Jerk chicken

Remember last year when we instructed you all to become Sri Lankophiles? We asked you to Sri Lankivise your lives in honour of the touring team and pretty much nobody did.

Uncowed by your heartfelt indifference, we once again plead with you. Add a Caribbean tinge to your summer. This is what cricket tours are all about. They may be shorter than they used to be, but each cricket season is still distinctive thanks to whoever's touring that year. At present we've got the West Indies.

Make loads of jerk chicken.

It may seem a bit clichéd, but it's a good idea. Jerked meat's really nice. The mix on the right's the best we've found - perhaps better than making your own. What better way to enrich your experience of the third Test than with some jerk chicken wings and probably a load of rum. Maybe the sun will even shine, unlike in London and Leeds during the first two Tests.

We've another suggestion yet - quite a heartfelt recommendation on this occasion - but we'll save that for next week. Any suggestions of yours are more than welcome - even though most of them will clearly be ludicrous.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fast bowling longevity

Do any other England supporters feel like we're not getting our money's worth out of our fast bowlers?

Steve Harmison had his brief period of glory in successive series against the Windies and has since irked us again and again with his inability to once again reach those heights.

Andrew Flintoff's ankle sabotages his every step. Or at least every other one. The latest news about it requiring further surgery seems to bring about in us an awareness of the passage of time and how both his and our glory days might be long gone. At least Flintoff's glory days were just that.

Then there's the daddy of them all: Simon Jones. A man whose entire reputation is built on three and a half Test matches and a complete lack of evidence as to whether these were a flash in the pan.

Contrast this with Glenn McGrath - not fast, but still a strike bowler who managed to appear in 124 Tests, playing until most people's middle-aged spread prohibits standing for any length of time. Once he found his feet at Test level, he never lost them again. Steve Harmison's feet must have been stolen and buried on Easter Island or somewhere.

Shaun Pollock's no longer quick, but he's made up for it with accuracy. Wasim Akram went a similar way, but marrying accuracy with unmatched skill. Waqar Younis went out all guns blazing, obviously. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are probably still the best bowlers in the West Indies, just as they were when they retired.

In contrast, England's bowlers can't seem to maintain a lengthy period of high-level performance. The reasons are varied, the effect is the same.

Except the Hoggster, of course. He's exempt.

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Bangladesh minced by India

We like to at least pretend that we're even-minded here at King Cricket, so this means that we have to write something when Bangladesh get thrashed as well as when they pull off an unexpected win.

Bangladesh were thrashed-and-then-some by India last week. Sourav Ganguly was the only Indian batsman to be dismissed for less than a hundred as India scored 610-3. In reply, Bangladesh were skittled for 118 with Zaheer Khan continuing his renaissance with 5-34.

Having followed-on, Bangladesh fared slightly better in their second innings, being dismissed for 253. Mohammad Ashraful hit 67 off 41 balls, but Mashrafe Mortaza did slightly better batting at eight. He hit 70.

So Bangladesh lost by an innings and 239, but most annoyingly of all, Saqibul Hasan's name started appearing as Shakib al Hasan. We predicted something along these lines when we first wrote about him. You know what this makes us? It makes us wrong. You know how that makes us feel? That's right: The same as normal.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What is off-spin?

An off-spun delivery, bowled by a right-hand bowler will veer towards the right after bouncing - from the bowler's (and most TV cameras') point of view.

Off-spin is often referred to as 'finger spin' as this is how the ball is spun. Off-spinners are usually the workmanlike poor relations of the leg spinner. Their job always seems to be to 'keep things tight' and 'not give away easy runs'.

However, in recent years, the off-spinner has been getting more glamorous. Exponents such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh have upgraded off spin bowling from a trade to an art by taking wickets and introducing a greater range of deliveries such as 'the doosra'.

However, there are still many off-spin bowlers for whom 'the one that goes straight on' is their most devastating delivery.

Other mysterious cricket terminology

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Ryan Sidebottom - an inspired choice

England's selectors have been prone to conservatism in recent years. By-and-large that's been a good thing. It's kept things on an even keel. Occasionally however, they've seemingly plucked a name from nowhere.

Last winter, Paul Nixon got an England call to initial widespread derision from the press. Before long, those same journalists were falling over one another trying to sing his praises the loudest as one of the few England one-day players to emerge with any credit from the World Cup.

Before this Test match, it had widely been assumed that James Anderson would replace Matthew Hoggard. Instead Ryan Sidebottom got the nod. A bowler with one cap to his name and not a player so much as mentioned in passing in conjunction with England's 30 man development squad or whatever it's called.

Again the selectors have played a blinder. Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett hid a good few brilliant deliveries amongst a much greater volume of outright toss. Ryan Sidebottom just kept landing the ball in the right place and swinging it a bit. He picked up 4-42 in the West Indies first innings and has currently taken 2-12 in their second.

England v West Indies, second Test, day 2 at Headingley
England 570-7 declared (Michael Vaughan 103, Kevin Pietersen 226, Matt Prior 75)
West Indies 146-9 (Ryan Sidebottom 4-42, Liam Plunkett 3-35)
West Indies 22-2 following on

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Arrogant Kevin Pietersen

Look at him: Jumping around, celebrating his double hundred; playing all those show-off shots; talking himself up. It's almost like he wants to be the best batsman in the world.

