Great cricketers we have known: World cup winner, Andy Bichel

Proper cricket journalists are always on about how they were chatting to Darren Gough in the hotel bar or out to dinner with Steve Waugh.

Well we’re not going to be outdone, so here’s a brief feature that we’re going to call ‘great cricketers we have known’.

It’s a very brief feature, because as far as we can remember, world cup winner, Andy Bichel’s the only cricketer we’ve ever spoken to, unless we once had a gay affair with Alan Mullally or someone, but we think that we’d remember that.

A couple of years ago Worcestershire were playing Lancashire at Old Trafford. We sat on our own down at fine leg and world cup winner, Andy Bichel was fielding there. We’d always hated world cup winner, Andy Bichel. He seemed the embodiment of self-satisfied Australian triumph. Turns out he’s all right. Bloody Australians.

He just started talking to us as if we were Michael Kasprowicz or someone, rather than a sad bastard in the crowd.

We mostly said embarrassingly stupid things to world cup winner, Andy Bichel. He in turn offered the following information:

The ball wasn’t swinging for him. It was for Matt Mason.
He and ‘Stuey’ (Stuart Law, who was batting) had been mates for years.
He couldn’t look Stuey in the eye when bowling.

Fortunately for world cup winner, Andy Bichel, Stuart Law promptly got himself out at the other end and his uncomfortable ordeal was over.

The next day we went and watched again, but we sat somewhere else because we didn’t want world cup winner, Andy Bichel to think that we were stalking him. Secretly we wanted him to spot us and come and say hello, but he didn’t.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The waiting is over.

Yesterday's news was; Sri Lanka beat South Africa; Kallis will probably have to go home; Sehwag and Dravid fell three runs short of the Test opening partnership record; and... EA Cricket 2005 arrived. Hurray.

We started a one-day game as Pakistan against India and Virender Sehwag hit us all round the park - just like in real life.

We started a four-day tour match as Australia (so we didn't mind being rubbish) against Derbyshire and in half an hour of play, just about nothing happened - just like real life.

Jason Gillespie didn't even look like getting a wicket - just like real life.

On a slightly sour note, the first thing that we did was practice batting in the nets and we actually got a bit nervous. This adds further weight to our belief that maybe we're not cut out for Test cricket. Maybe we're a bowler.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Flat pitch! Flat pitch!

Over a thousand runs have been scored in the India-Pakistan Test for the loss of just seven wickets.

Saurav Ganguly must be champing at the bit, but we don’t think that Sehwag or Dravid have any intention of getting out.

Steve Harmison’s place in the King Cricket top ten is now in jeopardy. Having started the week at number nine, Afridi has overtaken him and Virender Sehwag is hovering at his shoulder.

If we were fair, we’d probably promote Sehwag on the strength of the second fastest double hundred of all time (after Nathan Astle’s staggering effort which we should really write about one day).

However – and this is important – we’re not fair. We’re biased. Much as we love Virender Sehwag, we love Steven Harmison more…for now.

We hope that Steve Harmison bowls Sehwag time and again in the England-India series so that we don’t have to do something we don’t want to do. We don’t like doing things we don’t want to do. We sulk. Sometimes we hide, but usually we sulk.

Oh and a quick ‘hello’ to all the journalists who said that England lost the Test series against Pakistan because they couldn’t adapt to slow-paced, attritional cricket. This current match has featured some stultifying batting, eh?

That’s a picture of a spirit level, by the way. It was meant as a comment on the flatness of the Lahore pitch. We’re not very impressed with it either.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Harmison place in jeopardy.

His place in the King Cricket top ten, that is.

We really do love the lanky, unshaven Lovejoy fan, but Virender Sehwag is making a strong case for inclusion with 96 off 89 balls with 20 fours in his current innings.

There's only one way out for his gangliness: Bowl Sehwag in the series against India.

Steve, your fate's in your own hands.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ganguly Watch part 3

Rahul Dravid was seen in 'heated discussion' with Ganguly yesterday. Being as Dravid has opened the batting, we can presume the conversation went something like this:

Ganguly: Rahul, go and get my bat. I want to practice.
Dravid: No. I'm captain now. You have to go and get my bat, if I ask.
Ganguly: How insolent. Do you know who I am?
Dravid: Yes. You're our number 11. Get my bat, Ganguly.

