31 August 2007


Aussie Dave's recent post on Ajit Agarkar got me thinking - why is he selected? He is rather inconsistent, offering jaffas and cafeteria balls in an over and sending down military medium pace in one game then 88 mph thunderbolts in the next. His economy rate is average at just over five and his batting isn't much cop (despite sporadic demonstrations of real talent; take his test century at Lord's in 2002, for example). It seems his real talent lies in taking wickets as he averages 1.56 wickets per ODI, better than Wasim, Murali, Pollock, Warne and several other top bowlers. He's the fastest bowler to 50 ODI wickets, taking just 23 games. Then again he's only bowler in the top 40 ODI wicket takers of all time whose economy rate is over 5.

So Agarkar gets India wickets, but at a price. The Indian selectors clearly feel that the compromise is worth it with Agarkar and justifiably so. But my question is 'What is more important in ODIs: taking wickets or keeping the runs down?' Ideally a captain wants a bowler who can do both, like McGrath or Muralitharan. But suppose you are a selector of a country that lacks such talents (i.e. every country except Sri Lanka) - where does your preference lie? Would you pick a bowler who keeps things tight or one who takes wickets at a price? Would you pick Agarkar?

30 August 2007

Overseas players - missing the point

One of the most frequent and long running debates is about oversaes players (Lord Harris chose an England team for a Lord's Test match without Ranjitsinhji in 1896 , apparently out of misplaced jingoism - and he wasn't even what we'd call nowadays an overseas player).
And the debate usually centres on how the overseas players pick up skills and experience, particularly of English conditions, that they can later use against us in Test matches and how their presence bars the way for young English talent.
Occasionally the points are also made that they raise the standard and the level of entertainment which must benefit local talent and that those good enough to reach England sides should be able to overcome the competition anyway.
But I remember when I first started watching county cricket how the Hampshire fans loved their Roy Marshall and soon how Kent supporters felt similarly about Asif Iqbal and John Shepherd, Middlesex had Wayne Daniels and Somerset Joel Garner and Viv Richards. They, and several like them, all became part of their adopted teams set-ups and were treated as such by the supporters. It was because they stayed for long spells and as far as I can remember didn't move to other counties (well Viv did have a brief go at Glamorgan, but you understand my point) - they were as much part of the sides as the locals.
Nowadays the time seems short between applauding enthusiastically for 'your' overseas star's performance and clapping politely as he does the same thing for the oppo..
So how about rules that prohibit overseas contracts of less than say 3 months or prevent overseas players playing for more than one county in say 8 years - or would we hear the old Kolpak arguement about restraint of trade?

29 August 2007

More sports Burble

Just in case you hadn't noticed the links on the right-hand side of this page, there is now a Football Burble site and a Rugby Burble site to cover the World Cup. Make sure you go to the sites and take the RSS feeds.

Now that we're covering more sports you have no excuse not to tell your friends about the Burble sites - if they are a winter sports person rather than cricket, you now have other sites to send them to...

Interesting practise tip

It seems that Ian Bell owes his recent success to practising with a narrow bat. Apparently Monty Panesar is now using the same tactic so England supporters to Monty scoring hundreds for England soon....

Zimbabwe cricket looking up a bit

Great to see some positives in Zimbabwe cricket for once - largely inspired by the return of Tatenda Taibu as their one candidate for a world XI. Good luck to their new coach Robin Brown, who has been newly installed in the role, replacing Kevin Curran.

I'm not sure I'd take things as far as Ray Mali though who is suggesting that Zimbabwe can become the world's number 1 ODI team! They competed well against South Africa in their recent series, but never really looked like winning any of the three games, so they should take the positives (eg. scoring over 200 in each match), and not get ahead of themselves.

Dean Jones

I don't doubt Dean Jones' dedication to Victorian cricket, but I'm not sure why he's surprised that he's been overlooked for a spot on the Victorian board following his involvement with the ICL. I think the fact that they are supporting him at all is a show of faith given his role in the ICL.

We shall see how things turn out but I don't necessarily agree that the ICL could be good for cricket as Adam Gilchrist has said. Perhaps he recognises that as an international cricketer coming to the end of his career, the ICL could be a nice little earner.

Attitides to bats

As amateur players myself and another player in my club team have two completely different opinions on bats.

Mine: I'm not very good so I'm not willing to spend hundreds of pounds on a really good bat - the most I've ever spent is £50 on a second-hand one.

