Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in words

This is the last post of 2007. Scary thought, isn’t it? Your life dripping away, and all you have to speak for are a few incoherent thoughts on the internet. Well, today I will put that right. I shall review each international team in turn and say whether this year has been good or not.


The Ozzlers had an alright year, I suppose. If I remember correctly, they lost no test matches. Although, the highlight of their year was losing to Zimbabwe. That was fantastic. They also received a hilarious battering by New Zealand. “AHAHAHA” I said.


To be honest, Bangladesh are still crap. Although, they did ok in the World Cup – getting into the Super Sevens or whatever it was called. They seem content to be “alright” at ODIs but as useless as fetid dingo kidneys at test match cricket.


Don’t get me started about that lot.


Another year, another yearn for the past, another failure to achieve their potential. Of course, they won the twenty20, but that’s a bit like winning a tap-dancing competition. Sure, it requires skill but you wouldn’t tell your mates about it. They also beat England. On the domestic front, the ICL thing seems to be fading out - like the careers of its players.


Pakistan look great. Always have; always will. Although, they were embarrassingly evicted from the World Cup by a country of happy drunks, 2007 was a year of “rebuilding”. They still have some awesome players, but they have a new captain and plenty of young blood. These new brooms acted as obliging cannon fodder to India in one of their many series.

New Zealand

I don’t really know what to say about these. OK – they got into the World Cup semis. OK – they thrashed Australia. They have some good players. But, you know, they’re really rubbish. Fortunately, so are England, so 2008 promises a superb battle of the retards. I am also keen to advise them, as well.

South Africa

Felt like they should have won the World Cup, or the Twenty20, or a raffle contest. Instead, they decided to sit about and tell the world how great they are. The world replied by pulling on the choke chain. And then laughed at them. They also dropped their best player for a bit.

Sri Lanka

These guys are great. The island has the population of Milton Keynes and produces the best batsman and bowler in the world. The rest of them aren’t bad, either. They managed to get into the final of the World Cup. They also beat England.

West Indies

Lost against England and then won again. Didn’t win the World Cup. Still look pants. Won a game against South Africa causing the whole world to go crazy.

Other note-worthy things

Jason Gillespie scored a double hundred for Yorkshire.

I discovered Sluggo.

And dancing. And jigging. And other pretty pictures.

Ayalac gained not one, but two guest bloggers.

I lead a campaign at the ECB to install Matthew Hoggard as captain. I even told them how to win the World Cup. Although, I didn’t bring that up when I met Paul Collingwood.

England were also unexpectedly and deservedly attacked by various animals in their recent series in Sri Lanka. They also lost. Like a bunch of knackered cretins.

Lovely cricket bloggers held a nice birthday party for me, celebrating the wonder of spin bowling.

And that’s my 2007. Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bring back Jardine

The question I want to answer today is: just how mad was Douglas Jardine?

Among the assortment of dubious ties and suspicious socks, I was given a book for Christmas that can finally answer that question. The Game of Cricket by “Many Authorities” include some interesting and bonkers essays by a D. R. Jardine, former England captain.

Jardine, of course, is famous for trying to maim and kill as many Australians as possible in the ultimately successful Bodyline campaign.

Donald Bradman, for instance, had a promising career ahead of him, before Jardine personally took the new ball and beat “that little bastard” to death with it.

This is a laudable aim. The Antipodes is an area apt for a little culling here and there. Fine. Worthy of an MBE, etc. etc.

However, where I lose track of Jardine’s murderous thought-process is the introduction of organised slaughter into a game to which my Swedish friend refers to, “that game Englishmen play on the lawn, like croquet or bowls”. Although, ending your neighbour’s days is a novel way of livening up afternoon tea.

