Scott Styris is a World Cup colossus

Yes, Scott Styris is a World Cup version of a 30 metre high statue of Helios, the Greek god of the sun, built over 2,000 years ago.

Maybe we're wrong. After all, Helios was supposed to be 'a bit of a looker' and with all due respect to Scott Styris, he's more troll-like than divinely handsome. Plus, a god - any god - would think twice before getting a haircut like Scott Styris's.

'The fin' and 'the mullet' are the two worst haircuts of all time. Why has Scott Styris attempted to combine them in unholy union? A friend of ours has a theory that Scott's a country boy for whom the mullet is a default hair setting. From this starting point, he has attempted to modernise, taking only the most striking aspects of 'the fin' yet ignoring the unsung low-key elements.

After taking 1-35 and hitting 80 not out to win New Zealand their Super 8 match against the West Indies yesterday, Scott Styris now averages 129 with the bat and 20.25 with the ball during this World Cup.

We still haven't found a good photo of Scott Styris's hair, but we have found this one of him giving thanks for Helios's life-giving rays.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

West Indies' baffling team selection

They probably would have lost anyway playing the way they did, but the West Indies team for yesterday's match against New Zealand was bizarre. It also sent out the wrong message.

They selected an extra batsman, Lendl Simmons, in place of a bowler. They obviously wanted depth in their batting, which is a strength when it happens naturally, but smacks of a lack of confidence in the upper order on this situation.

Sure enough, the top order stuttered and faltered, but bizarrely, Simmons didn't come in until number eight. He was 14 not out when the Windies lost their final wicket, so they didn't really get anything out of him anyway.

We're just enraged because of the three pounds we've got riding on the Windies. How dare they be so reckless when there's cold, hard cash at stake.

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Video of Malinga taking four wickets in four balls

Well this was some bowling.

If you're not a fan of Lasith Malinga's, why not add some outraged comments to our post about Lasith Malinga's bowling action.

For the record, we think that his arm isn't any lower than Shane Warne's was. Call Malinga a chucker and you call Warne a chucker. It's also a straight arm. Straight as a Roman road.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lasith Malinga's hat-trick-and-a-bit is in vain

How can one so seemingly puny, propel the ball so fast? With masses of effort it can be done, it seems. Lasith Malinga took four wickets in four balls, but Sri Lanka failed to beat South Africa as the Proteas got home with only one wicket to spare.

We still think that Sri Lanka have got a good chance in this World Cup, but they do have some weaknesses. Their most glaring is that their four best batsmen occupy the first four batting slots. This is true of many sides, but it's more true for Sri Lanka. Take four wickets early on and they're stuffed.

That's essentially what happened against South Africa, although Tillekeratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold pulled it back against South Africa's 'spinners'.

Chasing 210, South Africa were what is always described as 'cruising' at 206-5. 'Cruising' sounds so much better when you put it in inverted commas. What are we saying about the South Africans? We're just saying that they were 'cruising'. The South Africans won't mind us saying that, will they? Why would they? They WERE 'cruising'.

Anyway, it was at this point, with South Africa needing just four to win, that Lasith Malinga decided it was time to take a hat trick and then another wicket, the very next ball, just for good measure. Watch a video of Lasith Malinga's four wickets in four balls here.

South Africa were no longer 'cruising', but unfortunately for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankophiles the world over, they couldn't take that final wicket.

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Penguins Stopped Play competition

This competition has finished

We've run a competition here at King Cricket before. Of course we didn't actually have a prize on that occasion. This time we've got five copies of Harry Thompson's book Penguins Stopped Play to give away.

We'll do a proper review of the book when we've finished it, suffice to say that we've only got a chapter to go and we only started it on Sunday. We're sure it's the same for you, but good books last no time and terrible books drag on interminably. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood deserves a special mention here. Worst. Book. Ever. The Booker Prize died the day that won it.

This is a good book. It's about cricket. The blurb's at the bottom.

To win a copy, answer the following question and email us the answer to with the subject 'Penguins'.

The author of Penguins Stopped Play, Harry Thompson, opened the batting for his side, The Captain Scott XI. But which Thomson (no P) opened the bowling for Australia alongside Dennis Lillee?

All correct answers will go into the King Cricket fez from where five winners will be plucked, er, let's say next Wednesday - The 4th April - about lunchtime our time. And we're being strict with that deadline, as you can imagine.

In the spirit of a book that's about cricket on all the continents of the world, anyone can enter. These prizes are willing to travel.

Harry Thompson was the inventor and editor of many TV comedy series including Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

But in times of woe or hardship, cricket, and not comedy, was his refuge. Penguins Stopped Play is the story of his bid to organise the most absurd cricket tour in history. With a crack team of under-talented English amateurs, the plan was to circumnavigate the globe, and play cricket on each of its seven continents. Piece of cake.

But when you throw in incompetent airline officials, amorous Argentine Colonels’ wives, cunning Bajan drug dealers, gay Australian waiters, overzealous American anti-terrorist police, idiot Welshmen dressed as Santa Claus, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and whole armies of pitch-invading Antarctic penguins, you quickly arrive at a whole lot more than you bargained for.

