31 May 2008

Bopara takes record Essex ODI score

Readers of Cricket Burble will know that I'm a far of Ravi Bopara and think that he's been shoddily treated by England. In his 3 Tests to date he's not batted once, he's had a wrong decision, and he's been run out once, so despite Strauss' resurgence, I still think Bopara should have been given a proper run in the side.

He's been playing beautifully all season and it all came together yesterday for him as he scored 201 not out at a strike rate of over 140 for Essex with Geoff Miller watching. I'd love to see him and Pietersen fill numbers 3 and 4 in the batting order in the ODIs coming up, in whichever order they prefer, but unfortunately I fear Bopara will be asked to drop down to 7 which will mean we won't see the best of him.

1925: Hobbs makes his 125th and 126th century

This is an interesting little piece of cricketing history that I didn't know about. For those equally in the dark as me about the way Jack Hobbs overtook WG Grace's 125 centuries, read this article on Cricinfo.

I found this comment intriguing "...on 97 he danced down the pitch, missed the ball but Mervyn Hill failed - or chose not to - complete the stumping." Surely, even back then when cricket was played in the most fair of spirits, a keeper wouldn't deliberately miss a stumping in a 1st class game?

India ODI squad

Whether you like the IPL or not, I don't think there's any denying that it must have helped the Indian selectors take a look at their players before they announced their squad to go to Bangladesh and Pakistan.

I've watched virtually none of the IPL, catching a few Gilchrist sixes at one point, but that's it. But I've checked out various scorecards and kept a vague track of who's doing well and who isn't. I was quite suprised that no room can be found for Venugopal Rau of the Deccan Chargers - he's in the top 20 in the list of averages that are dominated by big money foreign signings and he's also bowled a few handy overs. Whatever critics argue about the IPL, it's giving some young Indian's a stage to show their talents, as shown by Yusuf Pathan's promotion. Pathan was recently sighted by Kumar Sangakkara as one of the IPL's top finds.

I wonder it English cricket fans appreciated how close we've come to IPL cricket here this summer, and you never know - it could still happen. As this article on sportbusiness.com shows, there were plans to play matches at The Oval on 15th and 16th July but these have fallen through due to the lack of a TV broadcaster to cover the matches.

30 May 2008

Strange selection?

There is always general humour to be had at my cricket club when considering the basis for selection to the 1st team. For a long time now, a duck in the 2nd XI the week before is considered the perfect pre-cursor to a promotion, or 0-100 normally does it for a bowler. That doesn't normally happen in international cricket though.

So I was surprised to see that Tim Ambrose got the nod for the ODI squad today. It must have been his average of 1.5 in the current series and a total of 24 byes in 2 matches that have swung it his way. Personally, not that I think he's the greatest keeper in the world (or even in England), I would have selected Matt Prior who averages over 40 in Tests. Admittedly, he averages only 20 in ODIs but that's because England insisted on making him a pinch-hitter at the top of the order most of the time, rather than batting him 6 or 7.

Who would you have selected?

29 May 2008

Low-score blues

Ok, Burble-fans. It is probably a measure of the psychological impact that the following event has had on me that I have taken weeks to build up to a report on these pages, but...

I recently played in a first-round fixture in the university 'cuppers' tournament held over a 40-over format between the various college teams in Oxford. My college (a combined Wolfson and St Cross force) put in a fine bowling effort vs St Johns, restricting them to 171-7 off their 40 overs, and both bowling and fielding well in the process. In reply, we were bowled out for - ahem - 17.

Yes, that's seriously 17. Seventeen. As in, the UK minimum driving age, the seventh prime number, the age at which the band Travis's stretching of the truth resulted in inclement weather (and, presumably, cancelled cricket matches). 17.

It wasn't like the opposition even bowled particularly well. Straight and full, I'll grant you, but...17 all out?! See the back pages of this link for the gory details.

Anyway, has anyone ever heard of a lower innings total? I'll wager not.