To quote the former England captain directly, he suggests some reforms to improve the sport:

“There is nothing wrong with cricket if by cricket we mean the body generally; certain limbs need pruning … both in the quantity and duration in and at which it is played to-day may need reform.”
The “limbs” to which he referred were soon amputated in Brisbane Distract Hospital, after he ordered his silly mid-on to gnaw off appendages of strong front-foot players.

For some reason, maybe he was too clever or something, the Australian public didn’t take to this giant man. He received much unfair criticism from the crowds. He waves off such foolishness with the typical aplomb inherent in every non-Ian Botham Englishman:

“Cricket when all is said and done is a game for twenty-two people, and no game that I know of, unless community singing be a game, is improved by thirty or forty thousand people endeavoring to take part in it.”
Quite so, old bean. Well said. Kill them all, I say. Damned natives.

Of course, no Bodyline blog would be complete without my second favourite exchange in cricketing history:

"They don't seem to like you very much over here, Mr Jardine." Jardine replied, "It's fucking mutual."
And on that spirit of anti-Australianness, let me leave you a little riddle:

Q: What’s the difference between Australia and a pot of yoghurt?
A: If you leave the yoghurt long enough, it’ll eventually grow its own culture.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Eating cricket

Thank the gods that’s over with.

The worst thing about Christmas is the lingering feeling of guilt. Yes Mum, I know we have barely spoken and I have been a terrible son to you for a year, but let me make it up by chopping some carrots. What’s that? I’m making an awful job of it? Maybe I can help you most by sitting in front of the telly? Oh, Finding Nemo is on.

Then, once your annual offspringly duties are fulfilled, you can happily retreat to your seat and continue with your quiet experiment: Can Bailey’s Get You Drunk?

Anyway, it is reassuring to discover that it is possible to engage in physical activity immediately after Christmas. The Australians, proving their super-human powers, are cracking on with a test match on Boxing Day, no less.

Now, I have seen Matthew Hayden. He has splodged himself on my television screen many a time. He is not a man to say no to that extra mince pie. Not only can he brush away those chocolate wrappers from about his person and manage to lift himself out of his armchair, but he can even go out-side and stand at some wickets. I have heard rumours that he’s even running from one wicket to another, some 22 yards away. These are obvious lies.

This doesn’t surprise me. There is a lot of lying around the festive period. Like, “Aunty Jane, how lovely to see you” or “Father Christmas is going to get you something nice.” You just have to get used to it.

Wonderfully, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has scored a century to put the West Indies in a strong position against South Africa. This is great news. I like Chanders. If he does something half decent in the next innings, we might have a change of God.

Not only does he more or less single-handedly prop out the Windies line-up, but he grinds the opposition down with his remorselessly weird shots. And lo! I rejoice with much happiness.

It is a joy akin to discovering that, after much dedication and patience, not only is it possible to inebriate using Bailey’s, but its effects are pleasingly similar to acid. Although, it does rather make your family nervous about next Christmas, when one of their kin locks himself into the bathroom for a few hours to stare at the “really cool” patterns on the soap dish.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The animals’ series

(This will probably be the last post for a while; I’ll be off for Christmas week – so no getting angry at me.)

Weather permitting, England can look forward to a solid day’s worth of forward defensives tomorrow. As I have mentioned many times, the negativity of playing for a draw is a great thrill to me. Rather like going to the toilet on a moving train, desperate rear-guards mix anxiety with excitement. “Will I get my trousers wet, or won’t I?”

England’s last innings was beyond a shambles. They transcend rubbish. They are meta-rubbish.

But enough of that, let’s have a cheery Christmas post.

The one winners of this series have been the animals. As previously reported on Ayalac, matches have been disrupted by dogs, snakes, bees and Matthew Hoggard.

Their enthusiasm for cricket should not be ignored. We should give them playing equipment and a chance to shine. Here is an England animal team:

Graham Pooch
*Len Mutton
Allan Lamb
Rob (Mon)Key
Phillip Pronghorn
Jonathan Trot
+Jack Russell
Graeme Swann
Jeremy Snake
Peter House Martin
Andrew Haddock

A good adversary for the Tigers, I think.

