28 September 2007

Pollock to be dropped?

South Africa look set to drop Shaun Pollock for their upcoming Test v Pakistan, which seems highly risky to me. The tactics seem all wrong - in Twenty20 when he tends to serve it up ona length, he was selected, and yet in Tests when he will bowl metronomically on off stump he is likely to be dropped. I wonder if the same would have happened if he bowled exactly the same but was 10 years younger. It'll be interesting to see how the younger quicker bowlers go....

24 September 2007

Who will partner Hayden

Since the great Justin Langer retired at the end of last summer one of the great discussion points in Australian cricket has been who will take his place. A number of possibilities have been put forward: Phil Jacques, Chris Rogers, moving Mike Hussey back to the openers slot (freeing up a middle order birth, possibly for Brad Hodge), and more bizarrely Shane Watson.

I think you can rule out Watson. It would be pure madness to go for a makeshift opener when you have two specialst openers in Jaques and Rogers who have been scoring mountains of runs in first-class cricket for years, and a third in Hussey currently in the middle order. I'm surprised, and frankly a little concerned, that Watson is being discussed as a serious contender even by Ricky Ponting. Anyhow, I think his latest injury will probably rule him out of contention.

That leaves Hussey, Jacques and Rogers. Given how successful he has been in the roll, I'd like to see Hussey remain in the middle order. I might be a little biassed, being from his home town of Wollongong, but I think Jacques' form on the recent A tour to Pakistan may have given him the edge over Rogers. Many have seen this tour as a straight shoot-out betweenthe two for the vacant position, and if this is the case, Jacques has certainly won. In the two "tests" Jacques made 370 runs from three innngs at 123 including two centuries, compared to Rogers' 110 runs at 37.

I guess time will tell. You can see Chris Rogers' profile here, and Phil Jacques' here.

No T20 title to Australia

Well, to the rest of the world's delight Australia were bundled out of the World Twenty 20 in the semi-final by India (who have gone on to win a thrilling final over Pakistan).

When the Australian team for this tournament was originally anounced I remember being a little surprised that Cameron White wasn't in the squad given his excellent performances in this format on both Australian and English domestic scenes. With the benefit of hindsight I'm now certain he should have been there. I think Michael Clarke is an under-rated performer in the fifty over version of the game, but I'm not sure he's suited to T20. His strength in ODI cricket is his ability to rotate the strike and score off nearly every ball during the middle overs. Unfortunately for him, in T20 the middle thirty overs have effectively been removed. I think replacing Clarke with White would actually strengthen the middle order, one of Australia's weaknesses in this tournament. While I'm not a fan of White's bowling, he certainly couldn't do any worse than Clarke did in the 5th/6th bowler roll.

That brings me to the other major weaknesses in the Australian team throughout the tournament, the fifth bowler and the lack of a quality spinner. These rolls was shared between Clarke and Symonds and they routinely went for 10 to 15 runs per over. This nullified one of our major strengths, the four pronged pace attack. Shane Watson is not a particularly popular figure among the Australian public, most feeling he has been given a dream run by selectors on potential, without delivering much. I believe that a fully fit Shane Watson could have strengthened both these problem areas. By playing Watson at number seven as your fourth seamer, you could also play Brad Hogg without lengthening the tail too much. Unfortunately, I've just about given up on a fully fit Shane Watson.

Dhoni to captain test side?

Although I hardly got to watch any of the Indian matches in the Twenty20 I have been able to read about their games afterwards, and listen to the odd one, like the final today. What seemed to stand out was Dhoni's captaincy....today he had 2 slips in even when Sreesanth was getting hammered at the start of Pakistan's innings.

I like that sort of attacking captaincy. Dhoni seems to have a much better chance of getting the Test captaincy after India's successful Twenty20 tournament.

21 September 2007

SA Choke Once Again

Wasn't it wonderful to see South Africa choke once again. They needed to make just 126 against India to secure a berth in the semi-final. While India bowled very well (despite a few early wides) and fielded out of their skins, you'd expect a batting lineup including Gibbs, Smith, Kemp, Boucher, Pollock and DeVilliers to stroll home. While Smith and co continue to try and shake off the chokers tag, its not going anywhere.

