So on to the cricket. Old campaigners Benevolent Uncle Sanath, Granddad Chaminda and Crazed Nephew Murali did the job for Sri Lanka, to see them home against a rather deflated New Zealand.

Stricken by the curse of batting first, the heart of the New Zealand side was ripped open by a great spell of opening bowling by W. P. U. J. C. Vaas. Fleming, Taylor and then Fulton all fell for not much. Here Muttiah Muralitharan took over, keeping the runs down and taking some wickets, as was his want. Only Scott Styris offered some resistance, mounting an innings-saving Nelson.

But it wasn’t enough. After some early innings fireworks from Sanath Jayasuriya, the reliable old Kumar Sangakkara saw the Lankans home. An impressive display, I thought.

People have been suggesting that the Black Caps are actually quite good, and could perhaps win the World Cup.

NO. I say. THEY ARE NOT. THEY ARE RUBBISH.

No one listens to me – not even the sides that lose to them. I am right, though, they will fail. To see when they would lose, I consulted the Predictoron on this. It said “soon”. So that cheered me up a bit.

More importantly, my desperate search for a “Stop The Australians” candidate has settled on Sri Lanka. I thought that South Africa was a safe bet, but they’ve gone all England on me. So now, it seems, all our hopes rest on a smallish island in the Indian Ocean. Or, as I will now call it in honour of my new champions, the “Mad Murali Seas”.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Paul Nixon: England’s Australian

That’s right! Two posts in one day! You lucky devils!

There is something unerringly Australian about the England wicket-keeper, Paul Nixon. I think it’s the way that he wins and annoys the hell out of the opposition. OK – he doesn’t always win for us. But he did yesterday, and saw England home against the fearsome pace of the Bangladeshi attack.

I’ve said elsewhere that I think that people don’t give enough credit to gobby keepers. In terms of batting, all you want is a bit of lower-order slogging to end of the innings on an up-beat note. But sledging is Nixon's main forte, and there's a nice account of his constructive comments here.

However, there are limits to how Australian we would want Nixon to become – see here for a lament against Ricky Ponting’s on-the-pitch pathetic remarks. I have warned against the the perils of aping the ape-people, but the bloke gives some steel to a notriously feebly-minded side.

So, well done Nixon. You single-handedly beat Bangladesh. And if that isn’t worth writing about, I don’t know what is. Last thought to the man himself:

"Sometimes they call me The Badger, because I'm mad for it, but I take that as a compliment."

The ump-teenth appeal

OK! So we’re back in business with access to Photoshop and everything. Apologies for the poor headline, I thought of a good pun, but didn’t know how to use it. A condition that has haunted me all my life.

Nevertheless, look at the picture! It really improves the quality of the blog, doesn’t it? It’s got David Shepherd in it. Now he was the man. You tell that young Aussie what for, Shep!

Bugger writing, we like the piccies. I’ve become The Sun of the internet world.

So, first up, an interesting English domestic issue: players will be able to refer all dismissals to the Third Umpire if they disagree with the field umpire’s decision in televised matches of the 50-over Friends Provident Trophy (the former C & G Trophy). This will operate on a trial basis, starting from April 29.

For the fielding team, only the captain may appeal against a decision, whereas any batsman can refer to the Third Umpire. Much has been made of the potential of this to slow down the game and undermine the umpire’s authority on the pitch. One umpire said, “There is the potential for it to be a disaster.” But this is true of anything.

Like powerplays and strategic pinch-hitting, it is likely that this new facility will be integrated into the game to be used as another tactic. I imagine that fielding teams would be loathed to use their appeal initially, but will try to grab the momentum when the middle order breaks into the tail-enders to finish off an inning. Similarly, for batsman, unless they are certain they didn’t nick it, I think they will rarely appeal except in dire situations. Maybe they’ll try to chance their arm to save their best batsman? But, seeing as it will be up to the blokes out there, it depends on how twatish they are – you can bet Kevin Pieterson will be appealing repeatedly.

Interestingly, the ECB has decided not to allow the use of the snickometer or Hawk-eye. Quite what the Third Umpire will bring to proceedings is anyone’s guess. I, for the life of me, cannot detect whether the batsman had nicked it over the television. The background interference and imperfections in technology make it all but impossible to perceive a noticeable difference. However, tedious over-analysis of LBW decisions normally gives a conclusive result either way.

Not only will this act to further undermine the field umpires confidence and authority on the pitch, but it also has the potential to reduce the quality of umpiring in the long-term. If the umpires give a decision based on their immediate thoughts, knowing that poor judgement can be corrected, we might develop a culture of dependence. I doubt it though. More likely, the lowering standards of respect that the umpires are given by professional players (there’s still deference at club level) is probably going to drop lower still.

