The Rob Key situation reaches crisis point

Those of you who’ve been keeping up to date with the scores in the County Championship will be aware of the horrifying fact that Rob Key hasn’t yet scored a hundred. Yesterday he played onto his stumps for 28 and it occurred to us that maybe the Rob Key situation had reached crisis point.

With Alastair Cook taking his place in the England team along with Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell and Owais Shah lining up behind them, our hero has fallen quite some way down the queue. So we’ve come up with an action plan. It’s so simple we don’t know why we didn’t come up with it sooner. It was staring us in the face. Perhaps it was just too obvious. Rob Key has to get back into the Test team. This is how:

Rob Key must score a quintuple century.

Nobody can ignore a batsman who goes past 500 in a first-class match. Breaking Brian Lara’s record of 501 would make up for Rob Key’s lack of hundreds so far and it would send his batting average sky-high. At a stroke he would leapfrog everyone and earn a place in the England side. Then he could set about scoring some Test match hundreds convincing everyone of his genius.

This plan must be executed without delay. Does anybody have any idea – any idea at all – how we can go about doing this?

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Matthew Hoggard, 200 Test wickets

We felt that we should do some sort of tribute to Matthew Hoggard in honour of his taking his 200th Test wicket. If you watched Hoggard bowl today then that's probably tribute enough.

He swung the ball, bowled an immaculate line and threw in the odd slower delivery. He flies in the face of our fast-bowler worshipping policy. He bowls at about 80 miles an hour, but he's as devastating a bowler as England have got. He's no supporting act to Flintoff and Harmison. You can read our slightly dated post about how he's a strike bowler here.

To celebrate Matthew Hoggard's 200th Test wicket, we're going to crack open a beer and watch a bit of telly. It's how he'd want it. We might even have a pizza. What's that you say, Matthew? You think we should definitely have a pizza? Very well. For you, Matthew. Just for you.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Nathan Astle’s double hundred against England at Christchurch in 2002

We were days from the nearest road in Nepal when this match took place. When we got back to the land of newspapers, we read the match reports, day-by-day. We couldn’t get our head round this match.

First of all, let’s set the scene. England batted first and promptly lost two wickets in the first over. They recovered to 228 all out, thanks largely to Nasser Hussain’s 106. In reply, New Zealand were toppled by an immense spell of swing bowling by Matthew Hoggard, who took 7-63 in bowling them out for 147.

England’s second innings subsided to 85-4 and then 106-5 and at this point it’s clearly not a batsmen’s game. Then, out of the blue, Graham Thorpe and Andrew Flintoff shared a partnership of 261. Thorpe scored what was at the time, the third fastest Test double hundred off 231 balls. Flintoff weighed in with his debut century, hitting 137 off 163 balls. England eventually declared on 468, setting New Zealand 550 to win. Then Nathan Astle went mental.

New Zealand eventually made 451 and lost the match, but nobody remotely cares about that. In New Zealand’s innings two batsmen passed 50. Mark Richardson hit 76. Nathan Astle hit 222. Not only that, he scored them off 167 balls.

Astle’s first hundred took 114 balls. 100 to 150 took a further 22 balls and 150 to 200 took a mere 17 balls. Seven consecutive Andy Caddick deliveries over the space of two overs went for 4, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6 and 6.

The ninth wicket fell at 333. Nathan Astle clearly still thought that he could win the match. Why? Why did he think this? Not only that, but he thought that he’d try and complete the task within an hour. England bowled good balls; Astle thrashed them for six.

Logic and reason decreed that New Zealand were dead and buried. The history of cricket proved with facts that New Zealand were essentially dead and buried. The loss of nine wickets and the fact that his batting partner was injured should have told Nathan Astle that New Zealand were dead and buried. Nathan Astle just decided to ignore all that. Instead he concentrated on carting the ball over the stands.

This is why we will always love Nathan Astle. He’s the man who out-Shahid-Afridied Shahid Afridi.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Willow and Stumpy - Sky Sports' animated shame

We've had our first view of Willow and Stumpy today. For those who don't know, Willow is a talking cricket bat and Stumpy is, not entirely unexpectedly, a stump. Together they explain the ins and outs of cricket for the benefit of no-one. They crop up intermittently during Sky's cricket coverage.

