Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hoggler: Plunges through Times

More observant readers will notice that the coloration between the content of this blog and the London Metro is very strong. Indeed, one may even gain the impression that the only research involved in the composition of these pieces is a brief scan of that paper’s excellent cricket section during the morning commute.

Well you would be wrong.

Today Ayalac turns to that most authoritative of organs: the Private Eye. It is reported therein the following quote, by Matthew Hoggard, on the Times newspaper:

“Well, there’s a lot of shite in the Times.”

Apparently, our Hoggy forgot that he regularly contributed a column to the Times. And who could blame him?

I used to be a reader of that most ancient of broadsheets, but now, on the suggestion of the His Highness The Hogler, I must now look elsewhere. Although, he didn’t actually say that you shouldn’t read shite. Maybe he enjoys it.

If so, this that massively improves the chances of his reading this blog. WE LOVE YOU HOGGY!

In other news, Paul Collingwood has caught the dreaded Dorset Ebola. No one really know who is going to captain England. If Andrew Flintoff has recovered from his Dorset Knee, he might.

I doubt it though – he's discredited. Perhaps It should be Kevin Pietersen? He is being his usual arse-ish self about how he’s the real captain, and Colly’s just a puppet or something. I don’t really listen to what he says. I just stare at his genius forehead. One day, I can kiss it. In worshipful thanks for his batting. But only if he’s quiet, like a nice boy.

We all really know who should be captain, though, right?

Yes. That’s right. It is a slow news day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Team England beat Indian galacticos

England strangled India by 42 runs in Edgbaston last night. (Edgbaston is the posh bit of Birmingham, in case you didn’t know.)

Ian Bell top-scored for England again for England – third time in a row. A lot of people have been muttering about the England clique, that the same people are selected despite strong performers at the county level. Bell’s recent success is surely due to the selectors backing his ability over the long term. Long live the exclusive England club!

Anyway, England won principally because they were the stronger team. Bell aside, England’s batsmen contributed small, punchy innings in a selfless contribution to the England effort. Moreover, their reasonably high score was only enabled through having batters well down the order – look at Chris Tremlett’s 19 off 9.

India lacked the same cohesion. England took this attitude onto the field, bowling and fielding as a tightly organised unit. Monty Panesar stunned us all with another run out, without even looking.

Sourav Ganguly (72) and Rahul Dravid (56) looked especially dangerous. And Yuvraj Singh (45 off 35) looked ominous towards the end of the Indian innings. But no one else chipped in. Although there were flashes of individual brilliance, it seemed the Indians struggled with the sharp England fielding and the restrictive formations that surrounded them.

Dougie Brown on TMS made an interesting comment. In his opinion England’s superior fielding earned them 30-40 run difference between the two sides. More or less the difference in runs. A genuine case of fielding winning the match?

India’s efforts on the field still look shoddy, but they also missed many run opportunities of turning singles into twos. It seems as though India lack the commitment.

However, in the true Ayalac spirit of taking negatives out of victory, there are still apparent weaknesses in the England set-up. They still lack the ability for sustained slogging. Both at the start and death of the innings, the 8-, 9-, or 10-run overs were wanting. England are still using the “playing is slow” tactic that was such a failure at the World Cup. Bell is building an innings, which is fine, but you need a few biffers around him.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

You’ve got to spin to win

The LV County Championship is certainly coming to a thrilling climax – please don’t try to extract any puns out of that sentence.

Five teams have a realistic possibility of taking the top trophy. The current leaders, Yorkshire, have played one more game than Sussex (second place) and two more than Hampshire (3rd), Lancashire (4th) and Durham (5th).

Yorkshire have only two remaining games, unfortunately for them, they are facing Sussex and Hampshire. So their performance over the next few weeks will determine the outcome of the entire season. Although the call-up of key players into the international twenty20 competition may work in their favour.

It is interesting to note that all the top four teams have a spinner. Not just an ordinary spinner, but a really good one. Mushtaq Ahmed has been causing havoc at Sussex for years; Muttiah Muralitharan leads Lancashire’s attack and Shane Warne does the business for Hampshire. Now that Adil Rashid (Yorkshire’s joint top wicket taker) is plying his trade, Yorkshire are converted from a good county to a championship winning county. Only Durham lack a proper twirler.