It’s the kind of ludicrous enterprise that only a bunch of Englishmen could possibly have wished to carry out. And only an Englishman could have so many eccentric and hilarious anecdotes to tell about it.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Matthew Hayden flukes a couple of runs

Start new post. Write 'Matthew Hayden' in title box and leave rest until later. Sigh audibly.

Do image search for 'Matthew Hayden'. Wince at row upon row of pictures of his stupid, fat face. Select an ambiguous one where Hayden supporters will think he's hitting a six, but more sentient readers will think he's taken one in the head.

Open Australia v West Indies scorecard. Visibly recoil at the horror.

Find Hayden's record over the last few matches. Have to turn head on one side and close one eye to conceal fastest-ever World Cup hundred which DIDN'T HAPPEN. No, it didn't. No, it didn't. No, it didn't. No, it didn't.

Return to title and add embittered ending. Smile outwardly at the unbelievable punishment being dished out to the man. Cry inwardly.

Cry outwardly.

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How the Super 8s work

The way the Super 8s work is that all eight teams play each other once and the top four go through to the semi finals.

Where two teams have played each other already in the previous round, that result is used and they don't play again, so effectively this round's already started.

We've been staring at this post for about ten minutes now and we've nothing to add to make it any better. Is it just us, or is our World Cup coverage painfully below par? Maybe we're still smarting from Rob Key's omission from England's World Cup squad.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

England in the Super 8s

We've not actually written a great deal about England yet. That's because they haven't really done anything remotely interesting.

We're not that keen on reading too much into victories over weaker opposition, so we ignored the Canada match. The Kenya match was more impressive, but it was still an expected win for England.

However, the upshot is that England have qualified for the Super 8s, which isn't bad for them. Usually they somehow contrive to get themselves knocked out before anyone's noticed there's a World Cup on. At least this way they've got at least six more games.

England lost to New Zealand in the group stages. This result is carried into the Super 8s, so England have no points and New Zealand have two. Mediocrity won't get England anywhere now. They have to start winning a lot more than they lose. We can see this going down to run-rate as well, so winning well is important.


Steve Tikolo pleads for more games for Kenya

Following Kenya's defeat by England over the weekend, their captain, Steve Tikolo, requested more one-day games against Test opposition. We get the impression that maybe - just maybe - this isn't the first time he's said this.

We're with him. There are enough one-day games taking place around the world between Test teams that the odd one could easily be cut and replaced by a match against Kenya. They don't need to take part in long-winded triangular competitions. Perhaps it could just be a couple of matches prior to a more cash-friendly one-day series. We'd happily go and see a Kenya match. We've seen everyone else.

Kenya reached the semi finals of the World Cup last time around. That so little is made of this is shameful. That the achievement doesn't seem to have raised the side's profile, equally so.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Yuvraj Singh departs the World Cup

Along with the rest of the Indian team. They can't really complain. If you've realistic hopes of winning the World Cup you don't lose two of your opening three matches - whoever they're against. Bangladesh completed their predicted win over Bermuda, so now it's official. India are out.

It was a tricky group with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but world champions are supposed to be better than everyone else. That's rather the point. India aren't world champions.

Our Indian player to watch was Yuvraj Singh. He didn't disgrace himself with 47 in the defeat to Bangladesh and a rollicking 83 off 46 balls against Bermuda. On the other hand, should that 47 have been more? And his run-out against Sri Lanka was demented.

Seven World Cup players to watch remain.

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Chris Gayle's economy rate in one-day internationals

A bowler's economy rate is the average number of runs they concede in an over. Chris Gayle's is currently 4.60 in one-dayers.

What's considered a 'good' economy rate for one-day internationals has increased over the years as batting totals have climbed. We're fairly certain that 4.60 is all right. It's not out of this world.

The reason we're mentioning this is because Chris Gayle took 2-23 off ten overs yesterday. Nobody gets figures like that any more, against Ireland or anybody.

This has done much to offset Chris's middling batting form so far this World Cup, so we're not lying about him being one to watch... [Sighs, knowing no-one's really buying these excuses.]

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mahendra Dhoni's costly pair

He'll be massive at this World Cup, they said. Short boundaries and slow wickets. He'll be hitting sixes for fun.

It turns out that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's contribution to the World Cup amounts to just 29 runs against Bermuda. In India's two crucial losses, he first got a duck against Bangladesh and then improved on that with a golden duck against Sri Lanka.

On such moments do World Cups hinge. Not that World Cups tend to have moving parts. They usually make them solid so there's less to break.

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Upul Tharanga top scores in Sri Lankan win over India

Not many of the World Cup players to watch have been pulling their weight so far. It's good to see that Upul Tharanga's on our side.

There were no huge scores in the match against India, so Tharanga's 64 turned out to be the best. We suppose that Murali's 3-41 was more important, but if you're not watching Murali just what ARE you doing? You'd better have a damn good excuse.

Unacceptable excuses:

Couldn't see.
Thought he was someone else.
Didn't want to miss The Bill.
Wanted to "go out" and "have fun".