What's more, he doesn't seem to care that anyone and everyone can see his ambition. How frightfully, frightfully vulgar.

That's what some people seem to think about Kevin Pietersen. We're more of the opinion: 226 at close to a run-a-ball? Keep doing that and we'll do anything to keep you happy. You want a daily delivery of biltong? Done.

England v West Indies, second Test, day 2 at Headingley
England 570-7 declared (Michael Vaughan 103, Kevin Pietersen 226, Matt Prior 75)
West Indies 146-9 (Ryan Sidebottom 4-42, Liam Plunkett 3-35)
West Indies 22-2 following on

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Michael Vaughan: A hundred at Headingley in his comeback

Michael Vaughan scored a hundred. We're delighted.

Like many England supporters, we've subconsciously come to associate Michael Vaughan's presence with a resilient and ultimately victorious England side.

Even the World Cup couldn't colour that rose-tinted view. That was the other Michael Vaughan - One-Day Michael Vaughan. One-Day Michael Vaughan's crap.

Test Michael Vaughan returned yesterday and in some style. When he played that first pull shot, you thought 'he'll get a hundred', knowing you were kidding yourself, but still clinging to that ridiculous hope that everything would be all right if Vaughan were back.

When he played that cover drive - the one that's too classy for anyone to reproduce in anything so mundane as a textbook - you actually started to believe he'd get a hundred for real.

Then he did get a hundred. The 'Vaughan's there, England are the best in the world' fiction can limp on.

And on.

England v West Indies, second Test at Headingley
England 366-5 (Michael Vaughan 103, Kevin Pietersen 130)

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kevin Pietersen raises expectations

Kevin Pietersen was the only England batsman to score a hundred who we didn't write about during the last Test. Yesterday, both he and Michael Vaughan scored hundreds and we're obviously more inclined to write about Michael Vaughan.

A Kevin Pietersen hundred doesn't seem to be a big deal. If someone else scores a hundred, you expect Kevin Pietersen to score a hundred as well. It's only remarkable when he fails.

Some batsman.

England v West Indies, second Test at Headingley
England 366-5 (Michael Vaughan 103, Kevin Pietersen 130)

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Rob Key smashes 120 v Hampshire

Take that, Shane Warne!

Take that, Stuart Clark!

Rob Key is living up to his billing this year. After flaying a hundred against Durham and a one-day hundred against Surrey, Rob's added another hundred against Hampshire.

Except for all the ducks and twos and fives he's like a hundred-making MACHINE. He's quite simply unstoppable - at least he was until Dimitri Mascarenhas drifted one into his pads. That rather cut him short.

One prominent cricket expert was moved to comment:

"Not since Wally Hammond scored successive double hundreds against the Australians in 1928 have I seen batting of that class. It was like he was on a different plane of existence; a plane of existence where the boundaries are much shorter and the ball doesn't do a lot.

"If I had the strength, I'd carry that boy back to my home on my own back and instruct him to gorge on crumpets and ham until he'd had his fill. He deserves no less.

"Unfortunately, what with the ankylosing spondylitis and all, I'll have to get my wife to do the carrying. He'll still enjoy the ham though - of that I am certain."

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Murphy being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

Rosie from Melbourne sent us this:

Rosie says: "Here is my dog, Murphy, sleeping through a DVD of the Melbourne Ashes Test. Ian Bell has just got out LBW to Stuart Clark and she couldn't care less."

We think that maybe Rosie is a closet England sympathiser and is not being indifferent but 'worn down'.

England's batting ineptitude did that to a lot of great animals during 2006.

Our inbox is almost totally devoid of animals being conspicuously indifferent to cricket now

More animals being conspicuously indifferent to cricket


The Schofield Report

Insistent, weighty music. We see ex-cricketers dashing into a building bearing briefcases. Cut to the interior of the building. The same ex-cricketers are talking around a large table. The camera circles rapidly. Cut to a burly middle-aged man, who points at camera and says:

"The Schofield Report"

Ken Schofield was instructed to draw up a blueprint for the future of English cricket. He got some cricketers in, they reviewed English cricket over the last few years and now they're saying stuff. The Schofield Report's out and we can pore over its findings, nitpicking, applauding or both.

Schofield recommendations we think they should already be doing
A Schofield recommendation that's probably more important than it seems
A Schofield recommendation that might be tricky to enforce
Some good solid recommendations
Restructure domestic cricket


A magnificent picture of Rob Key

Chris asks: "What does Mark Ramprakash get for another 2,000 run season?"

"Robimus Prime, of course."

The irony is that the only person worthy of receiving such a magnificent Transformer is of course Rob Key.

Some of you might be underwhelmed by the name 'Robimus Prime' believing it to be a half-arsed reworking of 'Optimus Prime'. You're wrong.

When Optimus Prime died after an epic battle with Megatron, Hot Rod rose to become leader of the Autobots and in so doing transformed into 'Rodimus Prime'.