His: I realise I'm not very good so I need all the help I can get and am happy to spend money to get a decent bat.

Am I just tight?!?

28 August 2007

Pressure in the field and a sign of being with proper cricketers

So you stop and watch a cricket match and you soon work out roughly the standard by all sorts of things - the setting of the field, whether the fielders are in grown up or schoolboy/girl places, whether they walk in properly and the returns to the keeper quite apart from the standard of the bowling and strokes played.
But I recently found out whilst playing a game that was frighteningly above my standard (why had I agreed to play?) of another much more reliable indicator. How the ball gets back to the bowler after it's gone dead.
Quite early in our fielding session in this game I noticed that it was never dropped and it wasn't just gentle loops keeper-slip-gully-square cover-extra-mid off-bowler. It was often slip or even keeper to mid off and these guys just never dropped it (40 overs!).
So ever other over I'm at cover and the pressure's building (it only went rarely down the leg side) would I be the first to drop it?
Bowling was a nice release from pressure and then long off was a blessed relief.
Did I drop it? What do you think?
And the team I was playing for? The Barmy Army - some seriously good players there ( but not seriously in the literal sense)

26 August 2007

Positives for Ian Bell

Never let it be said that I don't give both sides of the argument when it comes to Ian Bell. Fellow Cricket Burbler Dave McCabe will be happy to see this Cricinfo article showing that Bell's record over the last few years is not as bad as critics like me would have you believe. His average of 37.95 puts him 6th in the all time list of England ODI averages behind the illustrious list of Pietersen, Knight, Fairbrother, Lamb and Smith. I wonder what their real averages would be?

Powerplay changes from 1st October

Given my rants about England leaving out Panesar from the last ODI against India, it's good news that the rules about fielders in the 2nd and 3rd powerplays will change from 1st October. Given that a 3rd fielder will be allowed outside the ring in the 2nd and 3rd powerplays, England may be persuaded to play Panesar come what may, as opposed to the current defensive thinking that sees him dropped whenever the boundaries are relatively short.

Hopefully England will now use Panesar as the attacking wicket taking bowler that he should be in all ODIs, rather than thinking defensively. Unfortunately for Monty, the rules don't change until after the current England v India series, so poor England selections are still very much a possibility for the rest of the summer....and of course there is no guarantee that the rule change will see England change from defensive thinking and leaving Panesar out, even with 3 fielders allowed outside the ring from the 11th over.

25 August 2007

"Our spinners worked beautifully for us"

There's nothing more for me to add to the captain's quotes following the game.

Dravid said of his spinners: "They did me proud. We knew it was a gamble playing them, but they way they contained their batsmen in the middle overs won us the game.

"We played some good cricket, but our spinners worked beautifully for us."

And Collingwood: "We thought we'd go with the four big lads, but maybe 320-odd was too many for us."

24 August 2007

For the England selectors...

Repeat after me, "always pick Panesar". Got it? What's frustrating is that the lessons don't seem to have been learnt - we left him out against West Indies and now we're doing it again.

And another little rant - Bopara can bowl!!! Let's use him when the other bowlers are getting smashed around the park - he can't do much worse...maybe I'll live to regret those words!

You can see the latest score here.

Rant over. For now!

23 August 2007

Getting your best fielders in the right place

I'm a bit bemused by Dravid's comment in this article talking about the relative fielding standards of India and England. OK, so India aren't the best fielding side in the world, but it now seems that they aren't fit enough to move into the positions they need to be in when there is a left-hand/right-hand partnership according to Dravid. "Ideally you want the right fielder in the right places. But if you have a left-hander and a right-hander, and someone's standing for the sweep, he's got to come to point after that. I can't move a player from boundary to boundary after every ball."

Now I'm not suggesting that players should run boundary to boundary every ball, but he doesn't have to come to point - just anywhere other than the opposite boundary. When it matters players should be capable of moving long distances between balls - after all they are professional athletes. I remember watching the Australians at Edgbaston in the World Cup over here and being amazed at how far some of the players ran between balls when there was a left/right partnership. I remember Ponting and Riefel seemed to be running miles particularly; Ponting because he was a crucial in-fielder, and Riefel because Waugh was trying to hide him. But they did so for what seemed like ages (sorry I can't remember how long) uncomplainingly - or so it seemed - because they knew it was in the best interests of the team.

