Let cricket cheer us

Not like a fan. We don't want cricket to give us an ovation or anything. We mean 'cheer us up'. We could have written that as the title, but we opted for a more Dickensian tone. The adoption of a Dickensian tone will hopefully make up for the shortfall in class.

We're sad. Football made us sad. We're not going to go into details, but suffice to say that it was the World Cup final yesterday and we only like one footballer. Cricket never makes us sad. It makes us annoyed sometimes; it makes us despair; but we can't really recall it making us sad. So what better place to look for something to cheer us. We're going to make a short list.

  1. Andrew Flintoff took 3-4 in a Twenty20 match. This means that he's still ace and also that he can run around. This is good news.
  2. Pakistan are in the country. That means that Shahid Afridi and Inzamam-ul-Haq are in the country and we'll get to watch them play cricket. This is also good news.
  3. Ian Bell's back in the Test team. Pretty much nobody outside of the Bell household (he looks like he lives with his mum, doesn't he?) will be happy about this, but we are. Ian Bell's good and still needs a little bit of time. He's younger than you think. Give him a chance. This is good news really.
  4. Monty Panesar will be playing and not some 'capable' spin bowler who just happens to be a batsman really. This is great news.
  5. Despite all the injuries and losing and everything, England's squad really isn't all that bad. This is good news.
Writing this list has actually cheered us up a bit. It's thinking about cricket that does it. Cricket is just fundamentally happy.
We promise we'll never leave you again, cricket. We're sorry. Football wasn't all it was cracked up to be and the stories didn't have happy endings. There's a Test match this week and it doesn't get any better than that.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Twenty20 instincts

It turns out that Kent are top of the Twenty20 South division. We (vaguely) wrote about the Kent match earlier. Nottinghamshire are top of the Twenty20 North division. We had a post about that too.

We had no idea that we'd done this. We clearly have an instinctive feel for what's going on in the world of cricket. We're more attuned to writing this website than we previously thought. We're going to celebrate that fact with a cake the shape of a cricket bat, even though we don't actually like cake. We prefer cheese.


India v England - third Test, day one

It's a start. 272-3 looks pretty darn impressive, but to win this match England are going to need a few more.

We've never called for the dropping of Andrew Strauss, but we have been disappointed with his winter form, so 128 here felt like a bonus.

One of the weirdest terrace chants we've ever heard championed Andrew Strauss. It was delivered by one solitary, near-lethally intoxicated, fat, shirtless, middle-aged fan at Old Trafford. It was sung to the tune of Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division and referred to Strauss's Waltz.

It went: "Straaauuss. He will waltz you around. Again." To truly replicate the effect you should ever-so-slightly gurgle the 'Strauss' part as you would if you were overburdened with phlegm. You should also sing the chant a capella, throughout the afternoon, to the general ambivalence and mild amusement of your fellow spectators. Nobody should join in and you should never. Ever. Stop. Finally, you should have the look of someone who would never have heard of Johann Strauss or Joy Division, let alone both.

We're a fan of Owais Shah's as well, so we weren't all that disappointed to hear of Alastair Cook's illness. Shah eventually had to retire on 50 due to hand cramps, but he should be back at some point tomorrow.

England should be aiming for a seriously big total, but there's every chance that early wickets will put that beyond them. If that happens expect the energy to visibly sap out of them and India to storm home.

Team-wise, Udal's playing which is a colossal disappointment, albeit an expected one, but to offset that, James Anderson's playing. We're enjoying actually having opinions these days, so we're going to say that James Anderson will win this game for England.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shaun Udal the innocuoso

400 was a decent score, although it should certainly have been more. Full marks to Owais Shah in particular. It's sad to think that he probably won't be playing in the next Test come the summer.

Bowling-wise, it's 193-6 at the moment and we're guessing that the new ball's going to be taken imminently. James Anderson hasn't yet won the match for England, but he does have 2-18 off 12 overs. Shaun Udal has taken a wicket, but we still think that he's taking up somebody else's place in the side.

We've mentioned before how we think that Udal is an 'innocuouso' and we stand by that. An innocuoso is one who excels in the art of harmlessness.


James Anderson takes his chance

As you can see at the bottom of this post, we reckon on James Anderson winning this Test for England. This is partly inspired by blind loyalty to any Lancastrian player, partly by our prejudice towards young promising players and also by our recognition that Anderson is a decidedly fine bowler who has been messed about by England.

Four wickets for 40, two dropped catches off his bowling and a run out. He's made a decent start. Maybe if he succeeds we'll have a James Anderson party. We don't know what that would entail.

