30 March 2008

England's low run rate

Following on from Raj's comment yesterday that the top order need to average 45 rather than 40 these days, this article also suggests that they need to score quicker (in the case of the England team). I think players need to adapt to the conditions and score at the rate appropriate for them so I'm loathed to make generalisations, but if forced(!) I would agree that England have gone into their shells a little. It's not helped by Vaughan not getting runs recently as he normally scores relatively fluently, and Strauss playing for his place, but we still seem to have a worryingly defensive mentality.

It'll be interesting to see if this changes over the English summer on wickets the England batsman are used to and against a relatively weak New Zealand attack that they now know well.

Gaveskar enjoys power withour responsibility

Avid readers of Cricket Burble will know that I've never been much of a fan of Sunil Gaveskar. In fact my words in a previous post were:

"A great player but very temperamental - how else can we explain him playing for a draw in a one day game and trying to take his batting partner off the pitch with him when he didn't agree with an LBW decision?"

I'm not a fan of emotional players, from any country, playing significant roles in the future of the game - that includes Boycott, Botham, Gaveskar and Ranatunga. The qualities needed to take the game forward aren't the same as those needed to drive a side to victory almost single-handedly. So I was interested to read this article suggesting that Gaveskar likes power without ever taking responsibility. I couldn't have put it better myself.

29 March 2008

England Test Real Averages since summer '07

Having updated the real averages for the New Zealand series (which, incidentally, placed Strauss top with a real average of 54.8 and Vaughan and Cook the lowest of England's specialist batsmen with real averages of 20.5 and 22.7 respectively), I've totted up the total for England's last 4 series. In that time England have played West Indies and India at home, and Sri Lanka and New Zealand away. The overall table is shown above and makes for interesting reading.

Only three England players can consider themselves to have been unlucky overall when batting in Tests over these four series - Pietersen, Prior and Bopara. By unlucky I mean that the consequences of wrong umpiring decisions have reduced their official average to a greater extent than dropped catches and wrong umpiring decisions have aided their official average. Of those three, the interesting thing to note is that two of them - Pietersen and Prior come out first and second in the list of top real averages with 51.7 and 42 respectively.

The luckiest player - that is to say the player who's official average has benefitted by the greatest amount from wrong umpiring decisions and dropped catches - by a decent margin, is Alastair Cook. While his official average from these four series is 43.7, if it wasn't for dropped catches and wrong decisions he would in fact average just 30.7 - a very significant difference of 13 runs per innings. The next luckiest are Vaughan and Collingwood who have both benefitted by just under 8 runs per innings.

Strauss and Bell have been very slightly lucky but with Strauss' real average being 1.6 less than his official average, and Bell's being just 0.5 less, overall luck seems to have dealt them a pretty even hand - I'm sure Strauss wasn't thinking that as he trudged off in the 2nd innings in Wellington having been wrongly given out LBW by Steve Davis to a ball from Jacob Oram that pitched outside leg stump!

My take outs from these real averages over the last 4 series are (a) that Pietersen is head and shoulders above any other England batsman (hardly a revelation but his real average above doesn't take into account the poor luck Pietersen had in the 2nd Test in New Zealand when he was run out backing up at the bowlers end), (b) that if England want a batsman/wicket keeper (in that order) Prior was very unlucky to be dropped (although I still think Read should be playing and batting at 8 or 9 ideally if/when Flintoff is fit), and (c) that Cook is leading a little bit of a charmed life. That doesn't mean that I'm calling for him to be dropped, but it should be remembered when the media are considering Strauss' - and others - positions in the side.

What are your thoughts?

28 March 2008

Quote unquote

You may or may not be a reader of Cricinfo's "quote unquote" but if you'd like to take a look click here.

My top 3 are:

"In terms of sporting endeavour and prestige, the IPL is to cricket what diarrhoea is to dodgy curry houses - an unfortunate by-product." Paul Lewis, in the New Zealand Herald, clearly doesn't care much about developments in India.

"I've seen him spray it worse than that, so I'd suggest it was quite a good start for him." Michael Vaughan on Steve Harmison after his fast bowler opened his New Zealand tour with four wides and two sets of four byes.

"I think Hawk-Eye must have had a late night." Ian Botham explains why a ball he thought was going "way down" was shown hitting leg stump by Hawk-Eye.

