Monday, May 28, 2007

Windies, and crowd, battered

The biggest defeat in West Indies’ fine history. England win by an innings and 283 runs. The Windies played some appalling cricket. The bowling was Harminson-like, and the batting lacked purpose, common sense and method of combating a swinging ball.

I first thought the Windies were doing a New Zealand, but their slide is reaching Zimbabwe proportions... or gradients. That's how you measure slopes, right?

Admittedly, a lot of the loss is due to losing key players: Shiv Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Yet, it would have taken substantial contributions by both these men to have stemmed the tide. This is distressing for people who like cricket and like the Windies especially. I really hope they work out how to play again.

Noticing my lack of posts recently, I sent a reporter to Headingley to provide in depth analysis from the boundary. Here are some of his wires. (I warn you, they are in “text message” so half of it is unintelligible, the other half seems to be garbled by drink, so try and make the most of it).

Report one: 1:41pm
We are holding out hope… Missed the morning session, but was only a few overs. Moisture in the air, men in nuns outfits, it’s Headingley for sure!

Evidentially, a sufficient quantity of Tetley’s affects your orienteering skills. Seems like it took him a while to work out where exactly he was. Not a promising start.

Report two: 2:24pm
And another. And it’s raining. No, hailing.

I assume he’s still in Headingley. I wasn't convinced of his initial claims. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Not much in-depth analysis yet. Maybe he's saving it up for later?

Report three: 2:41pm
I think the lack of play means the crowd are even more drunk than usual! Mexican wave was actually successful. Hoping for more play and for west indies to put up a bit of a fight!

Sub-editors are supposed to remove the mistake, or stick a sarcy (sic) after everything. I however prefer to give the truth to the people as is. This is more "colourful descriptions of the ground in order to build a sense of atmosphere” as opposed to a technical study of Dwayne Bravo’s leg glance. But I’m sure that’ll come later.

Report four: 3:06pm
Well, the western terrace is nearly full but everywhere else is empty. I guess only the drunkards have braved the rain. And they really are drunk…

When was the last time someone used the phrase “drunkard”? Lord Denning in Court 4, crica 1952? And, most surprisingly, they actually are drunk! And the agency said he was alright…

Report five: 4:53pm

We only had time for 3 pints! A short and sweet day of cricket, good fun would have liked to see more action.

There are some other items filed, but the drink seems to have taken hold. They also become quite misogynistic , so I can't share them with you. I’ll have to strike that journo off the list. He wasn't cheap, either. Bloody agency.

Anyway, that's it for today. I’ll be quiet over the next few days. Please don’t get angry.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

West Indies are the new New Zealand

West Indies and fast bowling used to go together like chips and beer. Devastating when indulged in to excess. The combination is now comparable to chips and Gillian McKeith – liable to result in a ruptured mid-wicket.

Sorry about the absence; I have been away recently. That hasn’t stopped the sarcy comments coming in, however.

First of all, is this the first test match in England to start on a Friday? Does no one feel this is a little, you know, foreign? Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for foreign things. Heck, I went to the Chinese last night. I’m just not at all keen on the strange, foreign ideas affecting our little institutions.

But foreignness builds bad karma, do ju-ju, or something. Saying things like “centimetres” instead of “inches” cumulates your death-gauge reading on the karma count. Once it gets too high… well, who knows? This test match starting on a Friday business could result in some kind of karmic explosion. I wouldn’t like to be near the ECB right now.

Anyway, on to cricket. Kevin Pietersen should get a double hundred. Just like the Robert Keys and Paul Collingwoods of many years ago. KP has wanted this for ages. But he’s just been too impatient to get it. Now that the pacing of test match innings has been mastered, huge scores are open to him. Which is nice.

So, all the West Indies bowlers are rubbish. Much like the traditional Kiwi method of attack, the Windies put forward a couple of dibbly-dobblers and hope for the best.

This strategy never works.

Apart from a late spell by Corry Collymore last night, where he extracted some swing and two English batsman, the West Indian bowling was an open cheque to Vaughan and all the rest. Very poor stuff.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Warid Series

This series wasn’t as rubbish as I thought it would be. Although Sri Lanka, and the crowds, undoubtedly missed their superstars (Murali, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Sangakkara were all in England), both sides put on an entertaining performance.

Arguably, the series was one more-or-less single-handedly by Shahid “mad as a hatter” Afridi. In the first match, he crunched 73 off 34 to save Pakistan from certain defeat. This was followed by 3-37 off ten in the next game, helping skittle the Lions for 212. Somehow, he seems to hang on in the side.

The most intriguing element of this series was the emergence of the young’uns. Shoaib Malik seemed controlled and able as a captain. Playing a responsible 79 against all the odds. I told you he'd be good.

After ignoring my previous tips for World Cup greatness, the PCB decided to finally let Mohammad Hafeez have a bash. He lived up to my high expectations: scoring 34, and bowling 2-55 off ten. He’ll be the next Jayasuriya I tells ya.

For Sri Lanka, Chamara Kapugedera looked a bit, you know, crap. There’s now another Jayawardene but we won’t worry about him; he’s on his way out too. Malinda Warnapura also looked liked cricket’s incarnation of Atari – looks technical enough, but a rubbish once you start using it.

The Lankans attack also struggled with only Malinga.