South Africa rue "one" loss

Interesting to hear Graeme Smith's thoughts after South Africa went out: "It's very disappointing knowing you've lost only one game in the tournament and you're out... That does seem a little bit weird."

Following on from my previous post about how Kemp was plumb LBW on 6 in the game against New Zealand, and then went on to win the game for them, I'm pleased. It was luck that saw you through against New Zealand Mr Smith - you should have lost two but for poor umpiring, and you deserve to go out while New Zealand deserve to go through.

20 September 2007

Defending cricket and cricketers.

You're in the pub and England are losing and some (literal or metaphorical) football-shirt- wearing Sun-reader starts criticising them. So although the team is playing rubbish you feel obliged to defend them because it's your job to criticise them not the football-oik's and because somehow their criticism of a team is really a criticism of cricket itself. Doesn't seem fair does it?

Not that I dislike football as much as its ubiquitousness and the Sun is very good for predicting results. Or perhaps I'm just suffering from end of season blues. But it is depressing how football takes over everything in its way and how 'fans' lock onto their teams and start talking about 'our' achievements ,usually in pubs where I'm trying to hold a proper conversation.

Still it does have its funny side. I recently learnt that a so-called long term Chelsea fan of my acquaintance with a CFC tattoo used to be a fan of Crewe Alexandra and had to have the 'A' removed!

A(nother) crucial wrong decision

We're not covering the wrong decisions in the Twenty20, but if we were there was a crucial one yesterday. Kemp, playing for South Africa against New Zealand, was plumb LBW to Oram on 6 but not given by Billy Doctrove, according to the TMS commentators. South Africa were 33 for 2 at the time.

New Zealand must be ruing that decision, as South Africa won with 5 balls remaining, Kemp 89 not out.

The low chances of youngsters improving much

I'm not sure if I've had this rant before on Cricket Burble and as I'm not sure I'm simply going to post it and you can let me know!!!

Stuart Broad went for 6 sixes last night and that's not a pleasant experience for anyone (not that I've experienced it!). But the general consensus seems to be "poor young man, he's got great talent, hope it doesn't damage him for the future".

Here's a prediction....he won't get appreciably better. There's very few that really get a lot better during a professional sports career, Flintoff, Steve Waugh and possibly Collingwood being cricketing exceptions. Owen and Rooney were as good or better at 18 as they are now, and Wilkinson peaked at 21, to look at other physical sports.

So for me, Broad needs to be good enough now and 6 sixes in an over obviously is worrying. Could he not bowl a decent yorker once in 6 balls (I didn't watch it)? If he improves dramatically and becomes a quality international bowler, then he will be the exception rather than the rule.

19 September 2007

England Twenty20 failings

By the time I complete this post we'll know if England still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Twenty20. Clearly they don't deserve to, but you never know if New Zealand can beat south Africa.

There have been some obvious failings from the England team that are poor performance, and others that are poor strategy. From a strategy point of view, it was a strange feeling to actually want your top order out asap. I suppose Maddy and Prior could have come off, and Maddy did once, but Pietersen and Collingwood should have been our match winners. And Shah should always bat ahead of Flintoff. So we got our batting order wrong to start with.

We also mixed and matched with selection in an indefensible way. If a bowler like Kirtley comes in and bowls one over for 12, how can he not get another over in the fist place, and secondly, how can he be dropped. In Twenty20 you have to have a bit more confidence in a player, because even Flintoff - our best bowler by miles - can go for loads in an over occasionally. It doesn't mean we lose faith in him. So we got our selections wrong.

And then on the pitch, our out cricket was appalling. 6 run outs so far in 4 games and often as a result of mix-ups. Yes there will be some close line calls as batsmen push for runs at the end, but batsmen stranded because of a break down in communication is unforgivable. And then finally, and most depressingly, our fielding. There has been criticism of our bowling, but I'd argue that it is our fielding that has let us down far far worse - 7 possible chances went down (or weren't touched) against South Africa - that must be a world record!

So poor selection and batting order, and poor fielding and running between the wickets. No surprise we're out. But then we never really expected to be in the top 4 in the world did we?

(P.S. I have to say Schofield was a lot better than I expected!)

16 September 2007

Not a proper cricketer?