David Frith provides top quality holiday reading

Having taken the implicit advice of Cricket Burbler Mark Davis to have a read of Ed Smith's book What Sport Tells Us About Life, I also picked a rather weightier cricketing tome to entertain me while sitting by the pool in Lanzarote - David Frith's Bodyline Autopsy. It's a brilliant book.

If you're into your cricket books being light in detail you won't like this book. Frith has managed to talk to many of those involved in the "bodyline" series - even those on the periphery of the controversy. Some of the documents from the time have mysteriously vanished - some claim that the war required the use of old papers but that doesn't explain why many older documents have survived - but Frith has got his hands on all the documents it's possible to look at it seems.

There are so many interesting details in the book that it's not possible to list them, but it gives a full account of the lead up to the series, and what followed prior to the 2nd World War and even mentioning some post war Ashes series. It has certainly changed my view of Bradman - a man who averaged 56 in the series but who was considered to have failed given the drop compared to his career average. Interestingly Larwood claimed at the time that Bradman was afraid of him but then retracted this many years later. But several of his team mates seem to have suggested that Bradman was perhaps not quite up for the fight which was why he tended to score rapidly in the series and then get out, to the dismay of the guys at the other end who were getting into line for the sake of their team.

What is clear from the book is how "bodyline" or "fast leg theory" was around before and after the controversial series....long after in fact as Frith makes the point that far more batsman are hit these days than used to be the case (although it is now illegal to use the field that stirred up controversy in the 32-33 series). Having said that of course, injuries were far worse in the pre-helmets era and reading the book you get a feel for just how painful batting was at times in the days before proper protective equipment - many broken jaws and bruised hips seem to have taken place holding up play (not surprisingly), and forcing many a batsman to have to retire hurt or even causing the occassional death.

I noted as well that there were several instances of noted wrong umpiring decisions even back then - Les Ames was given run out when a photographer captured the moment to show he had in fact made his ground. England also showed the same inconsistency of selection as they showed in the 80s and 90s - the Nawab or Pataudi scored stacks of runs coming into the series and averaged 40 in the 1st two Tests only to be dropped (possibly because he wasn't keen on the short bowling towards the body). Seeing the number of times the batsmen were being struck, someone decided to keep track of the number of times batsmen were hit with a view to pressuring the authorities to change the laws of the game - perhaps a similarity can be drawn with the Cricket Burble wrong decisions list?!?

If you like detailed cricket history, I couldn't recommend this book more highly. You can buy it now for the price of a couple of pints by clicking on the link to the right hand side of this page. And I'll be checking out David Frith's other books.

26 March 2008

I should have put a bet on!

It´s not often that I get it spot on with cricketing predictions so I feel I have to publicise a comment I made on simplycricket where I suggested that a fluent century by Vaughan or Pietersen would leave us time to bowl New Zealand out twice with Panesar the key man. Vaughan let me down but Pietersen and Panesar came good! Sidebottom has been a revelation and deserves his man of the series accolade.

It´s been quite tricky trying to watch or listen to live cricket from Lanzarote - having missed the first 4 days I eventually stumbled across a pub showing the cricket to see the 5th day´s play - needless to say my wife is pleased that the pub wasn´t located earlier!!

22 March 2008

I agree with Ranatunga

I´m always concerned when emotional players get involved in cricket administration, but I agree with Arjuna Ranatunga on the Darrell Hair issue. Either Hair needs to be treated as normal, or he needs to go, whatever the legal complications. You can´t have countries dictating who they get as their umpires, but the ICC have started down that slippery slope by removing Steve Bucknor after India complained in Australia - they now have nowhere to go when it comes to teams complaining about umpires.

Personally I hope they solve the problem by supporting umpires with technology but if they aren´t going to do that, they need to support the umpires when they inevitably make wrong decisions. They can start to put right the wrongs of the Bucknor removal by treating Hair as normal umpiring all teams. They should start by allocating him to umpire Sri Lanka - the least controversial of the 3 teams Ranatunga mentions Hair should be umpiring. The chances of that happening are virtually zero though - Hair doesn´t have long to go on his contract so if the ICC can avoid him umpiring Pakistan or India in that time then the issue will go away....