Modern county success, at the top level, requires a spinner to give that extra penetration. Rob Key, captain of Kent and international object of desire notes:

“At the start of the season you think, ‘Who’s the best wizard spinner we can find?’ unfortunately, most of the best are signed up. You can’t write off any county that’s got one. On flat pitches it’s tough to outbowl sides like Sussex. We’ve been in good positions but unable to nail the win.”
If you want to win you need to take twenty wickets. Spinners make that task easier; therefore increase you chances of winning. It’s simple. (It’s a pity the England set-up don’t understand that.) You really, really need a spinner. Really.

And when Durham don’t win the Championship, I’ll be the first to point out why.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

India squeak home, despite being not as good

Well, the rubbisher side managed to get home by the narrowest of margins: half a run.

Controversy broke out when the referee decided that India had 0.5 run advantage over England. Despite obvious cheating and bribing of the umpires, India’s victory never looked certain.

Scoring a mere 329 ½ on a feather bed, India struggled to contain the superior England batsman. Paul Collingwood knocked up a massive 27 and Kevin Pietersen contributed a weighty 25.

The sneaky Asian Russian Dimitri Mascarenhas smote five sixes in his 52 off 39. Although he’s still rubbish. Matthew Prior fluked some runs too. Most interestingly was Stuart Broad’s 25 (20 of which came from the last over). He is certainly proving his worth as a genuine all-rounder, and, on current form, seems more reliable than Andrew Flintoff with the bat.

Cheating aside, England lost for two reasons: first, none of the batsman converted a good start into a significant innings. I suspect that this was principally due to the frenetic nature of the run-chase. They were not afforded the luxury of time as they were in the first ODI and batsman could not “build an innings” in a classical style. Perhaps the sustained unconstrained hitting-out is a skill that our boys have yet to acquire?

Secondly, England’s middle order was pinned down by India’s slow bowlers, particularly by my hero Piyush Chawla. Who is great. Whereas England decided to drop Monty Panesar, our best bowler. They didn’t even picked a part-time spinner, who, on a turning track, was badly missed. Monty may have increased the number of wickets taken, but we’ll never know. Spinners are great.

In all, you could say that this tactical error threw away their lead. Another instance of them Trying To Be Too Clever. Why change a winning formula? Why? No, don’t answer that question. Just blame the Indians. It’s their fault.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Matt Prior shows he has balls

Matt Prior stung by the attacks of his prattishness and incompetence, has fought back by saying:

“I have a huge testicle.”

He went on to say.

“I can use it for a seat.”

Continuing to say:

“How do you like them apples?”

In other news, England’s women lost to New Zealand’s women. No one knows why, because no one follows women’s cricket. It’s like giving quorn to a drunken Northern: alright for an appetiser, but where’s the foockin’ meat, ya Soothern pan-seh. Violence subsequently ensues.

In other news, half the Indian team have died because of an outbreak of Dorset Ebola. Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, RP Singh and Yuvraj Singh have all caught the rare disease and will probably expire in under 24 hours. Doctors are quoted to say:

“Well, I’m not going any where near them.”

Lack of dead players may give England the cruicial edge in the forthcoming games.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ICL says "talk to the hand"

If you, like me, have just finished watching an assortment of Welsh cartoons and old episodes of the Krypton Factor whilst munching over a bowl of cereal pondering on the day ahead, and after firing up your computer to read a huge email sent by a South African which discusses a rich variety of pointless subjects, you start to wonder whether this Indian Cricket League is worth the effort.

To those of you not obsessed with cricket news, the ICL is a breakaway Indian twenty20 tournament that exists to make a number of unknown capitalists a little bit richer. It has lots of big names like Shreyas Khanolkar and Sumit Kalia.

There are some other people playing too:

Nathan Astle, Nicky Boje, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Imran Farhat, Inzamam-ul Haq, Lance Klusener, Brian Lara, Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Yousuf.

Apparently Stephen Fleming, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have been approached by the ICL. They are said to be “thinking about it”.

Obviously, comparisons to the Kerry Packer Rebels are never far away. But, the Packer World Series had a non-financial impact and changed the game for ever. This ICL thing just seems like another way to make money. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. People often think it is. But those people usually don’t have much of it anyway. There is a reason for that.

The BCCI could have easily dealt with this issue before it arose by starting a twenty20 competition of its own. Heck, they could have made money out of it. But instead of acting sensibly, and nipping the whole thing in the bud, the emotive unprofessionalism of the Indian administrators have turned the off-the-cuff idea into an international conflict.

