Monday, July 30, 2007

England get a bit nasty

I criticised Australians heavily a while ago for being prats. I argued that their no-holds-barred approach to the game lay outside the spirit of the game. Whether it was effective was irrelevant, people had paid good money to see people play high quality cricket, and if a batsman’s concentration was disturbed by a verbal harassment then you are denying the public the full spectacle of test match cricket. It’s akin to cheating.

England’s behaviour on the field in this test match has been a disgrace. The conduct of Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson in particular was embarrassing and pathetic.

In the prats league, they are running neck-and-neck with the Aussies at the moment. However, unlike the Aussies, the strategy is proving ineffective.

Matt Prior attempted to defend England appalling display:

“It’s international cricket. It’s a hard game, we all want to win, so you’re going to have your banter.”

If you want to win, why don’t you just brain the opposition batsmen in the changing room? That would guarantee success. Oh no, there is some invisible threshold of acceptability defined not in the rules, but in England’s head.

Prior then reveals the truth of the matter:
“I do enjoy [sledging]. It’s part of the game and if you don’t enjoy it then you’re going to struggle. It’s never nice when it’s you batting and there’s 11 blokes around you giving you a barrage. It can be uncomfortable, obviously, but having known that as a batter as well it can definitely be used as an advantage.”
Matthew Prior is a prat.

Cricket is a sport, whereby winning and losing is determined by skill. These flaky arguments in favour of verbal abuse and mental attacks are affront to morality as much as the spirit of the game. And, as Christopher Martin-Jenkins pointed out, they are also illegal.

Indian have traditionally been seen as a “soft touch” on the field. Their batsmen are liable to be intimidated and riled easily. Probably because Indians, as people, are so polite, diplomatic, diffident and generally some of the best human beings in the world. Sadly, they’ve had to toughen up to combat this onslaught. And they did just that. Deflating the lary England bowlers with a solid batting performance.

India thoroughly deserve to win this match, just as much as England deserve to lose it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hole without Harmison or whole without harmison?

So England were denied a deserved victory by the gloom and rain. Some people are annoyed. I am not. I was more annoyed about missing Harry Potter on TMS. And I hate Harry bloody Potter.

This draw is exactly the sort of last-minute escape to Impending Doom that England have been inflicting on other superior sides for years. They had this coming.

Nevertheless, they were the better side. The England advantage came from one factor: swing bowling. English bowlers were better at controlling it, and English batsmen were better at playing it.

This next test, when the bowl presumably won’t be swinging as insane amounts as this last test, things should be more even. And hopefully the Indians are a little more adapted to English conditions.

Anyway, England showed their best bowling effort as a unit for years. Why? What explains the sudden change? I’ll tell you: no Steve Harmison. Not having that gangly liability leak away runs allowed a test quality group of bowlers to sustain pressure over a whole session, and keep the Indians honest.

All the quicks put in a better performance than Harmison in the past two years. Who would you drop for the man from Durham? I don’t think you can justify the replacement of any of the seamers from him. Harmison has shown us that he does not hold any influence on the game at test cricket.

A more taxing question is that of Matthew Hoggard. The Hogster is great. For a number reasons. However, who do we ditch for him? Surely not Chris Tremlett – as three swing bowlers is too limited. Ryan Hairybottom? Well he is old but, he’s our best bowler at the moment, so probably not wise. James Anderson? He’s bowled like a demon. What to do?

I really don’t know. It’s hard. Damn success and its blame-reducing potential. Bring back the glory years of relentless defeat. That's what I say.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

KP and England look ok

I’m loathed to appoint Kevin Pietersen as God - mainly because I had a go at him for whining the other day. Nevertheless, the bloke is amazing. I’m talking Alistair Cook amazing.

He dug England out of another awkward situation, by firing off 134 against India today. Only Matt Prior gave him serious support, contributing 42 to a partnership of 119.

But of course, you know all this. You also know that KP is an incredibly talented chap, if a little annoying.

I was going to start the next sentence with “but what you don’t know is”. But then I released that you probably did know it.

Anyway. KP played well, but I think that he’s batting with the tail needs a little more thought. He had a very incoherent strategy: refusing to run a three on the fifth ball, and yet taking a single on the fourth.

So what’s the key with batting with the tail? Common sense would back “farming the strike”. This involves the proper batsman whacking it around for the first half of the over, and picking up a single towards the end, thus minimising the tail-ender’s exposure.