So you see, 'Robimus Prime' is actually perfectly true to the Transformer naming system. It's not our fault that the naming system's really stupid.

Robimus Prime would be a magnificent leader. He'd never set a 7-2 field and instruct a fellow Autobot to bowl wide of a Decepticon's off stump.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Schofield recommendations - surely they should already be doing these

A lot of the stuff that the Schofield Report recommends you'd rather hope that England were doing already. Such as:

Individually tailored fitness and conditioning programmes
It might just be that they're broadening this. We're fairly certain that England players don't just go into the gym and do what they please. The thrust of this recommendation is probably that this should apply to all England programmes, ie, the 'Performance Squad' and the under-19s. Increased professionalism at lower levels seems to be a theme of the report.

Medical screening
Provide 'world-class' medical support for centrally contracted players, the report says. They really should be doing this, but too many players are spending too long injured, so maybe it isn't happening.

More Schofield Report recommendations


Schofield recommendation that's probably more important than it seems

Player personal development for the Performance Squad
The Performance Squad is a group of players who aren't centrally-contracted, but England clearly have in mind. It's what the Academy's been heading towards recently. Personal development means that Performance Squad alumni should be good, rounded human beings who can deal with the media, rather than the word-shy automatons who seem to have been created under the current programme.

This might also be interpreted as a need to foster a certain independence in tomorrow's international cricketers. While many production-line England players are borderline juvenile and need to be told what to do, great cricketers tend to go the extra mile off their own backs, be it seeking out knowledge or perfecting a technique or whatever.

They want to instil the philosophy of relentless self-improvement that powers the Australian cricketing juggernaut. Can it be done?

More Schofield Report recommendations


A Schofield recommendation that might be tricky to enforce

Captaincy and leadership development
Basically, mentor future captains. It's a good idea, but you can never predict your future sides with any degree of certainty. What if your future captain isn't good enough to get in the starting XI.

They'll have to identify several players who might become captain and guide them all. We supppose there's nothing wrong with this. We've just got a nagging feeling that this recommendation's a bit empty.

More Schofield Report recommendations


Alan Richardson of Middlesex takes 4-7

Who's Alan Richardson, you wonder. Is he some young, up-and-coming leg-spinner or is he a journeyman fast-medium bowler who's never stood out from the crowd?

The first sentence of Cricinfo's profile of Alan Richardson is "Alan Richardson is a journeyman fast-medium bowler".

That's that sorted then.

Normally they're quite generous. We wonder how Alan Richardson feels about being branded thus on the world's largest cricket website.

Alan Richardson took four wickets for just seven runs yesterday. You could concede more runs off two thick edges. In Glamorgan's second innings, he's taken 1-6, so he hasn't got much room for manoeuvre if he wants to improve on those figures.

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Some good solid recommendations

England Performance Squad
Players who aren't centrally contracted, but aren't far off get personal training programmes and stuff. They're monitored.

International Exchanges
No cricketer ever got worse by experiencing a wider range of conditions (and cultures).

A fielding coach
We think this is permanent, rather than temporary, as in the past.

Provide more rest in the international programme
If the report hadn't said this, it wouldn't have been fulfilling its remit. There's going to be a managing director of English cricket who'll be responsible for fixture lists. No excuses.

Selector on tour
Now there'll be consistency. Previously the selectors had one team in mind, but the coach and captain selected a different one.

More Schofield Report recommendations


Restructure domestic cricket

That's the recommendation in the Schofield Report.

They say that the Pro40 League should be done away with. It's not the same format as any international cricket and is therefore virtually worthless. Domestic one-day cricket should be played to the exact same rules as international one-day cricket. At present that's 50 overs a side with ten overs of fielding restrictions and then two powerplays to be taken whenever.

The Schofield Report also recommends less domestic cricket, with more time for preparation, practice and recuperation.

Our method would be to have three leagues of six for the four-day competition. Each side would play home and away, meaning just ten first-class matches a year, rather than 16 at present.

There would be a one-up, one-down promotion/relegation system, so the best teams would stay in the top league. If there were any more movement than that there would be no guarantee that the six top flight counties were the best six. The best should play the best.

That's our idea, not the Schofield Report's and it's never going to happen.

More Schofield Report recommendations


Rob Key out second ball

There was virtual anarchy at Canterbury today when Rob Key was outrageously given out lbw for a duck.

One prominent cricket expert was moved to comment:

"When the umpire's finger went up, I did a little bit of a sick, I was so disgusted. That poor, poor boy. It's a colossal miscarriage of justice. I may have been sitting at square leg, but the ball was clearly angling down the leg side.

"If I were a more generous man, I'd invite the unlucky chap round to my home for shortbread and a glass of ginger beer. Unfortunately, I'm not generous. I'm a bastard."

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Adam Hollioake approached by Essex

The Guardian are reporting that Essex are talking to Adam Hollioake about his maybe playing for them in the Twenty20 Cup. Not a bad move.

Adam Hollioake captained Surrey to victory in the first Twenty20 Cup, he belts the ball around with carefree abandon and bowls about 14 different slower balls.