19 March 2008

"Real" averages updated

"Real" averages for the first two Test matches in New Zealand are now available here. By taking into account dropped catches and poor umpiring decisions, we're able to get a better understanding of how much luck a player has had. For England supporters, key things to note are that Collingwood is top, helped by the fact that his 66 in the 1st innings at Napier is considered a not out by real averages given that he was given LBW having hit the ball, but also hindered by the fact that his 59 in the 2nd innings at Wellington is considered a duck, given that he was dropped on 0.

Pietersen comes out as 7th in the England averages, whether looking at real averages or official averages - time for him to come good in the 3rd Test! And Strauss is 4th in the England real averages, aided by the decision to give him out LBW to Oram when the ball pitched outside leg stump, which gives him 44 not out in the 2nd innings at Wellington. According to real averages Cook, Vaughan and Pietersen have all performed worse than Strauss - interesting given that he is an opener and the two openers are both performing worse than him (not that I'd consider for a moment dropping Cook or Vaughan).

Having said that, this is only two games and you can't read too much into only two games. Real averages will be updated for the series on Saturday 29th March.

18 March 2008

Television gadgets - the next generation...

However much co-burbler Ed informs you on these pages of the need for a greater role for technology in umpiring decisions, the original motivation for (and, indeed - for less visionary armchair fans than Ed - the main attraction of) cricket technology lies firmly in the realms of amusing television gimmickry.

Hawk-eye. Snickometer. Hot Spot. 4Sight. All conceptions designed to provide entertainment to the paying viewer as he reflects with a smug sense of superiority after the eleventh slow-motion replay that Umpire Bucknor Might Have Got That One Wrong.

But where next? Any suggestions for the next generation of gratuitous television gadgets? My ghost-writer has suggested 'Rev-ometer' (copyright Cricket Burble 2008) - an on-screen display for spin bowlers showing how much spin they are applying to their deliveries.

Any other suggestions?

17 March 2008

Can Strauss still come good?

Fellow Cricket Burbler Mark Davis has already burbled about Ed Smith's new book - What sport tells us about life, but I hadn't realised until I read this article over the weekend, that Smith's last innings for England was ended by a wrong decision. He never played for England again.

Anyone that reads The Wisden Cricketer will know from my letter at the start of the year that my view is Strauss has been as unlucky as anyone given that he managed to get 3 wrong decisions in a row during the 2nd and 3rd Ashes Tests in Australia. I've questioned whether Strauss would be able to take legal action against the ICC and it's members given that their lack of use of the available technology could be argued as playing a role in his loss of form and eventual loss of his place for the World Cup. I'm told by those trained in those sort of things that this is extremely unlikely, but I'd be considering my loss of my England place, not to mention my earnings, due to circumstances not all within my control if I was Strauss.

Ed Smith got a wrong decision in his 3rd Test and never played another one. Ravi Bopara got a wrong one during his 5 Test innings to date during the Sri Lanka series and was dropped. Andrew Strauss has come back into the side got a wrong one in his 2nd Test back - it would take in inhumanly level head not to rue that piece of luck, leaving him in a worse mental state to make a big score in the 3rd Test v New Zealand, assuming the England selectors give him the chance. I can only hope that Strauss comes through this run of bad luck to show his true potential - no-one will ever know how his career would have gone without the various wrong decisions.

Vettori states the obvious

Good to see that Daniel Vettori agrees with Cricket Burble's view on England dropping Hoggard:

"You have to look at the way Anderson bowled," said Vettori. "For us to be bowled out for 198 in the first innings was purely down to him. He hit the right lengths early on and did a really good job. I suggest Hoggard would have done a similar job but to have fresh legs to do some very good work can only lift a team. New players coming in bring in enthusiasm and it lifts a team."

Well it might lift them in the short-term, but it's not going to bring consistent good performances over a long period. Here's hoping England put their best team out before too long.

England to paint Wellington green...

Well done, England, for a solid win vs New Zealand in the second test. But...was anyone else bemused during the post-match interviews by the quantity of English players' references to their planned drinking session?! Fair enough that they should celebrate the win, but the next test does start in a few days! (I wonder what advice English rugby debutant Danny Cipriani might have to offer...)

I particularly enjoyed Michael Vaughan's repost to Atherton's question about the final test strategy in Napier:

"Well, we've got to get there first - it is St Patrick's Day!"