Then all the other India players gathered round, pointed at Ganguly and went 'aaaaaah' at him in that aggressive way that means 'the joke's on you, sir and we're enjoying it'. Then everyone high-fived Dravid.

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Kallis does the decent thing.

South Africa today beat Australia by five wickets thanks largely to Jacques Kallis's golden duck.

South Africa's less selfish batsmen were given ample time to chase Australia's 228 all out after Kallis's mishap.

Kallis's fellow boring cricketer, Shaun Pollock, earlier removed both Australia's openers for ducks to put the home side on the back foot.

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Afridi promoted to nine in King Cricket top ten.

I think we should all spare a thought for Rahul Dravid.

You start a new job and the previous incumbent is still hanging around with a surly look on his face. Not only that, you have to tell him what to do and he won’t pull his weight. You actually want him replaced, but your bosses won’t let you get rid of him.

You’re captaining your nation in what is just about the most important sporting event on earth. Things are going badly. Your opponents, Pakistan, are building a truly monumental total at a rate of knots. You get a wicket. You should be happy. Shahid Afridi comes out to bat.

Would there be any less welcoming sight? Your side are haemorrhaging runs. Shahid Afridi is coming out to bat. Your best hope of salvaging something from the match is to slow Pakistan’s scoring rate. Shahid Afridi is coming out to bat. Shahid Afridi is coming out to bat and people are telling him to score some quick runs. There is hardly ever an occasion where you need to instruct Shahid Afridi to score quick runs.

Spare a thought for Harbhajan Singh. Six. Six. Six. Six. Two. One. Twenty-seven runs off the over. The only man to ever score more runs off a Test over is King Cricket himself, Brian Lara. The only reason that you haven’t gone for more than twenty-seven runs is because the batsman took a single off the last ball so that he could have a second attempt at hitting every ball of the over for six.

Here are the bare facts: 103 runs off 80 ball with seven fours and seven sixes.

Apologies to Steve Harmison, but Shahid Afridi is up to number nine in the King Cricket top ten.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Murali loses to Australia

Sorry about the recent overlong posts. Don't run away. We promise we won't do it again.

Australia beat Sri Lanka today despite the presence of Murali, largely due to contributions from Ashes scapegoats Simon Katich, Damien Martyn and Michael Clarke.

Note to Australian selectors: Pick them for the Test team. Pick them. Pick them.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

England dull it up to the max.

England announced their squads for the tour of India today. We can't get too worked up about them.

To save you the trouble of reading them, we will provide you with the newsworthy inclusions and omissions.

Shaun Udal is in the Test squad thanks to his complete inability to take any wickets in Pakistan.

James Anderson isn't in the Test squad because the selectors want to grind him into the dirt to test his resilence. Then they want him to stand in front of all his old schoolmates and teachers and drop his trousers. Then and only then will he be considered for England's Test team. We think he's great.

Vikram Solanki is not in the one-day squad.

An extra spinner will be added to the Test squad nearer the time. Expect Monty Panesar to make the grade despite neither he nor previous spare spinner, Alex Loudon, having played a game since the last tour squad was selected.

Following Monty Panesar's selection, expect to read lots of stories about how he's a great spinner but that he can't bat or field. To save proper journalists the trouble of writing about this, simply search for old editorials about Phil Tufnell and just read 'Monty Panesar' instead of 'Phil Tufnell' in each of those ancient stories.

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Disaster narrowly averted

While we were researching Matthew Hoggard's 'Holy Crap' entry, below, we made a HORRIFYING DISCOVERY.

Here are the top two players by Test match batting strike rate:

A C Gilchrist, 82.14
Shahid Afridi, 80.22

He's second. Afridi's second. Shahid Afridi is defined by scoring runs quickly all of the time. How can this be?

Fortunately, we then found this, which made us feel better. This is the same statistic but for one-day internationals:

Shahid Afridi, 108.36
I D S Smith, 99.43
V Sehwag, 97.64
R L Powell, 96.66
A C Gilchrist, 95.57

Take that everyone who's ever played cricket. Shahid Afridi scores near enough thirteen runs per hundred balls more than Adam Gilchrist.

The runner-up there, incidentally, is former New Zealand keeper Ian Smith who only ever scored three fifties.