Before his retirement, Hollioake took 36 Twenty20 wickets in just 14 matches - remember each bowler only gets four overs. He averages a wicket every eight deliveries.

Apparently Essex's situation arises from the probable loss of Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara for much of the summer. This is exacerbated by the fact that Mervyn Westfield and Maurice Chambers have stress fractures and will be unable to bowl for at least three months.

We're not surprised they've got stress fractures. People with names like Mervyn and Maurice shouldn't be playing cricket. They should be meeting up at the Red Lion on pension day for an amicable game of dominos and three and a half pints of mild.

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Sir Richard Hadlee from Cricket = Action = Art

This is nice. It's just one example of what's on offer at Cricket = Action = Art.

The site's author, MartyD, mangles pictures of cricketers in Photoshop to great effect.

Recently MartyD has been naming the players depicted. We prefer it when we're left in ignorance. It's an enjoyable conundrum trying to decipher who they are from a snapshot of their delivery stride or their cover drive.

Richard Hadlee's an easy one, but when there's just a helmet and no features, you've got your work cut out.

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Ryan Sidebottom makes the England squad

He makes it into a hat - a rather fetching straw boater.

No, he's just been included in the squad for the second Test. James Anderson's probably still favourite to play, but it's a sign that Ryan Sidebottom's in the selectors' thoughts and who knows, he may get a game.

Ryan Sidebottom appears to have transformed into Roger Daltrey since we last saw him. Feel free to record your favourite memories of Ryan Sidebottom's hair in the comments.

Ryan Sidebottom's 'thing' is his hair. Our 'thing' is being uncomfortable in social situations. Perhaps if we were blessed with Ryan's mane, we could use it as a shield to protect us from questions like: 'So, what do you do?'

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A serene picture of Rob Key

Chris sent us this, saying: "It's what Rob does at Canterbury when not scoring hundreds."

This does rather seem to hint at Rob's mortality. Deities aren't mortal.

Chris sent a phenomenally good picture after this one, so we don't feel bad about injecting that very faint note of criticism. You'll have to look forward to that effort. It's worth the wait. This is nice too, but it's not quite so magnificent as its successor.

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Our Shahid Afridi shame

An anonymous comment:

"FYI, somewhere while you were taking the mickey from Key, you missed Afridi going batshit crazy against SL in the 1st ODI."

We did as well.

Shahid Afridi hit 73 off - count 'em - 34 balls. Malinga Bandara had a particularly poor time, going for 32 off one over. In the words of Osman Samiuddin at Cricinfo:

"Between the straight boundary and point, Afridi scythed, drove, slapped and miscued two fours and four successive sixes, in the process bringing up his fifty off 22 balls."

That was only Afridi's sixth quickest fifty. Normal standards don't really apply.

We apologise for our almost wilful neglect in missing this news. As penance, we'll be skipping our 11.30am cup of tea.

However, we would like to take issue with the idea that we were taking the mickey out of Rob Key. We weren't. We were lauding him. Later today, we're going to laud him once again by publishing another beautiful picture.

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20 wickets in a match - Steve Harmison needs to get a couple of them at least

Matthew Hoggard's injured; Andrew Flintoff still can't bowl; Liam Plunkett was ineffectual; and once rain fell, Test Match Special may as well have been retitled 'the Steve Harmison puzzle'. How the hell are England ever going to win a Test ever again?

As ever, we don't have the answer. James Anderson will probably come in for Matthew Hoggard. Anderson hasn't been in form, but then again neither were any of the batsmen who scored hundreds in this match.

We'd give anything for Steve Harmison to get things right though. The alternative - an England attack of willing fast-medium bowlers - is too horrible to contemplate.

We can see it now: Three or four accurate, yet nondescript, typically English bowlers. There's a big partnership, but no matter how relentlessly they pitch the ball on off stump, the batsmen just don't seem troubled. India, Australia or whoever close on a billion for none.

At least Steve Harmison's bouncy and quick. That's why he plays. We've never seen a bowler top 90mph with such little effort. When all's well, it really is an easy game for Steve Harmison. Unfortunately, all hasn't been well for some time now.

Don't drop him though. The grass isn't greener. It's mend Steve or nothing in our eyes. There are a couple of promising bowlers, but Steve's promise is still greater, no matter what's happened.

Cross-posted at A Different Stroke

Day five of the first Test, England v West Indies at Lord's:
England: 553-5 declared (Alastair Cook 105, Paul Collingwood 111, Ian Bell 109no, Matt Prior 126no)
West Indies: 437 all out (Monty Panesar 6-129)
England: 284-8 declared (Kevin Pietersen 109)
West Indies: 89-0
Match drawn

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Two things we love about Matt Prior

(1) He didn't let us down

(2) He scores like a demon

The naysayers, in addition to saying 'nay', will point to the fact that Matt Prior batted in forgiving circumstances with runs on the board and the West Indian bowlers faltering.

We'll counter that by pointing out that driving home an advantage is just as handy as launching a counter-attack for a number seven batsman.

We're all agreed that Adam Gilchrist is the benchmark for wicketkeeper-batsmen and for all the blistering rearguard innings he's produced, he's played even more kick-'em-when-they're-down knocks.