Mothers, lock up your pedalos.

15 March 2008

Commentator's curse

How many times does it seem to happen that a commentary team talks up a batsman's abilities just in time for his wicket to fall?! The Test Match Special chaps were enthusiastically extolling the batting talents of Alastair Cook (apparently a practical certainty for 10,000 test match runs) in day three of the second test vs NZ. His immediate dismissal was depressingly inevitable - though whether the cricketing Furies needed to continue their vengeance on Andrew Strauss the very next over seems more questionable.

14 March 2008

Bowlers suffer again

As most readers will know I see the world of cricket mostly from the point of view of those who start the whole process by propelling the crimson rambler towards the hugely protected ones with their enormous treetrunks. It's just occured to me that it's odd that when, as in the First Test, the batting and bowling are both poor the solution is to drop two bowlers and leave the batting alone.

13 March 2008

Idiotic comments from Platini on Hawkeye

Readers of Cricket Burble will know my obsession with wanting technology to be used to make contentious decisions rather than umpires. So Michel Platini's comments about Hawkeye and the decision not to use it to to check if the ball has gone over the line in football caught my eye.

They've decided that they want another person near the in goal area - what's the point of that? Surely that just means another human eye which is prone to error rather than any improvement in the accuracy of the decision?

On another note, is Oram bowling amazingly? He's got to be doing something right as I've just listened to his first over of the day and Ambrose played and missed twice. Which makes it 6 plays and misses out of Oram's last 12 balls to Ambrose following the final over yesterday. I haven't got Sky but I find it hard to believe that Oram is bowling that well!

As I type Ambrose has edged for four and got his hundred! I agree with Geoff Boycott that Vettori should have had a 3rd slip....

12 March 2008


Given that simplycricket are featuring Cricket Burble as blog of the month this month, I thought I'd mention to Cricket Burble readers that simplycricket has topics of cricketing conversation across all aspects of cricket - I've recently found the site and you'll occasionally see Cricket Burble's pearls of wisdom on simplycricket within various threads. The site has only been around since August 2007 and aims to build an online cricketing community that advises on all aspects of cricket.

Why, oh why drop Hoggard?

We've already had a comment about England leaving out Hoggard and I have to agree! He's the sort of player who has the odd bad game, but it's unusual for him to have two bad games in a row - the strong chances were that he'd bounce back. He's also one of the characters in the dressing room and England desperately need some character - by all accounts Jimmy Anderson is very quiet and withdrawn.

But far more importantly Hoggard's a far more consistent bowler - yes, Anderson could come good in this Test, but he's unlikely to perform consistently to the level Hoggard does.

Hoggard must be wondering what he's done to warrant this sort of treatment, and he's no doubt ruing the fact that the game he's dropped the wicket is apparently a green top - ideal for him.

I would question the comment from Andrew Miller on Cricinfo that this is "bold and decisive" - it's plain stupid irrespective of how Anderson plays in the rest of the series.


Very interesting conversation explains a lot

I've just had a very interesting conversation with a pal who was a Sussex II player and the grateful recipient of much coaching from Peter Moores. His view is that whilst Moores is a brilliant motivator his technical coaching is very precise and meticulous, not to say a little formulaic.

This explains how the batsman all seem to have adopted the same trigger movements with their backlifts (different from Duncan Fletcher's famous 'forward press') and how a lot of flair may have been supressed. That would certainly explain a lot about the first innings in the first Test - hope we never have to see KP bat like that again. As for trigger movements - much too technical for the likes of me , but I'll be watching our batting with wider eyes later on.

11 March 2008

Mascarenas joins IPL

Hampshire have been pragmatic and allowed Dimitri Mascarenas to join the IPL. I wonder if one of the results of the IPL will be that the ECB need to contract more players - they may feel that someone like Mascarenas is ok not to be contracted, but the likes of Stuart Broad or Graeme Swann who are fringe Test players may be a different matter?

10 March 2008

Oh dear - psychologist needed urgently

From an England point of view, what a shambles the last Test match was! There's normally something to turn to like dropped catches etc when we lose, that at least gives the optimistic supporter a reason to think things could get better. But this time England's fielding was pretty handy and it's difficult to see where the improvement is going to come from. It seems that Ryan Sidebottom apart, England's bowlers are all struggling and England's batsmen are equally poor all at the same time.