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India v England – third Test, day four

A day for the purists out at the Wankhede stadium means that all three results are possible going into the final day. You can’t ask for more than that.

India bowled defensively for the most part, which paradoxically gave them the best chance of wickets. Whenever England tried to force the pace, trying to set India a target, they consistently got themselves out. They eventually limped into a lead of just over 300 and had just enough time to dispatch stand-in opener Irfan Pathan.

The Test Match Special team seem to be of the opinion that an Indian win is the least likely result bearing in mind the slow scoring rate of the game so far. We disagree. India have plenty of time to build a platform tomorrow and late in the day they can have a dart at the win if they feel secure. Virender Sehwag was off the field injured for a good proportion of day and consequently can’t bat until five wickets are down, however this does raise the prospect of a partnership with Mahendra Dhoni and with those two at the wicket, no total is too large.

There's no jokes in this post, so you'll just have to make up your own.

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The Innocuoso spins England to victory

Can everybody spell 'capitulation'? India have just been bowled out for 100 after being 75-3. Two of those three wickets were lower order batsmen in Pathan and Kumble as well, so that's pretty much the whole Indian top order and two tail enders out for 25. PLUS there were two dropped catches. Never mind 'capitulation'. This was a farce.

We're positively choking on the vast wave of pleasure that's washing over us, but the Indian public won't be best pleased. Rahul Dravid's decision to ask England to bat will be pored over at great length and he won't come out of it well, especially when you consider that the batsman who was asked to face that first ball went on to make a match-winning century.

In terms of India's second innings, Shaun Udal was the hero with the heroic figures of 4-14. Are you ready for how fickle we can be? You'd better prepare yourselves. It's quite something... We love Shaun Udal. He's played a major part in an England victory and therefore joins the ranks of players who we just can't hate.

One of Udal's wickets was a particular highlight. Dhoni, caught Panesar, bowled Udal for 5 doesn't look that interesting on paper, but three balls prior to this Dhoni hit an absolute skier. Monty Panesar dithered around under it. Maybe he lost it. Maybe he thought that the mid-on fielder was coming for it. In any case he didn't lay a hand on it. It was humiliating and the crowd were roaring at him. Fortunately for Panesar, Dhoni, being of a charitable disposition (or possibly sadistic), gave him a second chance with another skier and he caught it this time before the rest of the England team descended on him as if he'd won the entire series.

England will be more than happy with a drawn series (India will be apopleptic). However we do look back on England's own catastrophe in the second Test in Mohali when they batted like 11 crippled badgers in the second innings. If they could have played out more time then perhaps they would be walking away with a series victory.

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Bowling's always the key

We just noticed that Ian Bradshaw had taken a couple of wickets for the Windies. Ian Bradshaw's someone we always forget. We re-read our post about how we always forget about Ian Bradshaw and found this paragraph that we thought was worth reproducing. It's about the Windies, but it applies to everyone.

"The West Indies aren’t as disastrous as people often make out. If they could somehow find a pair of strike bowlers, they could fashion a more than handy team. If they weren’t constantly chasing the game, they have more than enough talent in their batting line-up to make big totals. It’s amazing how much easier it is to bat when you’ve gone past your opponents score. A couple of good bowling performers and we bet that they’d be more up-for-it in the field as well. Bowling’s always the key. Bowlers win matches."

The excellent and ageing Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne are players that come to mind when we think about this. They're two players who we think have indirectly affected Australia's batting over the last ten years.

Give Australia a first-innings deficit and a bowling attack without those two and see how the batsmen's approach differs. Bowlers win you matches, not batsmen.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Chris Schofield gets a Surrey contract

Semi-reformed no-mark, Chris Schofield, has been given a year-long contract at Surrey. We're glad. We've previously ummed and ahhed about what we thought of Schofield and in truth we still haven't decided. This gives us another year to work it out.

What's your opinion? Feckless, disinterested waster or a gifted cricketer who's trying to make the most of a second chance?


Ian Bradshaw: We know him now

We think we've got the measure of Ian Bradshaw. We always had problems remembering him and his name before, but now when we look at his name or a picture of him thoughts come into our head. Relevant thoughts.

Yesterday Ian Bradshaw took 3-30 as the Windies beat India after what somehow turned into a nervewracking finale. The West Indies had been dogged in the field. Never letting India get going. Then, when they batted, they seemed to be cruising to their target with only three wickets down.

Suddenly they lost four wickets in ten balls and seemed rather keen to self-destruct, but they just about kept it together and won with two balls to spare. It means England are out, but everyone had pretty much resigned themselves to that anyway - round about the time the squad arrived in India, actually.