Acceptable excuses:

You are Muttiah Muralitharan.

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Bob Woolmer was murdered

This makes us feel a bit sick. This is the worst cricket news we can remember.

The post-mortem on Bob Woolmer's body has shown that he was strangled. The police believe that he may have known his killer or killers as he had let them into his hotel room. They also believe that it may have taken more than one person as Bob was a big man.

Our very first thought on hearing that Bob Woolmer had died was that it was murder. It came so soon after Pakistan had been knocked out of the World Cup that it didn't seem like coincidence. Then, immediately after that, a more rational part of our brain kicked in. It said: 'No matter what's at stake, that's unheard of - you're being ridiculous'.

But we weren't being ridiculous. That's what's happened. Whether it proves to be gambling-related, demented fanaticism or tied up in some power struggle that we can't begin to understand, this is horrific news for Bob's family. It is totally, utterly beyond comprehension and cricket will be in a state for decades.

We feel like closing down this site. How can you write about a sport where this can happen?

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Mohammad Ashraful is batting at seven - why?

The problem with supporting virtually every team in the World Cup, as we're doing, is that while you always win, you also always lose.

So while we're glad that Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh because we've got THREE WHOLE POUNDS riding on it. We're equally sad that Bangladesh were beaten, because we've got a whole we're-right-and-you're-wrong thing going about them. A Bangladesh defeat adds weight to the 'we're wrong' column and that's a column we'd prefer to remain empty.

This is all slightly off-topic anyhow. Today's question to the ether is: Why is Mohammad Ashraful batting at seven for Bangladesh? Here's a batsman who has hit three Test centuries and one memorable one-day hundred against Australia. Don't Bangladesh want to make more use of him? He was 45 not out as Bangladesh's final wicket fell against Sri Lanka yesterday. It seems a waste.

Maybe he's being used as a Michael Bevan/Mike Hussey style 'finisher'. Much as we love and support Bangladesh, they're not always in a position to 'finish' a match.

Finally, a note for England's team management: Don't describe your older players as 'experienced'. Mohammad Ashraful's only 22 and he's played 92 one-day internationals. There is NO SUCH THING as an experienced England one-day player.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

One Shahid Afridi six

That's all we got out of him during this World Cup. He took three wickets as well, but liking Shahid Afridi for his wicket-taking is like liking a roast dinner for the carrots. It's a component, but it's not what draws you in.

To try and imagine what it would have been like if Pakistan had progressed into the Super 8s, why not watch this video of Shahid Afridi hitting a six over-and-over again and intersperse it with occasional viewings of the picture on the right. That's a fair representation, we think.

We now have only eight World Cup players to watch.

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Inzy's final one-day innings

Inzy was just dismissed for 37 off 35 balls in his final one-day innings. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, the Zimbabweans applauded him and the rest of the Pakistan team gave him a guard of honour.

Why is everyone in the world of cricket trying to make us cry at the moment? We hate emotion. We're only familiar with emotions like 'angry' and 'hungry'.

We're going to ignore this and concentrate on something else. Our tea's not ready and we know how we feel about THAT.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Zealand qualify for the Super 8 phase

New Zealand scored quite a few and then Kenya didn't.

Kenya are all right though. England fans don't be fooled. In the last World Cup, Kenya made the semi-finals. If England play anything like they did against Canada, they'll lose.

That fact about England's upcoming match against Kenya again:

If England play like they did against Canada, they will lose.

We're not sure there was much point updating this morning. Both updates have been painfully dull and pointless. Perhaps it's the early hour. We should update later in the day when we've more than a handful of brain cells at our disposal.

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South Africa qualify for the Super 8 phase

Once again, South Africa have swept aside a weaker nation and they've booked their place in the Super 8 phase of the World Cup as a consequence.

After first restricting Scotland to 186-8, South Africa then overhauled that total in just 23.2 overs. On the face of it, it was easy and South Africa are looking very professional, particularly when you compare their matches to England's ramshackle win against Canada.

However, South Africa should pay close attention to the closing overs as Scotland rattled along at about ten an over for the last five. If Scotland can do that, what might Australia do in the group decider?

South Africa's team looks good overall, but they're completely devoid of spin bar Graeme Smith's part-timers. In a fair world, that'll come back to haunt them. Is the world fair? Find out in the Super 8s or possibly the semi final.

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Inzamam-ul-Haq retires from one-day internationals

Inzamam's fitter than he looks. You don't get to play 377 (soon to be 378) one-day internationals, score 10 hundreds and 83 fifties and play until you're 37 by being a fat bugger who doesn't like practicing or running between the wickets. Or do you?

Never forget that Inzy played a crucial role when Pakistan won the World Cup. You might think his one-day career's been a relative failure - in the last World Cup he made about three runs in the entire tournament and this one's been even worse, one way and another - but overall, he's got a lot to be proud of.

In the semi final of the 1992 World Cup, Inzy hit 60 off 37 balls batting at six (before being run out, obviously) as Pakistan successfully chased down New Zealand's 262 with an over to spare. That was a masterful innings under intense pressure. In the final he swatted 42 from 35 balls to bolster Pakistan's score - one which they successfully defended.