Shahid Afridi holds the record for the fastest one-day hundred, which he scored off 37 balls on his debut. On his DEBUT. He was sixteen in Pakistani years at the time. Pakistani years are the same length as everyone else's but some don't count towards your age.

Adam Gilchrist's fastest one-day hundred was off 73 balls.

As Geoff Boycott might say if his family weren't genetically predisposed to slow scoring: "73 balls? 73 balls? My mum could score a ton faster than that one-handed, with her eyes closed, using a fish instead of a bat - even if the boundaries were set really, really far back."


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Ganguly Watch Part 2

He's in. Ganguly's in. I think we've all learnt a valuable lesson here - namely, never try and second guess the India selectors.

On the downside, they've dropped Gautam Gambhir to accommodate him. If India were serious about finding a good opening partner for Virender Sehwag they would have played Gambhir or Wasim Jaffer, both of whom are younger and better than Ganguly.

Plus - and this is the part that really upsets us - this means that Dheeraj Jadhav is, at best, fifth choice as opener after Sehwag, Ganguly, Gambhir and Jaffer.

Everyone join with us in directing the most powerful weapon in the critic's armoury at the Indian selectors - the silent boo. Simply make the traditional booing motions, but make no sound.

Take that the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Take that.

The campaign to convince the whole of India that Dheeraj Jadhav is actually from Kolkata starts here.

The least Ganguly can do is grow his moustache back.

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Holy Crap: Matthew Hoggard

'Holy Crap' is an occasional feature that we're going to do where we make an unlikely assertion about a player and then back it up with statistics, like the spin doctors do (not the band who had a hit with 'Two Princes', the other kind). As a dismissive caller to a phone-in once said: You can prove anything with facts.

Today's feature is: Holy crap, Matthew Hoggard's a strike bowler.

Matthew Hoggard is inevitably described by proper cricket journalists as 'dogged' and 'willing'. In fact it is part of the British cricket media's code of practice that all writers must refer to him as a 'yeoman'. The image we have is of Hoggard with his 'farm labourers gait' toiling into the wind and waging a war of attrition against opposing batsmen. A quick hand count of cricket journalists who've taken a Test match hat-trick please... Matthew Hoggard has.

A bowler's strike rate is how many balls it takes them to get a wicket on average. I have included several great bowlers from history and their strike rates, starting with Matthew Hoggard. Matthew Hoggard takes a wicket slightly more regularly than once every nine overs.

53.71, Matthew Hoggard
53.75, Imran Khan
54.27, Wes Hall
54.57, Curtly Ambrose
54.65, Wasim Akram

Contemporary bowlers trailing in Hoggard's wake include: Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne.

And so, backed up by facts that are true and words that are about the facts, we say:

Holy crap! Matthew Hoggard's a strike bowler!

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Holy Crap

'Holy Crap' is an occasional feature that we're going to do where we make an unlikely assertion about a player and then back it up with statistics, like the spin doctors do (not the band who had a hit with 'Two Princes', the other kind). As a dismissive caller to a phone-in once said: You can prove anything with facts.

Matthew Hoggard
Mark Richardson
Andy Flower
Nathan Bracken


Last of our free time frittered away

Hurray. We bought EA Cricket 2005 on ebay at the weekend, but only because Andrew Flintoff made us using the Damien Martyn technique.

We're hoping that we can edit the players so that Shahid Afridi is from Levenshulme and therefore plays for Lancashire and England.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Warney offers insight into the human condition.

Richie Benaud has urged Warne to keep playing until the 2009 Ashes.

Warne said: "Richie is the man, and if he wants me to try and do that I've got to do everything I possibly can to meet his expectations", thus expressing what we all think.

Richie IS the man. We should all do as Richie tells us. Richie is our overlord.

We're sad because Richie won't help us with our (non) career.

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Kallis shatters South African hopes by playing in Twenty20 match.

It turned out that all-rounder in name only, Jacques Kallis, did play in the Twenty20 match against Australia.

He scored 15 before being run out and conceded a miserly 17 runs off the single over he was permitted to bowl.

Damien Martyn neglected to give his wicket away on this occasion and must have successfully stared out South Africa’s bowlers using his patented ‘I can see into your soul’ technique, as he managed to score 96 off only 56 deliveries.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

We Still Don't Play For England

Last night we thought that we were bowling at hypocritical God-squadder Matthew Hayden in the Ashes.