Children know when they're being forced to learn something. They're particularly attuned to those times when they're taught something in a 'fun and exciting' way. Are they so stupid that they can't tell that the subject matter's dull simply because it's being expressed by a talking cricket bat? Edutainment: The worst of both worlds.

If kids are watching cricket they'll pick things up as they go along. There's no real point getting them to use all the correct terminology. They don't care. If they want to play cricket, they just want to play it. They can find out what all the shots are called afterwards.

The only conceivable use for Willow and Stumpy would be a sequence depicting Stumpy being hammered into the ground using Willow's face. The ensuing damage to Willow's visage ought to teach kids to look after the faces of their cricket bats. That's a picture of a cricket stump mallett. Get one. Look after your bat. Or at least use the end of the handle. Cricket bats cost money you know, you little ingrate.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Test Match Cricket - the table-top game

Super Cricket? What the blazes is Super Cricket? That, my friend, is Test Match Cricket. And what's with the weird layout of the pitch? It's all gone to rack and ruin.

It's essentially the same game though, let's be fair. Although in our day the bowler was just a glorified ramp. At least your batsman's still a broken toy waiting to happen. Some things never change.

Back when the bowler delivered the ball down a long chute, you could actually hit the ball-bearing back up it, launching it into the air, possibly scaring the cat. In fact we seem to remember more than one instance of 'cat stopped play' as she either chased the ball-bearing, got her claws caught in the immaculately ironed pitch, or stopped for a sleep in the middle of the wicket.

Such were the joys of Test Match Cricket. That and writing down full scorecards for every match and having to somehow fix things so that the tail-end didn't score more runs than your batsmen. That seems to be the abiding theme with all of these games: They're hard to believe in. Do you know why that is? It's because they're games and not real life. We really really really should have made more effort to play for England. Maybe we wouldn't be such a mental if we'd managed it.

More cricket games


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rob Key hits fifty against Sri Lanka

It's Friday, the sun's shining, we're going to a beer festival later and Rob Key's hit fifty against Sri Lanka.

That whole 'isn't life wonderful' line would have gone better if Rob hadn't ruined it by getting out for 63. We're still accepting entries for Rob Key songs, incidentally. If you're unsure whether to post something or not, let us just say that we will NEVER tire of songs about Rob Key, no matter what the quality. NEVER.

Back in the England A v Sri Lanka match, keep your eyes on Mr Point-to-prove Chris Read later today.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Indulgent straw-clutching about Rob Key

Rob Key may have only hit 63, but it was still the top score in the England A v Sri Lanka match. It's a shame that he couldn't have reached a century because people only really pay attention to batsmen when they get to three figures.

Last year Alastair Cook hit an eye-catching double hundred against Australia in a three-day game. That was in a match when three other batsmen hit sizable hundreds though. This match against Sri Lanka was a low-scoring affair and Rob Key's contribution was invaluable.

Who are we kidding? 214 is a lot more runs than 63.

We're part serious. We don't know if you all appreciate that our Rob Key fixation is based on more than just his appearance. He really is a top drawer batsman. We're really looking forward to seeing him in an England cap again.

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England bowlers wanted. Do you have arms? Have you heard of cricket? Apply within.

It wouldn't be the start of an England Test series without desperate scouring for players.

Michael Vaughan's still suffering from dropsy. Ashley Giles has got Crohn's disease. Steve Harmison's got lupus. Simon Jones' artificial limb has got woodworm. James Anderson's really really hungover and won't be fit for at least another month.

There's always a silver lining though. At least there is in our world. In this case it's called Sajid Mahmood, one of our Ones To Watch and one of about a million cricketers who we fanatically champion. He looks set to make his Test debut with Liam Plunkett filling the other pace-bowling vacancy. Plus, if Plunkett plays there's a greater chance that Monty Panesar will play as well. Result.

The knock-on effect is being felt in Rob Key's A team as well as Jon Lewis and Stuart Broad have been called up following Mahmood's withdrawal from that team. Of course all of that pales into insignificance besides Rob Key's latest opportunity to dazzle the world with his unparalleled genius.

The A team v Sri Lanka match starts tomorrow and ROB KEY'S PLAYING. Let's all send him positive vibes... Do it... DO IT... You don't know how..? Just try.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006