It's a shame he's going out on such a low, but it's hardly surprising that Inzy's retiring. At least it should give Pakistan a chance to find a new middle-order batsman to fill the huge hole he'll leave in the Test team. Hopefully his Test career will end in a more appropriate fashion.

Anyone who doesn't love Inzy is no friend of ours.

Here's our favourite Inzamam run-out story. Everybody's got one.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Inzamam-ul-Haq steps down as Pakistan Test captain

It's all-change for Pakistani cricket. The chairman's resigned, as have the selection committee. Inzy's resigned as the Test captain and most painfully of all, their coach, Bob Woolmer, has died.

There was talk of a breakdown in relations between Inzy and Bob Woolmer in the aftermath of the ball-tampering shenanigans at the Oval last summer, but the two of them always seemed to be quite a team. We don't give any credence to those rumours.

At the press conference announcing his decision to step down as Test captain, Inzy apparently struggled to hold in his emotion. According to the BBC's Alison Mitchell, Inzy recounted how he had told Bob Woolmer that he would discuss his own future with him tomorrow. “Tomorrow” Inzy said, “never came.”

Doubtless Inzy had already made his mind up to step down as captain, but we wonder whether this was based on Bob Woolmer's anticipated absence - it seems as if Woolmer had already resolved to leave his role prior to his demise.

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Yuvraj Singh hits lightning quick fifty

Maybe Virender Sehwag scored more, maybe Sachin Tendulkar scored faster and maybe it was against Bermuda. So what? Yuvraj Singh scored faster than Virender Sehwag, scored more than Sachin Tendulkar and he hit seven sixes as well.

Mostly it's because we're watching Yuvraj Singh though and you can't argue that 83 off 46 balls wasn't worth watching.

India made 413 and bowled Bermuda out for 156. David Hemp of Glamorgan hit a really very respectable 76 not out for Bermuda.

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Bob Woolmer dies at 58

This is agonisingly sad. Pakistan's coach, Bob Woolmer, has died at the age of just 58.

We've always liked Bob Woolmer. He was an Englishman with a broad world view. He was born in India, coached South Africa and was now lending his expertise to the Pakistani cause.

He was a progressive man too. You'll be hard-pressed to find an obituary that doesn't mention how he was at the forefront in the use of technology in coaching. Not that he let that go too far. He knew that players weren't robots and that cricket is above all a mind game. Bob Woolmer believed that a happy player was a good player. This seems a fairer reflection of a man who always seemed genial, laid-back and above all, honest.

It could have been sad that his final act as a coach was to oversee a humiliating upset at the hands of Ireland and as a consequence Pakistan's failure in the World Cup. Fortunately, it seems that the cricketing community has a far longer memory than that and that loss has been buried beneath a heap of praise and respect the volume of the Himalayan mountain range. Good. That's the way it should be.

It's hard to know how to end this obituary. I'm going to use a quote from Bob's website, which was a fascinating read, particularly when he first took over Pakistan and was taking stock of the talent at his disposal. We remember him commenting that there seemed to be another six world-class pace bowlers turning up at the nets each day.

Anyway, the quote's a bit hackneyed, but the philosophy's worthy and it sums up Bob Woolmer's approach to coaching.

“Your mind is like a parachute - if it does not open it will not work.”

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Bangladesh beat India

It's so reassuring to slip into told-you-so mode about Bangladesh. We're not even sure who we're telling any more. Maybe everyone's accepted that they're a decent side now and we're still mumbling on like some demented old man in the corner of the pub.

Well we're not going to let 'seeming demented' stop us. Bangladesh beat India, many people's favourites for this World Cup. More than that, one of OUR players contributed.

As well as Saqibul Hasan hitting 53, the player who should probably have appeared as a World Cup player to watch, but didn't - because we imposed an unnecessary 'one player per Test nation' rule on ourself - Mashrafe Mortaza, took 4-38.

Now we're going to write an equally uninformative post about Saqibul Hasan because it's our site and if we want to clog it up with dull, self-serving updates about unknown Bangladeshis hitting fifties, then we will.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saqibul Hasan hits 50 against India

The man's some kind of genius. Ask anyone. Saqibul Hasan hit 53 against India.

Shortly afterwards we went into the middle of town, took off our shirt, stood on a pedestal and screamed: "See! See! See how Saqibul Hasan's a genius! See how his 53, comfortably the third-highest score of the match, confirms his status as one of the future greats!"

An indifferent Manchester mostly ignored us.

We tipped Saqibul Hasan as a future something-or-other, by the way. He's also one of our World Cup players to watch.

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Ed Joyce used to play for Ireland

We wonder how Ed Joyce is feeling right now. He did as much as anyone to help Ireland qualify for this World Cup. He was their best batsman. Now he's switched allegiance and plays for England.

Ireland have tied with Zimbabwe and knocked out Pakistan. England have been beaten by New Zealand. Ed Joyce's contribution was a duck.