I'm a big fan of Steve James, formerly of Glamorgan and now of The Sunday Telegraph. His autobiography Third Man to Fatty's Leg was one of the best I've read and unlike many was actually written by the subject. His weekly County Report in the paper is about the best overview of the county game which, as readers might suspect, doesn't always get the coverage I would like.

But he's now caused offence.

Talking about Ian Bell's strange omission from Warwickshire's Friends Provident Trophy semi-final he says 'it is rumoured that chief executive Colin Povey might have had a large say in that. Too often this season cricket decisions have been made by non-cricketing people'.

He's right, of course, but Colin Povey a 'non-cricketer'!

He used to play (and I think still does) for Whitchurch in Oxfordshire, a lovely friendly club at one of the prettiest grounds I've ever played at. And let me tell you he can bat! Especially at a ground the size of Whitchurch's!!

14 September 2007

Vettori takes over

It was announced on Wednesday that Daniel Vettori is taking over the New Zealand captaincy from Stephen Fleming. It's really the end of an era for NZ cricket, as Fleming has been the chosen captain for the last ten years, and is currently the Black Caps leading test batsman.

Fleming has retired from one day internationals, but will contribute as a non-captaincy player in the test arena for the time being.

On a personal (and somewhat girly) note, I will miss Stephen Fleming as he really is very good looking. Although Daniel Vettori isn't bad either...

On the subject of Australia vs Zimbabwe, I am keeping very quiet...as I am sure some other poster will be much more lyrical!

Surprise resignation by Dravid

This really is a shock (to me at least, but I think everyone). India have just beaten England away and now have the Aussies coming - the biggest challenge of them all. What could have happened to make Dravid want to step down? The media pressure for the Indian cricket captain is probably more intense than any other role in world sport, but he would have known that when he took the job on. Perhaps it was his relative failings with the bat, but he's still an absolutely certain pick in the Indian team so it wasn't like his place was under pressure.

There must be some (not unusual) internal machinations going on within the Indian camp - Ganguly to reclaim the captaincy anyone?

13 September 2007

Mangled fingers

I've seen some horribly mangled fingers, the worst being a guy I used to play rugby with, and I'm the proud owner of one strangely bent finger on my left hand, but this guy wins hands down. Step forward the person that has worse fingers....

Flintoff should probably bat at 8

This isn't said with hindsight I promise, but Flintoff is batting atleast one, if not two places too high at the moment. Shah should definitely bat ahead of him and Mascarenas probably should. Only the two people I watched the England innings with over lunch will be able to back me up that I was saying that before the 4th wicket fell!

188 really should be enough as long as we bowl properly, but who knows after Australia's result! You can check the latest score here.

10 September 2007

Swann and Wright in ODI squad for Sri Lanka

England have picked Graeme Swann to act as the second spinner in Sri Lanka during the ODIs, supporting Monty Panesar. I think that's the right decision - time will tell I guess! Luke Wright is also in the squad which isn't much of a suprise considering that England dropped Alastair Cook on Saturday for him.

Quite rightly, Prior hasn't been given a central contract. Despite Moores' public support for him, and the excellent stumping he took on Saturday (the first time I have seen him do anything even aspiring to international class behind the stumps), Prior's position is sufficiently under threat that the selectors didn't have much choice but to go into another season without a centrally contracted keeper.

Dravid doesn't advocate further use of technology

Following from another day of controversial decisions at Lords, most notably the wrong decision to give out Sachin Tendulkar caught behind (see wrong decisions) on what was probably his last international appearance in England, Rahul Dravid has said that he's not in favour of using technology beyond line calls.

Perhaps he feels a little embarrassed about the fact that he clearly thought he wasn't out, but "snicko" subsequently proved that he was. This to me just goes to show how important it is that technology is used - even the most honest of players can mistakenly think they haven't hit it, so you can't rely on them walking.

I don't know about any Cricket Burble readers, but I've always walked when I know I've hit it (once when no-one from the opposition appealed!), but I have also stood there for two caught behinds where I was convinced that I hadn't hit the ball, only to be given out. While at club level there is no technology to prove things either way, the suggestions from many of the 21 other players in the matches involved made me question whether a batsman can always feel a nick. The Dravid decision proves that conclusively, so it's yet another argument for the use of technology in my book....