Now, we are stuck in the usual position of pathetic tit-for-tat actions: Kapil Dev, chairman of the ICL board, has been removed from his ICL position; ICL organises have mocked the BCCI; and even the PCB and Sri Lanka Board is threatening to ban participating players.

Why isn’t there a single, sane person involved in this to say something common sensical like: “why doesn’t the BCCI absorb the ICL and then everyone’s happy?” No, it’s Indian cricket, so people prefer to say “NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAARRRRRR!!!!!!”

Do you see how dangerous twenty20 cricket is? Do you see?

If you think, whilst crunching another spoonful of your muesli, that cricket is just a game, played with a bat and a ball, then you would be wrong.

It is an industry. So why can’t I make money out of it? Maybe it’s a sated market? Perhaps a break-away darts league is needed? What am I talking about again?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

England like rampant rhinos

From the depths of the Sargasso Slow News Seas comes an unexpected England win. A victory of many noteworthy achievements. Let bloggers rejoice.

Firstly, it’s England’s first win over a proper side since February. That’s a long time for an England cricket fan. A very long time.

The win was made possible by two superb innings, both by young’uns, whose place is less than secure.

A partnership of 178 by Alistair Cook and Ian Bell really dominated the Indians. Both scoring a maiden century, and both looking like wonderful prospects for England’s ODI future.

Another good omen is the return of Andrew Flintoff. His bowling looked fast, fiery and accurate. He had a few niggling problems with no-balls, but anyone who passes Rahul Dravid’s outside edge gets the nod from me.

James Anderson proved his class, by taking 4-23 and becoming England’s fifth highest ODI wicket taker. The rest also looked good, except for Monty Panesar, who had an indifferent day. I suspect that he was upset by distracting news of international importance.

India, by comparison, looked rubbish. This makes me laugh. Look: Ha Ha Ha. That’s me laughing dementedly in the picture.

Their bowling lacked any real sort of threat. Their running between the wickets was hilarious. Worst still, they didn’t even seem to try. When Dravid and MS Dhoni were together, instead of chasing down their seven-an-over target, they just tapped it around for three-an-over. Why? What are you thinking? Possible twos were left unconverted, they seemed content with singles.

Rubbish. Derisory rubbish.

If India want to win these series, and one strongly suspects they do, then I suppose they’ll have to make a bit of an effort. But, there’s still six more matches. Perhaps they’re hoping that England will just get bored and start playing ping-pong?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crowd chants

Does anyone know any good crowd chants?

I was talking to a friend who recently went to a Warwickshire match and they had a good one:

Who’s the Daddy?
Darren Maddy!

Of course, the nineties will remember the following haunting battle cry:

Glouc-ester-shire nah nah naaa
Glouc-ester-shire nah nah-nah naaa

Perhaps the most feared is the Northern rallying call:


Accompanied by first punching and beer swilling.

Of course, the champions of keeping the crowd amused (annoyed?) is the Barmy Army. Weirdly loyal to the most useless touring team, they have kept up the spirits of many flagging fans. I will sign off with my favourite Barmy Army song, to be song at the Ozzlers:

In the town where I was born, there lived a man who was a thief

And he told me of his life, stealing bread and shagging sheep.

So they put him in the nick, and then a magistrate he went to see.

He said "put him on a ship, to the convict colony"

You all live in a convict colony, a convict colony, a convict colony

You all live in a convict colony, a convict colony, a convict colony

Monday, August 20, 2007

Herr Warne plans to take over England

Continuing our international theme here at Ayalac, we are going to talk about German leaders today. The German for leader is “fuehrer”.

A Herr Warne, captain of Hampshire is attempting to forcibly capture the England cricket team. Warne has stressed that he does not wish to be known as “Adolf”.

His strategy is to conquer the ECB by sending in waves of fifth columnists. That is, players (possibly dresses as nuns) entering the England team, with intentions to subvert from within.

The first of these penetrating nuns with cricket balls, was Chris Tremlett, introduced on Warne’s suggestion. Then it was a dubious looking Russian, Dimitri Mascarenhas. Both fresh from training camps in the Bad-Hamshireburg.

Now Herr Warne is calling for Phil Mustard to be brought into the England team. Apparently, he’s really good, and in a novel comparison, Warne believes that Mustard is a bit like Adam Gilchrist.

Gilchrist is a brilliant batsman, who has destroyed every attack in world cricket. Mustard is pictured above. Comparison between these two men is obvious enemy propaganda and we must ignore it.