When you write things like that, you wonder in the point of series like these. Don’t you? Or don’t you? Maybe you don’t care enough to continue reading.

Oh wait. You do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Harminson: time to go?

England’s bowling, the Montster aside, looked ineffectual over this game. Fast bowling is a serious problem for us. Seam was once a huge strength for England; it is the cornerstone of the English game. During 2005, we had three players capable of bowling at over 90 mph. Now we don’t seem to have any.

The Third Umpire reckons that Paul Collingwood was our best seam bowler. Indeed, I doubt any of the current fit bowlers would get into Australia or South Africa. Perhaps only Bangladesh would play them?

This is almost a crisis for England.

Henry Blofeld was unusually opinionated on TMS last night and argued that dropping Steve Harminson was the “kick up the backside” that he needed. All the “technical” faults, delivery flaws and niggles that were identified in Australia are still present. Either the man isn’t working hard enough on his game, or his doesn’t recognise that there is a problem. He therefore requires, thinks Blowers, a shock to the system to overcome his mental barriers.

I have some sympathy to this approach. Clearly, the current strategy of sycophantic cooing is not producing results. Huge wides and pacey long-hops are unforgivable crimes in Test Match Cricket. Cumulatively, they can lose matches, allowing the batsman to settle into a comfortable rhythm.

At 28, you rather feel that “potential” is not sufficient to hold a place in the international team. At the highest level of cricket, and with his experience, Harminson should be filling his boots. He is not. He is also taking up a place that could be used to invest in another player.

So, what alternative? Revert to the unimpressive trio of Anderson, Mahmood and Plunkett? They have been given plenty of chances, but have not delivered. How about skipping a generation? Calling up Graham Onions or Stuart Broad (when he’s fit)? How about returning to the past? Andrew Miller thinks that Andy Caddick or Darren Gough could be given a shot.

Whatever the solution, these are troubling times for English fast bowling. There is no bright prospect coming through: there’s no fiery Shaun Tait or Andre Nel character that could form the basis of a future attack.

This is why England have stuck with the expensively poor Harminson: he is the only fast bowling spark we have. This is a mistake, however, as retaining him in the side is doing neither him nor his country any good. I’m afraid I think he should go.

This doesn’t have to involve a permanent elimination from the side, but perhaps just a temporarily cold shoulder to move the onus back onto Harminson to earn his place.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lords, Day Five: Be careful what you wish for

So after four days of solid praying for gloom and rain, the gods finally succumb and granted my wish. Sadly, the heavens pour on the fifth day – the only day I could go. A wash out, more or less, meaning no cricket for me. Buggered.

Damn ye gods!

I could write about other important cricketing events. All the sub-continental teams are playing today. India are doing well against Bangladesh. Pakistan handsomely beat Sri Lanka. Instead of talking about this, I shall write about girls.

I like girls. I like cricket. There are a number of parallels that are worth noting:

- Both are full of unfathomable rules and regulations.
- Both enjoy standing around the sun for five days doing nothing in particular.
- Both stop everything stops when there’s even a little bit of rain.
- Both pack in as many snacking opportunities as possible.

Girls and cricket. Both lovable in their own way.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lords, day four: the hope lingers

Well well. A West Indian fight-back has increased my hopes of watching a few overs on Monday. A traditionally gritty half century by Shiv Chanderpaul, a blistering knock from Dwayne Bravo and a refined 60 from Denesh Ramdin ensured that the Windies were in a reasonable position to play for the draw.

The bowling from England was indifferent. Money Panesar, the favourite of the nation, carried the attack single-handedly by taking 4-108. What a star. Steve Harminson, after a decent enough morning session, fell apart after lunch. Wides galore.

How hard is it to pitch it in the right area? The Ayalac conducted a little test last night. With a toy-hedgehog, I practiced some away-cutters in my hall – or corridor of uncertainty, as it were. All the balls pitched in or around the door region. Right on the money.

I also practiced my Jonny Wilkinson drop-kicking. All but one hedgehog sailed gloriously over the posts (the door frame). Clearly I am a wasted talent.

Why can’t Harminson be as good as me? Why indeed.

Anyway, with Plunkers looking inoffensive and Hoggy out, it could be another long-day in the park for the England boys. I could be in Lord’s yet.

Viva la resistance!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lords, day three: Hopes for wash-out fade

Well, it looks like the Predictoron’s knickers are increasingly twisted by the day. First Alastair Cook fluking a ton, now Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell and Matt Prior all have defied the mighty Predictoron. Worse still, my chances of going on Monday seem less likely.

I am a little troubled at how one-sided the remaining series is likely to be. The Windies had ideal conditions for bowling and they allowed England to amass 550 runs. A lot of this is due to poor fielding (Collingwood escaped two dollies) but the rump of the blame should be given to the bowlers. They lacked discipline. Moments of pressure were quickly deflated by an England batsman knocking a two off his pads. Hopeless.

Let’s not take anything away from the batting though. Solid, grafting work by Collingwood and Bell in the morning, built up a formidable platform to allow an afternoon attack by Prior. I thought Bell played a particularly fine knock: chanceless and well-paced.

Prior made a century on his test debut at Lords. He smacked them all over the place in a run-a-ball hundred.