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Makhaya Ntini does some strike bowling

We forgot about Makhaya Ntini when we said that Shane Bond was flying the fast bowling flag the other day. Give the flag to Makhaya, Shane.

We became an Ntini convert in April when he seemed to have completed the transition into a fully-fledged strike bowler. He took five wickets in five overs today utterly demolishing Pakistan. It was clearly Ridiculous Pakistan who had turned up, as opposed to Sublime Pakistan, but still. Well played that man.

Pakistan were all out for 89. Earlier in the day South Africa were 42-5, so it was quite a comeback to post 213 and then defend it with ease. It partially vindicated their policy of batting down to number nine. Although as we see it, Ntini's performance vindicated the policy of selecting your best bowlers.

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Damien Martyn again

Australia knocked India out of the Champions' Trophy yesterday. We watched most of India's innings and they never really got going. You always thought that 249 probably wouldn't be enough. And it wasn't.

Australia chased it down with no real difficulty. Again, the top-scorer was Damien Martyn with 73 not out. We've never watched Damien Martyn bat in a situation where we weren't desperate for him to get out, so we've never really appreciated his style. We're dimly aware that he's 'classy', but we usually overlook that and just call him names whenever he's on TV.

Earlier, Glenn McGrath bowled his first four overs for just four runs and although he was still a bit pedestrian, Aussie fans shouldn't worry about the guy. There's definitely no danger of his being dropped for Nathan Bracken.

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Kevin Pietersen times his innings to perfection

What was the likelihood that we'd start this post with "England won a game!"? It was distinctly likely until we decided on the 'starting with writing about about what we were likely to start with' approach.

Anyway, as we were saying, England won a game! Which was a massive relief more than anything. We're not sure just how much one-day misery we can take. Sport becomes boring when it's predictable and that's the way things were heading.

You'd have to say that Kevin Pietersen's was the only stand-out performance from an England perspective. They bowled adequately and being as they only managed four wickets, it's a surprise that the Windies only scored what they did. England's openers, Strauss and Bell, again did a decent job and we're fairly convinced that they've got it in them to be a useful partnership, although more likely Trescothick will return as opener and Bell will bat at three. But mostly it was Pietersen.

Pietersen hung around a bit, played in a relatively reserved fashion for the majority of his innings and then went for it as the overs ran out. England won, so it's hard to fault him.

There's all sorts of talk about his aggressive approach being the downfall of him when the Ashes come, but we think that that's to undervalue his thinking. He often attacks only to change a fielding side's approach. If he feels in danger at some point, rather than ride it out, he sets out to do something about it himself.

Doubtless, he'll get out through this at some point and the critics will be onto him, but there'll be other occasions where more reactive batsmen would perish and Pietersen's proactive approach will be his salvation. What we'd like to see is him playing aggressively to put the field back and then batting a long, long time.

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Stephen Fleming stands with Scott Styris

Previously Stephen Fleming stood alone. As New Zealand did away with Pakistan to reach the semi-finals of the Champions' Trophy, he instead stood with Scott Styris. Runs are at a premium in this tournament and Stephen Fleming's one of the few batsmen pulling his weight.

Stephen Fleming hit 80. Scott Styris hit 86. We don't particularly rate Scott Styris, but we're not too proud to change our mind about these things and runs like these will help his cause.

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Matthew Hayden drops from notch one

"The Platinum Club is basically the top-order batsmen - the 'engine room', we call ourselves - plus one of the interior decorators in Damien Martyn. The fast bowlers aren't invited." - Matthew Hayden

To think that it was only yesterday that we were wondering whether we were wrong about Matthew Hayden; that maybe he was actually an all right bloke. And it was only a few days before that that we decided that he'd gone up a notch.

The Platinum Club: You can't give yourselves a name like that. You don't get to pick your own nicknames. Ask anyone. Nicknames are humiliating because nobody wants to make their mates sound cooler than themselves. Most probably Matthew Hayden's real nickname revolves around his giant arse.

Suggestions are welcome.

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Freddie Flintoff on EA Cricket 2007

An off the cuff verdict from Andrew Flintoff on his continuing association with EA Cricket:

“It’s great to return for the second year working with EA SPORTS. Their previous games have been a good source of entertainment and relaxation for myself and the team when on tour, and I’m sure the competition will be just as fierce this time round between the lads as we look to retain the Ashes on the Cricket 07 game, as well as looking to do it for real out in Australia.”
In no way were those words put in Flintoff's mouth. If you were going to blatantly make up a quote for someone to advertise your product, don't you think that you'd make it a bit snappier?

