30 August 2009

Mocking cricket

From watching Mock the Week this week, it appears that not everyone shares Cricket Burble's love of the game of cricket! You can watch the host, Dara O'Briain and members of each team mocking cricket while this episode is on iPlayer.

28 August 2009

Martin Saggers - wicket keeper

I got a very strange text today from Steyning CC's wicket keeper: "Martin Saggers is currently using my keeping kit!"

I'm yet to find out the details....that has to rank with bizarre occurence number 1 - Dilshan opening the bowling for Sri Lanka in a Test match....

Alternative opening bowlers

Any thoughts on why Dilshan opened the bowling for Sri Lanka? Seems crazy!

Probably for the same reason that I've opened the bowling a couple of times this season....

27 August 2009

Why was Ponting run out?

I wasn't watching live but I've not been able to work out how it was possible for Ponting not to make the 22 yards he needed at The Oval on Sunday. I've subsequently watched replays and couldn't help but think that Ponting must have been hopping rather than running to have ended up short of his ground given the time it took for Flintoff to get round and throw the stumps down.

But then I saw a photo of the dismissal from an angle that I hadn't seen before in Tuesday's Times. If showed Hussey at the other end looking back and watching from past the stumps as Ponting was stretching unsuccessfully to make his ground. Which makes a mockery of the criticism that Hussey's received in some articles I've read - it was an excellent run. For some reason the Australian skipper didn't respond properly and for that he's to blame....not Hussey.

25 August 2009

The Australian selectors

Interesting to hear Jason Gillespie calling for a full time selector - it's not the first time that argument has been made in Australia. Of course everyone is blamed when a team loses, but Australia's selections played a crucial role in losing the Ashes. Even if you don't count the omission of Stuart Clark as a mistake despite watching Johnson and Siddle going for loads per over in the first 3 Tests, the error of not bringing a back up opener (despite Watson coming in and doing better than could possibly have been expected) and omitting Nathan Hauritz were huge mistakes.

These days, multiple big mistakes in sport normally means being sacked if you're a manager or selector, so if Jamie Cox - who I believe was the selector on duty for the last Test - manages to survive then he's done well. There's no way Ponting's position should be under scrutiny before the selectors themselves, and James Sutherland seems to think neither should be. We'll see....

23 August 2009

Ashes MVP

Those familiar with American sport will be familiar with the concept of MVPs - Most Valuable Players. So here's my take on the order of value to their team of players in the Ashes - purely subjective - and takes into account how many games they played to some extent - i.e. just because you played 1 or 2 games you don't necessarily end up bottom of the list!

MVP: Andrew Strauss

2. Michael Clarke
3. Stuart Broad
4. Marcus North
5. Jonathan Trott
6. Ricky Ponting
7. Brad Haddin
8. Ben Hilfenhaus
9. Graham Onions
10. Matt Prior
11. Graeme Swann
12. Shane Watson
13. Peter Siddle
14. Nathan Hauritz
15. Andrew Flintoff
16. Simon Katich
17. Mitchell Johnson
18. James Anderson
19. Steve Harmison
20. Stuart Clark
21. Mike Hussey
22. Paul Collingwood
23. Ian Bell
24. Alastair Cook
25. Monty Panesar
26. Graham Manou
27. Philip Hughes
28. Ravi Bopara

Let me know who I've missed, or (no doubt) where you disagree!

England must win, but....

...I would have given Harmison the chance to have a go rather than declare. As things stand now, much like in the Lord's match, England may not be able to think about all out attack if Australia get a big partnership together or two. As soon as you see an off-side sweeper, it's proof that the declaration was wrong as it's not a wicket-taking position.

So by declaring we've made it harder for ourselves to take 10 wickets, but it really should still be a foregone conclusion.

21 August 2009

And opening the bowling for England....

From the little bit I listened to yesterday, and the reports I've read, I'd be considering opening with Swann or at the very least getting him on rapidly after a few hostile overs....

20 August 2009

Shades of Bill Lawry ?

Did any body else notice the Aussie commentator referring to Katich fielding 'under the nose' all day ?

Where's Haury

The day before the oval test I voted on a cricinfo poll: Who should Australia select as the fourth bowler? Brett Lee, Stuart Clark or Nathan Hauritz. I put my vote in for Hauritz. I'm not sure how the results of the poll finished but at the time I voted I was very surprised to see Brett Lee had about 56% of the vote and Hauritz just 15%.

