30 April 2009

Langer anger?

I can't imagine how angry Justin Langer, the Somerset captain, must be. According to the report, he was right to put Durham in but his bowlers and fielders let him down, 7 catches going down as Durham racked up a big score.

And then when they finally bat Somerset crumbed for 69 with Langer 35 not out batting at 3. I wouldn't like to know the mood in the Somerset changing room....

29 April 2009

England selection - bold but risky

So it's Bopara, Bresnan and Onions in, with no place for Bell, Shah or Vaughan. In many ways it's a bold move from the selectors trying to move forward and I'm not against Bopara playing as I think, ultimately, he'll be quality. I hope he has the temperament to bat at 3 in Tests, unlike Bell (so far). But it is a gamble and the selectors will get feedback - positive or negative - at the end of the summer based on results.

As you know, I would have picked Vaughan. Out last night for a curry with my Steyning team mates the general consensus was that Vaughan is the most feared by oppositions - often a near perfect guide to who should be selected. But Bopara offers the possibility of Pietersen-style talent to take the game away from the opposition, so if Vaughan was to miss out I'm glad it was to Bopara.

I'm pleased they went for Onions. He's unproven but worth the risk - he's far more consistent than Harmison. Where I disagree is Bresnan.....that's not to say he can't be a success but what exactly is his role? He's not as good a batsman as Broad leaving Broad to step up to 7, but I fear the England management see a player who averages less than 27 in first-class cricket batting at 7. Neither Broad or Bresnan should bat above 8 yet, but as one of them will have to, I think Broad shades it. The real question is about Bresnan's bowling? He's started the season well undoubtedly, but a first-class bowling average of 31+ indicates that he's not fit to lace Hoggard's boots (he averages less than 27 in first-class cricket and less than Bresnan's first-class average in Tests at 30.5).

I fear that Bresnan got picked because he can hold a bat, rather than consideration of the best 4 seam bowlers in England, irrespective of their batting abilities. And I have a sneaking suspicion who West Indies and Australia would least like to face of the two - it's not Bresnan! And 2 unproven bowlers is a greater risk than 1, on top of already playing Bopara at 3. The selectors are hitting the gamble button and I hope they get the plaudits if they're successful, but also the criticism if they aren't.

28 April 2009

Aussies get home

The third ODI between Pakistan and Australia was an interesting game. The Aussies did their usual trick of getting off to a good start only to completely freeze up at the sight of a tweaker. They ended up crawling to total of 7/198 which looked well below par. Pakistan then did exactly the same thing only in far more spectactular fashion. They seemed to be cruising reaching 0/95 in the 23rd over. They proceeded to implode as only Pakistan can do to be bowled out for 171 in the 48th. As a parochial Aussie I'm happy to be leading the series, though I have to say the standard of cricket has left alot to be desired.

Ian Salisbury - worst Test bowler ever!

The "It Figures" blog is something that people like me often find really interesting but I doubt that Ian Salisbury will enjoy reading this - he is statistically the worst ever specialist Test bowler it would seem. It seems to reflect England's obsession with leg-spin at the time, following Warne's success, and the career of Chris Schofield is another impacted by that obsession. Fortunately for Schofield, he didn't play enough Tests to qualify for this analysis.

Note the "worst team ever", minus a keeper, at the bottom of the post, is captained by Mike Brearley, who in a separate piece of It Figures analysis was deemed to be the best England captain after personal performance had been taken out. of the equation.

26 April 2009

England selections soon to be made

The 3 England squads are just about to be announced to it was good timing for Vaughan that he scored 80odd for Yorkshire today in their one-dayer. As this piece by Steve James suggests, it would still be a bit of a leap of faith for the selectors to pick him, but James would go for him I'm pleased to say. Of course, the injury to Flintoff allows the selectors to cover all bases and include Vaughan, Bell and Bopara in the squad if they want to, allowing them a little more time to assess their options.

The Twenty20 captain is also to be announced and it seems that it's going to be Collingwood. That sits comfortably with the set up at the moment - safe, workman-like, Collingwood is cut from the same cloth as Flower and Strauss. The more daring appointment would have been Mascarenas who has been a great success in the IPL, along with Bopara, but conservatism is the way to go in the aftermath of KP.

25 April 2009

Set up for Vaughan

The suggestion seems to be that Yorkshire can't win this, so it would be a nice game for Vaughan to score a hundred and win the game! Remember, he starts on 24 not out in his quest for an England place after a wrong decision in the 1st innings! And the state of the Warwickshire game means that Bell is unlikely to get another innings prior to the England squad announcement.