Mind you, in a recent club game I pointed out to our best fielder that he was rather wasted on the boundary to the left-hander after he'd refused our skipper's request to come into the ring. "I'm not here for a fitness session" was his short answer (I have spared you the accompanying swear word). And that was only a 20 metre amble required between balls. I wonder if Ganguly uses the exact same expression when Dravid asks him to move each ball?!

Botham never made a hundred

There was so much made of the fact that the England top 3 at the start of the World Cup hadn't made a one day hundred, you would have thought that all the previous greats must have made hundreds with ease. Remember Ian Botham, now Sir Ian Botham, who isn't short of an opinion or two on Sky Sports? It turns out that despite opening for England throughout the 1996 World Cup his top score in over 100 ODI innings was 79 and his strike rate was the same, so certainly nothing to write home about. And his average? An unbelievably low 23.21. No wonder Flintoff keeps saying he's a batting all-rounder - with an ODI average of 32 he is compared to Botham.

22 August 2007


I've never really understood why India continue to select Ajit Agarkar. His record isn't bad, and he has had his moments in international cricket, but to me, he just doesn't seem up to it. Ok, he does a bit with the ball, but he always seems to send down at least one four ball an over, not a good attribute for a guy now seen as a one-day specialist. As I said, he has had his moments - a test century at Lord's and a major contribution to a test win in Australia with 6/41 in the fourth innings (his only test five wicket haul). These moments, though spectacular, are too few and far between. I didn't see Tuesday's match, but the figures certainly suggest he was the least effective of India's three front line seamers. I guess Indian selectors feel they have few other options with Irfan Pathan out of form/favour, Munaf Patel unfit and Sreesanth so erratic.

Like most Australian's, my lasting memory of Agarkar will be the seven ducks in a row he scored against Australia over four tests and two series. Incredibly, the first four of these ducks were first ballers, the fifth was a second baller, and the sixth and seventh lasted a marathon 15 and 12 balls respectively. You can imagine the barracking he cops each time he walks out to bat in Australia!

Ian Bell

At the risk of playing devil's advocate to the opinions of certain other Cricket Burblers, this post is in full praise of Ian Bell and his role in the current England team! (An opinion easily expressed in hindsight after today's match, I'll freely admit.)

I'm just watching the highlights of the England ODI this evening, and was delighted to see a good win set up by a pair of fine debut hundreds by Alistair Cook and Ian Bell. Whilst I appreciate how one day cricket has evolved to a breakneck pace in recent years after its conception, necessitating powerful hitting as well as orthodoxy, isn't it great to see a solid platform being laid by proper batting before being developed by free strokeplay rather than mindless slogging? Though every international team would love a Gilchrist, Jayasuriya, or Pietersen, all too often we have seen the search for players in the same mould ending in county biffers that have no place in international cricket (Ian Blackwell, anyone?).

I'm convinced that good test players can adapt far more readily to one-day cricket but not vice-versa, and both Cook and Bell made that point emphatically today whilst playing proper cricket shots (and fielding marvellously too). Sure, the Aussies might have turned that start into 320+, but some of the bits-and-pieces England one day sides of the last ten years would have turned it into 220 all out.

I'm also in disagreement with critics of Ian Bell's role in the test team (reminiscent of the constant debate hanging over Paul Collingwood even when he was scoring consistently). The guy already has a test average comfortably in excess of forty, with six hundreds. He has already suffered failure (Ashes 2005) and has shown the maturity to learn from his failings and tour Australia in 2006 as a much improved player. All this at the age of 25 and with many potential test match years ahead of him.

In the nineties, England's search for batting resulted in many failed experiments, whimsical selection and several high-profile failures. Two of the rightly acknowledged stars of that less successful era - Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart - both averaged under forty. In this context, Bell is most certainly a proven test match player. Furthermore, I don't buy the argument that Bell scores 'cheap' runs - i.e. against poor opposition or when the scoreline is already heavily in England's favour - surely our dominance of certain nations and the higher frequency of our wins is a measure of the improvement our test team has made since the nineties rather than a devaluation of the efforts of the players who secured that success?

21 August 2007


When I saw the team lists for the first ODI between England and India I was amazed that England could find no place for Owais Shah. I felt he deserved a chance to cement his place more than one or two others named. I asked myself who I would drop in order to make way for Shah and the two names I came up with were ..........Cook and Bell.

What do I know!!