Steve Waugh developed another approach, in which he played a single off the first ball, showing confidence in the rabbit, and hoping enhancing his pluck. However, this does increase the chances of another wicket.

Which is best? Well, I think it depends on the situation. If you are on the end of a rubbishy, low-scoring innings, with days left in the game, I would elect the former. But in a context where time is an issue, and you need to score quickly, then Waugh’s approach is probably more appropriate.

In all honesty, KP made a mess of batting with the tail – mixing the two approaches with no real end. On the other hand, he made a mess of the bowlers’ figures.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lets type something about the test match and see what happens

Before the series started, I thought that India were going to win it. Then I saw the seamers, and changed my mind. Although they had a good series in South Africa, they mostly bowled rubbish. England racked up a solid foundation, and looked like getting well over 400.

Then everything went to poop. The Indian quicks remembered how to be good, and bowled us out for bugger all. We lost eight wickets for about a fiver. I feared another England thrashing.

Devine Pity intervened, and the ball beginth to swing. The “Let’s Just Pick Swing Bowlers” strategy paid off and England are picking up millions of wickets for bugger all.

And what about that Chris Tremlett, eh? I thought he bowled very impressively. Nothing like the Sri Lanka fodder he has a few years back. Now he's "Centre fo(l)dder". Ho ho.

Although, he does look like a serial killer. There is definitely something of the Christopher Walken about him. Scarier still: he shaves his body hair. Or so I'm told.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to fix Kevin Pietersen

Once again, an English cricket player makes life harder for pommies everywhere by uttering a long, sinewy whine.

This time, not even a real Englander emitted the moaning noises. It was Kevin Pietersen. He’s about as English as good food. For interest’s sake, I will display all his considered comments:

"I’m mentally fatigued - really, really tired. It was a long winter of Champions Trophy, then the Ashes, then the World Cup.

"I rattled into the West Indies series but got progressively worse, more and more tired.

"That’s why I have to make the most of these little windows of opportunity for a proper rest.

"So we’re going out of this country, I’m going to turn my mobile off and enjoy waking up knowing I don’t have to play cricket or do a gym session."

After saying this, he went to the South of France.

First he’s saying that he’s “mentally fatigued” then he complains about doing a gym session. I went to a gym once. The only time my mind became tired was worrying about the big bloke laughing at my puny arms. Mercifully, he didn’t; but boy was I fatigued.

Anyway, old county warhorses (and England rejects) Chris Adams and Dominic Cork laid into him, saying something about playing international cricket being a privilege. Not sure exactly what they said, because they’re has-beens, and who listens to them?

Anyway, what I was going to say was this: I work with people in the City who regularly enjoy 12-14 hour days. One person I know once started work at 8am and finished at 6am the next day. They have highly-stressed jobs, in which their bosses, clients and the sheer scope of the deals piles the pressure higher and higher.

They’re fatigued as hell. But, a few coffees and a sneaky sniff of coke later, and they’re away. That’s solution A for KP.

Solution B is this: A while ago I remember the British Army running an experiment on pressure. They organised a war game between two teams. Team 1 was constituted from professional officers; Team 2 was brokers and traders working in the financial markets.

The set-up heaped the pressure on the decision-makers, with tight deadlines and conflicting information creating further stress for the “generals”. Team 2 won hands down.

Not that they were better soldiers, but because they could handle pressure. The knowledge of the professional soldiers was lost in anxiety.

Cricket is a game, and the individuals that it produces are not hardened to what us workers like to call “the real world”. So, what does KP need? A quick bit of training in options, futures and other derivatives and a placement at a merchant bank in between tests, then he’ll be fine.

This will provide him with some techniques with dealing with pressure, and also allow him to over-come “fatigue”. Weirdly enough, I think that KP would quite suit being a City Boy: big car, expensive pink shirts and spending all day talking bollocks and telling everyone how “shit hot” you are.

As you can see, this won’t result in a change of character, but may keep him out of my life for a while.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

India: at a glance

India? Not as good as they should be. Never have been, really. Tendulkar? Over-rated. Dravid? Under-rated. The new pace attack? Potentially, bloody amazing.

These are my views on India. They are also right.

I have always liked the Indian test team; more than any other (England aside). Traditionally, their bowling attack has centred around Delphic-like spinners and their batting focuses on the boring arts of batting: patience and judgement. Spin bowling and boring batting are my two favourite things in cricket. India exemplify both these virtues.