Incidentally, it doesn't sound great for Adil Rashid when the match report says "The legspinner, like most of the Yorkshire bowlers, was inaccurate at the start of his spell, and Andrew Gale at short leg must have felt in danger as one long hop followed another and he did receive one powerful hit on the body, but bravely picked himself up and carried on."

Fingers crossed for the weather tomorrow, both in Durham for the Yorkshire game, and in Steyning for my game!

24 April 2009

Cricket net etiquette

Indoor cricket nets are over for another year, for most teams atleast. Discussing nets etiquette with fellow Cricket Burbler Dave McCabe, I decided that there are certain things that a man needs to do to get noticed in competitive nets. By competitive I mean nets where one or two people are observing and your chances of selection rest on how you perform in those nets.

When Dave and I attended Cricketer Cup nets - you remember, the competition in which I went for 44 off 2 overs last year! - we were both keen for the captain and other selectors to see our skills so that we'd be selected. I did my bit by getting out to the part-time bowling of the skipper a few times, thus no doubt putting my selection in even greater doubt.

Dave on the other hand played well, in particular enducing an edge from one of the new potential star players who have joined the squad this year. But the problem with nets is that an edge or enducing an uppish shot off a slower ball gain no credit. Even an LBW rarely gains any creidt. No, in nets, the key to success as a bowler is to bowl people. Only that noise of the stumps falling over attracts any attention ensuring that the coach and manager register your success.

I've never really desired selection enough, but if my life depended on it any LBW shout in the nets would be shouted just as if I were outdoors. And any uppish shot would require a loud "ooh, catch"....and of course, an edge would be followed by me running down the wicket screaming "got him"!

Only by acting like an idiot do bowlers get any credit for their non-bowled dismissals during nets. I wonder if the skipper or manager noticed that Dave had the new opener caught behind?

23 April 2009

Vaughan v Bell - the update

Vaughan wasn't even out!!! You know how I feel about the role of luck....he could have been in line for a hundred or more and that poor umpiring could cost him years of playing for England. Interesting that the headline on the big screen at Victoria as I waited for my train said "Vaughan struggles for Yorkshire". In fact his 24 included 5 fours so I don't think he exactly stuggled and the report of his innings suggests he was fluent, plus the fact he wasn't actually out. Small details!

I have to say, I would personally consider Samit Patel for the number 3 Test birth. I'd pick Vaughan every time, but Patel has the advantage that he seems to bowl well in tandem with Swann and if we pick him we can have 4 seamers and two spinners or even play 7 batsmen (including Prior) and 3 seamers.

Bell v Vaughan

Bell 29.

Vaughan 24.

Inevitable heatwave

No-one likes as smart alec but sitting here with the sun streaming in I can't help but remember what I said on 25 March ! Hope it lasts until our first match on Sunday.

Who is fake IPL player?

Hadn't heard about this until I read this article about "Fake IPL player".

Take a look at the Fake IPL player blog.

22 April 2009

Nottinghamshire batting order

Interesting that Nottinghamshire bat Swann (County average of 26) ahead of Broad (Test average 29), and Ealham (County average of 31) behind both of them. I would suggest that Swann is the weakest batsman of the three?

It doesn't seem to matter much as they racked up over 500, with Chris Read who seems too weak a batsman to bat at 7 for England, scoring 125 from number 6, higher than all 3 of those mentioned above.

The recurring issues of WAGs

There's never a right answer to how to deal with wives and girlfriends when so much of an international (or even domestic) cricketer's life is spent away from home. But it's interesting to see that the Aussies are taking the issue seriously.

I realise that there are those that suggest that "back in the old days" this wasn't an issue, but that was back in the days when excellence in sport wasn't approached so scientifically. These days, anything that could give even 0.01% greater chance of winning needs to be investigated and optimised.

My particular view on this is that the old "no WAGs" on tour rule is rediculous - there can be no other career other than team sport where employees are owned 24 hours a day to such an extent that they can be denied the right to see their loved ones out of work hours. So the more flexible they can make things to ensure each player is at his best, the better.

This comes just days after Matthew Hoggard admitted that relationship issues were partly to blame for his (relatively) poor performance in the first Test in New Zealand before he was dropped. With his wife suffering from depression and post-natal depression, and a small son at home, Hoggard told Vaughan during that Test "Vaughany, I think I'm going cuckoo, I'm doing a Tres". Given the background it's not surprising that Hoggard struggled in that match, but it's perhaps even more surprising that the England selectors cast him adrift so mercilessly. Not only a case of poor selection, but poor empathy for a man who deserved far more from his employers.

Incidentally, don't we still have a requirement for a quality swing bowler this summer as 4th seamer alongside Flintoff, Anderson and Broad? We know the Aussies can't play swing bowling. If Sidebottom isn't fit or bowling well, I know who I'd pick....and even if he is, Hoggard should still be well in contention - why he was discarded altogether is almost impossible to fathom.