Only those that played understand Test cricket

It was with some interest that I read the following at the end of a Cricinfo article about the forthcoming BCCI meeting: "All senior selectors will now have to have played at least five Test matches or 50 first-class matches. Currently a selector merely has to have played one first-class match. To be a member of the junior selection committee, the eligibility will be a minimum of 25 first-class matches."

I'm not sure I fully understand the thinking here. While he didn't select the team, John Buchanan "coached" Australia to success (although many might argue that it would have been harder to fail given the players at his disposal), despite playing just 7 first class games himself. And Clive Woodward, while having played for England at rugby, brought success to England in the 2003 rugby world cup because he saw England rugby as a business, rather than a sports team. I agree that the ideal sporting administrator has a blend of business and sports backgrounds, but the ratio of skills might be say 80:20 - i.e. it's more important to be skilled in business than it is to be skilled in sport. The BCCI are ensuring a few "jobs for the boys" but I can't help thinking their policy will reduce the chances of India achieving long-term success.

20 August 2007

ICL controversy in Pakistan

It seems that the ICL is going to make it's mark on Pakistani cricket, having managed to secure the signature of Imran Farhat, Adbul Razzaq and Mohammed Yousuf along with Inzamam-ul-Haq. That's four of their squad gone immediately, given that the PCB have already made their stance clear - no player who goes to the ICL can play for Pakistan. Yousuf is a huge loss for them - all the others, it can be argued have limited value having failed to live up to their hype in the past or in Inzamam's case, due to his advanced age, but Yousuf has been Pakistan's best player over recent times, and at 32 he still has several years in him.

I have deliberately not commented on the ICL until now because it sits outside of the international cricket calendar and Dean Jones had previously commented that the ICL would not target current Test players. In this case though, the ICL clearly have lured current test players with money, so Pakistan will be annoyed to lose the services of all four, especially considering the youth of 25 year-old Farhat and 27 year-old Razzaq, although Razzaq got in before the ICL announcement by retiring from international cricket. The PCB need to stand strong if they have the long-term interests of the game in Pakistan and the rest of the world at heart and not give them contracts or pick them again.

19 August 2007

Out of order

Not sure if this alleged sledge by England in the recent series is common knowledge, but it seems that someone may have said "I drive a Porsche, do you have a car?" to one of the Indian batsmen! If it was actually said, then the offending England player is, quite apart from being out of order, clearly a little bit in the dark about the huge amounts (comparatively) that India players earn through all their sponsorship deals.


I can't quite get my head around the referrals system that was in use yesterday at Lords in the FP final. As far as I am concerned, the most important thing is that the decision is correct, and people's hurt feelings have to be left to one side (sorry umpires!). Otherwise the best team may not win, and for me that is what is vital to get right. As things stand there are two problems with the referrals rule - (a) the wording is such that the 3rd umpire can nearly always give the same decision as the on field umpires, even if he thinks they are wrong, as he wants to back up his mates, and (b) the decision to refer needs to be immediate - who cares when the referral is made as long as it's before the next ball is bowled?

You can read the regulations regarding referrals here but the wording is:

He shall only be entitled to reverse the decision if it is beyond reasonable doubt that the on field umpire had made a clear and obvious mistake.

There are three words in there that are subjective - reasonable, clear and obvious - which mean that the 3rd umpire will continue to back the on-field umpires even when they think the decision was probably wrong.

Yesterday, Mustard was given out LBW to a ball that pitched outside leg stump. We should reflect on the fact that if in doubt, the umpire should rule in favour of the batsman, so that decision should definitely have been not out, but the decision wasn't referred in time. The game was changed with that first wrong decision, and was then followed up with a second one, when Tremlett trapped Chanderpaul LBW for 18. Warne had agreed that he was unlikely to refer a decision before the game, and he didn't, but once again, the game had been changed.

So what we can say is that Durham played very well, but they are going to win a game that was - for the umpteenth time - influenced by luck for individual players as a result of poor decisions. Is the most important thing that the umpires don't lose face, or is it more important that the correct decisions are made? For me, it is the latter by an infinite distance.

18 August 2007

Praise for agreed run chases and for Northants

To a non-fan of County Cricket the idea of negotiating an agreed fourth innings run chase (target and overs) must seem stunningly artificial.

We, however, know better and those at the ground or following on their laptops will have been disappointed that Middlesex and Northants failed to agree on a target yesterday so that the game became one solely for bonus points.