As a Christmas treat, here’s a video of my local Member of Parliament, showing the stateliness of his ancient position and value for my tax money.

You all have a lovely Christmas. Don’t get too depressed. Drink and eat too much, and I’ll see you on the other side. Cheerio!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ah, Humiliation, my old friend.

Well. Just when you thought that the viscous, pulsating flow of faeces that constitutes life couldn’t get any thicker, the England cricket team thicken the mix by collapsing to 21 all out.

It looked really shaky, at one point. We lost six wickets for only three runs. But we recovered to a stronger position when Ulbator Choobleton worked his magic on the skies. But lo! Even England Chief Raining Coach was having a shocker, and we were dismissed in short time.

For those of us waking up to the news that the country of our birth is incapable of producing (or importing) a single decent cricketer are familiar with the bad mood that pertains.

It’s not just a little annoyed disposition. By way of constrast, say you’ve hit “back” on a site, but, because it has some infuriating ad thing you remain on the page. So you have to launch a frenzied attack upon the back button to get anywhere. And then you usually end up on your home page. (I mean really people, how could that possibly constitute effective marketing? You aren’t even directed to another site. You just sit there. What? What are you thinking?)

No. After that you remain annoyed for about two seconds, before you realise that the little “back” button has a drop-down, that could have effortless obviated this problem. Of course, you’ll always forget this convenient fact, and the frustration will return.

But the point is this: the annoyance is temporal. Whereas England’s river of poo is permanent. Occasionally, it empties into a clear, clean lake. But it won’t be long before the pristine waters are contaminated by sewage.

Observe Pratty Prior’s technique here. Just look at him. He’s a broken man. I heard that he has dropped six catches off Ryan Hairybottom alone during this tour. Prior isn’t a bad player. At least, he wasn’t before he joined the England team.

Another is Kevin Pietersen. When he burst onto the scene he openly declared his ambition to be the best batsman in the world. Some applauded his motivation, others thought him a twat, some of us even believed him.

But how long has it taken for the grinding drudgery of all things English to crush his aspiration and obliterate his spirits? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you the answer to the question.

No time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stop the melon

I’m not happy today. This morning, as I was making my famous way through Tower Hill Station, I was accosted by what can only be described as a “Community Support Officer”.

“Ho!” said he, “Stop! I must search your bag.”
“No.” said I, “I’m late for work.”
“I don’t care,” said he, “I’m searching your bag.”

And, so he did; whilst his colleague directed asinine questions about my ethnicity towards my bored personage. After a sufficient proportion of my dignity had been removed (apparently, the line is drawn at examining the contents of potential terrorists’ lunchboxes) the original bastard proclaimed, “all clear!” Can you believe that? All clear? What was he worried about? Exploding sandwiches?

Anyway, I wish that someone stopped and searched Michael Vaughan’s brain before he decided to put Sri Lanka into bat.

No one has any idea how this brand new pitch is going to play. And, as such, don’t you think that it would be sensible if we tried to avoid facing Murali on this untested track on the fifth day?

I accept that England have to make the move to draw the series. But acts of spell-binding stupidity and maddeningly unorthodox gimmicks are occasional companions on Vaughan’s curious journey through the captaincy.

You know, this reminds me of the scale of political ideology. The more you move away from the right wing, you are strangely compelled to fascism. You hop from Nazism, conservatism, liberalism, socialism and then, before you know it, you’re Joseph Stalin and a total fascist. Similarly, if you try to be too clever, you end up being a melon.

“Why put in two slips,” he thinks, “when I cam have two short mid-wickets instead.” This is melon-talk, I’m afraid. Melon-talk.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Harmison: oh go on then

I have repeatedly campaigned for Steve Harmison to be dropped and forgotten forever. Sometimes the ECB listens to the first part of my advice, but, crucially, ignores the latter.