We're looking forward to the picture above reappearing only with '2005' replaced by '2007'.

Buy EA Cricket 2007 for PS2
Buy EA Cricket 2007 for PC

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Brad Hodge re-signs for Lancashire

That's 're-signs for' not 'resigns from'.

We were initially disappointed to hear that Brad Hodge had signed for Lancashire for two more years. Why? Well we didn't think he really pulled his weight in the middle-order and we're a big believer in getting a bowler as your overseas player. As we've previously mentioned: Bowlers win matches.

Then we thought about it for more than a fraction of a second. Lancashire can list among their bowlers Andrew Flintoff, Sajid Mahmood, James Anderson, Glen Chapple, Dominic Cork, Gary Keedy, Tom Smith and Kyle Hogg. You could realistically permute several representative England bowling attacks from those players: Current England, Former England, England Nearly-Men, Future England.

Then we thought about Lancashire's middle-order batsmen: Stuart Law. Fantastic as it would be to have Stuart Law batting at four, five and six, the poor guy would get confused as to which end to run to and the scorers would have a nightmare working out which Stuart Law had scored which runs.

Then we read that Brad Hodge topped Lancashire's batting averages last year.

Then we remembered that we actually quite rate Brad Hodge and that he's been dropped by Australia and will therefore be resoundingly available for the season, unlike most overseas players.

Moral: Spend more than a fraction of a second thinking about some stuff. Not all stuff, though. You don't have time.

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Matthew Hayden is a complete wuss

Define 'cheap shot'...

Matthew Hayden's got a broken finger. His coach says: "He'll wear a brace, a little plastic brace that our physio has made up for him. The concern was whether they could get the brace to fit properly, and get some sort of comfort for Haydos."

Ahh. Poor little lamb. Needs a FingaBendaMenda to play cricket.

We've never broken a bone in our entire life. We bruised a knuckle by inadvertently punching the floor when trying to remove a nail from the skirting board about two months ago and we're still whinging about it like the puny, pommy girl we are.

We don't care. We'll still call Matthew Hayden a wuss. That brief moment of reflection where we felt that maybe we were being hard on Matthew Hayden seems to have passed over without effect anyway.

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Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif are banned

Tell you what: This is a real kick in the teeth for cricket fans. We're the ones getting a raw deal out of this.

Shoaib Akhtar has been banned for two years and that could be pretty much it for him. Never say never with Pakistani cricket, but he's getting on a bit. He's 31. Mohammad Asif has been banned for a year. They seem to be citing his naivity as a reason for the shorter ban.

We're not blaming the Pakistani Cricket Board for this. The players were guilty. The PCB had no choice. We're blaming Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif and those around them for depriving cricket of two of its finest bowlers.

Fast bowling's been going through something of a lean period over the last few years and Pakistan seemed to be one nation who were likely to redress the balance. Shoaib Akhtar had been showing much greater consistency and - ironically - greater maturity to boot. Mohammad Asif has been one of the bowling finds of recent times. In a world of ageing stars, he was a younger bowler who looked the part.

The stupid thing is that cricket's not a game that can get massively affected by doping, so it was clearly avoidable. We're livid.

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Glenn McGrath... Oh balls...

In the first Champions' Trophy semi-final yesterday, Australia shuffled along non-commitally with the bat; then Glenn McGrath won the match by taking 3-22 in ten straight overs; then New Zealand made a bit of a comeback, falling short.

Rumours of Glenn McGrath's bowling decline seem greatly exaggerated. He was never quick anyway, so what can go wrong? He's not going to shrink. He'll still be playing when he's 50 with three times the experience of anyone. It's a heart-warming nightmare of the highest order.

That's a good aspect of cricket compared to many other sports. Players hang around longer. Combine that with the fact that you see a good deal more of players than you do in most sports due to the length of matches and you get to know these guys pretty well. It lends an intimacy to proceedings which in turn fleshes out the matches yet more.

It's a drug, we tell you.

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Mark Vermeulen's mental

This morning Mark Vermeulen had been arrested regarding the arson attack on the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy. Now he's been charged. He burnt down their academy. Why?

For those of you who maybe don't know him, Mark Vermeulen is an international cricketer. He plays for Zimbabwe. He's an international cricketing pyromaniac. He's a pyromaniacal international cricketer. He's a mental.