Good for Matt Prior. International sportsmen should always be motivated and professional and you couldn't have asked for more from him. Plus he hits the ball like it's been calling him names for the last six months.

A century on debut. Carry on, Matt.

Day two of the first Test, England v West Indies at Lord's:
England: 553-5 (Alastair Cook 105, Paul Collingwood 111, Ian Bell 109no, Matt Prior 126no)


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two things we love about Paul Collingwood

(1) He's unfathomably lucky

(2) He doesn't care about that fact and makes the most of his luck

Day two of the first Test, England v West Indies at Lord's:
England: 553-5 (Alastair Cook 105, Paul Collingwood 111, Ian Bell 109no, Matt Prior 126no)


Two things we love about Ian Bell

(1) He's 25

(2) Bat him at six and he scores a hundred

Ian Bell scored three hundreds in four Tests batting at six against Pakistan last year. Now he's done it again.

Day two of the first Test, England v West Indies at Lord's:
England: 553-5 (Alastair Cook 105, Paul Collingwood 111, Ian Bell 109no, Matt Prior 126no)


Granville and Carlo being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

Miriam sent us some pictures and some accompanying words.

"Granville is so wilfully indifferent to reading about Sri Lanka’s magnificent rearguard innings at the 2006 Lords test that he has turned his head in disgust."

"Carlo is so indifferent that he hasn’t even opened the book but is using it as a headrest despite there being a perfectly good pillow available right behind him."

Of the two, we're most impressed by Granville's performance. Carlo is clearly indifferent to cricket, but it's an idle, effortless indifference. Granville's putting his back into it. Look at his expression. The power of his indifference is humbling.

Miriam sent us quite a number of variants on these two pictures. We spent an inordinate amount of time comparing two of the Granville photos trying to determine which featured the better display of indifference, despite the fact that they were so similar they could actually have been the same photo but with different file names.

More animals being conspicously indifferent to cricket

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Mark Ramprakash scores runs for fun

But not just for fun. Mark Ramprakash scores runs for a living, for fun, for a pastime. He scores runs in his sleep. He can probably make a fifty from the sanctity of the crapper.

The man's becoming a modern-day phenomenon. Last year we reckoned that he got Galvatron off his dad as a reward for passing 2,000 first-class runs. That number of runs overshadowed his nearest rival to a ludicrous extent. It was like a gnat standing in the shadow of the sun (if the sun didn't preclude shadows by its very nature).

This year, dad's clearly promised to buy him Grimlock if he once again passes 2,000 runs, because Mark's already averaging over a hundred (again) after scoring 266 not out against reigning champions Sussex yesterday.

His batting partner for much of that time was Mark Butcher, who hit 179. Mark Butcher was One To Watch last year. He played well, but it rapidly became pointless to document his achievements when they were so neglible compared to Mark Ramprakash's.

Other county news to which we can't be bothered dedicating a whole post:

Another Transformer-owning phenomenon, Muralitharan, had a good day yesterday. He took 6-72 against Worcestershire, but Lancashire are getting battered, so we don't really want to talk about it.

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Two things we love about Alastair Cook

(1) If there's half a chance of scoring a hundred, Alastair Cook makes sure he takes it: 15 Tests, five hundreds, three fifties.

(2) He's 22.

We realise that point two could, conceivably, be taken the wrong way, so we'll clarify. Alastair Cook is already a more than decent batsman. He's got quite a long time to get better. We love the thought of his getting better - not the fact that he's young and smooth.

We should also clarify 'better'. There's a danger that 'better' could be interpreted as meaning more shots and gaining the ability to score in ways he can't at present. That's only partly true.

Every new run-scoring shot also carries with it a new way of getting out. Alastair Cook should always remember that all it's about is the number of runs he scores.

Fortunately, Alastair Cook's current game seems designed with this in mind. That this appears to be his driving philosophy is his greatest strength and presumably whatever he learns over the next ten or 12 years will be defined by this guiding principle. As long as he does that, he'll be more than all right.

Day one of England v West Indies at Lord's:
England: 200-3 (Alastair Cook 102 not out)

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Licence to score double hundreds against the West Indies

This is from Dan:

So what's it all about Dan?

"He's a spy with a licence to kill who gets all the hot chicks."

We feel the accompanying text enriches the picture no end.

More! More!

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| Next Rob Key post

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rob Key - leader of men

The Atheist, of Are You A Left Arm Chinaman? fame, sent us this:

What it's about: "Here is Rob Key as a heroic Saxon king leading his mighty army into battle. A sight familiar to all loyal Kent fans."

Would you dare mess with the great man? No, of course not. Why would you be on any side other than Rob Key's anyway. That would be ludicrous.

Today's a special day, so we're putting up a bonus Rob Key picture later on.

As most of you know, it's the first Test against the West Indies today - at Lord's. The last time the Windies toured, the first Test at Lord's featured no fewer than 221 runs off the bat of Rob Key in England's first innings.