However, in my old age, and the festive spirit, I have deemed to allow Harmison to play one more game. He did alright at the Sinhalese Sports Ground, I suppose. He didn’t take many wickets, but he did provide the English attack with the “cutting edge”.

Never mind the fact that bugger all was cut, and we spend most of the time collecting balls from the boundary.

I have accepted that my Chris Tremlett fantasy is a bit of a pipe dream. Plus, he’d probably not add too much to the equation. We have all accepted that we need three swingers and one bouncy bowler. And Monty.

Although, this deranged observer reckons we should drop the Sikh of Tweak for Graeme Swann! Graeme Swann!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cricket: the cure for Christmas shopping

I saw David Aaronovich in Covent Garden yesterday, whilst I was Christmas shopping. An Incredible Happening indeed. (Actually, he's not so incredible, and annoying. But hey, it's time to be generous.) Judging by the directionless scowl on his face, he was worrying about Matthew Hoggard’s fitness.

You see, that’s what we’re thinking about this Christmas: cricket. Bugger mum’s book; the sister’s socks and dad’s…whatever the hell it is you think of this year, what we’re worried about is the possibility of losing second place.

Christmas, for me, used to be a time of suffering and fear. What on earth am I supposed to get this year? Why can’t they just leave me alone and stop demanding things from me.

But then, I came across the England tour. Suddenly, from the pits of winter, a little summer warmth emerged. Of course, the results of England foreign adventures were just as depressing as being a paper boy in the snow, but there was something to hold on to. I don’t mind holding on to someone else’s shit. Not if it is Michael Atherton’s.

Yesterday, I went in search of a newspaper to read something about cricket over some lunch. Stupidly, I did so in Soho, expecting there to be a shop that sold something remotely useful. I was stymied.

So, I went to get some lunch anyway. I went to a little café place. It claimed to sell pies. I ordered my pie and offered a card for payment. “Sorry sir,” the bastard said “we don’t accept cards. There is a hole-in-the-wall machine just over there.”

So, just as they were putting my lunch in the oven, off I went and, upon inspecting the ATM, decided that I would just go and buy a copy of The Cricketer and read it in a place that acknowledged the advent of the modern world not by putting cherry bloody tomatoes and random sprinkles of green on a perfectly good pie but by taking a debit card.

It just shows you, if you try to do something that is unrelated to cricket you are doing it wrong.

I hope my pie caught fire and burn down that place. Serves those corporate hippies right.

By the way: we've got some new links on the Spinning Party. Check 'em out at the bottom.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does anyone remember what winning’s like?

Don’t answer that question if you are an Australian. You people can’t possible understand the meaning of “winning”. Not like us losers.

I think my last memory of success was beating that old women to the last seat on the train a few months ago. Since then, it has been a baron, numbing existence.

The nearest thing that England get to victory is a draw. The nation greeted England’s latest achievement of not making a total pig’s ear of it as a major cause for celebration. The BBC Radio 4 programmers have been on a marathon bender since Paul Collingwood blocked the last ball of the day. All of tomorrow’s broadcasts are cancelled. Well, not if you consider white noise and pained groaning you perfect idea of an Archer’s episode.

I think we pretty much have to accept this tour as a write-off. Let’s give it to the Lankans and concentrating on not cocking up against the Kiwis. That would be truly humiliating, and I would have to consider more seriously my allegiance to China.

Although, in fairness, it was rather like Sri Lanka resigned this test to a draw as well. “Look”, they collectively asked, “can anyone actually be bothered?” There could only be one answer to such a question. So, they proceeded to waste an entire day batting like a hermit crab with a broken stick, and failed to force the win.

England gratefully accepted this let off. And the fans dutifully turned off in droves. All excepting the barmy army. Who were pissed.

In other news, didn’t Chamara Silva bowl well? I liked the look of him. He’ll look like a useful, dare I say it, Jayasuriya-type figure for years to come. He’s also a spinner. Which automatically makes him cool.