Collingwood would argue that he would have gone on to a century but for a wrong decision in the 1st innings, but it was a painstaking knock - the obvious differences in tactics were quite incredible - New Zealand promoting McCullum to five in their 2nd innings and declaring when 9 down....England content to play for a draw rather than ever play for a win. I wonder if that attitude comes from Peter Moores - I've always liked the way Vaughan controls things in a pragmatic but pretty attacking way, but that attitude seemed to completely leave the whole England side.

It looks like the wicket for the next Test could be a similar one to the 1st Test so perhaps England could consider Swann instead of Harmison? It seems to be Broad or Swann, and Broad is the one the press are speculating about, but if it's a turning wicket then Swann needs to play unless Vaughan bowls himself - he seems amazingly reluctant to do that given that the far weaker option of Pietersen keeps being taken. Apart from that the only other realistic option is Owais Shah in for one of the underperforming batsmen but surely Strauss will get more than one game to try to find his feet.

So it seems that it's all about attitude rather than many personnel changes - the England psychologist Steve Bull has a lot of work to do!

7 March 2008

Vaughan has problems familiar to Fourth XI captains

Much has been made about the ability of tail enders to score runs which is now essential to Test Cricket and how, unless a nightwatchman is used (why?), England's tail starts at 8.

Much less has been made of the fact that without Broad and Anderson in the team there are 4-5 who are not the speadiest about the field (although great triers).
How do you hide as many fielders as that in a side ?

6 March 2008

Andrew Symonds - streaker vigilante

It would seem that Andrew Symonds is currently unable to avoid the limelight when it comes to on-pitch confrontation. During the second one-day final in Brisbane, the burly all-rounder's shoulder charge brought a premature end to a streaker's sprint across the playing arena. The video of the incident is available here at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Cricket Burble couldn't possibly condone player vigilante efforts such as these, but is definitely awarding style marks to Symonds for resuming his casual tapping of the pitch as the dazed intruder lay supine awaiting the pursuing security staff.

5 March 2008

Cricket trivia - the answer

I thought this question would stump everyone - a reminder of the question:

Which two players have scored a Test match 50 within the first 10 overs of the match?

The answer: Justin Langer and Marcus Trescothick.

I can't claim this to be a bit of knowledge I knew already - in fact I read it at the bottom of this article on Cricinfo, which will allow cynics to check the answer is correct!

4 March 2008

A 2nd question for sports quiz goers

Last week a couple of Cricket Burble readers quickly answered the question asking who had taken a Test wicket in 2008 with a ball that bounced twice - the answer (of course!) was Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh. So here's a second question for all the know it alls out there which I think is a bit harder than that first one.

Which two players have scored a Test match 50 within the first 10 overs of the match?

Give your answers by clicking on comments below if you know one or both of the answers. Or come back in 24 hours to find out the answer!

Different levels of cheating

Now being serialised in The Times Ed Smith's book 'What Sport teaches us about Life' raises a number of very interesting points.

Today's is about the different levels of cheating and how, whilst laws are changing, conventions change too. Not long ago speeding and drink driving were considered by the public as equally heinous and it was bad luck to be caught doing either - nowadays the drink driver has no sympathy from his peers.

In cricket walking was the norm until fairly recently, but those days are gone and an equivalent to staying put when you know you've nicked it is appealing for catches that the fielder knows has fallen short (we wouldn't do either in proper cricket but we know many pro's do). One seems to be acceptable, the other isn't. So you need to know where the boundaries lie. And of course this relates to what Australians and Indians call each other - different languages and customs have different views of the degree of offensiveness.

Finally Smith makes the point that this has bearing on the Hair / Pakistan incident - 'Hair thought he was dishing out a speeding ticket. Pakistan felt they were in the dock for drink driving.'

My copy of the book is on order from Amazon and you can get your copy by clicking on the link to the right at Cricket Burble.

2 March 2008

Tendulkar bucks trend to lead India to win

Sachin Tendulkar played a masterly knock today to guide India to victory over Australia in the 1st match of the best of 3 CB series finals. You can see the scorecard here.

What's particularly interesting is that this is completely opposite to Tendulkar's normal performance batting second - take a look at the recent Cricinfo article discussing how Tendulkar far prefers to bat first.

There is always an exception to prove the rule!