What is baffling me about this whole issue is whether it is important at all. Much is made of a match changing because of a poor decision. So what? Matches change all the time: that’s cricket. It changes when a few wickets are lost; it changes when quick runs are scored. It is all part of the game.

However, I find it hard to believe how a forensic examination of a passage of play will add to the charm of cricket. Indeed, it stuns me when bowlers display self-righteous indignation when a marginal decision goes against them. The differences we are talking about here are of the slightest degrees: less than an inch one way or the other. Unfortunately, no bowler has this much control over the ball, and this degree of movement is more due to the “unfair” pitch than anything.

In reality, when looking at marginal dismissals we are looking into the world of chance. Skill, knowledge and foresight and hazed out by the unpredictable probabilities that determine the outcome of play. The MCC rules took the most sensible line, on this matter, and put the onus of proof on the fielding time. However, considering the nature of flat pitches these days, we may wish to reconsider this initial principle, yet we can a priori reach some systematic settlement for the lottery moments. The rule change will distabilise this solid scheme of laws that have governed the game so well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

West Indies blown out of the window (World Cup)

’m too depressed to blog. The Windies, despite my fervent backing, finally bow out of the World Cup. Apparently, it’s still mathematically possible for Lara’s boys to get through, if New Zealand recalls their 1975 team, for instance. But we all know that even a bunch of naked old commentators would still fancy their chances against the West Indies.

There has been a lot of negativity in the Caribbean about their team’s lack of performance. I am normally dead keen on moaning and being bitter. But it seems to be wearing down the mental strength of an already feebly-minded bunch.

It would have been truly wonderful if they won, though. I think the UN would have declared world peace, or something, if Lara had held aloft the World Cup. Actually, I think the UN always bang on about world peace, but, rather like Geoff Boycott, think they’re too tedious to listens to these days. Or, for that matter, ever.

Ah well. We all knew this would happen. But I let my jubilant elbows get the better of me. Why didn’t anyone restrain my na├»ve joints, eh?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

British Isles lose

England lose to Australia, and New Zealand beat Ireland.

Seeing as Scotland, Holland and the mighty Canada have all lost their place in the World Cup, it seems as though this is a bad day for the Northern Hemisphere. A Southern Hemisphere domination of world cricket? Crickers is unnervingly becoming more like ruggers everyday It's not all bad, though: at least Australia will lose.

So! The England match! We didn’t lose as badly as everyone thought we would. Oz squeaked home with only three overs and a mere seven wickets to spare. Lucky sods. Kevin Pieterson scored a century, and that made his World Cup. Ian Bell hit an impressive 77, driving Glen McGrath out of the attack. However, spineless England decided to play this rest of the innings, and only Ravi Bopara contributed meaningfully.

A lot has been made of this “collapse”, but Bell and KP built a sufficient foundation to launch an aggressive attack. Risky shots were played, and batsman got out. All the same, we still emerged with a defendable total. A little below par, but a reasonable score nonetheless. The real problem was with the bowling.

Sajid Mahmood conceded for 61 wayward runs off his 9.2 overs, Anderson was ok (going for 4.9 per over) but lacked penetration. Yes, a few umpire decisions went against us, but the truth was that we never looked like getting a wicket. Only Andrew Flintoff held some kind of control over the batsman, even Hero Monty didn’t look dangerous.

Again, one has to ask the question: why is Bopara in the side? He’s an all-rounder; he’s batting at seven. For God’s sake! Make use of him! Chuck in with the openers! Bowl him! Anything!*sigh*

Now, my last point is this: I’m not sure the captaincy was that great in this match. Shock! Horror! Ayalac questions the Great Michael Vaughan?! Well look, only five bowlers were used, all of whom (including nine overs of Colly-wobblers) more or less bowled their maximum allocation. It was obvious that this bowling attack wasn’t firing. Why not experiment with Bopara, KP, Vaughan or even Bell? It can’t harm things.

Anyway, the Kiwis also put in a decent-enough performance against the Irish. The Black Caps posted 263 (three less than the “uninspiring” England total against the same opposition) and they easily finished off Ireland. The batting wasn’t great, but the quicks, spinners and all-rounders did a good job of dispatching the Irish batsman. New Zealand look good. But they still lack that special something, that venom that Australia and South Africa posses. They are not so much a Gary Sobers, more of a Chris Harris on speed.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bangladesh bop SA

Well, who’d a thought it? “Minnows”, Bangladesh, destroy the world number one team by 67 runs.

This was a cracker of a match: the Tigers’ intensity on the field was only matched by the Proteas suicidal nonchalance. The Bangladeshi fielding was fearsome; every ball was seized upon by some crazy green-clad figure flinging himself at the ground, denying any easy runs. I would like to say that the pressure this created was too much for South Africa, but I feel their lack of effort was the chief cause of their downfall. The feeble SA innings saw two run outs and two caught and bowled. It was as if they couldn’t be bothered to counter the building pressure.