In the Australian press over the last week there has been so much talk about how Australia had blundered by not playing Clark in the first three tests. I disagree. I think he was a good selection for Headingley on a horses for courses basis. When conditions assist him he is still a very good bowler, he just puts in the right spot and lets the wicket do the rest. On more placid pitches though, his lack of pace and predictability count against him.

Everything I read about the Oval wicket in the lead up to the test commented on how dry the surface looked, it amazes me therefore that Australia did not pick a spinner. Given how many balls have gone through the surface on day one, and seeing even Marcus North get some assistance so early in the match, I think its pretty obvious Australia have blundered by not playing Hauritz.

18 August 2009

Colly in top 3 middle order batsmen since 2000

Interesting article giving the statistical analysis behind England's middle order since 2000. Collingwood seems to come in at number 3 in that time, being mentioned behind Graham Thorpe and KP (of those who've played a significant number of games). I offer this as evidence that we shouldn't lose faith in him, however he does at The Oval!

17 August 2009

Warne's 6 point plan

I can't endorse all Warne's views but he has earnt the right to give his views on the world game with his on-pitch exploits. His 6 point plan is:

1. Fast-track umpires and raise their wages
2. End one-day internationals
3. Introduce a World Test championships
4. Ban switch-hitting
5. No rolling or sweeping the pitch once the game has started
6. Create a window for the IPL

I definitely can't agree with 4 but all the rest need consideration. I'd approach 1 completely differently as you know, using as much technology as possible, but with the same intention - to get more correct decisions. Warne is very scathing about modern umpiring.

As for the rest, all to be considered and I think the most controversial - to end one-day internationals - could easily come to pass. Watch this space....

14 August 2009

Tresco no go

Personally I wouldn't have picked him either way, but I think we can safely rule out Marcus Trescothick from England's 5th Test team now.

11 August 2009

Useless Tossers

My Dad cut out an article by The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford in the FT. When economics is mentioned in the same sentence as cricket, it usually suggests that the topic is the money sloshing around the IPL or sloshed out of Allen Stanford. But this time Harford looks at the toss and how its unfairness can be evened out by auctioning.

The toss is unfair. Calling correctly when the pitch is a greentop with clammy, cloudy conditions are overhead can effectively determine the match result in your favour - likewise in 37 degree heat and a flawless strip. By winning the toss, through sheer luck, a captain can give his team a considerable advantage. I think that the less luck involved in sport the better - ultimately the victorious team should be the better team, not the luckier (which, incidentally, is why I support giving umpires all the technology they need to make the right decision).

So how can we remove this element of chance? One way could be to 'take turns to enjoy the advantage' - Strauss won the toss at Cardiff, so Ponting chooses what he wants to do at Lord's, then Strauss at Edgbaston, etc. This way we would have a fair idea of who would be batting first in each match of the series, going on what teams have traditionally chosen to do at those grounds in the past. But this removes the fun, unpredictable aspect of the toss for the remaining games.

A way to maintain the unpredictability of the toss outcome and remove the luck was suggested in a letter to the Financial Times from Warren Edwardes in 1999. His idea was to replace the toss with an auction - the advantage (of choosing what to do) should go to the team that is willing to concede the most compensation to the other team. In other words, what is the maximum number of runs you would give to the opposition in order to have the privilege of choosing what to do first? Whoever offers the most, wins 'the toss' - the loser receives the compensation. An auction would reflect the value of the toss on match day, whereas the alternating-toss idea abive does not.

Such an auction would significantly increase the workload of a captain, although the coach, team and backroom staff could all help him decide on the upper limit - the decision can be collectively be made on the morning of a game. Judging a pitch is part of a cricket captain's repertoire and an auction would really allow his pitch evaluation skills to shine/bomb. The entertainment value of watching two captains outbid each other would be significant too, and would certainly spice up the mid-pitch interview with Athers/Sirian/Misc. Pundit at the beginning of every match.

The cons? A toss is quick and simple while an auction is not. Tosses are traditional. Perhaps too much time would be spent on deciding what to bid rather than practising technique. Maybe an auction would promote 'the toss' to a level of scrutiny that it doesn't deserve, exactly what the opposite of what it was meant to achieve. It may take some time before bids settle down and captains become aware of how much batting/bowling first is truly worth, meaning early games may be ruined thanks to bad bids from captains inexperienced with the system. Maybe people want a bit of luck in their cricket games anyway. An MCC sub-committee considered the auction proposal last year and 'found no enthusiasm' - just not cricket apparently.

9 August 2009

What can you say?