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Cricket's role on St Patrick's Day

We were going to accompany this update with a picture of a leprechaun. Then we thought maybe people wouldn't see it as a comment on one-note, shamrock-and-Guinness media knee-jerkism. We'd hate to be lumped in with all those cliché-mongers - and yes, there is such a thing as a cliché-monger.

Instead we've included a rather classy picture of a woman drinking in a Dublin pub. This update revolves around the Irish drinking in pubs on St Patrick's Day, because that's not at all a cliché. Ho no no.

Does anyone have an eye-witness account of St Patrick's Day in Ireland's pubs? It strikes us that Ireland's cricket win was perfectly-timed to pick up the pieces after the rugby team were cruelly robbed of the Six Nations in the dying seconds of France's game against Scotland.

We have this image of disappointed Irishmen switching channel after the rugby, only to find that a different Ireland team are winning against the odds. Everyone sits, rapt, until the winning run is scored. Lo, at a stroke, cricket has forced itself into the national consciousness and cricket in Ireland never looks back.

Either that or no-one understands what the score means and switches off half-way through.

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Ireland beat Pakistan... at cricket

Maybe we don't really need to specify the sport, but there are times when you just need to reinforces something. Ireland aren't particularly recognised as a cricketing nation. Pakistan are.

Following on from Ireland's tied game against Zimbabwe, they've now gone one better and actually defeated Test opposition. They've knocked Pakistan out of the World Cup and given themselves a great chance of qualifying for the next round.

As with that tied game, it was once again a true team performance in the field. Determined fielding abounded and the wickets were shared between six bowlers. Pakistan are prone to the occasional collapse and it was a helpful, green wicket, but 132 all out represented a colossal triumph for Ireland all the same.

In chasing down that total, the plaudits must go to Niall O'Brien, Ireland's wicket-keeper. Only two other players passed 20 in the entire match. Niall O'Brien hit 72.

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Pakistan are out of the World Cup

Yes, they are. Defeat against the West Indies was disappointing, but acceptable. Defeat against Ireland was a catastrophe on a grand scale.

No matter how green the pitch, Pakistan shouldn't have been bowled out for 132. Not by Ireland. If Niall O'Brien could score 72, then Mohammad Yousuf, Inzy or Younis Khan should certainly have matched him.



Herschelle Gibbs hits six sixes in an over

We've just seen it with our own eyes. Six sixes from the bat of Herschelle Gibbs.

D L S Van Bunge of Holland was the unlucky bowler. At this stage, he's the only Dutch bowler to have gone for more than 36 runs. The first six went out of the stadium then there were four more and the sixth earned one million dollars for Habitat for Humanity.

Bad luck, people at Johnnie Walker. There'll be no Christmas bonuses for you this year.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Michael Vaughan's one-day batting

... is massively infuriating.

Michael Vaughan just can't seem to envisage batting ever getting any easier during a one-day innings. He started well enough today. He wasn't scoring quickly, but he'd got through an awkward new-ball spell where timing the ball had seemed impossible.

He hit a couple of nice fours, but you could tell he really felt like he wasn't doing enough. He kept going for the pull when it clearly wasn't happening and sure enough, he played on to his stumps.

Kevin Pietersen had just started finding the fence. The best thing Vaughan could have done would have been to stay around, wait until the field went back and then played singles, keeping wickets in hand until the closing overs. It really wasn't long until the fielding restrictions were due to end. Then it would have been a different game.

As it was, all he achieved was the loss of his wicket. As we write, England have now lost too many wickets and are taking what they can from the closing overs.

The same goes for Ian Bell. It remains to be seen whether Ian Bell was a great choice as a World Cup player to watch. So far, we're sorry everybody.

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This is Jeremy Bray - he had a good day yesterday

Ireland tied with Zimbabwe. Yes, that's right - tied. It doesn't happen all that often.

Congratulations to Ireland on a splendid performance. Jeremy Bray in particular who hit 115 not out. Jeremy Bray has a painfully short first-class record, considering that he played for Australia under-19s. He actually played for New South Wales briefly, but shortly afterwards moved to Ireland with his girlfriend who returned to see her seriously ill father.

On that basis, he sounds like a selfless sort of chap and as we know virtually nothing else about him, that's the way we're going to depict him. So let's all give Jeremy Bray a hearty slap on the back. For once, this is his day. Or rather yesterday was.

Zimbabwe needed 15 off 36 balls with four wickets intact. We're slightly torn between our desire to credit Ireland with a fantastic fightback and our equally strong desire to say that Zimbabwe are shit.

Let's just say that it was a true team performance by Ireland. The lower order supported Bray magnificently, helping Ireland to 221-9 after being 89-5. Then, in the field, seven wickets were shared between six bowlers and there were three run-outs.

Maybe it's just because it's Friday and the sun's shining and we've already finished all our work for the week, but this Ireland performance has gladdened our cold, stony, unfeeling heart.

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Million dollars for six sixes in an over during the World Cup

If anyone hits six sixes in an over during this World Cup, Johnnie Walker - the whisky folk - are going to give a million dollars to Habitat For Humanity - a charity who build homes for deprived communities.