And, for the first time in 33 years, England’s openers scored century partnerships in both innings. Openers are my favourite sort of batsman, and there is something mathematically pleasing when the first wicket partnership is a big one. It’s like a righted jumper.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I’m worried about Monty

There is something wrong. This is an innate, perhaps even distant, anxiety. Like unwittingly putting a jumper on the wrong way around – you are vaguely aware of the world being disrupted, but it’s not worth going to the doctors about. Eventually, a mocking friend points out your mistake and the universe is brought into order. Today, I am that friend.

One component of England’s seemingly ineffective attack is Monty Panesar. Although he is England’s leading wicket-taker (with 8 (Hoggard has 6; Murali has 14)), if we are to be honest without ourselves, the Sri Lankan batsman are untroubled by the Luton spinner. Those wickets he did take were, in the main, tail-enders (I count 5/8).

Moreover, even though he has been generally economical (going for three an over) he has only bowled 16 maidens. By my calculations, he bowls a maiden every 6.8 overs (Murali takes 3.4 to do likewise; Hoggard takes 4). In conditions where you seriously consider deploying two spinners, this is not good enough.

We all love Monty; he’s great. But there is much to criticise. His batting and fielding are just about passable.

But these weaknesses reveal a wonderful quality in Monty: his ability to improve his game. When he first entered our consciousness, his batting was appalling and his fielding derisible. But now, after working incredibly hard, he is now able to support an upper-order batsman in a handy late partnership and even effect match-changing run-outs.

But now Monty needs to slow down, and perhaps think a little more deeply about his game. Undoubtedly, he has an admirable work ethic, but his bowling doesn’t lack effort, he just needs to put some more thought into his deliveries.

He has always emphasised the importance of getting the ball “in the right areas”. He is very good at achieving this objective– just look at this. But, at this level, accuracy is not enough; you need to outfox your opponent. Vary your pace, change the loop, alter the spin or Warne the hell out of the batsman.

He is doing these things, obviously, but it is lacking direction and predatory intent. Rather, there is something mechanical about his approach. He has heaps of talent, but, if we look at lesser bowlers, like Stuart Clark, we notice that talent is not everything.

Monty needs to integrate these other, more crafty sides of bowling into his arsenal. Once he does (and he will ECB, you hear? Leave him alone) he’ll be better than free pens.

Thanks to all contributors to yesterday's party. Sometimes, I wonder if it is the links to other blogs are the best thing about Ayalac.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Ayalac Festival of Spin

Spontaneously, and quite unexpectantly, the cricket blog community has collectively noticed my anniversary and celebrated my greatness with some lovely posts on spin bowling. Thanks chaps.

We're a year old today (ish) so bring on the cake!
First off, King Cricket has written an interesting narrative on his internal struggle to cope with Shane Warne’s greatness.

Jrod, recognising that I had no friends, kindly filled the void by writing no less than four pieces on spin.

Cricket with Balls is truly a great little blog. More perverts should write about cricket.

Marty, of Cricket=Action=Art, one of the most original and attractive cricket blogs, has contributed three wonderful pictures. One old, another less old and one of a fearsome action of yore. Great stuff.

Samir Chopra, from Eye on Cricket, reveals all in his interview with the great Murali.

Patrick Kidd tells us about his encounter with the mighty Neil Edwards (not, not the Somerset champion; apparently, this one's an accountant).

If anyone has anything they'd like to add, please give me a bell.

Facing spin bowling is a nightmare. It’s much harder to face than facing fast bowling. You have a simple plan when up against a quick: don’t make eye contact and try not to whimper as the bowler approaches the crease. When the ball is delivered, leap backwards and towards leg-side, leaving your bat free to flail widely at the ball. This may allow you to deflect it over the slips, but, if you’re lucky, you’ll nick it to the keeper, enabling you to scuttle to the safety of the pavilion.