Nevertheless, as a Middlesex member, I feel praise is due to Northants who could have declared after saving the follow on and denied Middlesex the chance of further bowling points. Another county might have behaved differently (Somerset comes to mind - look at the score when they came to Lord's , although to be fair I was there and the ball was hooping around)

Cricinfo talk up Pietersen/Collingwood partnerships

Interesting article on Cricinfo which talks about the fact that Pietersen and Collingwood seem to make a good pair when they bat together. It comes from the column "the numbers game" which is always an interesting read on a Friday - this week they have also focussed on the number of wickets taken by left-armers in the recent India/England series. It could have been several more if Prior could catch!

You can read the full article here.

Warne as a German

I refuse to believe that Warne is really considering handing in his Aussie passport in exchange for a German one just to allow Hampshire to get an extra overseas player! A bit of rule tightening wouldn't go amiss to stop anyone even considering this sort of thing....

17 August 2007

A possible explanation for some wrong decisions?

Although largely ignored by the English media, there was a thought amongst Indian cricket supporters that the wrong decisions in the recent Test series were racially motivated. I don't subscribe to that theory, but that has been put forward by many Indian's as a reason for the 10:4 ratio of wrong decisions favouring England (which incidentally makes some of the comments on Sky commentary and TMS radio commentary about England being unlucky seem strange).

So it was with interest that I read this article on baseball umpiring titled "Major League Umpires Call More Strikes for Pitchers of Same Race" that an Indian Cricket Burble reader passed on to me. Have a read - having read Freakonomics I feel I have a little insight into how pre-conceptions that we're not even aware of could change the way we behave, so I don't find it entirely surprising.

How long before someone does a similar study in cricket?

16 August 2007

Top 10 relatively recent strange dismissals

Had to share this, some quality strange dismissals in here, but it gets a bit annoying that each one is replayed from every conceivable camera angle....enjoy.

Shane Watson to open for Australia?

While England ponder on Strauss' future, and consider their options for opener, Australia have to do the same following Justin Langer's decision to retire after the Ashes. There seem to be some thoughts that Shane Watson could be the man to follow in the footsteps of Langer. It would give Australia a 5th bowling option, rather than the 4 they have traditionally gone with but that's not a reason to pick him.

What are people's views on that possible selection?

More negative press for Prior

Bob Taylor has weighed into the Prior debate. His view is clear - pick your best keeper.

15 August 2007

Keeper's Average

There is plenty of discussion in the media at the moment concerning Prior's performance in the recently concluded series. When it comes to team selections we can look at batting averages and bowling averages to push the case for a particular player, but unfortunately there is no such thing a wicketkeeping average. The only readily available stat we currently have for keepers is byes, and this is largely useless. A keepers real value to the team lies in the number of difficult, or non-regulation chances he takes, versus the number of regulation chances he misses. Unfortunately, these things are not recorded in the score book. Perhaps if they were, Matt Prior would never have played a test and Chris Read would be a 100 test veteran.


Ian Chappell has laid into Matt Prior, suggesting that he has no future at Test level. While it's always good to give players an extended run in the side, I probably agree with him which is why I suggested that Nixon and Read should tour Sri Lanka.

Chappell reckons that you can't afford a keeper who regularly puts down chances and I think that's a given, but I'd also suggest that his batting isn't going to be up to it long-term. When he scored his hundred against the West Indies in the 1st Test there was a lot of excitement and we were all hopeful we'd found a Test batsman who could keep. But unfortunately, we've found a County batsman who can keep, which makes him a number 7 at best at Test match level.

Scarily it appears that Prior will still go to Sri Lanka though. Moores was quoted by the BBC as saying:

"He can look back on the summer and say he has a Test match average close to 40 and he's kept pretty well. He's made some mistakes but he's learning and he's getting better at this environment. The challenge is whether he becomes mentally stronger from this game. If he gets through Sri Lanka well then he can start to become one of those nuggety Test match cricketers that everybody wants."

The thing is that he's averaged 40 with the luxury of playing County bowling for 4 out of 7 Tests. We know he can play County bowling. But when he came up against genuinely good Test bowling against India he ended up with a real average of 18.3. The other thing is that the make-up of England's side is likely to be different in Sri Lanka with Flintoff or Bopara batting at 7, so we can afford to play someone who can catch and bat them at 8. So let's make that change now rather than go through the same umming and aaring as we did with Jones/Read. Read is probably good enough for 8, and he's certainly good enough for 9 if Broad plays and bats ahead of him. Nixon is good enough for either slot and as good a candidate for 7 as Prior. And I'd be surprised if they gave away one chance per 2 Test innings like Prior.