27 May 2008

Short Memories

It seemed like the whole of the country was under water yesterday but we were able to watch England's successful assault on what looked a very tricky target whilst we were frequently reminded that Bell and Collingwood were under pressure (I'd say from Shah and Key, rather than Bopara). What short memories some people have - not only of the past performances of the players in question but of Michael Vaughan at Lord's; he looked as out of form going into that match as these two did here and look what he achieved. I suspect that for some players (and Collingwood is certainly of that type) adversity and responsibility for a national team are the best motivators of a return to form. I'd certainly stick with a winning side (although as Mike Brearley said just because you've won your last match there's no reason why a team can't be improved).

26 May 2008

England batsman played Vettori well

In my post yesterday I was worried that Vettori would win the game for NZ, but also said that England had superior batsman to New Zealand. That, along with the fact that the heavy roller was requested to deaden the surface, helped England pull off what was a good victory considering the position they'd put themselves in.

Should the team be changed? It seems that Bell and Collingwood are considered under pressure, and deservedly so. But personally I'd keep them both for the next Test. Bell was one of the Wisden players of the year in 2008 and averaged 50 (real average 48) in the series against NZ away, so he's hardly out of form. And while I'm the first to jump on his back as he seems to go missing whenever we really need him, he shouldn't be dropped at the moment.

Collingwood is struggling right now but I'd like to see him retain his place for the next Test. Bopara is snapping at his heels given that he's also a part-time bowler and a good fielder and I'm a big fan of Bopara's, but again it's the wrong time to consider dropping Collingwood. He's going to captain England in the ODIs after the Tests and it would destabalise that team to drop him now. I also think he'll come good - nothing can be guaranteed, but if England back him in the way they have Strauss in the past during a bad run, then there's no chance of him getting dropped just yet.

25 May 2008

Not a confident England cricket fan

I refer you to my previous post, "Vettori could win it for NZ". Panesar took 6 for 37 but Vettori is the better bowler of the two so there should really only be one winner in this game if the weather holds. Having said that, England's batsman are - whatever doubting England "supporters" think - better than New Zealand's batsman. It only needs two half centuries by the top order to get us into a winning position. Surely two calamitous capitulations isn't even possible for England's middle and lower order?

If I had to bet my house (I don't own one!) on it, I'd bet it on a New Zealand victory with at least 7 wickets for Vettori. But I have this lingering thought that Vaughan and Pietersen can do it. Bell has never, ever, scored runs under real pressure so maybe this could be his moment? (I think I read that every one of his 7 Test centuries has come when a colleague of his has also made a century.) And Collingwood has hardly scored a run all season, but is one of those players I'd always back in a crisis. From 7 down, we only have Broad - Ambrose isn't going to worry the scorers much, so it's down to the batsman to do the job. (Incidentally, Ambrose's only chance of a continued run in the side is if Flintoff comes back and bats 7 as there's no way he's capable of batting 7 in Test cricket, despite his debut century.)

I for one will be tuning into TMS at 11 tomorrow hoping that the weather doesn't spoil an absorbing day of cricket. What a pity it's not on terrestrial television....

23 May 2008

Vettori could win it for NZ

Now I realise that this is a tad defeatist as an England supporter, but from the brief bit of the Test match I've watched so far, I don't think the England players will be looking forward to facing Vettori in the 4th innings. It's turning a lot already for Panesar on the 1st day, but for the part that I watched he was bowling too short. Having said that it's great to see that Vaughan brought Panesar on in the 9th over as an attacking weapon. Vaughan has changed ODI results with that tactic in the past and, although it didn't come off today, in the right circumstances it's worth a go.

You can see the latest scorecard here.

On another note, was that Flynn's tooth falling out after he was hit when they showed it in ultra slow motion?

22 May 2008

Bowlers - a new analysis ?

Time was when the main judge of a bowler was his average and little else was considered but now we have economy rates (ouch!) and strike rates (o k ) as well as the speed of each ball bowled.