We see this as being an open and unrefusable challenge to the likes of Ricky 'sixes are the future' Ponting and the rest of the hulking beefcakes. If sixes are so easy, go for it. There's a million dollars at stake here that would benefit the needy.

Gary Sobers managed it. Are you saying that you're not as good as Gary Sobers? Are you saying that you're in some way inferior to the greatest cricketer who ever lived?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ireland v Zimbabwe

Have we just found ourself in the hitherto unexperienced position of supporting Ireland at something?

If Ireland beat Zimbabwe it'll be one more step along the road to the ICC ceasing to humour Zimbabwe by saying: 'Yes, you can play Test cricket again in a year - you'll have improved by then', when they clearly won't have improved at all.

Maybe then, nations like Kenya, who actually seem interested in cricket, can get a little bit more support in Zimbabwe's place.

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Australia v Scotland

Have we just found ourself in the hitherto unexperienced position of supporting Scotland at something?

Hopefully no-one'll notice if they include Yasir Arafat - he plays for Scotland in the Sunday league when they're a domestic 'county' rather than a country. Try suggesting Scotland's merely a county to any Scots person - go on, try it.

Anyway, there's plenty to aim for for Scotland. They can start by embarrassing at least one Australian player, then take it to two, then three. Even if they can't manage the ultimate humiliation of an upset victory, they can at least damage a few egos.

We don't know why we're so spiteful this morning.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

West Indies start with a win

It was a Dwaynetastic victory for the West Indies over Pakistan. Dwayne Smith - he of the 93 ball hundred on Test debut - hit 32 off 15 balls and then took 3-36. His co-Dwayne - Bravo - took 3-42.

Of the two, we rate Dwayne Bravo the better player. At 23, he's integral to the West Indies future plans, but Smith's certainly an exciting batsman. The pair of them could start a rich Dwaynasty.

It's notable as well that the Windies, who are of course on home territory, featured five seam bowlers and didn't turn to Chris Gayle's spin once. Is this significant, or is it just that seam bowling was working and why change a winning formula?

We're pleased because we put three whole pounds on the Windies to win this tournament. We also went for Sri Lanka.

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Nathan Bracken's BBC column

A picture of a perfectly executed cricket ball header there. Good work Nathan. You wouldn't have been able to pull it off without the extra padding of your bouffant though. Don't try this at home, kids.

The BBC have recruited Nathan Bracken to be their new voice of Australia. Justin Langer previously held this post, writing regularly and well about his experiences playing for his national side.

He was a bit prone to irritating pronouncements about 'executing our skills correctly', but so would any of the Australian team under John Buchanan. Overall Langer was great value. So how will Nathan Bracken compare?

His first column has appeared today and it contains some intriguing grammatical decisions. We were mostly struck by the following line which describes the aftermath of Australia's recent one-day series losses.

"There was no more time for questions - just answers. We had to improve our skills, knowledge and tactics to if we were to win the World Cup."

It reads like an eight-year-old's story about winning the World Cup. 'We had to improve... if we were to win the World Cup' - doesn't that sound like Nathan's already won the World Cup and is now recounting the tale of how it happened? Bit presumptuous.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

World Cup opening ceremony featured stilts as well

Hot damn! There were people on stilts as well as Sean Paul. The World Cup opening fandango must have been amazing.

We love people on stilts. We saw someone skiing on stilts recently and THAT was impressive.

Things we love:

People on stilts
Staring into space vacantly
Not having anything to do
Rob Key

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sean Paul appears at World Cup opening ceremony

The World Cup's started! Hurray!

Not that there's actually any cricket yet. The first match is tomorrow. There was an opening ceremony though, so officially we're away.

We're sad that we missed the opening ceremony because Sean Paul appeared. We like Sean Paul because we literally have NO CLUE what he's singing. You might think that this isn't sufficient grounds for liking someone and that we're being sarcastic or something, but we're not. We do like him and we like him because we don't understand him.

That's a picture of Sean in his cricket whites - maybe. Whether he plays cricket or not, we do know that Sean Paul used to play international water polo. That's a cast-iron, solid-gold FACT.

"Buss anotha bokkle a moe"

Quite, Sean. Quite.

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Upul Tharanga hits a hundred

Can you feel the 'I told you so' vibe of the site over the next month? We'll mostly be ignoring all the World Cup results, highlighting the achievements of our World Cup players to watch and glossing over their failures.

Upul Tharanga hit 106 against New Zealand. Sri Lanka lost. They were probably just messing with their tactics though. You know, fine-tuning before the World Cup. Ditto England.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The World Cup site stirs

Just a quick note to remind you all about our World Cup site.

We've got the right squads up for the main teams now (we stop before Zimbabwe), although we haven't written a full profile for every single player. We've somehow managed to avoid writing anything about Sachin Tendulkar for example. That's quite a big error.

The site still doesn't look too smart either. We can't see that changing in time for the World Cup. You might also be wondering what the point of having a World Cup site is, when we already write a cricket site.

1: It was originally for the player profiles. We should probably put up a fixture list and the group tables and things as well, but again, we can't see that happening.

2: It's kind of an overflow site. We know how annoyed you all get when we write more than three updates in a day. This way the proper posts can go here and all the dross can clog up the World Cup site.