21 April 2009

Hunger strike in "no IPL" Indian jail

It seems that those in Indian jails expect to be able to watch their national sport on TV, even when in jail! I tend to sympathise with them, as this article seems to suggest that the strikers haven't even been found guilty yet!

Imran Khan - the best captain ever?

I've no reason to doubt that Imran Khan was the best captain ever, given that he managed to coordinate a notoriously all over the place but talented team into winning the World Cup. And that is the finding of this attempt to look at the measurable aspects of captaincy.

According to this the best England captains are Ray Illingworth, Michael Vaughan and Mike Brearley, in that order. Any thoughts?

WG's bat up for auction

If you have a spare £30k then you could get your hands on WG Grace's bat with which he scored his 1,000th run in Test cricket in 1896. Apparently, early in the innings in question - where he scored 60 - a ball from fast bowler Ernest Jones went through Grace's beard and unsighted the keeper, resulting in 4 byes (according to The Times yesterday).

20 April 2009

The case against Ian Bell

Once again, we're back debating Ian Bell's spot in the England team. And that sums up one of my (and many others') enormous frustrations - he can never quite cement his place in the side, despite the fact that his batting can ooze class. His 199 last summer against South Africa was hailed as a break through for him, after so many other false dawns, but he went on to score 133 runs in his other six innings in that series.

I've tried desperately not to blame Bell for the fact that he was picked ahead of Graham Thorpe for the 2005 Ashes - I watched him score his 70 on debut against the West Indies and, quality innings though it was, there was the definite whiff of easy runs to be had. He then went on to score a huge amount of runs in two Tests against Bangladesh and on that basis was selected for The Ashes ahead of Thorpe, seemingly on the basis that he was young and could hit second rate bowling about a bit. Warne in particular soon showed that it was too early for him, leaving him with an average of 17. You can see Bell's series averages here.

England's management have a problem with number 3 and it would seem like Bell should be the answer. That is, until you look at his results there. He averages 31 in the critical number 3 position and that means, for me, that he shouldn't be considered there again for the forseeable future. It's not like he's been bereft of chances - England need to consider him as a number 5 and select him if he is good enough to see off the others competing for that position.

Bell supporters will no doubt point to Bell's start to the season - 172 on a batting paradise at Taunton, but as Vic Marks pointed out in The Oberver, that score started to look less valuable as James Hildreth racked up a triple century. Next Bell scored another hundred against the same opposition, but this time at Edgbaston. But even in success, more questions were asked - once again Bell's big innings hadn't helped win the match - in fact Somerset won easily by 8 wickets. It's of course not Bell's fault that his colleagues didn't bat better around him, but the suspicion remains that he doesn't win games for his team, or dig in when the going gets tough.

So what to make of Bell's prospects in the future? I think he's England's Damien Martyn - he'll come back to play for England for years and ultimately be successful. But right now he needs to play a season of County Cricket and average 70 or 80 over a season, making scores when his team really need him to and helping them to win matches. I fear that the England management still see him as a number 3, but on the assumption that they decide he's better placed in the middle order, his best bet is to wait until Collingwood gets injured or retires - he's only 32, but his gritty style is such that as soon as his batting goes, it will really go quickly. And that's if he gets through injury-free - he's likely to play for England in all 3 forms of cricket so his body could buckle.

In The Wisden Cricketer, they talk about the Bell predicament using Collingwood as a parallel who digs in when required. But I think Collingwood is too good to be compared with Bell at the moment - he averages more than 3 runs an innings more than Bell and has scored four hundreds in his last 8 Tests, not to mention an additional 96. Come to think of it, should I be concerned that Thorpe scored four hundreds during calendar year 2004, before being dropped? Please England management - don't repeat the wrongs of 2005 again this year. Leave the England 1,2, 4 and 5 as they are, and consider Shah, Key, Bopara and Vaughan (who averages 40 there) for the number 3 slot. You can even consider Bell, as long...as you don't pick him!

14 April 2009

Aussies Spin Woes Continue

Australia lost the fourth one day international against South Africa overnight. Chasing 317 for victory Australia were going well with Haddin looking the goods, but when he was dismissed at around the 20 over mark Australia fell in a hole against the spinners. This has been a problem throughout both the home and away series against the South Africans. The batsmen just seem unable to get the spin bowlers away in the middle overs.