We had a decent shout for LBW against him, although it was probably drifting down leg-side. When we turned round to appeal, we realised that the umpire was Spider-man.

Spider-man is not one of the ICC’s select band of Test umpires, so we knew that we were dreaming and weren’t really an international cricketer.

We were sad for a bit, but then we remembered that Matthew Hayden had been scoring heaps of runs and therefore England had an easy wicket come the next Ashes. Now we’re happy again.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Murali Thrashes New Zealand

Sri Lanka have managed to win their first one-day international since the discovery of oxygen, even though Murali didn’t take any wickets at all.

In other news, South Africa have received a boost ahead of their Twenty20 game against Australia with the news that two-an-over Jacques Kallis will be unavailable through injury.

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Tip: Dheeraj Jadhav

This is Dheeraj Jadhav. At least we think it is.

We think that Dheeraj Jadhav is going to be an amazing batsman for India. He might not use this exact face, but he will use the name Dheeraj Jadhav.

Last year we tipped Gautam Gambhir for greatness (to ourself at least). This year we're going for Dheeraj.

We want Lancashire to sign Dheeraj, but they won't. They only seem to like Australians at the moment.

King Cricket's other tips.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ganguly Watch

India have arrived in Pakistan for their tour. For those that don’t really get the importance: Try and remember Ashes fever. Now imagine that England and Australia have been threatening to wage war on each other for fifty years. Multiply the populations of both countries by about twenty. Then imagine that everyone, but everyone, loves cricket more than anything else - Transformers included.

The ongoing story for India is the fate of former captain Saurav Ganguly who was unceremoniously dethroned as captain, then dropped, then reinstated as an all-rounder, then dropped and now back in the squad again.

We think that Greg Chappell is just bringing him along to make him carry the drinks. Greg Chappell can be mean.

Ganguly used to play for Lancashire, but nobody liked him and he was rubbish. Everyone much prefers it when Murali’s at Lancashire, because he’s happy ALL THE TIME. He’s our favourite Lancashire overseas player since Wasim Akram.

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Zimbabwe Players Postpone Strike

Zimbabwe’s players have postponed their strike, causing the nation to temporarily abort its ongoing experiment as to how bad a team can possibly be without being given a letter by the ICC to take home to its mum.


King Cricket Top Ten

Well, as you can see, this list doesn’t follow the official rankings.

All-rounders barely feature. This is a list that only takes into account the exceptional, so being a decent batsman and bowler won’t help you. You must excel. As for the absence of South Africans – their best two players are Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis, both of whom use the method of boring the opposition into submission.

Shahid Afridi’s probably the biggest surprise. We haven’t even loaded anything onto this blog yet and we’re already worried that it’s eventually going to boil down to a series of entries saying: “Afridi scored 42 off 17 balls today. We love Shahid Afridi.”

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King Cricket: Brian Lara

Brian Lara rocks like Megadeth in a hammock being buffeted by a force 10 gale.

He doesn’t have the average of Tendulkar – this is mainly because he’s had some lean years as well as some years where he’s not played because he’s been sulking.

He’s played in the worst West Indian sides there have ever been and yet he’s scored more Test runs than anyone; he is the only person to have scored 500 in a first class innings; he’s the only person who has scored 400 in a Test innings and he’s the only person to reclaim the top Test score having lost it.

He’s not the most reliable, but do you see Jacques Kallis in this top ten? No-one, but no-one can bat as well as Lara at his best.

Brian Lara. We crown you King Cricket.

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2 - Shane Warne

Look at him standing there, hands on hips, flared trousers rustling in the breeze (although not in this picture). He looks like a spoon, but here’s the situation: England require 12 runs to win and have all ten wickets in hand. Shane Warne’s bowling and it genuinely feels like Australia are favourites.

We always think that we would have been the best cricketer ever, but when Warney’s bowling and the match is in the balance, we have heart palpitations and have to breathe into a paper bag like they do on the telly.

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3 - Muttiah Muralitharan

Australians get upset because they think that he might be better than Warney, so they keep trying to ban him on the grounds that he’s too ace or something.

Murali plays for Lancashire sometimes and everyone likes him. He’s all double-jointed and gifted. No other sport can boast of a player who nobody can copy due to their body.

Reminds me of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in a funny sort of way. Sorry Murali. You’re much cooler than anyone or anything called Carlton – especially the Vauxhall type.