It's not stretching things too far to say that was the best day ever - of all of them. It was the best day in history. We couldn't have reached that day without a whole load of other things happening first, like the Big Bang or the development of the opposable thumb or the invention of cricket, but these things were all just tiny footsteps towards the ultimate goal: Rob Key thrashing 221 in a Test match.

Lord knows why we bother carrying on really.

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Rob Key being number one

Mike from Flintoff's Ashes recently published this on his site:

He didn't think we'd want it. He was wrong.

For one thing, it's a picture of Rob Key and as has already been established, all Rob Key pictures are beautiful. For another thing, it says: 'I'm #1 so why try harder' on Rob's shirt. Rob is number one. Why should he try harder.

Thanks, Mike.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is leg spin?

A leg spin bowler's typical delivery veers to the left after bouncing - from the bowler's (and most cameras') point of view.

Leg spin bowling is also known as 'wrist spin' because it's the movement of the wrist which spins the ball.

Leg spin is widely regarded as the most difficult form of bowling, due to its complex technique. A good leg spinner will be lauded by cricket fans the world over, if he can prove his worth. He may also receive other benefits, such as text messages from English nurses, diuretics off family members and even hair growth endorsement opportunities.

Leg spinners often bowl a variety of different deliveries as well, in addition to their standard delivery, the leg break.

Other mysterious cricket terminology

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Kabir Ali takes 8-50 against Lancashire

Kabir Ali was unsurreptitiously abandoned by England after being mercilessly flayed to all parts of Headingley by Benevolent Uncle Sanath and Upul Tharanga last summer. He finished with the undignified figures of 0-72 off six overs. He's out, said England's selectors, the press and the supporters.

Kabir Ali took 8-50 against Lancashire today and that's all he can really do to resurrect his international career - keep taking absolutely stacks of wickets. Even then it might not be enough.

Kabir wasn't the only bowler to receive 'the treatment' that day (or the previous match), but whereas Liam Plunkett (0-46 off five) and Steve Harmison (0-97 off ten) will be appearing for England on Thursday, Kabir seems to have been rejected then and there. If he can bounce back, he'll prove he's a tougher guy than was presumed at the time.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart just came on the radio. Because of an unusual cover version that we heard at the cricket a few years ago which championed Andrew Strauss, we now find ourself in the unusual position of finding that the song stirs a hitherto unsuspected depth of patriotism within us.

The song now seems inextricably tied to watching England at Old Trafford with a beer in our hand on a glorious sunny day. It's equally related to the sight of a paralytic, paunchy, shirtless, red-faced man reeling around stand B, manfully bellowing his chant solo through an oesophagus full of phlegm.

It seems strangely appropriate that a song containing the line 'ambitions are low' should become a theme of sorts for this website.

Everybody take a sip of tea, tip your head back and: 'Strauuuuusss. He will waltz you around... again.'

The hairs on the back of our neck are standing on end at the mere thought of it.

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A grandiose picture of Rob Key

Don't think we've finished. We've got plenty more beautiful pictures of Rob Key up our sleeves. Miriam sent us this:

The blurb: "It's not beautiful, but it is a picture of Rob Key. He's meant to be wearing a superhero cape and pointing some kind of light sabre thingy. For the avoidance of doubt, the emblem on his tiara is a key."

We're not sure Rob would wear a tiara - surely it would be a crown. Otherwise, this is great work.

We'll have to pick Miriam up on the first sentence as well. We've never read anything so contradictory in our life. It's NOT beautiful, but it IS a picture of Rob Key? 'Beautiful' and 'picture of Rob Key' are virtually synonymous.

We should really change the tautologous name of this feature with that fact in mind.

Previous Rob Key post | Next Rob Key post

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Viv Richards video from the BBC archive

The BBC have uploaded a whole raft of videos of West Indian greats from their archive as part of their coverage of the England v West Indies series. They're only available within the UK, unfortunately.

Like any right-thinking cricket fan, we went straight to the Viv Richards video. It's been a while since we saw any footage, but he's just as we remember him: Standing nonchalantly in his cap, like a cricket balls's made of foam or something similarly non-threatening, rather than rock hard and bearing the potential to actually kill you.

Our favourite moments are when he steps away from the stumps and positively flays the ball back over - or is it AT - the bowler's head. You can see why no-one liked bowling at him. Murderous.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Steve Harmison - the view from someone with first-hand experience

Stuart Law speaking on the BBC website, said that Brad Hodge made the following comment having faced Harmison recently: "****, he was quick!"

Brad Hodge is Australian, so it's fairly unlikely he was saying: 'Once he was quick'.

We're telling you about an article on the BBC website where the person who faced Harmison is quoted by a team mate. It's first-hand experience at its purest.


Matt Prior to make Test debut

Just over a year ago we launched the Matt Prior for England campaign. We started about four campaigns that week, none of which we felt too strongly about. At least now we can put that one to bed. Matt Prior will make his Test debut behind the stumps on Thursday.

We didn't really think there was much of a decision to be made about England's wicketkeeper. Read and Jones were obviously out, so it was between Prior and Paul Nixon. Paul Nixon performed well during the World Cup, but he's about 53 and has never played a Test. There was simply no point in picking him. You'd just be postponing the real decision and denying someone experience.