We must stick to ill-performing wicket-keepers for at least two years of rank failure before we can consider dropping them. Then we have to bring them back for a bit, in an unexpected winter offensive. Only to be beaten back by under-whelming numbers.

Although, the Durham keepers promotion to the national set-up would give rise to a whole kaleidoscope of puns. Phil is the Mustard, you could say. Warne keen as Mustard. Or how about Sunderland cuts the Mustard.

The list is literally endless.

For headline-writing ease reasons, expect a journalist’s campaign to secure his rise.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

League of Nations win Friends Provident Trophy

After a collapse brought about by fascist military action, the League of Nations withdrew from world politics in 1939 and started playing cricket in the North East of England.

Eventually, they gained promotion into the first class leagues in 1992. Although they struggled at first, they have confirmed their fruition into a high-quality team by winning their first major trophy.

Their victory was notable for the performances of the delegate from the Bahamas, who won the man of the match award after taking two wickets in his first two balls. The batting attack was lead by the representative from Guyana, pictured playing a classically weird shot, who scored 78.

The South African delegation, and club captain, said:

"The club has put in a lot of hard work and we've a perfect blend of youngsters
and good experienced players. It depicted the way we have played all season,
everyone contributed and that's why we have won the trophy."

This marks a triumph for the League of Nations, as well as a coup for
internationalism over petty, jingoistic concerns that often dominant the
domestic cricket scene.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Administrative dust-ups

You may remember that I mocked the United Cricket Board of South Africa’s decision to drop their best player in the up-coming Twenty20 waste-of-time, sorry, I mean “tournament”.

Well, the plot thickens, because Jacques Kallis wasn’t informed of his ditching. In fact, it seemed he wanted to play and cites his all-round credentials as a potential boon to the squad. He says that things got a bit “emotional”.

For “emotional” read “nasty”. Kallis has resigned the vice-captaincy, in, more or less, protest of his being dropped.

Cricket South Africa’s CEO Gerald Majola has condemned Kallis’ “unilateral” decision (unilateral, you mean, he made his decision by himself…? What? What are you talking about?). Anyway, he goes on,

“The reasons for his omission from the squad were fully explained to him as well as the prominent role he will play in a very full and varied season after the tournament.”
Majola then goes on to criticise Kallis’ lack of professionalism in not consulting CSA before his announcement. Of course, you can’t slate their decision not to inform Kallis before they publicly dropped him. That’s perfectionly professional.

CSA’s selection convenor, Joubert Strydom said:
"Jacques is the cornerstone of our Test and one-day teams. We felt that because of what he brings to the Test and one-day teams, it wasn't worthwhile sacrificing him in the Twenty20."

The back-tracking exercise that the CSA has been running is that they’re worried about Kallis getting tired. Wouldn’t you have thought that Kallis is the best judge of his stamina over the next 18 months?

I don’t normally talk about sports administration, but this episode rather reminds me of the hilarious Chris Gayle fiasco. Also, Omar’s blitz of activity in his long-awaited come-back, asks a question:

“Shouldn't cricketing boards be run by ex-cricketers for the cricketers? Don't they have a right to vote and select the new board? Things need to change!”
He then goes on to rant about something. I don’t know what. I lost interest after a while.

But, I think that ex-cricketers should be kept away from cricket administration. Mainly, because they’re useless. The skills of running a large and complicated organisation are distinct from messing about on a field with a bat and a ball.

The ridiculous Kallis spat shows the importance of communication. The habit of communication and people-management is second-nature in the business world. The emotional out-bursts, mouthing off in press releases and childish tit-for-tat exchanges underlie amateurism.

Bring in the City boys, I say.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

India versus England

So, the series that was too short ended in an Indian victory, and deservedly so.

They bowled better, the batted better and they tossed better. All qualities, in my mind, that a just world rewards with success.

You rather feel that India were a bit timid in the last test, and should have pressed for a second win. Not enforcing the follow-on was, in George III’s terms, madness. There would have been no way in South London that England could have chased down and surpassed a first innings lead of a jillion.

You could compare this move with Australia. Australians play Total Cricket (because they’re Total Prats) and push for victory at all points. Sadly, and inexplicably, they have publicly dropped enforcing follow-ons. Nevertheless, it would have been the aggressive approach. If not Australian…never mind…you know what I’m saying.