In recent years, however, the character of Indian cricket has changed. The batting line-up, although the statistically most intimidating for many years, is strangely fragile. In the recent tour to South Africa, although the batsmen were capable of putting the team into a strong position, they were liable to collapse.

Whereas, during the same tour, the seam bowlers flourished. Sri Sreesanth became a match-winner. Zaheer Khan re-discovered his old devastating self. And, additional to this dangerous new-ball partnership, India has found itself with a host of young up-and-coming quicks pushing through the ranks. They should all do well in English conditions.

Although, saying that, so should Steve Harmison.

I’ll write another post about the batters later. You know, when I can be bothered.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cricket and important items from its histories

I may, or may not, have just come back from the pub. You will have to judge for yourselves based on the quality of writing.

I freely admit, that, because of my work commitments, I have not had the opportunity to examine the cricket press as is my normal habit.

However, today saw a special Ayalac visit to the Bank of England Museum. Some of my older readers may remember the Dingly Dell vs. Old Muggleton watsit on the £10 note. You may recall that the sort of solicitor looking bloke had his hat knocked off by a dangerous looking beamer. Another, podgier looking chap at leg gully made a face like this: O.

The characters looked faintly Dickensian in their juxtaposition. In fact, I think it may have been an invention of ol’ Charlie.

So, in this Museum, as well as collectively remarking on the surprising weight of a gold bar, we also observed the ORIGINAL sketch of above cricket match.

Only I appreciated its significance. I was part of history…being a visitor to that place of cricketing thingy-ma-bob. And you too, by your loose (but not loose enough for my liking) link to me.

I think that last paragraph might have clarified the pub-situation for you. But I still think you’re all a bunch of bastards. So don’t worry about that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bangladesh's trousers: how low can they go?

Some of my more regular readers are becoming concerned (nee agitated) at the reduced frequency of update. Admittedly, things have been a little slow. It’s a work thing. You will find that people in paid employment have less time generally. I doubt you’ll ever need to worry about that, though.

Never mind! I have sacked my last roving reporter, and have engaged another. He’s currently finishing a draft of the test match in Durham. So, it’ll be nice and topical.

So! What in the news? Bangladesh are still as awful as the East Sussex County Council, but, fortunately, less doomed to nuclear annihilation.

In their current test match against Sri Lanka, they stand at 72-4. Which, frankly, is pants. Not as pants as they have been. Maybe more like boxer shorts. Or even girly pants: you don’t mind watching them, but you wouldn’t want to be in them.

There’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to redeem themselves. If they stick it out and escape only a modest thrashing, they may even promote into “shorts” status. This isn’t a great place to be, either, in my eyes.

Shorts are rubbish: Trousers any day, in my opinion. You can’t beat a good test match trouser.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sussex: better than India?

Sussex (population 1.2 million) is giving India (population 1.2 billion) a run for its rupee in a warm-up match at Hove.

After recording 388-7 for the first innings, India had the local boys reeling on 144-5. Only a brilliant rear-guard ton by Andy Hodd saw Sussex declare on 300, and the fight-back continued on the field as India was reduced to 21-2 at stumps.

Let’s look at Andy Hodd. From his picture, you can safely assume that he is boring, and isn’t worth writing much about. Unless he scores a hundred. You can write about that, if you want.

It would foolish to announce that Sussex is a better team that India. For a start, consider the population disparities. If a small English county started claiming its superiority, the Indian army could quickly crush the upstart.

Let us no forget, India is a nuclear power. I have lived in Sussex. The respective local authorities scattered about the county are useless. They couldn’t even get the bins collected, never mind organise a collective nuclear counter-strike.

We might say that this game was even a fluke: A freak outcome produced by overseas batsmen struggling to acquaint themselves to usually dodgy English conditions. But that would be dull.

Sod it. Let Chichester be damned: the Sussex County Cricket Club is better than every man in India.

I never liked it anyway.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Man of mystery beats England

An individual, who is yet to reveal his identity to the cricketing public, took more wickets against the home team today. Mr ? took 3 more wickets at Trent Bridge to secure another victory for the Windies.

The West Indies beat England by 93 runs. They have taken some sort of trophy. I think all the players get new wives from Southampton, or something.

The match wasn’t all about England playing appallingly awful cricket. The better side deserved a well-earned victory. The Windies batted sensibly, placed the chasing side under pressure, and the Englanders cracked. Simple.