14 August 2007

Are we nearly there yet?

So you're involved in trying to bowl a side out like India were yesterday and you want to know how you're getting on. Obviously the fifth wicket is only mathematically halfway since the tail should be easier to get out than the specialist batsman.

So where is the halfway point of the innings ?

How would you calculate it?

How about taking the total of the highest partnerships for each wicket to create a mega-total and then finding how many wickets were down when the score reached the halfway point in that mega total? Seems interesting so I've done it. You could even take into account how far through that partnership the half total was reached.
All clear?
So the answers are that the mid point of the innings in terms of runs is after 3.675 wickets for Test Cricket and 4.1 wickets for First Class Cricket.

And the mega totals? How would you like to field through 4,772 runs?

Resting players

As with all countries, South Africa seem to have decided to "rest" Jacques Kallis without discussing it with him first. The concept of "resting" a player requires some discussion and buy in from the player himself doesn't it? If the player strongly disagrees as is this case, then he's been dropped, not rested.

Apparently, it's all because of South Africa's busy schedule coming up in the next 18 months. Why don't selectors just say they are dropping someone these days?

Poetic licence

Here's a trivia question for you:

Which well known figure removed whom as his only career first-class wicket, such that he penned the following verse in celebration?

Out-beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch!
His bat was tucked up at an angle,
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.

Answers on a postcard (or comment form) please!

The hardest-hitting pound-for-pound batsman

The reality of working on an experiment involving dozens of sensitive, unreliable and capricious lasers and assorted other pieces of equipment is that it it almost never actually works. As a result, on those rare occasions when it vaguely all comes together (and tonight is essentially the first such occasion in my two years on the project) then you're generally looking at taking data frantically like a headless science-chicken.

Now, data-taking in our lab is a pretty automated process that currently boils down to typing a number and pressing a button every once in a while in the small hours of the night. But before I digress too far off-topic into a physics burble, my point is as follows. During this thumb-twiddling, my lab partner raised the issue:

Who is the hardest-hitting pound-for-pound batsman in world cricket?

Just as armchair fans might compare boxers between weight categories along the same lines, the idea is to pick an explosive international batsman whose hard-hitting strokeplay belies his diminutive stature. So, whilst the likes of Hayden, Flintoff or Inzamam are all dominating strokeplayers, they are marked down on the grounds of body mass!

Who is the best pint-sized powerhouse? Gilchrist? Jayasuriya? Ponting? Bravo? Any suggestions?

And what about his weakest-hitting counterpart?

13 August 2007

Bell sums himself up in one innings

Today's innings by Ian Bell pretty much summed him up. England were playing for a draw and he was quite happy cutting and pulling as though they needed 6 an over. Wrong shot selection given the situation, but he played them all brilliantly, showing what talent he has. Then he decided that it was a good idea to pre-determine a sweep against Kumble with 5 overs to go, despite the fact that runs were irrelevant and England had four number 11s to come. Wrong shot selection yet again, and this time he didn't get away with it.

For me, that sums up why he should be dropped for the Sri Lanka tour. He has the talent but can't seem to play to the situation (unless that situation is him coming in at 300+ for 4). That said, he would doubtless feel harshly treated as he averages well over 40, and his team mate, Strauss, has had a worse run than he has and has got out to equally poor shots. But unfortunately for Bell, Strauss opens and Vaughan may be reluctant to return to opening. Bell should be left at home this winter and I genuinely reckon he could come back to Test cricket, if he has the desire to work on his shot selection, as a better player - a la Damien Martyn.


Why is that as England supporters we're all so nervous? There are less than 19 overs to go and 5 wickets to get - it should be a dead-set draw. But somehow, I'm shifting uncomfortably in my seat. I can almost visualise one of Ian Bell's aimless swishes outside off-stump or Prior top edging a pull as he tries to hit a six in a game we're trying to draw. And I can see numbers 8-11 being mopped up in 4 balls. Call me a pessimist but if we are going to play four number 11s then it's not going to do much for the nerves of England supporters in these situations!

The best way to settle the nerves? A pint while watching it at the pub...