We get told the fastest, slowest and average speeds for each bowlers and as ever talk is of variations in speed - how long will it be before bowlers get marked on the mean differences of their speeds?

Atherton argues for caution over use of technology

As all Cricket Burble's readers know, I'm very much a champion of the use of technology to aid umpiring decisions. It is only a matter of time and, in my opinion, discussions should be turning to how to allow umpires use of technology while not slowing down the game every time an appeal is made. At the present rate of change, that's a decade away though.

However, in the interests of a balanced argument, I'd urge you to read Mike Atherton's article in The Times today. He urges caution but he also makes clear that some errors were made in the England v New Zealand Test at Lords.....errors, I should add that haven't been added to the list of Cricket Burble wrong decisions yet (they will be when I get time!). Both Vaughan and McCullum should have been out in their 30s which would have made for an entirely different Test match. This seems to me to make the case for further use of technology, but Atherton does a good job of explaining the high skill level of the two umpires, Bucknor and Taufel in difficult circumstances and makes a good argument for caution.

However, when it is agreed that 3 out of 13 close decisions were wrong, it just goes to show that even the very best umpires in the world don't stand a chance without the aid of technology. That's over 23%!! Those concerned over the impact technology could have on the game often quote figures in the high 90%s for accurate decision making, but that is a meaningless stat given the optimism of many appeals. When you start considering that getting on for a quarter of the decisions from "proper" appeals are wrong, the argument for using technology appears to me to be an unstoppable one, especially if you read the article titled "Hawk-Eye goes to College" in this month's Wisden Cricketer which suggests that in tests Hawk-Eye was about a centimetre out only.

Unless you aren't interested in the best team winning, or for individual's results to be a true reflection of their skill, the argument for technology seems to be stronger than ever to me, even if it doesn't to Mike Atherton.

21 May 2008

Cricketing extra time

Watching the Champions League final has made me wonder about cricketing extra time. If an ODI or Twenty20 finishes with the scores level perhaps cricket might want to consider a one over "shoot out" for each side? Wickets would need to be a negative, but apart from that it would be cricket as normal (well as normal in Twenty20).

Pietersen and Collingwood v Symonds and Hussey sounds like an interesting match up....perhaps with Lee and Sidebottom as the bowlers....

I wonder if there'd be any appetite for that amongst cricket fans?

20 May 2008

Comical Warne story

I suppose it's quite nice to find that nothing's changed and Shane Warne will still respond to questions from journalists with tempting quotes. But does anyone really think that he'd come back to play for the Aussies in The Ashes next year off the back of a few Twenty20 games? He might need to bowl 100 overs in the match - I don't think 4 overs per match in the IPL will quite get him in shape for that!

Click on the link above to see what Warne's up to in the casino world these days.

18 May 2008

Another unique Test first name

Following Mark Davis' burble about unique first names, according to TMS Aaron is a first. Aaron Redmond has managed to avoid a pair for New Zealand, but from an England point of view we could do with getting him out tonight....

I'm intrigued about his father, Rodney Redmond, who only played one Test despite scoring 107 and 56 - recorded for posterity is the wagonwheel from his century versus Pakistan in 1973. According to Cricinfo he couldn't get used to wearing contact lenses and retired! Surely he could have gone back to wearing a traditional pair of glasses if the contact lenses didn't work for him? Rodney Redmond clearly didn't go to Specsavers!

17 May 2008

Lighten up Bucknor!

Yes, I know it's not Steve Bucknor's fault that there are some idiotic laws in place covering bad light, but it was hard not to hate him yesterday as he kept waving around his lightmeter. Let's remember it's meant to be about the safety of the players (allegedly) - when Vettori has just hit Anderson for 12 off an over I think we can "safely" say that he's feeling pretty safe! With all the advances in protective equipment I think it would be quite difficult to argue that they are ever unsafe - exactly the argument that Mark Davis made last year.