Spin bowling, on the other hand, is impossible. Running away is not an option. You simply have to stand there, and helplessly watch the ball spin into your stumps.

Spin bowlers are great. Spin bowling is great. Hurrah for all things rotational!

Update: David from Harrow Drive (yes, the one with the cheesy grin) has offered up a brilliant article on how to bowl like Ray Illingworth. It's full of tips that are actually usual. In that regard, this blog is unique.

Marty from the wonderful cricket=lust=pornography has created another cryptic spinning image. Who could it be?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Do umpires make England rubbish?

No. We do the hard work ourselves.

The recent flurry of dodgy umpiring decisions has galvanised the technophiles, and they are once again calling for increased use of the Third Umpire in adjudicating appeals.

Alastair Cook fell to a shocker, and Kevin Pietersen may feel rightfully upset. This, coupled with the freak dismissal of Michael Vaughan and the loss of Ravi Bopara, who should never been out there, leaves England feeling persecuted and hard-done-by.

The England captain has said in an interview,

“Those bastards! I’ll kill them! Why do we get the dodgy decisions, why do we get attacked by killer bees? Why us? It’s not fair! IT’S NOT FAIR!”

However, despite this, King Cricket thinks that these decisions didn’t affect the match. And that corresponds with my general mistrust of technology.

Here, I’m lazy tonight; let’s quote an old post of mine:

“Not only will [the increased use of technology] 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.”

Weirdly, I haven’t changed my views since then. Actually, the more I read of that blog, the more I agree with it. That bloke talks a lot of sense. Technology is pants.

I think this is because I hate all things technological. My copy of Word at work is completely buggered, and IT refuses to do anything about it. So I’ll be damned if I’d help the IT sector in any way by advocating its continual interference into the noble game.

That’s cricket, by the way.

Anyway, make sure you have a look at the blog tomorrow… I have some special treats for you tomorrow…oooooh….

Sunday, December 09, 2007

England: psychologically ill-equipped for success

England, feeling pity for their toiling Ceylonese chums, and remorse for doing so well in their recent test match at the Singhalese Cricket Club, decided to give away whatever advantage they gained.

By contrast, Sourav Ganguly, an Indian, when he’s on top he rams home the advantage by relentlessly battering his way to a double hundred. England, on the other hand, are happy to simper out into the sunset.

In an interview, England captain Michael Vaughan said,

“Well, it’s like this: we rolled up to Colombo in a satisfactory “under-dog” position, ready for a plucky, British come-back, and upon enacting that spirited recovery, we rather, well, you know, we felt sorry for winning and held a vote and decided to sort of let Sri Lanka win.”

There was some gestures toward out-cry by the press, but Vaughan was only saying what every Englishman thinks. We don’t like winning. Victory on the field is like beating your dad at chess, you want to do it, you yearn to do it, but when you do, you are overcome with a strange guilt. Perhaps it’s best just to lose, we think. Avoid all that unseemly smugness.

This, I deeply suspect, is a pervasive and sub-conscious presence that guides all Englishmen’s actions. We have the loser gene. Look at football, Eurovision, primary school results, etc.

There are some players that have had intensive shovel-around-the-head therapy, enabling them to turn off this gene – take Ian Botham. Others have evaded it through foreignness – take Kevin Pietersen. The rest of us, however, irresistibly follow instinct. Trying to fight it is foolish. You’ll just go all Matt Priory, and no one wants that.

Not even Matt Prior's mum.

No, it’s best just to accept failure. This is why English beer is the best in the world – we have so many opportunities to drown our sorrows.

By the way, the answer to the last blog’s question was, inevitably, overpoweringly, crushingly, “no”.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Will a deranged Tremlett crawl back into the side?