Bangladesh enjoyed the conditions, and with their army of left-arm spinners, they exploited the dry, dusty pitch well. Racing through their overs, at one point I counted 13 dot balls on the trot within about two minutes. Speeding through your overs in this way is an excellent way to intensify the pressure on the batsman, as it hardly gives an opportunity for the striker to examine the field and consider the next ball.

The South Africans seemed lost at sea against the spinners, and totally unable to get on top of them. Only the walking wounded Herschelle Gibbs got the better of them, lofting the spinners for repeated boundaries on his way to a gutsy 56 not out. The commentators made a lot of the SA’s inexperience of facing spin, due to the lack of slow-bowling in the domestic set-up. I really don’t find this argument convincing. South Africa is an international quality team that has played in the sub-continent and enjoyed success against spinners in the past. They simply failed to formulate a team strategy to counter the left-armers, probably because they didn’t take the Bangladeshis seriously.

Nevertheless, full credit to the Tigers. 251 was a superb effort batting first, against a world-class bowling attack of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini (whose ten overs were dispatched for 61) and the slightly psychotic Andre Nel. Mohammed Ashraful spanked a feisty, and probably match-winning, 87 helping Bangladesh to score 50-odd off the last six overs. A crashing lower-order display in batting the death, after the upper-order had played sensibly to preserve their wickets over the tricky opening overs and power plays underlined a great team endeavour. This mature pacing of their innings was deliberate and made the SA’s floundering performance looked amateur and even desperate in comparison.

Sadly, we didn’t see much dancing in the Tiger’s celebrations. I did, I am ashamed to admit, break out into a spontaneous Bangladesh Bop when the sixth South African wicket fell and it became obvious that the game could not be saved. I was in my dressing gown and wriggling delightedly at the minnow’s success. It’s a good job I don’t have a dog any more, otherwise I would have had some funny looks.

In other news, Ayalac has temporarily lost access to a copy of Photoshop, so there won’t be any pictures for a few days. Sorry. I know it’s depressing, but let’s try and get through this together.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

England fails

I decided to watch the fag-end of the England/Sri Lanka match in the pub around the corner. By “fag-end” I obviously meant the opening overs. I watched the openers lose their wickets in their usual way. They played the traditional English innings of nurdling the ball around for hardly any runs and then losing your wicket after facing down ten overs. Brilliant.

It was at this familiar point of despair that the publicans revolted and decided to watch an interview with Alex Ferguson. He droned on about something. How he loathed the world and everyone in it, or something. Operatic scores and images of footballers footballing followed. The match didn’t seem to start until tomorrow, but that didn’t bother the hype-mongers. God I hate football.

So I head home after a while. A nice pint, at least. I turn on the computer to get Test Match Special over t’internet. I also checked my emails and the people I went to a job interview for thought I was a twat, and offered the job to someone less twat-like. My mood improved when I discovered that Ian Bell and Kevin Pieterson were doing alright. We racked up 100 runs without further lose. Great stuff, we can actually…win. “Screw you!” I thought to the rejectionist firm “I don’t need you now that I can live my life through English cricketers!”

It was a thought I later regretted. England did what only England can. They capitulated feebly like a French army.

Bell out in crazy circumstances. KP, as Vick Marks put it, let his ego get the better of him. Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff similarly fell for not much. 133 for six, chasing 236. I knew this story. Depressed at my lack of job and Australian passport, I decided to spend the rest of the evening watching The Apprentice.

Rory the Rah was fired because his lack of performance and poshness wasn’t what his obnoxious, red-faced boss wanted. Which is what happened to Andrew Strauss, I suppose.

Whilst I was watching quality television, exciting were happening. And we nearly did something amazing. Which was nearly worth writing about.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Slinging Goliath

Oh, the press are full of it this morning.

Gussy Fraser, as always, has produced an interesting article on England’s chances against Sri Lanka.His argument is that the Sri Lankan’s unorthodox method endows a flamboyance that provides the team with an edge in ODIs. Whereas England’s players are “over-coached”, making them too rigid and uncreative to excel at limited overs cricket.

“English cricket is continuously attempting to find reasons why the national side is not competitive in the one-day game. The quality of pitches and the scheduling of limited-over matches in domestic cricket are cited as reasons, but another widely held view is that it is a result of batsman being over-coached. Facing thousands of balls from a bowling machine and being told to play with a straight bat will tighten up a batsman’s technique, but there is a real danger that it turns him into a robot, possessing neither the flair nor the instinct to perform the unpredictable.”