Michael Vaughan said there are a lot of positives to take from the loss. Like, him not looking like a muppet. And Paul Collingwood turning into a dangerous bowler.

So, I’m going to take some negatives from India’s win. Only one player got a hundred. They kept on bowling Sachin Tendulkar, when they have loads of perfectly good bowlers. Their middle order is old. Their fielding is at times a bit shaky – I think they dropped at least four catachable catches. They have, on the whole, crap hair.

Feel free to sort that list out, analyse it and perhaps publish it in a blog. I, along with the rest of the world, won’t read it.

Now, it’s on to the ODIs. And don’t we all look forward to another England pasting with glee? Oh bloody joy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Jacques Kallis dropped

In an unexpected move, the United Cricket Board of South Africa decided to drop their best player from their twenty20 team.

Jacques Kallis, the best all-rounder in the world, has been left out. No one really knows why. Cricket South Africa, in their press release say:
“The Proteas T20 squad announced today provides the coach and captain with various options in all departments. There is a good blend of experience and youth in the squad.”

Yeah…but you’ve dropped your best player… They go on:
“This is an exciting 15-man squad announced today. Our depth and talent gives us combinations that will assist us in playing an equally exciting game of Twenty20 cricket.”
Yeah…but you’ve dropped your best player…

I like Kallis. Yes, his average is inflated through minnow pilfering, but who hasn’t? Yes, his scoring is slow, but he’s not going to block everything in twenty20. He is a bit grumpy though. Maybe he was just in a mood and he refused to take part.

In any case: madness.

Their full squad:

Graeme Smith (Captain), Gulam Bodi, Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Justin Kemp, Albie Morkel, Mornè Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Shaun Pollock, Thandi Tshabalala and Johan van der Wath.

How many names do you recognise? Quite.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

England not bad, but incredibly stupid

I think more or less every person in England wants to hunt down Andrew Strauss and beat him to death with the MCC manual. Well, perhaps not to death – he wouldn’t be much good in the second innings. Although I doubt whether the scorers would notice the difference.

Why are you playing a hook shot? WHY?

Anyway, that was yesterday’s rubbish. We have yet to look at today’s beauties: Consider Ian Bell’s flailing willow, Ryan Sidebottom’s moment of monkey fuck and Matthew Prior’s decent into Geraint Jonesdom.

All balls.

So, it’s left to Monty Panesar and Chris Tremlett to put on a 700-run partnership to put the game safe for England and win the game. You think this is not possible? You think that there is something that Monty can’t do? Duncan Fletcher thought that, and he’s fat. Do you want to be fat? Do you? Do you? Well then.

I would say “well done India”. But I’m not going to.

I will say: ANIL KUMBLE HAVE MY BABIES. I have long championed the skills of this hardy warrior. Just look how tough he is. Anil Kumble is the God. Yes, that’s right, we have a new GOD here at Ayalac.

Almost Monty amazing. But not quite. Monty’s going to double Kumble’s score. Just you wait.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Indian batsman: just better?

England bowlers have been bowling well. The conditions are conducive to swing bowling, but Ryan Hairybottom and James Anderson have controlled this well.

There were patches of real aggression, variety and threat. Hairybottom frequently passed the bat, and almost had Sachin Tendulkar if Matthew Prior hadn’t realised his prattishness.

And yet, the cream of county bowling and the efforts of England’s best was not enough. The Indian batsman ground out through testing sessions, and even looked to take the attack to England.

Interestingly, two of India’s four wickets were lost due to dodgy decisions. Paul Collingwood seems to have the ability to persuade umpires to raise their finger despite a massive inside edge. Perhaps they get distracted by the glare of his red face?

The Indian batsmen are world class, and can cope with an impressive and penetrating bowling attack. It is a battle (just look at Tendulkar’s 48 in 132 balls) but is a fight that the Indians are winning. They just ride out the menace, and wait for the lose one.

This is probably because they are really, really good. And there isn’t an awful lot more we can do to winkle out another wicket. It’s as futile as using a shaggy dog to batter down a brick wall. Useless. And messy.

There is literally, nothing we can do to get out these buggers. Other than putting Colly in an Elvis outfit, obviously.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More incredible things

As I was walking from Tower Hill Station, where I met Paul Collingwood, towards Fenchurch Street Station, you would never guess what happened to me.

There standing, alone and resolute, was the England Chairman of Selectors, David Gravney. Weirdly, he was standing in the middle of the street. Holding firm, like a proud rock in the rapids, against the tide of City commuters.