At first, I wasn’t too pleased about this. I saw Prior in an interview, he seemed really defensive and came across as an unpleasant human being. He referred to himself in the third person “Matt Prior has to do what Matt Prior can” which is something I hate will all my intestines.

However, in a post-match interview, his nerves melted away and seemed more personable. His BNP/terrorist appearance and chirpy demeanour reminded me of my brother. And you can’t hate family, right? So Prior gets my conditional approval.

So far, the West Indies are 83-1 and it really doesn’t look good for the poor blighters.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lords, day two: Praying for gloom

The forecast seems good, perhaps a light shower in the afternoon. It looks like the best the Ayalac can hope for is bad-light. It looked gloomy enough outside the station this morning, but then again, it's London.

Well, as was noted by Trapper John, the Predictoron made a balls-up of it already. The international season has just started, and we are way off any sense of reality here. I blame the cat.

Bloody cat.

Like all the boys, I like Alastair Cook, and respect his batting ability. Unlike the girls, I don’t really think he’s that attractive and, judging my last night’s TV performance, he seems to be a bit of an Essex muppet, too. He reminds me of the young builder’s mate that was doing some work in my house over the summer. He also smiles too much. I’m suspicious of people who smile. What’s he hiding, thinks I.

But, for me, Cook’s approach epitomises good, old-fashioned Test Match cricket. Like the Michael Athertons and Geoff Boycotts of yore, Cook grafts out a sensible innings, battling it out with bowlers. Yesterday, the young chappie from Essex was aided by poor bowling, but this tactic of tediously wearing down the opposition looks like a promising addition to England normal bloody “positive” tactics.

The bowlers looked rusty, and seemed to struggle with the slope. However, the West Indies’ control and command of swing improved mightily as the day wore on. Interestingly, they also seemed to bowl tighter lines to the right-handers: Owais Shah never looked comfortable; Corey Collymore outplayed Kevin Pietersen in a beautiful spell; and Paul Collingwood, as always, looks like he’s struggling to stay in.

It’s a shame that the Windies weren’t as well prepared, but it seems as England will find it tougher going on Day Two.

Nevertheless, I’m hoping for a full-on, action day of looking at the megatron.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lords, day one: Praying for Rain

OK. I am in Camden. Lords is not fair away from me. In Camden it is raining, where as in Lords, it is going to be a “belter” and play is going to start on time. Weird.

Andrew Flintoff is out, which I am starting to think is a good thing for many and slightly alarming reasons.

Here’s hoping for some washed out days, maximising my chances of going along on Monday with the cheap tickets. Come on little bloglings, pray with me now.

Anyway, it’s time to get the ol’ Predictoron 2000 out, eh?

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

The start will be delayed by 42 minutes. When England eventually come out to bat, Andrew Strauss will give his wicket away in a hilarious fashion after only 13 balls. Owais Shah and Alastair Cook will dig in, notching up a slow partnership of over 50. Eventually, wickets then tumble with Cook (28), Kevin Pietersen (3) and Paul Collingwood (14) failing to make an impression. However, Ian Bell (52) and Shah (83) will put on a decent enough partnership. The tail, Matt Prior included, won’t put on much of a show. 257 all out.

The Windies will start disastrously, with Matthew Hoggard (5-42) and Steven Harminson (3-58) doing the damage. Liam Plunkett looks tight (2-47) and Monty Panesar won’t be needed. However, a stocky 95 from Ramnaresh Sarwan will hold the West Indies together. 231 all out.

The sun comes out for England’s second innings. With Strauss and Cook contributing with a solid effort, with both men hitting half-centuries. However, Dwayne Bravo (4-61) opens with a decent spell, taking the wickets of Strauss (52), Shah (3) and Jerome Taylor (3-56) picks up Cook (64) and Pietersen (2). KP will be caught by an exceptional catch by Denesh Ramdin down the leg-side. Eventually, England slump from 109-0 to 225 all out.

However, the Windies are never in the chase. And despite a gritty 44* from Shivnarine Chanderpaul they fall to 169 all out.

England win by 82 runs. (On the fifth day with Ayalac taking nice photographs)

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on the India and Bangladesh

The three-match series between India and Bangladesh was disappointing for two reasons. One, the last match was lost to rain. Two, Bangladesh rarely challenged Indian control. India won 2-0.

Aside from one scare, the Indians always looked in charge. Indeed, they felt sufficiently dominant to field some new players. Young Piyush Chawla was given his ODI debut.

This talented leg-spinner has already been given a test cap, and used the opportunity well to take the wicket of Andrew Flintoff. Confident and full of variety, Chawla was entrusted as first-change bowler in the second match, and returned the favour with figures of 3/37 off his ten overs. It turns out, he’s also a useful bat – averaging 24 in first-class cricket.

Normally, I’m not keen on spinners that can bat. But he’s young, a leggie, and can learn to be rubbish at batting in time. And therefore he gets the coveted Ayalac nod.

MS Dhoni was a bit of a revelation. In the first match, he played a sensible, match-winning 91. In the second, a sedate supporting role, hitting 36 off 54. He really has matured since I last saw him, and here was I thinking he was another Shahid Afridi. At 25, Dhoni may be planning a distinguished future as a wicketkeeper-batsman.