(Incidentally, can anyone tell me whether Uthappa was caught behind and not given? I heard he might have been but can't find conclusive evidence to add it to the growing lost of wrong decisions).

Australia slip in warm up v SA

Twenty20 is such a short game that upsets are not just possible but probable in the Twenty20 World Cup, and the warm up game between South Africa and Australia proved just that. South Africa won by 8 wickets against Australia to give them a boost going into the tournament against the much-fancied Aussies.

I'm a little concerned about having one-off Twenty20 fixtures in the semi-final and final stages of the competition. It's bad enough in the 50 over version of the game, but in Twenty20 there is a serious risk of a sub-standard team winning due to a slice of luck and a poor decision or two. Maybe I'm alone in wanting the best team to win the competition, and upsets are what the tournament organisers want?

7 September 2007

Good riddance Shoaib

Following on from Dave's post about Shoiab, take a look at this Pakistani cricket blog that I read sometimes (is cricket blogging taking over my life?!). It appears that public opinion in Pakistan is turning against Shoaib in a big way, and given what has been reported about his latest changing room scuffle, it's difficult not to agree. At least Pakistan have acted quickly and decisively in sending him home.

I hope that Pakistan now look to the future and ignore Shoaib's (no doubt extremely loud) calls for a recall via the media.

Strange Goings On In SA

Loots Bosman has reacted angrily after being ruled out of the South African Twenty20 squad on medical advice. Bosman claims he feels fine and wants to play. He as also accused coach Mickey Arthur of lying. You can read the cricinfo report here. The strange thing about this story for me is that he has been replaced by Andre Nel. A top order basher replaced by a specialist fast bowler. Is it possible that South Africa suddenly realised thay had the balance of the side wrong and have sought a medical report to get them out of it?

Akhtar Sent Home

Shoaib Akhtar has been sent home from South Africa after a dressing room altercation ended with Shoaib striking Mohammed Asif in the thigh with a cricket bat. Shoaib is one of those characters that just can't seem to stay away from controversy. There is a good little piece on cricinfo by Pakistani journalist Kamran Abbasi suggesting the Shoaib has had too many chances. I couldn't agree more with his sentiments. He is obviously a de-stabilising factor in the team and it seems to be stem from his arrogance. When he gets it right, he is one of the most devastating bowlers of his generation, but it is too rare an occurrence (he has hardly played in the last 18 months, and when he does, he is often lacklustre) to allow him to continue disrupting the morale of the team.

6 September 2007

Get on with it - use technology every time

When the subject of technology aiding umpires comes up, there tends to be three objections that arise immediately. (1) the umpires lose respect, (2) the game will become disjointed by constantly replaying decisions, and (3) that the technology isn't good enough to "prove" a decision either way. The 3rd point of course, is only an argument for delaying the bringing in of technology - not for never having it.

But yesterday's dismissal of Collingwood proved what an absurd argument the second one is. Peter Hartley had only just started to reset the stumps when the replay was shown on the big screen at the Oval and it was clear to everyone in the ground that the batsman was short of his ground. No delay whatsoever. So I hope yesterday's incident speeds up the inevitable move to technology being used on all decisions. That way we'll avoid the absurdity of journalists today acclaiming Shah's "breakthrough" international innings when he was clearly out on 40 (brilliantly though he played).

ICC Awards

Ricky Ponting is most people's pick for the cricketer of the year award - no suprises there. For me Mohammed Yousuf gets the Test player award at a stroll and Jacques Kallis just takes the ODI player award. The ODI is the only one there can be much debate on - the candidates are all worthy - Hayden, Ponting, Kallis and McGrath. It may be that McGrath gets it for sentimental reasons....certainly no-one could complain about that as an ODI bowler who averages under 20 is a massive rarity.

You can see all the award noninees at Cricinfo.

5 September 2007

All down to a decider...

I was only able to catch small bits of today's ODI, but it looked like England's fielding let them down. Much comment has been made of India's fielding weaknesses but as the pressure came on there were misfields and runs pinched involving Pietersen (admittedly the ball bobbled rediculously but that's an excuse for fumbling, not for letting it go for four), Anderson, Prior, Bell, Panesar and Cook. That's too many runs given away to deserve to win a game unfortunately, despite everyone's best efforts.