Up and down the country today club cricketers will be playing in far worse light than there was at Lords on Thursday and Friday, and that is far more risky. The bowling may be slower but equally that batsman's reactions are slower, and there is no first aid on hand in case of injury. If the cricketing authorities are really worried about player safety then they'd have to tackle play where emergency services aren't available first. But they aren't really worried about safety at all really are they? Is it too cynical to suggest that once they have got past their 25 over threshold for spectators not getting any money back, they are quite keen to go off? Both against West Indies last year and against New Zealand this year, bad light could be used as an excuse to ensure there is 5 days play and the money rolls in.

That sort of view will undoubtedly see the death of sell out crowds for Tests, with Twenty20 taking over, so something needs to be done. But having said that, I wonder if Twenty20 will actually become a saviour of Test matches if the authorities don't use common sense first (which evidence suggests they won't) - if grounds require floodlights for day/night matches then these can be used for Tests too. Of course, we'd probably be told that it was the wrong sort of light!

Fortunately, to save this post becoming rediculously long, Cricinfo have already written much of what I wanted to. You can read their thoughts here. I'm personally coming round to the view that there should be no bad light law at all - the only possible reason for coming off is if the spectators (who over the last 2 days paid far more than £1 an over) can't see the middle.

Ba humbug.

13 May 2008

England XI (or XII)

So, the England squad was announced on Sunday and there seemed to be a huge surprise that Hoggard had returned to the squad. I can't see why as the selectors are fairly predictable.

This squad doesn't surprise me. There is a strong bias against bowlers who have to be 'on form' to be selected but batsmen can carry on with low scores and still get picked. I would have liked Collingwood to have been given a rest so that a) he could recuperate from his shoulder injury and b) get some runs in the county championship. His replacement would have been Bopara (picked on the excellent start he has had to this season and also provide a handy 5th bowler).

11 May 2008

Comments on the referrals system

Readers of Cricket Burble won't be surprised to see my comments on Cricinfo here. What's annoying is that they edited out my link to Cricket Burble wrong decisions!

8 May 2008

IPL comings, but no-goings

It's getting really boring hearing about English players who have been approached by the IPL - is there anyone that hasn't been approached? The ECB should have been very clear that while they were going to support the IPL over the ICL, they expected something in return - hands off potential England players this year, while they sort out schedules to allow England players to play moving forward, if they so wish. As it is now, the players are showing a lot of restraint not to take the money. What I'm still trying to get my head round is why these players are being approached - each team seems to have far too many overseas players given the quota allowed per game. Moving forward I'm sure the owners will realise that they aren't exactly getting value for money.

On a positive note for the IPL, what ever traditionalists' concerns, I think it will be around for a while, despite fellow Cricket Burbler Mark Davis' recent views. The news today that Vodafone has just signed a 5-year deal gives the competition some big funds, but more importantly gives it credibility.

7 May 2008

The perfect day for KP?

"Centuries don't come round very often whereas sex is on tap, isn't it?" - Kevin Pietersen.

I would have thought both would do nicely, and after his hundred today....

5 May 2008

Lots of Yakka

I umpired "officially" for the first time on Saturday and, apart from calling no ball when a batsman was caught, it was quite uneventful.

Except..... having only been peripherally involved in the game over the last few years (cricket tour does not really count) I was surprised at the amount of chatter on the pitch that I suppose is called motivational. At times this bordered on sledging with comments such as "we are amongst the rabbits now" and "shame his shots are not as elegant as his designer pads". I appreciate that times change but it does become rather tiresome and the only thing that really surprised me was that the batsmen just seemed to accept it.

4 May 2008

1 to go for Ramprakash

I had the pleasure of making my first visit to Hove yesterday morning to watch Mark Ramprakash make his 99th century, leaving him just one away from a hundred 100s.

I'll be interested to see how many people make it along to watch him score his hundredth 100 - there wasn't a particularly big crowd given that he was on 60 odd over night and it wasn't a working day, but locally the league season started yesterday, so players possibly didn't have the option. One man in front of me shouted "one more" as the crowd politely applauded but several people seemed completely unaware that it was Ramprakash's 99th, a few turning up just after he'd made his 100.