Lastly, I’m a bit disenchanted by the Tigers. They scored some runs – but no enough. They got some wickets – but failed to claim the crucial scalps. And there was little Bopping. Bangladesh definitely need some more character to their play if they want to promote out of minnow status.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Matthew Hoggard for captain

OK - my last post didn't really work out as planned. But this is the internet-land, and I can start again.

Matthew Hoggard should be captain. It is time for him to put his hand up, and accept his rightful responsibility. The campaign starts here.

I imagine that Hoggy is quite a modest bloke, who wouldn’t be seen dead as skipper. This is why we must force him.

Gather together as many bloggers as you can. Send the ECB emails proclaiming the heroism of the Hoggler. The media has pushed around the England team throughout the winter. And we can do it again now. Heed the call.

HOGGY FOR CAPTAIN!

[This campaign is only a stop-gap measure until Monty has a few more tests under his belt. When he is sufficiently experienced this campaign will automatically rename itself the MONTY FOR CAPTAIN CAMPAIGN. Thank you.]

Hoggard: England’s hidden big cat

Look at this man. He’s like a growling lion, resplendent in his mighty mane, ready to unleash his might at any moment.

“Ha.” Say the batsman, “he’s just a swing bowler.”
“Roar,” says Matthew Hoggard.
And the batsmen run away like girls. Like girls I tell you.

Much has been made of England’s future captain. Generally, teams either pick their best player, or their most experienced campaigner. England picked their best in Andrew Flintoff, but he turned out to be rubbish.

So, who’s our most experienced player? Unfortunately, it turns out to be Freddie again, with 67 Test caps. However, next in line is Hoggard, with 62 Tests.

Now, why isn’t Hoggy considered for the role? Well, mainly because he’s a bowler and he looks like a farm boy. But this is prejudice. Even I over-looked him.

I have previously lamented on cricket’s refusal to select bowlers as captains. There is no justification for this systematic neglect of plentiful source of knowledge. I reckon that Hoggard knows a thing or two about field placements. He knows about bowling. What more do you want your captain to do?

This rank prejudice is infuriating. It is about as annoying as my post-pub Star Trek experience last night. For some unfathomable reason, the entire crew of Voyager decide to visit nineteenth century Ireland. What the hell? You are in space! Can’t you go somewhere more interesting than a damp little island?

My mum is Irish. Most of my relatives are Irish, but none of them ever spoke like those in Star Trek Ireland. You could understand them for one. The streets were clean. The sun shone. The children weren’t impoverished little toe-rags. Had the aliens taken Ireland over? What was going on?

Star Trek really bothers me. It’s so human-centric. All the alien characters are derided because they don’t understand our ways. No, you idiots, they’re aliens; they are a different species. Spock cannot laugh because he is physiologically incapable of it. Just once, I’d like to see the tables turned. Just once I’d like to see an alien teach a human how to KA-BLANGIN, which involves the secretion of bodily fluids from the knees.

“Come on, puny earthling, hurry up and KA-BLANGIN.”
“I’m trying…”
“I will help you with my sword.”
“AAAAAIII!”
“Now you understand our ways.”

How did a sane post about Matthew Hoggard turn into a rant about Star Trek? Anyway,
Hoggy: Good.
Star Trek: Bad.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A four-man attack

So, Andrew Strauss has been appointed captain and Matt Prior is the new wicket-keeper. Moreover, Liam Plunkett has been selected over James Anderson and Saj Mahmood.

The only question left, as far as I can see is that time-old cricketing question: should we pick an extra batsman or an extra bowler?

There is talk regarding Andrew Flintoff’s poor form in the bat must entail some kind of demotion. Does that mean we select six specialised batsman, shift Andrew Flintoff down to seven, with Prior, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar and Steven Harminson to follow?

This leaves only four specialist bowlers, with Paul Collingwood and whoever else to contribute if things get desperate.

England did OK with four bowlers last season, when Flintoff was injured. Arguably, with weaker bowlers (Anderson, Mahmood, etc.) and stronger opposition. There were some instances when England lacked penetration, and struggled to take vital wickets. But it is hard to see how extra bowlers would provide this.

On the other hand, we can persist with Flintoff at six and miss out on more runs, but retain the extra bowling option – by bringing in Plunkett, who can also bat a bit.

To be honest, either option is not going to change the course of the series. The West Indies’ unpractised bowlers are not going to trouble five specialist batsman, and I doubt their ill-disciplined batsman will always get the better of four England bowlers.

As such, the make-up of the side should be determined by future considerations: do we want to develop Owais Shah, or Plunkett? Do we want to increase Flintoff’s confidence as captain? Do we want to wait to give a “fair run” to a player?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but buy me a few drinks and I may be able to come up with something.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yorkshire: where men are mums

Do you remember when you mum used to kiss you as a kid? You’d pull away and say “Mu-um!” Of course, this is all just a memory for me now. My mum has now replaced affection with criticism and abuse, as with all loving parents, I suppose.

Anyway, this Adil Rashid receiving a motherly kiss from his captain, Darren Gough. From the expression on Adil’s face – he feels about five.

Now, I would have liked to see Ray Illingworth kiss his team-mates. One by one. Maybe he’d hold their hand a little. Give them a flower.