They also bowled better than us. This is not surprising since we only have one bower, and he was used for just 6 overs. And Dimitri Mascarenhas. What the hell is he supposed to be anyway? Chris Harris with more hair?

Being English, however, I can remain aloof from the vulgar one-day business. We won the test match series. And that’s all that matters (except when it comes to the Ashes – they’re just hype).

I really hope that these few beatings doesn’t result in another overhaul of the one-day squad. Yes, you can drop a few of the dibbly-dobblers that really, really have no influence on the game. But, like the test team, the ECB should be loyal to a set team and give it an opportunity to gel over the long term.

Of course, they won’t do this, will they? Why? Well, firstly, because they’re impressionable and secondly because they’re bastards.

Revealed: the truth behind twenty20

It's rubbish. No, really.

It is.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sussex vs Surrey: A bloody farce

It seems hard to write about something which is neither tennis or a Tour de France. *sigh*

But I suppose I must.

Another twenty20 match reached “frankly stupid” status last night. Rain and fanny around caused a match at the Oval to be reduced to five overs each.

The match decided who was to go forward into the Twenty20 Cup quarter-finals. Sussex managed to beat Surrey by five whole runs.

Chris Adams, Sussex captain, described the conditions as “diabolical”.The rain fell, the light was atrocious, but the cricket continued. Adams again:
"It was the right decision to go out and play cricket. We have created this game, the public love it and we have to give them something to see."
I’m not sure I would have “loved it” if I were in the 10’000 crowd. Seeing 10 bloody overs and a bit of drizzle does not make for an over-exuberance evening. It’s crap. That’s what it is.

I have a lot to say about twenty20. You may have heard it all before. But I think that episodes like this don’t do many favours for the game. Administrative cock-ups, desperately piss-poor and unsatisfactory games are not sustainable in the long term, and do not improve the reputation of cricket. They're just a shambles.

Ah well.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Aggers: Everything is rubbish

Is it just me, or is Jonathan Agnew aged about forty years in the last few months? Normally, he is fairly positive and generally agreeable to listen to/read. In his latest comments he has a whinge about 50-over cricket. It’s boring, he says.

In commenting on the recent West Indies vs. England ODI he says it was “disappointing”, “drained of excitement” and “forgettable”. Continuing the moan he says
“Yet again, a 50-over match petered out long before the end.”
Now, I have been to a few test matches in my day. Their endings can be long, drawn-out affairs. But this does not detract from their wonderfulness. For some reason, Agnew is taking aim against the 50-over format, and, by extension, all forms of limited-overs cricket.

Why? Because the quality of the cricket is obviously inferior, and therefore we only look to an exciting climax to derive some satisfaction from an otherwise feeble relation to time-limited games. This is just rubbish.

It was a good match. The West Indies fought hard and batted, for the first time on this tour, with a sensible strategy. From a tricky position, they ground out a partnership and developed their innings into a formidable total. The pressure was on England and although their innings obviously misfired, it had some spark.

This was an enjoyable cricket game in itself. I watch cricket for the first few hours, not the last thirty minutes. Old fuddy-duddies: they get everywhere these days. Not like in my day.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Yardy to save England from death and much worse

I went out last night. To some dodgy greasy-spoon restaurant. After the meal, I really needed the toilet, but my friend was telling me a long-winded story about the perils of falling asleep on trains.

Mercifully, I managed to break up the little anecdote and ran, yes ran, to the nearest public loo. As soon as I got on the train, I prompty fell asleep and missed my stop by a Steve Harmison margin. It was a long walk home at one o'clock in the morning. That’s karma, is that.

So, anyway, England are playing the West Indies again. This time, they are doing it in Birmingham. This is something I don’t recommend.

Once again, the selectors prove their propensity for the wrong, by dropping Monty for a bloke who has a bigger forehead. Yes, Michael Yardy is back. Why? Well, first, there’s the forehead thing, and second he’s better at batting. The fact that he’s useless at bowling aside, he would contribute the odd 20 when the going gets tough. That will mean we will win more.

England have always needed a man with a head shaped like that. The recent Australian success is principally due to their cubical craniums.

Never mind the fact that if you bowl the opposition out it rarely gets that tough. What we have to be worried about it the fearsome West Indies bowling attack which time and time again has destroyed the England line-up. The selectors are wise to drop our best bowler for a guy whose international career holds no serious future and would probably never be needed. The selectors are not feckless morons. No. Not at all.