Before the match in Kandy, I was a little worried that picking three swing bowlers may not be the best plan. I wanted Stuart Broad to “add something different”. The extra ingredient may have been chump sandwiches for the Lankan batsmen for all we know, but I’ll be smug nonetheless.

Seeing as Matthew Hoggard has broken his aging body, a replacement has become necessary. Normally, I would happily have picked the youngster.

However, with the benefit of some time and thought, I have come to wonder a little about Broad. Perhaps Sri Lanka is not ideal debut territory (Paul Collingwood didn’t flourish here when he started). Plus, Broad has looked OK but not terrifying.

So, if not Broad, then who? Well, there is, of course, an immediately available option. But that is too terrible to contemplate further.

This pretty much leaves one international class bowler standing: Chris Tremlett. Not only is that Hampshire quick a handsome fellow, but he’s also handy with the bat.

But the “thing” about Tremlett is that he’s a good bowler. Off a short run up, he hits the deck hard and generates bounce. He is difficult to play.

I was very impressed with his performance against the Indians, although he did look patchy in patches, but nonetheless, I felt annoyed when I heard that Durham geezer got in the squad ahead of Tremlett’s proven talent.

On the hard pitches and oppressive atmosphere in the matches to come I think that Ryan Hairybottom and James Anderson will break down. My man Tremlett won’t, though. He’ll get a few five-fors, I wager.

I have no evidence for this. It’s just a casual wager, you see.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The future is Red

Let us find new heros. The country of my birth, England, isproving to be more rubbish than Darth Vader could possibly have imagined, so I looking about for some alternatives.

(JRod suggested that neither New Zealand or Sri Lanka were good enough for test cricket and should merge. Given recent developments, perhaps England are in the same boat – they should merge with Bangladesh maybe?)

So who to support? Obviously all the test playing nations are taken. I would support Sluggo, but I have too much love to give for just one man. I would pick a Pimmy, but they're worse than England. I need a team with a future; a team with a plan; a team that intends to take over the world.

That team is China.

In 2005 the Chinese Ministry of Sport decided that it would be a major force in world cricket by 2020 in qualifying as a test nation. Apparently, there are 115 teams in China, giving, roughly, 1725 players a game. In 2004 there were none. At this rate of development they will have 22 thousand players by 2020. That is more than the population of Twickenham. Frightening, isn’t it?

With their almost cruel training regimes and crushing political pressure, they are sure to perform at an international level. I would even fancy their chances against Australia. Although, I am a little worried about coping with their names. That might be awkward.

Perhaps not, though, we have handled Ko Ling Wud and Mon Tee Pan Sar without difficultly.

70 Chinese having taken a course in cricket coaching. It has taken on, it seems, to quote one Zhang Yufei, 15, from Beijing Zhichunli High School,

“I’m crazy about cricket. I train three times a week at school. My greatest wish is to play against foreign teams and defeat them.”

Which, funnily enough, the aim of many other Chinese institutions.

Once the Red Army comes steaming across the English Channel, I think I'm pretty safe. "Look at my blog," I'll say, "I'm nice to Chinamen there. Look at its name." And they shall say, "ah so" and I'll get a cushy position as Commissar for Cricket.

My first act will be to execute the readers of my blog. They're a lazy, unproductive bunch. I'll say "they lack ideological integrity, comrades". Then I'll be laughing. HA HA HA.

England waylaid by bees

First the dogs attacked. Then the snakes. Now England are swarmed by killer bees.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pakistan DON'T earn moral victory, but do pretty well anyway, I suppose. It could have been worse

No. I don’t want to talk about England. I pretty much summed it all up yesterday and, as Tim pointed out, it has just got worse since then.

Today we’re going to look at India and Pakistan – sides that know how to play cricket. Their recent test match in Kolkata had everything. Huge scores, squash-buckling innings, defiant stands and a spin bowling taking the new ball – all that we want to see. Others didn't appreciate the subtler sides of this match - but, then again, I am a purist.