Besides, Matt Prior's a better batsman. He's been pretty ordinary when he's played in England one-day games, but he's always been solid for Sussex and more importantly, he was the only batsman other than Kevin Pietersen who could score a run when the A team toured India a few years back.

Doubtless Prior will get the whole summer to prove his worth and meanwhile his rivals will have to continue jostling for position via county cricket. At the end of the season the next player in the queue might be clearer, but hopefully it won't come to that and Matt Prior will have kept impeccably and scored 12 hundreds.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Steve Harmison minces Kent

Bowlers win matches. England's most important bowler is Steve Harmison. When Steve Harmison plays well, England play well. Steve Harmison hasn't played all that well in Tests of late.

Fortunately, he seems to be finding a bit of form. He's taken rucks of wickets in every match he's played so far this season, most recently against Kent, where he took 4-75 and then 5-61 in a Durham win.

Steve Harmison's 7-12 against the West Indies is a performance he's never likely to improve upon, but they're definitely a side he enjoys playing, which is good news with a Test against them starting on Thursday. The 7-12 kicked things off, but he continued to bowl well against them when they toured England that same year.

After a winter spent watching them lose, we're looking forward to a more positive England returning this summer. Harmison's taken more wickets at a lower average than anyone in the first division so far this season - 24 wickets at 14.37. If he's truly back to his best, then so might England be.

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Rob Key covered in glory

He's practically dripping with the stuff (glory).

This was sent in by Sasha, who says: "Try not to stare at it for too long - the magnificence will blind you."

We've been testing this on your behalf and can reassure you that you can wallow in the opulent splendour for up to 25 minutes without blinking before you get a really bad headache and have to go for a bit of a lie down.

We haven't had confirmation from Sasha yet, but we're pretty certain that's a capybara in the foreground. The inclusion of a weird animal is a masterstroke.

It also gives us an opportunity to elaborate on the Rob Key myth. Clearly Rob is now part of the Hindu pantheon and the capybara is his 'vehicle', just as Shiva rides a bull and Ganesh rides a rat.

Sasha sent this as well:

This is a cheap shot.

We had another email, from Miriam, who wrote in to point out that it's Rob Key's birthday tomorrow. Obviously, we've got the date stencilled on our cerebellum, but we can't read it there, so we're glad she reminded us. Hopefully today's output is a suitable tribute to the great man.

Happy birthday, Rob.

Previous Rob Key post | Next Rob Key post

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Number 42 being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

It's another animal being conspicuously indifferent to cricket. This picture, sent in by regular contributor The Scientician, features what we're reliably informed is 'some kind of sheep with gingham skin'.

She goes by the name of 'Number 42' and as you can see, she's being conspicuously indifferent to cricket - to King Cricket, no less.

This is a remarkably familiar sight for us, only instead of Number 42, it's usually Monty. If you ever find any typos on King Cricket, they're definitely his doing. He also found a 'power' key on our keyboard that we didn't know we had.

The Scientician also sent us this:

It's Animal from The Muppets. He likes drumming. He is indifferent to cricket.

The Scientician said: "It makes me wonder why I waste my life in science, when I clearly have mad skills in Photoshop."

Even more pictures please

More animals being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

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A beautiful picture of Rob Key

'Suave' sent us this:

We are very happy with this picture as it includes both a halo AND fire.

Suave sent us another picture prior to this and we were toying with including that one as well, but in the end we couldn't justify it. It's exactly the same as this one, only without the fire.

We've got a friend who's a graphic designer. He'd doubtless be outraged by the standard of this submission, but fortunately he doesn't really read the site.

In his own words: "I just read the comments. You write too much."

Today's shaping up to be the best day ever on King Cricket and the best part is that we haven't had to lift a finger.

At about lunchtime there'll be an animal being indifferent to cricket. Finally, around mid-afternoon, there'll be another beautiful picture of Rob Key.

Previous Rob Key post | Next Rob Key post

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Rob Key flays a hundred v Durham - Hot Jesus!

'Hot Jesus' is an exclamation we've just invented. It's so powerful and heartfelt that it can only ever apply to a Rob Key hundred and NOTHING ELSE.

It's times like this we're glad that we've got a cricket website, so that we can pollute the internet with campaigns to get Rob Key into the England side. Finally this website can revel in its true calling.

Rob Key for England Action Plan:

(1) Invite readers to submit Rob Key songs in the comments of this older post. Suggested key phrases - 'pies', 'deity', 'almost-baby'.

(2) Republish our request for readers to send us a nice picture of Rob Key with a halo; or on a throne; or with a backdrop of fire or something; because we didn't get any entrants last time. To reiterate: We WILL be pleased with whatever you send us. Even if it's shit.

(3) Stand naked in England's Chairman of Selectors, David Graveney's bedroom throughout the night, repeatedly chanting 'pick Rob Key or you'll contract jaundice'. We're not sure why we need to be naked for that, but better safe than sorry.