Then again, they may have needed the loo when they were drawing up the team. They probably started from the bottom.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bangladesh in figures

Another appalling day for Bangladeshi test cricket. They were bowled out for a pittance – 62 in just 25 overs. The Sri Lankans, taking advantage of the good conditions, closed on 154-1.

Tim at the Third Umpire questions whether the Tigers are making any progress at all. I have long mumbled about their disappointing form in test cricket. Of course, it would be hysterical to draw-out a comparison to Zimbabwe in their dying days, but their persistent failure is disheartening.

To their credit, this is the lowest innings total in Bangladesh’s short test-playing history. However, low scoring is not an unknown phenomenon for the Tigers. Here is a list of their last ten scores:

148 (50) - L 1st Test v Aus in BD 2005/06 at Fatullah
197 (61.2) - L 2nd Test v Aus in BD 2005/06 at Chittagong
304 (80.2) - L 2nd Test v Aus in BD 2005/06 at Chittagong
238 (68.2) - D 1st Test v Ind in BD 2007 at Chittagong
104/2 (28) D 1st Test v Ind in BD 2007 at Chittagong
118 (37.2) - L 2nd Test v Ind in BD 2007 at Dhaka
253 (57.3) - L 2nd Test v Ind in BD 2007 at Dhaka
89 (32.3) - L 1st Test v SL in SL 2007 at Colombo
254 (87.1) - L 1st Test v SL in SL 2007 at Colombo
62 (25.2) – 2nd Test v SL in SL 2007 at Colombo

They have only passed 250 twice. It is the number of overs played, shown here in parenthesis, that shows you the character of a side. A weak team may not have the shots, but it can seek to maximise its chances by lasting as long as possible. Bangladesh have failed to survive let alone grit out a draw. They rarely reach the new ball.

Batting aside, their overall record is revealing. They have played 47 tests, and have lost 41. They have registered only a single victory – against a side that is deemed too feeble to play test cricket. Of these loses they have lost by an innings 27 times (66%). They have managed to draw a test only fives times, against India (1), the West Indies (1) and Zimbabwe (3).

In terms of player quality, the picture does not seem promising. When they started playing test cricket, the average player score was 24, and their bowling average was 46. These statistics have now worsened, batters managing only 20, and the team concedes 72 runs for each of their opponent’s wickets.

Using most objective measures, Bangladesh have not improved and even appear to be deteriorating. Below is a cumulative cross-tabulation for tests taken before first and second wins.

TeamTests before first victoryTests before second victory



New Zealand






Sri Lanka






The most favourable comparison is with New Zealand, who took 45 goes to secure their first victory. Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of Kiwi cricket. To me, they are spring onions in the potato salad – a nasty, unwanted surprise in an otherwise creamy mix.

But, they’re a reasonable test side now. Better than some, worse than most.

Nevertheless, their player batting average started in the mid-twenties and even fell to 19 in the 1950s. Since the 1980s, it has settled at around 30 – like any respectable side.

I don’t think the under-achieving and boring type of cricket produced by New Zealand is the best model for Bangladesh. But, to be honest, it’s the only hope they have. Judging by these figures, the Tigers look bopped to me.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Five year-old wins ODI

It was a familiar story to those following the England vs. West Indies series. Fidel Edwards bowls well to keep the English under pressure, but his colleagues failed to exert similar control.

The Windian upper order mixed flimsy shots with bad judgement, seeing their innings reduced to 13-4. From there, on this Lords wicket, there is no coming back.

And they didn't.

It is as if the West Indies haven’t even tried to adapt their technique for English conditions. There is no discernable sign of improvement, or intent to improve. Just useless wofting.

It’s not just through accident that Ian Bell was the highest scorer in the England innings – it gives you a strong hint at the sort of game you need to play on a sparky pitch.

Once again, it was left to Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo to pick up the pieces, and their partnership of 61 looked threatening at one point. However, along comes some kid from the flat country, and polishes the Windies’ tail off without fuss.

My brother has a three year-old kid. Stuart Broad looks a bit older than him, so I reckon Broad must be about five.

Anyway, he bowled well. Better than Steve Harmison. I imagine that the England fast bowling line-up may become quite competitive during the Indian tour. You know, when we have to bowl proper, like, and not spray it around hoping that the bloke at the other end is going to sky it to mid-wicket. Like. Those Indians are alright at batting.

For being better than Harmy, young Broady, you get one Ayalac thumbs-up.