We've been learning 'the hard sell' from our friend who talked the distributor of his CD out of selling it for any kind of profit.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Ian Bell, England - World Cup player to watch

We're sick to death of seeing Kevin Pietersen's face everywhere. We're with him when he starts batting, but there's no need to highlight him before the World Cup. It's pretty obvious that he's England's most destructive one-day batsman. Here at King Cricket we're more subtle. Oh, okay - more obstinate.

Similarly, we think Monty Panesar could have a big World Cup, but again, he's somehow too glamourous. James Anderson's already made an impact at past World Cups, so he's out. Paul Nixon's worth listening to, but not watching. Andrew Flintoff's another who's too obvious.

So, Ian Bell then...

Well bear with us. England's number three has a reputation for clogging up the top-order with his 'staunch' batting style, but we know for a fact that Ian Bell has all of the shots - ALL OF THEM! At least he's got all of the shots from the old textbooks. The books before innovation became so painfully desirable.

Everyone's focussing on all the big-hitters and we'll admit, we're also guilty of that - picking Justin Kemp as one of our players to watch, for example. We've just got a sneaking suspicion that maybe international cricket's reaching saturation point with the rope-clearers.

There comes a point where skill is being sacrificed in favour of power and at some point that will start to tell. Not that these six-an-over behemoths are without skill. It's just that little extra strength and that little less finesse projected over the entire cricketing world.

At some point, there'll be a tricky wicket and low scores. Talent will out. Maybe Ian Bell won't win some crucial match for England, but we're picking him as an emblem of a certain brand of cricket.

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Chris Gayle, West Indies - World Cup player to watch

Chris Gayle is worth watching when he opens an innings. He's always been able to score at a merry old rate, but of late he's not been stopping. Hundreds have followed.

This perhaps overshadows the fact that he's a very, very fine one-day bowler. We don't like the phrase 'genuine all-rounder' because you're either an all-rounder or you're not. Chris Gayle is an all-rounder.

He's hit five-thousand-and-odd one-day runs at an average of about 39, but he's also taken 134 wickets at 32. Everyone says that this World Cup will be defined by six-hitting on the small grounds and spin bowling on the low bouncing wickets and who are we to argue? If this is true, then it's like the tournament's been designed specifically for Chris Gayle.

Of course form, proven class, home advantage and ideal conditions probably mean that he'll be an abject failure. It's all too perfect. Not that we're on familiar terms with perfection.

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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England A win first one-day match against Bangladesh

It's a great day for last year's county season ones to watch. Matt Prior, the exceptional photography subject, hit 84 not out off 72 balls and the giants' representative in English cricket, Will Jefferson, hit 68 off 52 balls. England A won.

Matt Prior's in with more than a decent chance of being England's wicketkeeper next summer. Paul Nixon's essentially a one-day stop-gap and the selectors will be looking longer-term for the Test spot.

Chris Read and Geraint Jones are out of favour, although you never really know what's going on. This leaves Prior, James Foster and Steven Davies to battle it out before the first Test. Foster's not on the A tour, so we'll count him out. So far on this A tour, Matt Prior's actually been given the gloves ahead of Steven Jones, even though both have been playing. Is that a sign?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Saqibul Hasan, Bangladesh - World Cup player to watch

Saqibul Hasan's one of our tips for the future, so again, we HAVE to pick him. We reckon that it could be a bit soon for him to shine at the top level, but then again, what's the point in identifying someone as a future great if you have to wait until they're 30.

Keep your eyes on Saqibul Hasan. Even if he doesn't set the World Cup alight (not literally - he's not Mark Vermeulen) he might show some signs of what's to come.

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Bangladesh are coming

Mashrafe MortazaHands up who's sick of us going on about how Bangladesh are going to be great and how loads of cricketing 'experts' are going to be pleading for assistance from Dr Henry Heimlich because of all the humble pie they'll be gorging on.

Those of you 'reaching for the skies' - congratulations. You've been reading this site for ages.

For those of you with one hand on your mouse and the other fidgetting with a pen. Here's how we see Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - the two loser sides at the top table. Here's something more specific about how Bangladesh is going to be a tough tour before long. And for the masochists amongst you, here's the Bangladesh page. Quick! Read it! Read it now! Read it before we start losing posts off the bottom because we've never worked out how to add a 'previous entries' link!

So why the hell are we on about this? Because Bangladesh beat New Zealand yesterday. That's New Zealand who just whitewashed Australia, by the way. It's yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bangladesh are IMPROVING and maybe AREN'T completely shit.

Mashrafe Mortaza took 4-44. Mashrafe Mortaza is crucial to Bangladesh's future hopes. If you click his name in the previous sentence, you'll get to quite a good post we did about him a while back. If you're thinking that there are too many links on offer at the moment, go for that one and ignore the others. We were having one of our all-too-rare good days. Alternatively, we might be in an over-excited mood now and might have lost our critical faculties when rereading it.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka - World Cup player to watch

When Sri Lanka arrived in England last year, Sanath Jayasuriya had (temporarily) retired and Sri Lanka's openers were virtual debutants. It all seemed too easy for the English.