England shouldn't be down though. In some ways I'm pleased that India came through to win given the travesty of the Shah wrong decision, but they also got very lucky. In the last few overs, Uthappa managed to edge the ball just to the right of Prior (one of which Prior should have stopped), just to the left of him and Dhoni managed to top edge it just over him, all off Anderson. You had to feel for Anderson and he surely won't have such bad luck in the deciding match. Bring on Lords....

England set challenging total

England have set India a challenging total of 316. There were a few interesting things about the innings.

1. Collingwood was initially given not out when a big appeal for a run out was made, without referring to the 3rd umpire. The replay on the big screen showed that Collingwood was out so, after a delay, the decision was referred to the 3rd umpire after the crowd had made their feelings clear. Eventually the correct decision was made and Collingwood was given out. Lots of debate ensued about how the decision was given, but readers of Cricket Burble won't be surprised that I don't mind how the decision was made - the point is that it was correct in the end. There is no excuse for wrong decisions where the 3rd umpire could have been called upon.

2. Pietersen and Shah were involved in a mix up which led to Pietersen's run out. Pietersen jogged the first run and then turned and sprinted for a second - Shah didn't move. Who was at fault I don't know, but what was clear was that Shah had plenty of time to realise that one of them would be out and he should have sacrificed himself given that Pietersen was on over 50 and he was only just in double figures. That's not to say he didn't bat well from that point on.

3. Shah was out on 40 and not given. That decision has been added to the list of Cricket Burble wrong decisions. That wrong decision could have a big influence on the result of the game.

4. Mascarenas hit 5 sixes in a row off the last 5 balls of the innings. Yuvraj Singh was bowling which was a strange choice by Dravid, and he duly served up some lovely balls to hit. The hitting was very special by Mascarenas though.

Looking forward to listening to as much of the India innings as possible! You can listen to the commentary by clicking here.

Brett Lee really does do pop

I'm quite sure that several of you will have seen/heard this before but seeing as I joked about a 5-piece English band, I thought it was only right to put the Brett Lee effort up on Cricket Burble. I think it's safe to say it wasn't, and never will be, the start of an alternative career for Brett!

England players form 5-piece boy band

A Hugo Boss promotion seems to have made 5 of England's Test cricketers look like a less than heterosexual boy band. I think the point has been proven - the players will do anything for money. Seriously, did they not get to approve the shot before if was made public?

Hong Kong Sixes ad revamp

Look out for the new Hong Kong sixes advertising which it is is said will "inject a more social and vibrant feel" compared to standard cricket advertising. No doubt they feel under pressure given the rise of the Twenty20 game. It will be interesting to see what the net result is....cricket marketing hasn't traditionally been up to much, in my opinion....

4 September 2007

Key fined for Twenty20 dissent

It was only a matter of time that someone would have a tantrum in full view of all the spectators once they made the players sit in their little dugouts for Twenty20 rather than the changing rooms...!

This is what happens (click here) if they are allowed to get back to the changing rooms...

Top 10 dropped catches

The Observer Sports Monthly magazine featured the top 10 cricketing drops, and some excellent drops there were too, featuring the likes of Gatting, Warne and Flintoff senior. Worth a look for those of you that haven't seen it already....

Wage problem

Simon Jones has to be a dodgy investment for any county doesn't he? Highly injury prone, and if he does get fit, the likelihood is that he'll be off playing for England within a season at the longest. No surprises that Hampshire are the ones that seem to be interested as they seem to have more money that most...and the ambition to go with it.

Another one off to the ICL...?

Another older international player looks set to join the ICL after Upul Chandana's retirement from international cricket. Who can blame them - a big pay day at the end of your career seems like a good opportunity....

3 September 2007

Making your mark - how many ways?

You wouldn't have thought there could be that many ways of making your mark in the crease after taking guard.

Usually we do it by scratching a mark with a stud or the edge of the bat and then usually banging a small hole with the bottom of the face of the bat. There is also the West Indian way of banging a hole into the ground using a bail (one day surely somebody is going to break the spigot off the barrel of the bail - hope it happens on television in a big match!).