Off-spinner required for Sri Lanka

Interesting to hear the chat on TMS about who should go to Sri Lanka. Gooch agreed with me on the fact that conditions will be in favour of an off-spinner given all the left-armers playing...he thought Batty was probably better placed to take the off-spinning position than Swann. Apparently Swann does some "wacky pieces" on radio 5 which is why "he wasn't Duncan Fletcher's cup of tea". Anyone know anything about that?

Not one mention of Vaughan as an off-spinning option!

12 August 2007

Test season over all too soon

It doesn't seem quite right somehow. We've just got going with a really captivating series v India and suddenly the Test season is a day from being over for another year. Partly because of the poor English weather - even worse than usual - and partly because of the lack of Brian Lara to give the West Indies real class, it seems like the English season is over before it's really begun.

What a pity that there were 4 Tests scheduled against the West Indies, who were unlikely to provide much of a contest, and just 3 against India who are pretty evenly matched with England providing some exciting cricket. And what a pity that we can't have at least one more Test rather than 7 ODIs. I'm sure they will provide some excellent cricket, but the Test series has hardly got going before it's all over....

England's team for the 1st Test v Sri Lanka

It seems a long way away, but the thoughts of the England team management will soon turn to the Test squad to tour Sri Lanka, and from that select bunch, the team for the 1st Test on 1st December must be picked. Here's my attempt at that selection:


The thinking is that Bell has had enough chances without really coming through and it's time to give Bopara his chance. Strauss hasn't been convincing this summer, and there has been speculation that he'll be given the winter off by England in one of the Sunday papers, but I doubt that is something England will entertain. By taking Owais Shah they give themselves the option of moving Vaughan up to open, and bringing in a player who is good against spin.

Bopara and Collingwood will both be legitimate bowlers on Sri Lanka's slower pitches. Flintoff gives you pace, while Hoggard and Sidebottom will be best suited to the pitches there - bowling in Chaminda Vaas style - rather than Harmison. Spin wise, the lack of a credible second spinner to Panesar means that they shouldn't play one, instead focussing on Vaughan and, to a lesser extent, Pietersen to provide that additional spin option.

Prior simply hasn't done enough to retain his place in the team, and Nixon's average of just short of 50 in the County Championship, plus the known admiration Michael Vaughan has for him, gets him selection, irrelevant of his age. That selection would have to be made with the thinking that Nixon will also play next English summer.

The other change that England may want to consider - in fielding positions rather than selection - is their slip to Panesar. With Flintoff back in the team and Collingwood having dropped a couple off Panesar this summer, Flintoff should field at slip, allowing Collingwood to field in the ring - which is presumably where England would field him if they had enough good slip catchers.

Who would the additional players be to fill up the squad of 15? I would argue they should be Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison, Owais Shah, and your reserve keeper - you could make a case for many but Chris Read should get the nod. If it wasn't for the desire to have a "bubbly" keeper Read could have a go at making the position his own, batting at number 8 rather than 7 which was a place to high for him last winter, but while England might just about take him in the squad, past history suggests he's unlikely to start. Gareth Batty is the other one who will feel he may just pip Swann as the second spinner in the squad.

11 August 2007

Missed England chances this summer

Given the growing concern over Matt Prior's keeping, I looked over the chances that have been missed in Tests this summer by England. In 7 matches it looks like this:

15 chances
6 missed by Prior (1 stumping, 5 catches - all of Sidebottom)
3 missed by Collingwood
3 missed by Strauss
2 missed by Bell
1 missed by Plunkett
1 missed by Panesar

If you are wondering why that adds up to 16 for 15 chances, it's because Strauss and Collingwood left one to go between them so they both dropped it in my book!

Sidebottom and Panesar have missed out on 5 wickets each, while Harmison has missed out on 2, Hoggard, Tremlett and Plunkett 1 each. On average the bowlers have needed to take well over 11 wicket taking balls per innings to bowl a side out, not accounting for wrong decisions.

I'll let you ponder on that for a while before thinking about what it means for future England selection....

10 August 2007

Dhoni - no brain

Dhoni bats like Flintoff used to, and sometimes still does - with no brain. It is of course great to be entertaining, but there are times when a little common sense wouldn't go amiss.

Good to see Vaughan buying a wicket with Pietersen - once again, club tactics proving perfectly viable at Test level!

Why is Ian Howell umpiring?

You can find out about any player or official on Cricinfo - the home of cricket! Here is Ian Howell's profile - he is South African for those concerned by his nationality.