Anyway, if the heavy petting route works, which it seems to for Yorkshire, then I’m not the one to stand in the way of consenting cricketers expressing themselves in public.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How New Zealand can win the next World Cup

Worried bythe lack of venom in the Black Caps this World Cup, it seems sensible to devise a new strategy for them, as I did with England. I have sent my plan to the relevant New Zealand authorities for higher approval. Here's a copy:

Dear Sir/Madam,

As you would no doubt have noticed, the performance of the New Zealand cricket team in the last World Cup was a little disappointing. For the fourth consecutive time, the Black Caps only managed a semi-final place.

Whereas, across the Tasman Sea, a side of little skill and limited charm triumphed, winning the tournament in handsome style. It troubles me to say, as it would all right-thinking individuals, this was a deserved victory.

However, although I am an Englishman, I believe that New Zealand should have won. Why is it, I thought to myself, that one Antipedean nation should succeed in such an emphatic manner whilst the other fails? After only a moments thought, the answer leapt to me.

Most people are constrained by rules of affability, courtesy and civility. The Australians, however, are not encumbered by such fancies. Their success in the sporting arena derives from tapping this essential source of bastardliness, which gives them strength and courage where others would simper and “try their best”. New Zealanders lack that basic malice that empowers the Australians to seize what others are simply too decent to take.

Moreover, considering this natural equilibrium or universal truth, if you will, the New Zealand nation will never be equipped to address the Australian Question. Hence, I have outlined for your country an assured action-plan that can invigorate an ailing team.

The Action Plan

Crudely put, if your society lacks core unpleasantness, then you must take it from elsewhere. The most feasible move would be to acquire this from your neighbour, where great deposits of nastiness are endowed throughout the nation. To realise this goal, you need to undertake a staged military invasion of Australia.

Fig. 1

Firstly, a small task force is to be dispatched to Tasmania (see fig. 1). Some of Australia’s finest bĂȘte noire emanated from this cursed isle: David Boon, Max Walker, Ricky Ponting, etc. etc. the list is nearly endless. This island has thick seams of spite and will be a major addition to the New Zealand Cricket Board.

I am unsure of your country’s precise absorptive capacity for bastardliness, but you may find that there is a sufficient quantity of root awfulness to seep into your country through osmosis, allowing your sporting teams to improve significantly.

However, if, after some months of brutal occupation, you find that the fortunes of the Black Caps have not improved. In which case you press on with the invasion, and continue to subject more Australian territories under the heel of the Kiwi Boot (see fig. 2).

Fig. 2
You should find that after, even the shortest time of rule, that the Australian proclivity for prattishness penetrates all levels of New Zealand society, improving your sporting fortunes and perhaps even providing an economic bonus. Unfortunately, this may result in increased incidence of people starting fights in pubs, but this is a small price for sporting hegemony.

The relative gains in themselves may proof decisive in future contests. Notwithstanding the boost in New Zealand’s international reputation is sure to receive, in view of the benefits that would filter into all nations.

I am no expert on military matters, but I feel the mighty New Zealand army should have no problem challenging the Australians. Although, an irritating media war of dim witterings will have to be endured. Dirty tricks will probably be in order here, and I suggest you might want to injure their best generals before play.

Nevertheless, if you have any concerns about realising this plan, I will be able to offer my services as a military advisor to your army on a consultancy basis. Considering the humanitarian nature of such an operation, I will, of course, offer a reduced fee.

Good luck in your future endeavours!

Kind Regards,

The Atheist

Thursday, May 10, 2007

You need two wicket-keepers to win

Well, India proved me wrong and a 107 partnership by wicket-keepers Dinesh Karthik (58) and MS Dhoni (91) forced a victory for the visitors.

At 144/5 after 28.1 overs, with a run a ball required, India were in trouble. The Tiger's spinners were on top of the floundering Indian bastmen, and Bangladesh should have pushed hard for the win. However, Dhoni played a thoughtful innings and held India together. No mad flailing this time, he played with maturity to pull the match away from Bangladesh.

Karthik also played a sensible knock and will pressure Dhoni for those times when India only play one keeper.

Although they kept the run-rate down, the Bangladeshi attack lacks penetration. One more wicket would have won them the match. The Tigers are surely young and nice people, but I think a mean ruthlessness is needed now.

This was certainly an impressive performance by both teams. India showed their character in pulling themselves out of certain defeat, and Bangladesh looked dominant for most of the match.

Bangladesh look better than India, at the moment

The Tigers have started brightly against India, scoring 250 off their reduced allocation of 47 overs. Javed Omar top-scored with 80, Saqibul Hasan (50) and Tamim Iqbal (45) supplying extra oomph to the innings. India’s reply has been faltering, at the moment they’re 64 for three. Although Virender Sehwag’s 30 off 21 has helped them to go for over 6 an over.

India badly need a win here. As the BCCI put it themselves:
“India is desperate to redeem itself after tumbling out of the first round of the cricket World Cup”
Indeed, the public ready to revolt unless they win the series. If Bangladesh whitewash them, expect a full revolution, fans storming BCCI and maybe over-throwing the Government to boot.

This is also an important time for the new players to start to make their name, and begin a new era in Indian cricket. Watch out for Ramesh Powar, Munaf Patel and Dinesh Karthik. So far, they seem ok. They may be integral to future sides. Or, they may be forgotten about forever. Who knows with the BCCI?