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4 - Sachin Tendulkar

First announced himself to the world by being one half of a 600-and-odd partnership with Vinod Kambli when they were foetuses or something.

Averages more than anyone still playing and is also the most popular person in the universe to boot.

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5 - Andrew Flintoff

Fred’s going to be King Cricket one day. How can he not be? He plays for Lancashire. He plays for England. He bats like King Kong swatting flies. He bowls like a man who thinks he can propel the ball through the batsman and into the stumps if he tries a bit harder.

He’s got a big thick northern accent, but he’s obviously smarter than all of the South Africans put together – even if they got help from their mums. He’s really, really nice and when he went to console Brett Lee at the end of the nail-biting Edgbaston Test, we nearly cried. Then we remembered that we had two testicles and didn’t bother.

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6 - Adam Gilchrist

He scores lots of runs, very quickly, most of the time. He’s also a wicketkeeper. He’s having a fairly lean time at the minute, but who else would you pick as wicketkeeper for the World All Time XI against the Mars All Time XI? Ridley Jacobs? Get away.

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7 - Ricky Ponting

We didn’t want to include him, but he’s really good. He recently scored a hundred in each innings of his hundredth Test.

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8 - Inzamam-ul-Haq

Once waded into the crowd to try and hit a spectator with his bat because they called him Aloo (potato) just like everyone else in the world does.

Runs people out for fun. Doesn’t bother with anything as mundane as practice. Bats like someone who doesn’t know what all the fuss is about – even when there’s a really big fuss.

Looks like a big cuddly bear, unlike Matthew “Ain’t-Even-Seen-The-Top-Ten” Hayden, who looks like the kind of bear who likes eating human faces.

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9 - Steve Harmison

What? What’s the problem? Shoaib Akhtar? Are you kidding? Glenn McGrath? No way. When Steve’s on song, he’s like Glenn McGrath only faster and therefore better. Plus he got Michael Kasprowicz out at the end of the BEST TEST EVER and made us emotional even though we are a boy and our only emotions are ‘hate’ and ‘hungry’.

Fast bowlers should be fast. Proper fast. They should hurt people. That’s what fast bowlers do. They don’t care about accuracy except for aiming at people’s faces. Hooray for Steve.

Anyway, he’s English and we don’t pretend to be anything other than outrageously biased. If you really love Steve Harmison, you can sing: ‘Steven. Steven Harmison’, to the tune of ‘Go West’ by the Pet Shop Boys. We do. Even in winter when we're just driving to work and there’s no cricket on anywhere in the world.

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10 - Shahid Afridi

We toyed with making him King Cricket, because we love him more than the biggest Transformer in the world, but he’s not actually that good in any traditional sense.

Shahid Afridi coming out to bat in a dull game is like fancying a ham sandwich and then getting a knock on the door from the hog roast man and he’s giving away free hog (and baguettes).

Never has anyone played with such palpable disregard for his own wicket or the match situation. The best part is: he does it EVERY SINGLE TIME.

He also bowls leg-spin at about the same speed as so-called “fast bowlers” such as Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock.

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Welcome to King Cricket: News for people who get sad when it’s winter.

As the sort of writing-about-cricket equivalent of the coin toss, we’ve started with a top ten. People love ranking things, especially cricket lovers, because they’re a little bit autistic and love statistics.

The top ten is of current players and the winner will be crowned King Cricket. We’re not going to go into the selection criteria too much, because somebody might read it one day and poke holes in our argument.

To offer a vague notion of what the title entails, all the players are unbelievably good and all are entertaining. Grit has no place here unless it’s so bloody-minded that it causes people to literally pass out through amazement.

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Monday, January 02, 2006


Cricket Sites

BBC cricket
The Guardian cricket

Cricket Blogs

Harrow Drive
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a cricket blog)
Omar Loves Cricket
Are You A Left-Arm Chinaman?
Cricket 24x7
Coffee and TV
Rain No Play
World Cup 2007
Six and Out
Flintoff's Ashes
Cricket = Action = Art
Line and Length
Nutley to Nagpur
Cricket Etcetera
Cricket Highlights

Non-cricket Sites

India Uncut
Big Up Science
Blue and Brown's Film Reviews
Mp3 Wise Monkeys

Sunday, January 01, 2006