11 April 2009

I was watching highlights of the third test between New Zealand and India recently and saw a remarkable dissmissal. Rahul Dravid had been playing a few paddle sweeps from Dan Vettori. Brendon McCullum saw him shaping to play another one, and with the ball still only half way down the pitch on its journey to the batsman he took off as quickly as he could down the leg side so that by the time Dravid made contact, McCullum was effectively at a close leg slip position. Dravid paddled the ball straight into his midriff and McCullum held onto the catch. This was obviously a planned move as Ross Taylor, who was at first slip also moved accross and was basically covering McCullum in the event that Dravid missed the ball. It was an awesome piece of cricket.

I briefly wondered wether it was legal, or in the spirit of the game, but provided he doesn't move before the ball is bowled I don't have a problem with it.

8 April 2009

Best film about Afghan cricket ever?

Afghanistan are currently playing in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers against teams like Denmark, Bermuda and Holland. Today they were beaten by U.A.E., which means they still qualify for the Super Eights round but are very unlikely to play in the 2011 World Cup. Considering that Afghanistan has practically no organised cricket, no proper pitches and just one bowling machine it is incredible that they have gotten this far, rising through Divisions 5,4 and 3 in the World Cricket League (beating Hong Kong along the way).

It's a heart-warming tale that has inspired a couple of excellent articles on Cricinfo, one with an interview of an Afghan player and another about a group of film-makers who have followed the team over the past 15 months. A trailer for the film, called Out of the Ashes (due out by the end of the year) is below.

Could this be the best cricket movie ever? Aside from Lagaan, I don't think there's much competition. Can Burblers out there recommend any other cricketing blockbusters?

6 April 2009

The search for perfection

Summer arrived this morning - my Amazon-supplied copy of Wisden. Might be difficult to get a lot of work done today.
Nice to see their search for complete accuracy is unabated. This year's edition contains an erratum for the 1976 edition and corrects two errata from last years edition - it seems that 'the corrections for 1975 and 2002 should have been for 1976 and 2001 respectively'.
Now setting aside remarks about anoraks and how many quiz marks were lost as a consequence I wonder whether, if people as careful as this had been bankers, we'd be in the current pickle.

Franklin at least 2 positions too high for NZ

We've burbled about New Zealand's batting order many times because to outside observers it seems so absurd that Vettori should bat at 8. And I'm afraid it's even more absurd that James Franklin should bat at 6. Why is it everyone other than the New Zealand coach and skipper who can see that, if they want Taylor and Ryder to bat 4 and 5, then the following players should be McCullum, Vettori and then Franklin, in that order?

James Franklin has some talent with the bat, no doubt - he has a test hundred to his name and Andy Moles clearly has high hopes of turning him into an all-rounder. But a Test average of 20 and a first-class average of 31.5 mean that shoving him at number six in international cricket is asking for trouble. Franklin is not out overnight against India with NZ needing to bat out the last day, and even if he scores a match-saving hundred, he still shouldn't bat above 8 I'm afraid.

Modi on hit list

It seems that Lalit Modi's life goes on generating headlines. This time his name was found on a list found when Indian police arrested a notorious hitman. What can you say? As a convicted criminal (he pleaded guilty to assault and kidnapping back in the 80s it says at the end of this article), he's not exactly squeeky clean himself, so it should probably come as no surprise that there are people in India who would like him dead.

It'll be interesting to see how the IPL goes out in South Africa. I suspect Modi will have thought about how he can get half empty stadiums to look full. Perhaps he will use "Airheads" - the company who create inflatable dolls for crowd scenes in films and recently doubled the number of spectators at a UK rugby match!

3 April 2009

Gutted for KP and Bopara

He's said some stupid things lately, but the one thing you can say for Kevin Pietersen is that he doesn't shy away from challenge. When we need him, he scores runs as a general rule - the polar opposite of Ian Bell.

So I'm gutted that from what I can tell (following it online rather than watching it) Pietersen wasn't out and the catch was grounded. A KP hundred would have been the way to answer his critics, and I nearly posted that would happen....but I didn't want to jinx him!

Bopara had the chance to dominate and really play a match-winning innings having got himself in. But once again, he's got himself out after a start. It's so frustrating as a big supporter of his, but I hope England stick with him somewhere in the top 6. He's not an ideal opener but he's an ideal partner to Strauss ahead of Mr Bell, who I've realised that I've just criticised twice in one post! Nothing against him....I just think that Bopara is equally as talented and will prove, ultimately, to go on to bigger scores.

I just hope that Bopara can prove me right in the coming months and years. And that KP can get some loving from his Mrs and then dominate the English summer....

2 April 2009

Miandad advises china

If China have had to pay for Javed Miandad as a cricket advisor then it's a waste of money....it's not as if Pakistan cricket, which he's been heavily involved with has exactly strode forward since he's been involved in a non-playing capacity.

If, on the other hand, he's doing it as a goodwill gesture to try to grow the game around the globe, then good on him.