The Indian cricket team is a lot like the London Underground. Normally, it’s OK, and you wonder why the masses are so annoyed. Sometimes, an attractive girl sits opposite you. Sometimes she falls asleep, starts to snore loudly and drool large globules of saliva down her chin. You win some; you lose some.

Then, all trains travelling westward of Aldgate Station are cancelled because there is a “passenger on a train at Euston Square” of all reasons. When a ten minute journey takes over an hour, you are wondering whether you are losing more than you are winning. Much like how Indian cricket fans feel now. Poor souls.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ayalac exclusive: Mohammad Asif clean

Be warned. I’m wearing a different pair of shoes today, so this blog is liable to be a bit weird. I don't feel right.

Normally, I wear the same pair of shoes for years. They eventually fall to pieces; as does my character which develops a close bond to Clark browns. Today, however, those trousers have been donned. Brown shoes don’t suit those trousers, or so I have been told.

In fairness, I am no great authority on trousers either. Some of my trousers are sentient, evil bastards. They have a tendency of unzipping my flies of their own accord. Foolishly, I have not punished the offending slacks, and only realise I’m in a dodgy pair when the surrounding shocked faces and rugby tackles from the police pervert squad give it away.

Only when not wearing thinking trousers, a perfectly innocent unzip-only-on-command pair, do I remember the affliction and become panicked. I try to check surreptitiously I’m not “flying low” only for to receive multiple stares of disapproval at my fiddling with my crotch in public.

Anyway, no such fears evidentially trouble the Pakistan Cricket Board. After watching Al-Jazeera on the ol’ free-view (which is very interesting and well worth a try), I saw a sneaky scrolling sentence informing me of Mohammad Asif’s return to world cricket. This news hasn’t been announced anywhere on the internet. So this is an Ayalac exclusive! I’m a growed-up journalist! Now where’s the bar?

The PCB claims this is because of an elbow injury, not because the the performance enhancing drugs have finally left his system. (To the PCB’s lawyers reading this: I didn’t write anything libellous there, you merely imagined it.)

The tour to Sri Lanka, which consists of three one-dayers, is badly short on stars. Pakistan lack:

Inzamam-ul-Haq – has retired from one-day internationals.
Shoaib Akhtar – still doped up.
Younis Khan – would rather play for Yorkshire (because of the great weather).
Danish Kaneria – would rather play for Essex.
Azhar Mahmood – would rather play for Surrey.

On the other side, Sri Lanka will lose the following:

Muttiah Muralitharan – would rather play for Lancashire.
Chaminda Vaas - would rather play for Middlesex.
Kumar Sangakkara – would rather play for Warwickshire.

With the loss of so much quality, the series is going to be rubbish. A lot has been made of overseas players in the English county game as adversely affecting the performance of the English national side. On the basis of the above evidence, the insatiable appetite of the counties may have a global impact. Hooray for us!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cricket averages

Statistics is an important part of cricket. Heck, it is an important part of life!

The most common statistic in cricket is the average, or, to be more precise the arithmetic mean. Averages apply for both bowlers and batsman, but it is more of a concern to batsman who are not as numptied in the head as bowlers. “My average” is the most important number in a batsman's small world; he is obsessed by it. You can tell how well someone is doing this season by how they talk about averages in general. If they emphasise the usefulness of averages, they scoring well, whereas if they’re having a stinker they seem indifferent and even aloof to blind statistical practices.

Being rubbish, I have always had doubts over statistics, especially since there is so many ways of calculating measurements of central tendency. Let’s put stats to the test.

Below is a histogram of Michael Atherton’s test career – one of my favourite cricketers.

First off, I’m afraid the complex mathematics involved in sorting out the not outs is far beyond me, so I shall assume all innings are complete. This gives us an arithmetic mean of 36 (which is not far off his true average of 37). The standard deviation is absolutely hopeless, given N, but I’m not sure that really applies to cricket.

However, you will notice that the normal distribution of the line graph has kurtosis, and is definitely slanted to the left. In such instances, working out the mean doesn’t always give an accurate middle value, and gives undue influence to large outliers.

So! What are the alternatives? Well, there are a number of incredibly complicated methods of working out means (generalised mean, harmonic mean, etc.) but I don’t begin to understand them. I can work out, however, three other GCSE mathmatical measurements: the mode (the most frequent value), the mid-point (that value between the lowest and highest x) and the median (the middle value). They are:

Mode: 0
Median: 23
Mid-point: 92.5


The mode is clearly useless. Yes, Athers got a lot of ducks (20), but we didn’t expect him to score naught every time. The Mid-point is a very dodgy way of working about central tendency and should be ignored. (Although, it is nice to dwell on a possible world where my hero averaged over 90.)

The median shows an interesting phenomenon. Although Atherton was regarded as one of the best batsman of his generation, in more than half of his innings he failed to meaningfully contribute. If, like me, you have ranked all his scores on excel and divide them into quartiles, then you will see that it is only the upper quartile that has anything over fifty.

In essence, it is a quarter of Atherton’s total innings that does the work for his average. If he returned to test cricket again, we should expect three quarters of all his innings to be a failure. And yet his average is nearly forty, this doesn’t seem right.

In hindsight, I should have analysed an Ozzie’s career, and said how he was really over-rated and averaged seven, or something. Maybe at another Ashes whitewash.