I didn’t have the nerve to talk to a man that sort of looks like a sports administrator. I decided to share his street space as I walked past him – hoping that his abilities of selection would rub off on me. Sadly, they did not.

I went into the shop to buy a banana and a snack. The fruit wasn’t ripe yet and the crisps had passed its sell-by date. But that wasn’t my fault. The food looked alright in the net…the food net…where you keep…never mind.

Gravney also looked grumpy. Perhaps he’s able to look forward into time and saw the England cricket team getting battered in the Oval.

What is wrong with the world? The English cricket fan has had bugger all to cheer about since 2005. Oh wait, we beat Pakistan in dubious circumstances last year. You remember, when Daryl Hair threw a wobbly, and gave England the game because he’s a racist. Other than that, we’ve had little applaud. Maybe we should bring back racism? To improve the standard of international cricket.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pietersen is not sick

Once again, England have proven their toughness, by fielding Kevin Pietersen in tomorrow’s test match. KP could not get of bed yesterday. But never mind, we’ll stick him in anyway. He’ll cough it off.

I like the way that England risk their players’ careers and health to squeeze another match out of them. It feels as if I’m getting value for all that tax money that goes to the ECB.

If, say, Ian Bell, fell ill in this manner, he would probably still be in the infirmary come Thursday. However, KP has become a key part of England’s sledging attack, and they have really come to depend on his abusive qualities since his debut in 2005.

Assuming Pietersen is well enough to see the ball, England’s chances are winning improve considerably just with his presence. I have, as usual, no actual evidence to support that, but I’ll just say that he’s really, really good.

I was not the only concerned person when I heard the news. Michael Vaughan:
"It was slightly worrying when I heard he'd got a virus but the doctor said straight away that as long as he got his tablets down him he'd be okay."
As long as he has his tablets? Jesus Christ, doesn’t he just sound ready for the ultimate test in cricketing prowess. Just wait for Pietersen to cease chasing a ball to the boundary, only to pop a few uppers and resume the dash.

Also look out for rogue drugs hanging around on a length outside the off stump.

Monday, August 06, 2007

England’s World Twenty20 Squad

I seem to talk about twenty20 a lot even though I profess to hate the format.

It’s a slow news day in the cricketing world (the crumbling of the Indian domestic league and virtual collapse of the BCCI aside) so it’s all I have to go on.

England, out of feeble-minded desperation, have called some “specialists” into the fold. Those of note being: James Kirtley (Sussex), Darren Maddy (Warwickshire), Chris Schofield (Surrey), Jeremy Snape (Leicestershire), Vikram Solanki (Worcestershire) and Luke Wright (Sussex). (See the full team here.)

Weirdly, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Monty Panesar has been selected for the NatWest series (50 overs) against India but not the World Cup. Who knows why?

The sad thing is, the selectors seem totally unaware that selection is an irrelevant factor in twenty20 matches. Random chance is the chief determinant of the outcome, so doesn’t matter who you pick.

The format is so devoid of skill, that England could have picked an entirely different side, and it still wouldn’t have made a difference. These “specialists” would swing the bat, as anyone would, and their success is subject to the same laws of probability. All we can hope for is a favourable statistical blip.

No. Best not take the format too seriously, and use it to give some young’uns a go. Such as Luke Wright (in the picture). He's only 22 and has made an impression. May as well stick him into the twenty20 format, and let the proper batsmen take a rest.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Twenty bloody 20

So Kent (Kent?!) won the Twenty20 Cup.

Kent?! I’ve bloody been to Kent, and it’s bloody rubbish. You know, the chav was invented in Kent. That tells you all you need to know. (For international readers, "chavs" are teenagers that aimless roam the streets in a threatening manner. They also drink a lot of cider. Do not confuse them with farmers from Somerset.)

I’ve included of a picture of some chavs that I shot whilst driving through Dover. That’s the thing about Kent: you drive through it to get to France. And the thing about France is: you drive through it to get any where else. Just one big motorway to Italy, as far as I’m concerned.

As you can see, the chavs and "larking about" in a intimidating manner. They also wear the hats and helmets and things that they find on the street. They are mostly skinny because their parents can't afford much food, and they are addicted to heroine.

So anyway, the matches on Finals Day were brilliant and exciting and fun and all that rubbish that people usually trot about Twenty20. I once revealed the truth about the format, but the EC-bloody-B chose to ignore me. And not for the first time. It’s no coincidence that the county scene is a shambles and England are losing.