It wasn't easy though. Not for England, anyway. Upul Tharanga took them to the cleaners. It was a blessed relief when the one-day series finally ended. Tharanga and Jayasuriya destroyed the confidence of England's bowlers and then continued to stomp up and down on the remains with unwavering mercilessness.

It all culminated in the fifth one-dayer when the pair added - no, pulverised - 286 in just 32 overs of bedlam. Afterwards it took a month to dig up half of England's one-day side, they were ground into the dirt so efficiently.

More hundreds followed for Tharanga in The Champions' Trophy. This guy could easily prove to be one of the newer generation of stars at this World Cup.

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Ireland's Dave Langford-Smith makes a mess of South Africa's top order

Where were you when Dave Langford-Smith reduced South Africa to 42-3 by taking the wickets of Graeme Smith, A B De Villiers and Jaques Kallis?

Okay, so maybe it's not 'where were you when' big, but it was still a bit of a moment for Ireland and in particular for Dave Langford-Smith. South Africa escaped with a win, thanks to their tactic of batting down to number 11. We're not sure this justifies that tactic, however. One narrow escape against Ireland in a warm-up match does not a winning philosophy make.

Anyway, back to Dave Langford-Smith. There aren't many Daves in cricket. Davids, sure, but not so many Daves. Dave Mohammed's the only one we can think of off the top of our head and he makes Dave sound a bit exotic. We're not sure about the hyphenated surname, but overall we're in favour of more cricketing Daves.

Are we allowed to say that Dave Langford-Smith looks really Irish? We think it might sound a bit racist, but somehow he does, which is ironic because he's actually from Australia originally.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Shane Bond, New Zealand - World Cup player to watch

Maybe after the World Cup's over there'll be more than six pictures of Shane Bond on the whole of the internet. We dearly hope so, because we write about him more and more and every time it's a trial trying to find an accompanying picture.

Only Joel Garner's got a better one-day international bowling average than Shane Bond's 19.66. Joel's was 18.84. Joel Garner could bowl and so can Shane Bond.

Strike bowlers aren't exactly ten-a-penny these days. We should cherish Shane Bond. The other great thing about him is that he plays for New Zealand, so very few people will resent him. We can all support Shane Bond except when he's up against our country. Let's come together as one. Isn't the World Cup all about a unifying cricket experience? What? TV money you say?

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Mike Hussey, Australia - World Cup player to watch

We're looking down our list and we can confirm that this is pretty much the nadir as far as predictable entrants into this series go.

Mike Hussey has played 61 one-day internationals and averages 66.88. Of COURSE he's one to watch. You don't need us to tell you that. On the other hand, who else of Australia's team would you pick? They're either painfully familiar, not up to standard or - in one case - a complete bastard.

Mike Hussey it is. He can pace an innings, he can pick up the singles and he can swing a bat. What more could you want from a one-day batsman?

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Shahid Afridi, Pakistan - World Cup player to watch

We were going to go for Mohammad Asif, but he's injured. Then we thought about it for a minute and thought: 'Hang on. If Shahid Afridi isn't one to watch, who in this solar system actually is?'.

Because while there's no guarantee of success, you can be 100% certain that you'll see SOMETHING. It might be the fastest ever one-day international hundred; it might be a single ludicrous six and then missing a straight one; it might be dancing on the pitch in his spikes while there's a bomb scare elsewhere in the ground; or it might just be skying his first delivery with an undignified heave. It's sure to be something though.

For his continuing battle against reason and common sense, we salute Shahid Afridi.

Other players to watch during the World Cup

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Justin Kemp, South Africa - World Cup player to watch

Slow, low pitches and short boundaries. Justin Kemp should get runs. They should probably change cricket's scoring system, in fact, because he's unlikely to do much running.

South Africa aren't sticking to 'the Justin Kemp tactic' so rigidly of late, but it's still there, on the backburner. Chances are it'll get an airing or two during the World Cup.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Marston's to supply beer at Test grounds

Which is good news if you like Marston's. We like Marston's.

Unfortunately, Old Trafford, our closest ground and therefore the one we tend to visit most, doesn't seem to be included in this deal. This means that we'll probably have to carry on drinking Thwaite's when we're there.

Thwaite's is horrible. We only drink it as part of a prolonged study to decide whether it tastes more like metal or blood.

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Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif to miss World Cup

Strangely, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif don't seem to be recovering from injury as speedily as they have in the past. That's the reason why they won't be appearing in the World Cup.

Just to clarify, it's not the drugs thing, it's the injury thing. Nandrolone's ability to aid a player's recovery is not a factor here, because of course Shoaib and Asif weren't found guilty of taking said substance. No wait, they were, but they were let off because they said that they thought it was a kind of boiled sweet.

Both players have opted not to submit drug tests like their team mates, presumably on the grounds that they knew they wouldn't be fit in time for the World Cup.

Either way, they're not banned, they're injured. The beneficiaries will be Mohammad Sami and Yasir Arafat, who confusingly turns out for Scotland half the time.

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