There was going to be another graph saying something brilliant. But I’m simply too exhausted by all the stats. Sorry. Just know that I cast doubt on the general averages-in-cricket direction. But not Athers. He’s a god. No. The God.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Windies in England

I wrote the draft of this blog on the train. Fortunately, you do not have to struggle with the wobbly hand-writing, you are, however, lumbered with my dodgy memory.

As we plunged deeper into the quiet London countryside, I could not think of the name of the newly appointed West Indies captain. After some head-scratching, only the vice-captain came to mind. But the team’s leader still eluded me.

Perhaps listing the entire squad would aid the memory? This was even more disastrous. I could only recall five names. Five!

To test how quickly premature senility was setting in, I then jotted down the 1995 touring side. Eleven names were quickly listed. That was twelve years ago, and yet they linger upon the retina of memory. The modern team, however, does not have this impact. They are slippery minnows, still wet behind the ears, plopped into the Wellington Boots of deceased giants.

Test teams win because of star performances. Individual flashes of brilliance change the course of a match, and resound forever as reminiscences. Sadly, Ramnaresh Sarwan – with a test average of 38 – does not resound.

With the loss of Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is now the only internationally rated name in the side. Although he is a distinguished player, he doest have the ability to resonate on the soul of cricket fans. Perhaps Chris Gayle or Dwayne Bravo are pretenders to this power, but their performances are not always inspiring.

This is not to say that the squad is not gifted; they are very skilled men. But it is the inability to convert this talent into results and forge their individual endowments into a united team that means that another whitewash is a serious prospect for the tourists.

Rain may prevent such an eventuality, but, as sad as it is to say, despite England’s vulnerability, the Windies simply cannot win this test series. You have to wonder whether there is any serious legacy to the greats of old, other than happy memories.

This makes me sad.

So upset, was I, when writing this on the train, that I stopped scribbling and started to read my book. This was not a good move.

It made me laugh so much that I started to hoot out-loud. A respectable-looking family started to glare at me, so loud were my howls. I tried to contain myself, but as Harris started to kill more swans, it become impossible to cease. I did my impression of a moose’s mating call and exploded into a thunderous whoop.

The whole carriage considered the moronic fool, and briefly muttered a curse against him and his ridiculous noises. I tried to retrain myself by slapping my hand over my gaping mouth, trying to physically force the hysterics back down.

This made it worse.

The air forced its way out into shrill farting noises that greatly amused the boisterous children, which have only just been subdued by their weary parents. The internal pressures made my eyes bulge and an old woman eyed me warily, as if I may explode all over her. I very nearly did. Eventually, and not without much loss of much dignity, the stony atmosphere of social pressure becalmed my exhausted body.

That teaches me to read anything again.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Frolicking Australians

During this World Cup, there has been a steady photographic stream of cricketers on the beach looking smug.

“Yes, I play a game for a living, and, if that isn’t bad enough, I think I fancy a frolic by the sea. Oh? Another cocktail? If you must.”

The worst pictures have come from the Australians.

The Australians are the best at everything. Even enjoying themselves.


Whether it's a team romp in the sand…


…feeling a long rod between their thighs….


…or showing off their man-boobs, the Australians do it best.

Bastards.

In fact, look at Haydos face. It doesn't look like he's enjoying himself. He looks like me on holiday, and I'm bloody rubbish at having fun.

Look like me and test match cricketers have yet another thing in common.

Here. Have some unprofessional looking space. On me.



[BLANK SPACE]

Friday, May 04, 2007

Vaughan fingered

I was quite cheery this morning. There were elections all across the country yesterday and, being obsessed with politics, I was looking forward to getting stuck into the papers today. Then, imagine my horror when the uncharismatic sports presenter on BBC Breakfast announced terrible news:

Michael Vaughan has broken his finger in a recent Yorkshire game. According to the ECB he is “almost certain” to miss the first test, and probably the second test too.

Crash! Bang! Wallop! It happens again! In hindsight, this was inevitable. Two reasons: a) he’s English, and therefore fragile as hell; b) he’s Michael Vaughan, and therefore practically made of china. Now he’s broken bone china.

So! The England team, which hasn’t been in a chaotic crisis in a few weeks now, has another catastrophe to sort out. Will Andrew Strauss captain the first games? Well, according to my little test, Kevin Pieterson came out second best. But, this is only one test. It may be an opportunity to give Paul Collingwood some captaincy experience, as he has only thrice led Durham before.

Personally, I’m backing Matthew Hoggard, but most people don’t listen to me. Especially not important people. Anyway, back to the papers. I see the Tories have Lincoln now.

H'mmm... what will happen to Scotland's position in the English leagues if they vote for independence? I hope the ECB pulls out all funding for them. Actually, I hope the ECB does that anyway, regardless of the referendum. But then again, I'm a bit rabid when it comes to Scotland.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fantasy league

Against my better judgement, I joined the Telegraph fantasy league. Mainly because the Third Umpire told me to, and the pure white background of their site wiped out my critical capacity.