I boycotted the whole tournament. Twenty20 is just too exciting. It should be banned; it’s just not cricket.

I mean look at them. How could you possibly take any sporting team seriously when they waltz about in trackies. Honestly.

Any other cricket news? No. No I don’t think so. Oh wait, apparently, we’ll be “surprised” tomorrow when the selectors announce England’s Twenty20 squad. Expect Jade Goody to be picked.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Cheese over the airwaves

Has anyone listened to the BBC’s baby TMS commentary of county matches?

Being a Somerset fan, I occasionally listen to their progress in whatever game that they’re playing. However, radio technology has not penetrated deep into the West Country, so I usually listen to another random match when working at the computer.

Today I was listening to the Warwickshire vs. Durham match. The radio commentary did not advance my knowledge of the game’s progress.

The local radio coverage is like a no-holds-barred TMS. The commentators have no pretence of covering the actual match, two blokes just chat away for hours. As the whole thing is so slap-dash, you can usually hear producers chirping instructions in the background and every half-hour the whole thing grinds to a halt when a summary is suddenly given to some other station.

There are long stretches when cricket isn’t discussed at all. An average over, it seems, consists of two balls. Sporadically, they become self-conscious of this fact and say something dismissive like “there is really nothing happening in the cricket at the moment.”

Today I listened to Fat Commentator and Obnoxious Commentator having a discussion about ice cream. It was more or less like this:

FC: I like pistachio best. Yourself?
OC: I like all sorts, really. Unless there are weird types, [WHAT’S HE ON ABOUT?] I like caramel, fudge, banana, strawberry, vanilla, you know, those kinds of things.
FC: Yeah.
OC: I don’t eat much, though.
FC: Ooh. I like ice cream.
OC: So I see.
FC: Me and my…er…quite…well me and my wife love ice cream. And my son. He’s a head-master. Although I’m on “ice cream light” now which…
OC: What?! I hate those kinds of things. If you are going to have ice cream have ice cream…
FC: As Gibson starts his over with a ball down the off side.
OC: That’s almost as bad as that cheese stuff.
FC: Oh. Cheese Light?
OC: Yeah. That. All that stuff. I hate all of that.
FC: Oh. Me and my wife like that. And….
OC: What! WHAT!....What? You eat that? What the hell is it?
FC: Cheese with the nasty bits taken out. It’s healthy for…
OC: You mean the cheese? It’s cheese with the cheese taken out, isn’t it?
FC: Well, yes. But it’s much better for you.
OC: What’s the point? You want cheese that fattens you.
FC: Wiseman now bowls to Loudon on a length.
OC: I hate Harry Potter. And people who read it.
FC: Me and my wife read a lot of Harry Potter. And my son. He’s a head-master, you know?

I later found out later from the BBC website that Durham won in impressive style. Apparently, it was a cracking match.

Runs lower down the order

This blog was founded on bile. The very first post vented its spleen against Duncan Fletcher and his ridiculous policy of dropping Monty Panesar because he wanted runs at number eight. That post began the ill-informed, typo-ridden, poorly constructed rants that characterise Ayalac to this day.

However, not wanting to go back on my word too much, England have a problem. Namely: runs at number eight.

As Graham Gooch pointed out on TMS, England are stuck with four number ten batsmen – each operating inter-changeably at eight, in the same ineffectual manner. The TMS boys had a very good way of putting this problem: although England have to pick their four best bowlers now, this is not a sustainable weakness in the long term.

Moreover, when Andrew Flintoff eventually returns at six, the batting line-up will look increasingly vulnerable.

Under Fletcher, England played an understandable, if limited, strategy of effectively picking three all-rounders: Flintoff, Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles. This lower middle order all contributed with the bat, and help underpin England’s innings.

Matthew Prior, although a prat, seems more a more dependable batsman than Jones. But who fills Giles’ role? The stats feature thing in cricinfo points out that the average for each of England’s last five wickets has fallen from 20 in 2005 to 15 since. Only Bangladesh and the West Indies have a comparably low average. It is questionable whether the pressure on the upper order that this entails can be continued in test cricket.

One would hope that Stuart Broad and a Liam Plunkett renaissance might reassure Fletcherians of the future. But the potential return of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard will not sure up the tail-end.