I have spoken previously on this issue: I argued, and still believe, that talk of “England’s natural game” is nonsense. Technique applies to any version of the game. England are rubbish at all forms of cricket at the moment. That's why they're losing ODIs.

However, this issue of “unpredictability” is interesting. It stems, in the main, from bowling at the death. A bowler must surprise the batsman in the closing overs, as consistency can allow the batsman to get into position early. This issue was made more obvious with the advent of twenty20. Every ball, every stroke and every fielding position had to have some innovative element if you wanted to exert control. The MCC manual limited the realm of run-scoring opportunities, so had to be ditched for pressing expediency.

This slightly panicked attitude has, through osmosis, transferred into 50-over cricket. The mantra is now “runs anyway, anyhow and now”, and consequently fielding teams respond by also moving to the unorthodox to jar a batsman’s concentration and drag them out of their comfort zone. Yet, this is not a sustainable strategy over the longer period; unusual bowlers like John Iverson, Paul Adams and even Lasith Malinga eventually lose their novelty and therefore their impact. Once they are “found out” a key part of their threat is diffused, as Michael Vaughan stated today:

“Not many of us have faced [Malinga] but they tell me the first few deliveries are a little bit strange and if you get over them there are plenty of scoring opportunities.”

If bowlers are putting their energies into originality, once this has worn off, what do they have left? Darren Gough, in today’s Metro, says Malinga is:

“exciting to watch purely because he is very different. But I think he’s nothing for our boys to really worry about. I’m sure there are a lot better bowlers in the world than Malinga. In fact there are a lot better bowlers in Sri Lanka than Malinga. Chaminda Vass for one.”

The same Vaas who bowls orthodox and consistent medium-fast stuff for years and still takes wickets.

Those names that survive are those with the quality techniques. Sanath Jayasuriya, for all his panache, has a Test average of over 40, with a top score of 340. You don’t hit 14 Test hundreds by reverse sweeping all day.

I have already told the ECB how they can win, but I feel that England should have the confidence to stick to their game plan, and not become bededazzled by the ephemeral charms of the unconventional. Talk of pinch-hitters up the order, altering tested techniques is distracting and potentially destabilising to an already dubious outfit. But, by the very fact that such fundamental restructurings are being discussed at this juncture does not bode well. Gussy to finish:

“These plans should have been thought through months ago but, as is the case with England and one-day cricket, they appear to be winging it.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Oh, a World Cup has started.

Is it just me or is Duncan Fletcher looking more frog-like every day?

Sorry for my absence. I went to a job interview yesterday. I smoozed them, as you would expect. I smiled at them, and everything. I pretended not to be a gutless bastard; I even suggested I was “nice”. But, one question stumped me.

They: So, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I: Um….

My brain went into unparalleled overtime: what should I say? My first thought was to mention my blog. I’ll go on about how many hundreds read it and the bloke in North China that views it every day. But then I decided that bringing up the internet would reveal my geekiness. And no one likes geeks. Because they are, on the whole, twats. So, I decided to mumble something about reading philosophy and drinking tea.

Then I realised that it is not me that I should be worried about, it’s you. You are the people reading this nonsense. You are the real geeks. You don’t create geekiness, like me, the artist, but you consume it, like a giant geek guzzler. You people are seriously messed up. Bad luck.

You’re still reading. Wow. You people are pathetic. So, I take it you want me to talk about cricket now? OK.

So anyway, Kevin Pieterson, in a recent interview, said:

“… the World Cup starts for England on Wednesday. It’s a massive game and there will be no complacency there I can assure you.”

This is exactly the sort of witless spin that drives me up the wall. Don’t you think that the World Cup would have started shortly after the Opening Ceremony? You know, the big thing with the fireworks and the dancing, do you remember that, KP? Do you remember poncing around in your little England suit? Ring any bells?

Even if you are talking about the “real” start of the World Cup, would you not think that the New Zealand game was pretty important? Perhaps the number one batsman in ODIs was swept off his feet by the stunning beauty of his new team mate, Paul Nixon, that he failed to notice the World Cup was underway.

Or perhaps it is the usual post facto media puntery that the England team love to play. They didn’t lose their games because they’re rubbish, they lost because they were saving their energy for the Real Start. No. This is false. You lost because you are not very good. It is not part of any plan to lose.

Why must all my heroes lie to me? I suppose if I emulate them, I’m more likely to get a job. H’mmm…so I suppose I ought to be grateful to the England PR machine for turning me into a deceitful cheat. That's something.

On a more interesting note, did anyone listen to the Test Match Special coverage of the New Zealand vs. Bangladesh game? (Sir) Viv Richards gave a fascinating talk on the difference between bananas and plantains, and the best methods of preparation of plantains. With “Jonny Cakes” apparently.