Previous Rob Key post
| Next Rob Key post

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Saqibul Hasan puts India to the sword

Actually, India won. Saqibul Hasan put in his usual barely-noticeable, steady-yet-effective performance. He hit 50 and then took 2-43.

The end.

We've got a good post for tomorrow. We promise.

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Will Owais Shah finally get a run in the England side?

So THAT'S what Owais Shah's arse looks like. We've always wondered.

Owais Shah has been one of England's finest and most productive batsman for a gosh-darned long time. Last winter he got one Test against India when everyone else in the world was injured. He hit 88 and 38.

The order of the queue for England batting places has been pretty obvious for quite a while now. Officially, Alastair Cook's still filling in for Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood for Michael Vaughan.

Being as Michael Vaughan's likely to miss the first Test next week, Collingwood will keep his place. However, it now looks like Kevin Pietersen might also be injured, which means that there's another batting place up for grabs.

According to The Queue, that place should go to Ed Joyce who was called up for the Ashes when Trescothick flew home. However, that was Duncan Fletcher's team. It's Peter Moores' side now and he's worked with Owais Shah over the past two winters. Also, rumour has it that Moores recognises that Shah's absolutely mint. He could potentially be in Moores' England side even without injuries.

According to The Queue, we're 1,451st in line for an England batting spot because of that time when James' dad said that we knew one end of a cricket bat from the other. We do as well. You hold the thin bit.

This means that in the unlikely event of well over a thousand injuries, we'll edge out Mark Ramprakash for the final batting spot.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What is spin bowling?

If you spin a ball when bowling, it grips the pitch on landing and rather than continuing in a straight line, it bounces slightly to the left or right, depending on which way you've spun it. The aim is to make the batsman miss or edge the ball.

Spin bowlers tend to bowl slowly as the ball will tend to move with the spin more when it lands.

The role of the spin bowler in English cricket is to take two wickets in an over and then get taken off because they also bowled a wide. English people don't get spin. It frightens them.

Other mysterious cricket terminology

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Andy Flower is England's assistant coach

We like Andy Flower. We think he'll make a good assistant coach.

Andy Flower excelled as a Test batsman. More than that, he excelled in a poor team, as captain and wicketkeeper, with all the pressure that entailed. It's hard to quantify these things, but from what we've read his success was based more on 'having a bit of a think' than any extraordinary powers bequeathed him by the Egyptian God Thoth or any other deity - not sure why we picked Thoth there.

Andy Flower knew the importance of preparation for a Test batsman and he never stopped learning. He didn't play spin all that well at first, but he became a master, scoring bucketloads on one tour of India. If he can teach others as well as he taught himself, England are onto a winner.

Of course for all we know, he might muck about the whole time, mooning people and roshambo-ing them. Seems unlikely though.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dominic Cork and Glen Chapple

Sorry for the lull. We've been away for a few days. We had a bit of a canoe in a vain attempt to alter our flabby, yet paradoxically scrawny physique. Fully-clad, we look like Glenn McGrath (without the mullet of course). Remove our shirt and suddenly we're Shane Warne.

One thing we missed while we were away was a further development in our schizophrenic attitude to Lancashire all-rounders Glen Chapple and Dominic Cork. The pair bowled out Surrey for 120 setting up a Lancashire win. Chapple took 4-40 and Cork, 3-39.

We have no idea where we stand on Glen Chapple and Dominic Cork. Chapple's 33. Cork's 35. Neither are the future of Lancashire cricket club. Neither has the pace they once had either and we despise fast-medium swing bowlers in county cricket - purely because there are so many of them. It gets a bit boring.

Chapple and Cork take up two slots in the bowling attack, so younger bowlers like Saj Mahmood, Tom Smith and Kyle Hogg don't get the opportunities they might. On the other hand, they keep doing things like bowling Surrey out for 120. They're both great bowlers.

They're also both good batsmen. This is a good thing, but the knock-on effect is that all-rounders like Smith and Hogg have to bat at nine or ten where they don't get a chance to do a lot.

We're so conflicted.

Neither managed to take a wicket in the current one-day match against Durham. Chapple then got a duck and Cork was out for five.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

What is reverse swing?

To be honest, reverse swing is just swing in many respects. The ball curves through the air. It might curve to the left. It might curve to the right.

Cricketers always shine one side of a ball and let the other scuff up. If the ball is bowled with one of these sides on the left and the other on the right and the ball retains this position through the air, then the ball can swing.

With normal swing, which happens when the ball is newer, the ball will swerve towards the rough side. With reverse swing, which happens when the ball is older, the ball will swerve towards the shiny side. You don't want to know why. This section of the website is 'what is...?' It's not 'why does...?'

Some people believe reverse swing to be one of the dark arts, like witchcraft or physics. It isn't. Although we accept that there is an element of physics involved.

What is swing bowling?

Other mysterious cricket terminology

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Photo of Shahid Afridi successfully defending one of his stumps

Looks like the middle one's intact. Well played, Shahid.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Photo of Matthew Hayden successfully defending one of his stumps

Look at that huge, hairy chest. It's almost bear-like. That gormless expression's pure sub-moron though.

Batting without a helmet's one thing, but a trouser of some form wouldn't go amiss.