A little bit of pressure seemed to be created with Ramprakash on 84 and 85 off the bowling of Ollie Rayner, with Chris Adams using a slip, short-leg and silly-point to create some doubt from Ramprakash and his batting partner Mark Butcher who also looked fluent before edging behind off Rayner. But having made it to 90, Ramprakash put Rayner over mid-wicket for four and then came down the wicket to hit him straight for 4 two balls later. In Rayner's next over, a short ball allowed Ramprakash to step back and cut for 4 (see photo above), leaving Ramprakash one away from the hundred 100s landmark.

His next opportunity is versus Hampshire at the Rose Bowl but many Surrey supporters will be hoping that they get the chance to watch him make his next hundred at The Oval against Yorkshire. You can see Surrey's fixtures here.

3 May 2008

Testing the accuracy of Hawk-Eye

It appears that the ICC have decided to test the accuracy of Hawk-Eye in May but somehow doubts still remain as to whether or not to use Hawk-Eye for predicting where the ball would have gone. What if it isn't shown to be 100% accurate? That's easy isn't it....just use it to give decisions to the appropriate level of accuracy. If you believe Hawk-Eye to be accurate to the width of a stump (and this accuracy level is what needs to be tested and scientifically proven), then the decision is only out if Hawk-Eye suggests the ball was hitting the outside stump full on - any suggesting that the ball would have just clipped the stumps makes the decision not out.

What is in no doubt is the accuracy of Hawk-Eye to show accurately where the ball bounced prior to hitting the batsman. Pitched outside leg? That type of wrong decision could be instantly made a relic of the past and we'll laugh at the rediculousness of the fact that players had to put up with wrong decisions that changed the results of matches for years, before finally technology was used to help.

It all seems so simple to me - I'm totally confused as to why the cricketing world are being so pondorous. Is there any other event or business that, when offered the chance to take a significant step forward, would back away from that opportunity? The answer is that there will always be those that resist change, but it is up to the those in the senior positions to drive through change anyway, and Hawk-Eye is just one of many required. That is what top managers are paid to do isn't it? If they do nothing until there is a huge groundswell of opinion emploring them to make a change, that's not leadership - that's administration - and their pay should reflect their lack of leadership and foresight.

2 May 2008

Is Flintoff at 7 really news?

It's great to hear that Vaughan is happy with Flintoff at 7 rather than 6, but I love the way that's reported to be a surprise! Interestingly this article doesn't mention the likes of Collingwood or Vaughan himself bowling. In English conditions Collingwood is at least half a bowler so the quoted scenario of Panesar bowling 25 overs on the first day if you only pick 4 specialists seems incredibly unlikely to me.

The prospect of 7,8,9 comprising of Flintoff, Ambrose and Broad (in whatever order) is an exciting one from the point of view of lengthening our tail, but I hope we pick the best possible side rather than overly focussing on the batting ability of our bowlers. A quartet of Flintoff, Sidebottom, Hoggard and Panesar is the best we have right now and it will be interesting to see if that's the 4 that get picked.

Here's a question for you though - how do these 2 options compare:

1. No 6 averages 45, no 7 averages 30, no 8 averages 20 = 95
2. No 6 averages 35, no 7 averages 32, no 8 averages 30 = 97

With the right players, option 2 allows you to play a 5th specialist bowler. I trust that the England management are doing the appropriate statistical analysis....

1 May 2008

Boycott supports Hawkeye use by umpires

Comments like these from Geoff Boycott are like music to my ears. Whatever I think of him, the more cricketing personalities that support allowing umpires use of technology, the better. He doesn't suggest that they use snickometer and hot spot, but I do. Anything that can help them make a decent decision - anything that aids that has to be a good thing...

To see the consequences of not using technology, see the list of Cricket Burble wrong decisions.