However, I'm a bit confused on this one. Ian Howell isn't on Cricinfo's list of elite panel umpires and referees, but the ICC's list of "international panel" umpires show Ian Howell as the umpire for South Africa. This group is different (and one assumes less skilled) to the ICC's list of elite panel umpires - the ICC suggest that "...two umpires from the Emirates Elite Panel stand in almost all Test matches around the world...".

So I think I understand now. Umpires all make mistakes - I think we can take that as a given as Taufel made a few in the last couple of Test matches and he is considered the best umpire in the world. But the ICC has appointed an umpire from their equivalent of "division 2" for a series involving India. That has to be ill-considered surely? India - the powerhouse behind cricket globally with a pupulation of 1.1 billion people, who's population aren't backward in coming forward when there are issues on the field that upset them. I'm not condoning the burning of effigies or any other gross over-reaction to things that happen on the cricket field, but if I were the ICC I might have made sure I had my top-level umpires scheduled to umpire matches involving India.

I wouldn't like to be Ian Howell walking out today, knowing you have 4 more days to go, having made 2 more clangers yesterday. If he does make any more though, you know where they will be listed (once I have caught up - the frequency of wrong decisions makes it tricky to keep up!) - Cricket Burble "wrong" decisions.

9 August 2007

"A shocker"

Two wrong decisions out of 4 today - the Indian's must be fuming! Boycott has just desribed Ganguly's decision as "a shocker". Jonathan Agnew who is normally more reserved said "that was a really poor decision", "such a big nick" and "a test umpire should really have picked that one up". There's nothing that can really be added to that.

Yet again, it wouldn't have happened if technology was being used. it can't happen too soon for me.

"Catch it"

It's always good to hear that the professional players have the same problem as we have in amateur cricket. According to Cricinfo when the ball went down towards Pietersen for Jaffer's dismissal someone shouted "catch it".

"Catch it," barked a fielder, helpfully, as the ball was in the air.

This is a problem that I've always had. I can't stop myself from shouting "catch it" when the ball is in the air. As if the person the ball is going towards is ever thinking of not trying to catch it! But I can't help it, try as I might. A few weeks ago I was at 1st slip and went to my left for a catch to see the ball parried upwards by our keeper. As I fell to my left I even managed to shout "catch it", as keeper and 2nd slip threw themselves towards the ball in a fraction of a second to narrowly miss the rebound. I realised at that point that there was really no point in trying to cure my "catch it" shout. So it's good to know I'm not the only one....

16 years to the day since "leg over"

It's 16 years to the day since Brian Johnston and Jonathan Agnew collapsed in fits of giggles while trying to describe Botham's hit wicket where he couldn't quite "get his leg over". For me that clips always make me laugh, no matter how many times I hear it. Naturally enough, it came top of the Radio 5 best clips so you can have another listen if you want to.

8 August 2007


It seems that admin issues can cause problems even at professional level. I don't feel so bad about the odd fine for an apparently late results sheet from back when I used to captain my club side (why do amateur leagues refuse to allow results to be submitted online and join the 20th, if not the 21st century?) having seen this. Doshi was stopped from making his Wawickshire debut against Sussex because of problems with the paperwork. Maybe it all had to be done by post!

Harmison as captain

Harmison doesn't strike me as an obvious candidate for captaincy so I thought I'd check how he was going as captain of Durham v Sri Lanka A. Durham are bowling and it seems that he decided that he shouldn't open the bowling. He then decided he shouldn't be first change either. Then rather than introducing himself as second change, he brought back Luke Evans, the opening bowler who had gone for 41 from 5 overs - you can see the scorecard here. I wouldn't bet on him coming on second change the way things are going! Wouldn't a Harmison/Onions opening partnership be the best available to Durham?

Harmison as a captain....what are your thoughts? A bit too self-effacing for my liking...

Play suspended for...low sun?!

Yes, the Duckworth Lewis method had to be used last night in the match between Derbyshire and Leicestershire because play was suspended "because of low sun" for 98 minutes. How can this be possible? The players all have shades these days and the wicket presumably doesn't align with the setting sun at Derby, or does it?

I have heard of club cricket being played all from one end at the end of the season given that the sun is right behind the bowler's arm at one end...but I certainly don't remember play being suspended for a low sun in a professional game before - does anyone know if it has happened before?

7 August 2007

Chris Schofield interview

Whether you think he should be in or not, the Chris Schofield story is a pretty interesting one. You can see his interview for Surrey TV here.