The idea is that you pick five batsman, four bowlers, a keeper and an all-rounder. If you team scores lots of points then various vaguely positive things happen. I have no idea what because I couldn’t be bothered reading anything

So here’s my team:

*JL Langer (8)
WI Jefferson (3)
V Chopra (4)
MW Goodwin (7)
CL White (8)
NJ Edwards (3)
+JS Foster (5)
A Rashid (5)
RJ Sidebottom (4)
CM Willoughby (6)
Naved-ul-Hasan (7)

Their ratings, out of ten, are in parenthesis. There’s a few players I think I got on the cheap, like Chopra, Sidebottom and Naved-ul-Hasan who are definitely worth more than their values. I have mainly mixed up the old reliables with young’uns I think will do well. Handily, you are also allowed three overseas players.

Some of you may notice a slight Somerset bias in the team. Well, although I am a Londoner, I am originally from the West Country so Somerset, as well as Bristol Rovers have my backing. For some reason, when I was younger, I never really consider Gloucestershire an option. I was, and still am, daft in the head.

I may ditch Charl Willoughby, now although I think he’s a superb bowler, he’s more one to keep it tight than to take wickets, allowing Andy Caddick to be the main beneficiary. As the objective is to take wickets, I might reconsider.

Also, my find of the tournament will hopefully be Neil Edwards. Looking promising since 2004, he could still fill his boots. And look how he has grown!

The left is his 2004 picture, and right is him now. Although he looks alarmingly like Les Dennis, he hasn’t lost that evil, yet surprisingly pleased with himself, stare. He clearly has just killed a bunny, hasn’t he? And this’ll worry bowlers. It will.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hoorah for the ICC!

Yesterday was the English pagan festival of May Day. Weirdoes and winos seem to celebrate this rural day of animalism and cider-drinking.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when walking through the streets of London I bumped into a small group of socialists enjoying what can laughably be called “a march”.

There were police escorts, roads cordoned off and much bemusement by bystanders. “What’s the point?” They murmured to each other, “there are so few.” Indeed, there aren’t many left-wingers left these days, and only about forty or so bothered with this protest. What makes matters worse is their poor diction; I had no idea what they were going on about.

“What do we want?”
“Mlur, mlur.”
“When do we want it?”
“Mlur!”

Then they started saying something about justice. I wish I had a sign that said “down with justice”. But, not for the first time, I left home unprepared. I should have shouted: “Down with the rule of law! Up with arbitrary judiciaries!” But I didn’t. And not for the first time.

So anyway, this group of small, annoying traffic-jammers reminded me cricket bloggers. There’s not many of them. They’re noisy. And when you can understand what they’re going on about, it’s just stupid.

So, I have decided to start a campaign for the Silent Majority of cricket fans. The HOORAH FOR THE ICC CAMPAIGN starts here.

Over the course of whenever I can be bothered, I will continue to sing the praises of the International Cricket Council in the hope that more people will appreciate how hard these people work to improve the game, and also on the off change that some ICC lackey will read my sycophantic acclamations and give me a job in Dubai. Preferably with a huge office, enabling me to live my dream of banning all fun at cricket matches and getting stinking rich whilst doing it!

So, here we go:

Powerplays. At first, I had my doubts, but they have certainly spiced up the middle overs with a new tactical dilemma for the captain. Yes. The ICC have made one aspect of the game more interesting. So well done chaps! Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Oh, stop whining.

The 1999 World Cup was bad. The 2003 tournament was worse. Now, in 2007, winging has reached a record level.

More or less every blog in the world is united on the “failure” of the World Cup. It was predictable (even though two minnows made it through into the Super 8s). It was flawed and farcical. It was sad, dull and, in short, the worst World Cup ever. Even Jonathan Agnew, who is normally a thoughtful contributor to the cricket debate, has said:
"What an appalling advert for the game it was - and those responsible must never be allowed to administer a cricket tournament again."
It was an utter disaster. A catastrophe for cricket. No one is going to watch cricket ever again. Well, although this sheep-like hyperbole is interesting, it is wrong. I jolly well enjoyed this World Cup. I’ll tell you why: they played cricket.

I like cricket. It’s good.

I saw all the best teams of the world play plucky upstarts. I saw great innings. Superb bowling. Athletic fielding. There were crushing victories and close nail-biters.

What more can people ask of cricket? That Shahid Afridi gets enraged by Shaun Tait's short stuff and impales a seemingly innocent Adam Gilchrist with a stump?

I really cannot understand what more can be expected. They bang on about the Caribbean “spirit” being quashed, whilst fans couldn’t afford to watch boring matches in sterile grounds. Well bugger people. Its cricket I want to watch.

Yes. The ICC brought in daft, over-baring regulations. But these were quickly removed. Ticket prices were dropped and some even given away free to locals. And the grounds lack atmosphere because they are brand new. The character of stadia take time to emerge. But they have BRAND NEW STANDS. Isn’t that brilliant in itself?

Moreover, a lot the reasons why the World Cup was oh so terrible were nothing to do with the ICC. The Death of Bob Woolmer, the knocking-out of India and Pakistan and lack of real opposition to the Australians were nothing to do with "those responsible".

Lastly, we have to ask, are these issues really that important? It’s like going to watch Viv Richards play and complaining about the stickers on his bat. Administrative issues, in cricket, are irreverent. The quality was good, so what else matters? Just enjoy the cricket for God's sake.

There was much to take pleasure in. I suppose, though, we expect thrilling entertainment all the time now, wins at the last ball, rapid changes of fortune and excitement. Well, to be frank, that's just not cricket.