But on Saturday I saw a technique I'd never seen before (in zillions of years experience) - the batsman used the edge of his bat laid at right angles to the crease as a ruler and scored a line with a bail. What a good idea!
I wonder whether there are any other methods out there.

1 September 2007

Warnie's Top 50

As everyone is surely now aware, Shane Warne has named the 50 greatest cricketers that he's played with or against. As these lists (and Warnie himself) always do, it is bound create discussion and controversy. Here are a few points I found interesting about the list.

1. Two non test cricketers make the list in Jamie Siddons and Darren Berry. No surprise that they are both Victorians. I think Warnie has let personal biases influence some of his rankings, which he is perfectly entitled to do......... it is his list. During his playing career Siddons was thought to be the best player in Australia not to have played test cricket. He did play one ODI though. Berry was the Chris Read of Australian cricket, regarded as the best gloveman in the country, but his batting let him down. I saw the leg side stumping from Reiffel and rate it as possibly the single most brilliant thing I've seen on a cricket field........big call I know.

2. Waqar Younis at number 45 and Merv Hughes at 18...........please! This is another example of Warnie's personal bias. No one doubts that Merv (another Victorian) was an excellent bowler but he shouldn't be on the same page as Waqar, let alone 27 places ahead of him.

3. He rates Tim May better than Stuart MacGill. Few people would be better placed to make this judgement than Warne, having bowled many long spells in tandem with each of them, but I disagree.

4. Gilchrist at 20, Healy at 10. There is no doubt that Heals was a better gloveman the Gilly, but as a cricketer, surely Gilly's batting gives him the edge. Not just the number of runs he scores, but the way he scores them. Also, I think Gilly's glovework is under rated.

5. I'm also a little surprised that Ponting is as low as 8. Though to be fair, all seven above him are quality cricketers, so I'll let that one pass.

6. I think the one that has caused the most discussion (in Australia at least) is the ranking of Steve Waugh at 26, behind such names as Darren Lehman and Stephen Fleming. I heard someone mention on a talk back radio show that Warne has held a grudge against Waugh ever since he was dropped in favour of MacGill for a test in the Caribbean in 1999. I have no idea if there is any truth to this, but it seems strange for Waugh to be so low on the list. Also Warnie's explanation that Waugh was a match saver rather than a match winner just doesn't wash. There are numerous occasions when Waugh has won Australia matches, and really, how often was Australia in a situation where he was required to bat out a day to save a match.

Anyone else have any comments on the list?

Reasons for Hall quitting international cricket?

Andrew Hall has retired from international cricket at the age of 32. Here's a few possible reasons...take your pic:

a) his body needs a rest
b) he is annoyed at being left out of the Twenty20 squad
c) he is joining the ICL

I know which one my money is on....

Why pull out?

No, this post is not referring to the bedroom. It's about bowlers who decide, in their infinite wisdom, that they will decline to bowl the ball because the batsman has made a movement at the crease. Writing the previous post reminded me of the occassion when that happened in the World Cup when Fernando pulled out of his run up on the last ball with England needing 4 to win and Bopara shuffling around the crease. And it seems to have been happening occassionally in the current England v India series.

Surely, if the batsman is moving around, all the advantages are with the bowler. The batsman's head is moving around, making it harder for him to play the ball as he wants to, and if the bowler has time to pull out of their run up, then they clearly have time to readjust the line and length of their delivery. If the batsman has moved outside leg, just bowl a yorker relatively wide outside off-stump. So, why do bowlers pull out?

Confusing Bopara comment

The London Paper last night reported some of Ravi Bopara's comments after he and Stuart Broad guided England to an unlikely victory in the 4th ODI against India. Bopara was quoted as saying "All I could think about was the Sri Lanka game against the West Indies. I had a bit of stick for not finishing the job and I was desperate to finish it off here."

My question is, as someone who was out of the country at the time, who gave him some stick? OK, I was watching the game on a fuzzy screen in the middle of the night in India, and often couldn't see where the white ball had gone as the picture was that bad(!), but it looked like a heroic effort that just came up short to me. Were people really giving him stick after the Sri Lanka World Cup defeat?