If England are genuinely to think long-term, they wish to pick players because of a future potential. This will entail hard decisions. How far can we expect Ryan Sidebottom to go? Should he be dropped in favour of Broad on the basis of age as well as runs? Should we pick Plunkett instead of James Andersen, irrespective of bowling performance?

Flecther’s bottom four may look something like this:

8. Broad
9. Plunkett
10. Panesar
11. Hoggard

This won’t terrify many batsmen. Perhaps we need to re-jiggle the order. Select Flinoff as a specialist bowler, and forgo the all-rounder. How about:

7. Flintoff
8. Prior
9. Broad/Anderson
11. Hoggard

Arguably, the second line-up offers the same total runs as the first list, but a bit more penetration in the bowling line-up. Obviously, you would lose a bowler. But four should be enough.

Re-jiggling: the way forward.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Changing of the guard

The Indian batting line-up is probably one of the most feared in the world. Everyone keeps going on about this. But there may be hope.

Here are some ages:

Wasim Jaffer (29 years 116 days)
Dinesh Karthik (22 years 11 days)
Rahul Dravid (34 years 152 days)
Sachin Tendulkar (34 years 49 days)
Sourav Ganguly (34 years 339 days)
VVS Laxman (32 years 223 days)

Yes. Bloody scary. But the Indian line-up is like your great-grandfather: a little frightening at first, but you knew he won’t be about to scare you for long.

There is only one name here that will be part of the India of the future: Karthik. The rest are divided between legends of yore and yesterday’s unfulfilled potential.

Now, England made much of the Australian’s age, and well…you know what happened. So, we can’t bank on the Indian batters forgetting their hearing-aids all the time. Perhaps a run-out here and there won’t go amiss. But age is not an issue of the current series.

What is a problem is the phasing in of the next guard. Not only are all the Indian players old, but they are of similar age. All things being equal, you would imagine most international players to retire at 35 or so. We would expect form to dispose of Ganguly and Laxman earlier than the others. The rest should retire in a year or so.

Now, I have seen a few holes in my time, but filling this middle order is a huge echoing, cavernous abyss.

Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Mohammad Kaif are obvious candidates to plug the breach, but do they have the authority to lead the batting effort? You really need a linch-pin or two to hold the innings together. This ability arises only through experience, but India have not invested in the terrifying middle-order of the future.

Instead, the Old Familiars are preferred. For what end? One last hoorah? Is beating England at home the culmination of a generation’s cricket? I bloody hope not.

So, will India go from having the most impressive line-up in the world, to the weakest. Ayalac says: yes. Yes they will.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jelly bean bastards

A jelly bean is the centre of the cricketing world today.

Zaheer Khan claims that Kevin Pietersen threw a wee sweetie at him whilst batting. Presumably, this is after the stump-microphone picked up the “that’s a shit shot” wittism.

England claim no such action took place. Michael Vaughan said:
"The guys promised me they weren't throwing them. They were just left there at a drinks interval."

It may have indeed been a joke. By in the context of a barrage of abuse, it would be difficult to interpret this joking-but-not-joking incident as anything other than part of the pathetic intimidatory tactics that England were reduced to. I’m not surprised that Zaheer felt “insulted”.

In an obvious tit-for-tat remark, David Gravney, the English Chairman of Selectors said:

"There were some issues on both sides. You've got people bowling beamers, you've got people going across the crease."
No, not both sides: our side. Besides, these comments are a blatant attack on Sree Santh who, along with receiving a fine of 50% of his match fee for barging into Michael Vaughan, also accidentally bowled a beamer and deliberately ran over the crease.

As far as I’m concerned, this is an isolated action by one hot-headed quick. The more troubling aspect of this debacle comes from the English camp. Their organised and nasty abuse of batsmen was constant.

I’m really annoyed at England. If they were a political party, I would definitely never vote for them ever again. However, I am English, and I’m buggered if I know what to do. Maybe reclaim my Irish roots?

Anyway, this sledging business is really pissing me off. Why can’t they just bloody play cricket for Christ’s sake? Here’s Geoff Boycott:

"With verbals, I ask myself why do people carry on abusing players when they're batting. I never had it in my day and I faced some of the greatest bowlers there has ever been."
For once I agree with Geoff. Sledging hasn’t always been “part of the game”. Being “tough” does not mean tolerating abuse. It means playing hard cricket; not swearing at opponents.

What am I going to do? The England team are a collection of vindictive bastards. Support India, I suppose? They do appreciate spin bowling more…