What I liked most about this match is that you had a winning and losing team throughout the course of the game, both trying to pursue divergent objectives. From day one, India were never going to lose, and Pakistan had to fight hard to earn a draw. This was the story of the whole match: one attempting a ruthless victory another belligerently standing their own.

Pakistan pulled together some unlikely partnerships (heck, even Kamran Akmal got some runs) and defied Indian pressure as a team. It is a wonder that the Pakistan line-up don’t do this every match and wipe the floor with everyone.

India played handsomely and were probably denied their victory by the uncooperative pitch. Anil Kumble captained like James Tiberius Kirk and showed his inferior colleagues the way forward. He even inspired the will-he-won’t-he Harbhajan Singh into a five-for in the first innings. Impressive.

There is nothing to question in Kumble’s timing of the declaration, and he was very magnanimous in scoffing at the idea of Pakistan’s moral victory in their brave rear-guard in the face of relentless attack:

"I don't believe in moral victories. It's really crazy; I don't know why people talk about moral victories. When you struggle to pick up five wickets in both innings, that's no moral victory to me. To me what matters is the result and I think overall we dominated the match over the five days."
Anil Kumble: he may be angry, but he’s still GOD. Watch out in the next test, he’ll be wrathful then.

Monday, December 03, 2007

England: is there no relief?

No. No there isn't. After clawing ourselves into a decent lead, England have thrown it all away by allowing Sanath Jayasuriya to catapult Sri Lanka into a defendable position. It is the same old depressing story for England fans. It is the dependable endurance of those following these well-meaning goons, we’re used to dealing with this now. We have coping strategies.

For a brief, reckless moment I thought that England could perhaps win this match. And then, before you could say “Oh fucking marvellous, it’s Christmas again” the tourists generously forwent any vestige of advantage.

In his last test match (unless the King of Ceylon calls recalls him from Columbo's Home For The Old and Passed It), Jayasriya has moved the Lankans from a first innings deficit to a second innings surplus. What a guy.

This is not the first time that Jayasuriya has battered my boyish hopes into oblivion. I remember in 1998, England totalled an unusually large score: 445. This was exciting to me; I was used to reading about massive scorecards in the sub-continent, but following the England team leaves you accustomed to undignified slumps.

But a score of over 400 gave the heart a flutter. Perhaps we could win? In strolled Jayasuriya, who promptly smote 213. Smashing England’s cream and dreams to all corners. We lost in that familiarly English fashion of pathetic.

Nonetheless, that match was very interesting. Notice Darren Gough’s 133-ball 15. Oh, and Muralitharan got some wickets, too.

Anyway, back to this century, with Matthew Hoggard looking injured and Monty Panesar lacking threat, England's attack has wilted in the sun. To this, Sri Lanka say "ha" adding "you're rubbish" before whacking us around the park. For an England fan, it is easy to confuse heat-stroke with déjà vu.

Who is better: Warne or Murali?

The answer, of course, is Matthew Hoggard. In blasting away four Sri Lankan batsman in their over-whelmed first innings attempt, Hoggy has proven his quality and me right. In the second innings, he has taken a wicket, despite losing the use of a leg and his right eye.

After a six months absence, you would have expected him to be a bit Harmisony, but not a bit of it.

The wonder of Hoggard’s consistent amazingness is inexplicable to me as my television’s constant demands that I press some mysterious red button.

Effortlessly blowing the opposition away like the smell of fresh summer roses being expunged by the clattering arrival of the refuse collectors is impressive in itself. But given the unfriendly conditions and limited swing, it provides mathematical proof that Hoggard is some sort of fluffy Yorkshire swing-bowling god.

I’m starting to doubt my Hoggard for Captain Campaign, as this will probably mean that he couldn’t be Prime Minister. Although, I don’t know. There is no law against holding both positions simultaneously; PMQ’s are held on Wednesday and test matches don’t start until Thursday. It sounds like a perfect job-share.