Earlier in the year he was banned from Lancashire cricket for three years (two suspended) after a bizarre hissy fit during a league match, which culminated in his throwing first a cricket ball and then a boundary marker at a spectator who'd annoyed him. One of his teammates had to drag him away.

His Cricinfo profile highlights another, more low-key, but even more petty incident, where he took the stumps in with him when given out lbw and subsequently locked himself in the changing rooms. He was 17 at the time. Not three. 17.


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Matthew Hayden is duller and less popular than his fishing rod

In an interview with The Australian (newspaper), Hayden describes how he saw a group of people fishing off the rocks near the team hotel in Galle when Australia were on tour in Sri Lanka once.

"I noticed they were catching little mackerel so I took my fly rod down to the rocks and within the space of 10 minutes I reckon I had close on 300 people watching," Hayden recalled this week.

"I was thinking, 'this is good, they're obviously keen followers of cricket'. But no-one knew who I was. They were looking at my fly rod. They invited me back to their village to show off this rod. It wasn't me at all."
We're going to have to stop reading things about Matthew Hayden. He doesn't come across too badly in this interview. We're not having that. It was bad enough when we started liking Brett Lee. You've got to draw the line somewhere.

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Chris Gayle hits his third hundred of the tournament

He's going okay, Chris Gayle: Three hundreds in seven innings. He's always had the ability to get an innings off to a flyer, but he's not stopping there at the minute. He and Shivnarine Chanderpaul seem to be making a rather handy opening partnership.

He bowls as well. He must be up there with the best one-day players around. He's taken 126 one-day international wickets at 31.89, which is no small amount. His one-day international batting average is 40.13 with 15 hundreds and he's an opener. That compares favourably with anyone.

Yesterday he hit 133 not out off 135 balls as the West Indies booked their place in the final of the Champions' Trophy. They're an increasingly handy outfit the Windies. They've got a couple of maturing bowlers who are taking the pressure off the batsmen. The West Indies have always had a decent batting line-up. They've just had a tendency to fold under pressure. Less pressure - less folding.

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Stock photography's useless

This is what we'd be reduced to if we only used stock photography. We'd have to lie to you and reuse the same four pictures.
For some reason a search for 'cricket' in stock image libraries produced lots of pictures of lemurs, which we were quite pleased about - but it is irrelevant. This, as we're sure you're aware, is a cricket ball. This is pretty much the high water mark for stock images. We'd use this on just about every post.

We'd probably have to pretend that this was Brian Lara getting 'done' by a Glenn McGrath in-ducker.

This is Sachin Tendulkar going for 103 against Sri Lanka at Mohali...

And this is the new scoreboard at the MCG. In black and white. Even though things haven't been black and white since we were taught right and wrong.

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Murali returns to Lancashire

If we had to work up a bit of enthusiasm for Lancashire's retention of Brad Hodge then this is the kind of work where they pay you a fortune for drinking tea and sleeping a bit: Lancashire have re-signed Muttiah Muralitharan, part-time genius, full-time nicest man in history.

He'll only be around for a handful of matches, no doubt. We'll definitely try and catch one of them. We'll sit at fine-leg and buy him an ice cream.

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West Indies collapse massively in Champions' Trophy final

That's pretty much all there is to say. Australia won the Champions' Trophy and now no-one cares again. It's very 'of the moment' the Champions' Trophy. We actually quite enjoyed it in the end, mostly because all the big nations are in one place at once and it would be hard for that not to be a big deal. As soon as it's finished though, it's forgotten.

Shane Watson saw Australia home with the only fifty of the match. The Tonk, on the Sydney Morning Herald site, described Watson as 'a raving metrosexual' the other day. We've always been a bit creeped out by his albino looks. He doesn't have eyelashes or something weird and his eyes are too blue.

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Shahid Afridi is dropped

Pakistan have obviously been forced into some changes with their strike bowlers all being banned. They've also made a couple of unforced changes to their Test squad for the upcoming series against the Windies.

First and foremost, Shahid Afridi's been dropped. This is pretty much unforgivable from an impartial point of view, but really you can't blame them one bit. Omar Haq provided a water-tight case in favour of dropping him a couple of weeks ago. We sympathise entirely while simultaneously wishing he was playing.

Pakistan have also dropped Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. We can understand the dropping of Sami, a gifted bowler whose confidence is subterranean, but Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's omission is puzzling to say the least.

The replacements include a slow left-armer called Abdur Rehman, who we've never heard of and Samiullah Niazi, who we love, despite never having seen him play, on the grounds that he's a left-armer and Pakistani - like Wasim Akram.

Finally, just to confirm that our cat will continue with the name Afridi, despite this setback.

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