Well if selection issues were tricky before the 4th Test, they're even worse for the 5th Test. Australia just have to work out who to drop for Hauritz, or whether to go in without a spinner again - fairly simple.

England are in disarray. Broad, who up until this point looked the least penetrating of the bowlers has taken 6 wickets and his type of "bang it in" bowling could be important at the Oval. We can assume Flintoff will be back I hope so Harmison is presumably the man who will go, given a typically variable performance at Headingley.

But the batting is a nightmare. One wicket brings 3 because Cook, Bopara and Bell are all struggling. And Collingwood and Prior are struggling too - but compared to the rest they seem like they're being successful! It's difficult to see how Trott won't play and we need a number 3. Everyone in England will of course have an opinion....and there is no right answer. But for what it's worth I think I'd keep Cook, drop Bopara and Bell, and play Key and Trott.

What would your selection be?

5 August 2009

A tale of two bowling attacks

While everyone but the Aussie selectors seems to think Stuart Clark should have played all along, there are still no hints that Australia's top wicket taker in the last Ashes will play at Headingley. Jason Gillespie reckons he should play, and I've added a comment agreeing with him. While it's great that Australia aren't playing their best team because England have a better chance of winning The Ashes, it's also frustrating because I'm not doing well in Ashes fantasy cricket because I keep picking Clark, refusing to believe the Aussie selectors could not pick him again, and he keeps scoring 0!

But there seems to be plenty of people who reckon Lee will play - I'd find it surprising given his track record if he was played as soon as he was fit. It's not like he's *that* good - if it was Warne or McGrath maybe, but Lee is a long way off that. If I were the Aussies, I'd play Johnson, Hauritz, Clark and Hilfenhaus, dropping Siddle. And I wouldn't make Watson bowl unless he's fully fit - watching the guy trundle into the crease and bowl so badly was painful, even as an English supporter.

So that brings us to England's bowling attack. Sidebottom has been solid all season for Notts and I did think when England brought in Harmison for the last Test squad that Sidebottom must be considering himself unlucky. Many think England's bowling attack will differ based on Flintoff's fitness - if he is they can go with the same but with Sidebottom coming in for Broad and Swann batting one place higher; if he isn't then they could play Harmison to open the bowling with Anderson, and still drop Broad while playing an extra batsman. But to be honest, I think that's a risk given Harmison's up and down form on the big stage and I'd personally go with Sidebo as it's a 4 man attack - given Harmison's County figures this season most would disagree with me on that. I wonder if the reason Bopara bowled a few overs in the last Test was to assess his bowling in case they needed to go in with 4 specialist bowlers...?

If Flintoff isn't fit and England do go with 4 bowlers, the question is then where to bat Trott. I suspect he'll go in at 6 above Prior if he plays, but if I was naming the batting order I'd move Collingwood to 4 and Bell to 7, leaving Prior and Trott to bat 5 and 6. I don't think it matters greatly which way round they bat, but I'd marginally give 5 to Trott based on the fact that it'll be a vote of confidence batting him higher, and because - despite his high strike rate - Prior averages 36 in this series and that's not worthy of top 6, let alone top 5.

In fact, when you look at the runs and wickets in the series so far, they make scary reading for England. Australia have 5 of the top 6 run scorers and 4 of the top 5 wicket takers. Maybe we shouldn't be counting our chickens in England just yet....

BCCI financing other sports in India

I hadn't realised that the BCCI were financing other sports in India until I read this piece about how they are supporting Indian football.

Apparently they have committed to $11m for investment into other sports - incredible they have so much cash to give away!

Is there a middle ground?

There's been lots of discussion in the last couple of days about English Test crowds - they were loud at Edgbaston and are expected to be even louder at Headingley. Giles Clarke has told the fans at Headingley not to boo the Australian captain, and yesterday he was encouraged to do that in articles in The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail.

And yet, Lord's has often been deemed too flat by players, with the recent increase in volume welcomed by many. There has to be a middle ground between the cricket fan of old and the newer lager swilling Twenty20 fan, doesn't there? There has of course been raucous elements and any cricket fan knows that if they want a peaceful day at the cricket they should try to avoid the Hollies stand at Edgbaston or the Western Terrace at Headingley - whether it should be that way is open to question but that's unlikely to change any time soon.

As The Guardian have reported, the ECB have openly agreed they have an issue to deal with when widening the games appeal while remaining true to traditional cricket supporters and (while of course I'd relish the challenge!), I don't envy them. How do you tackle it?

For me, I'd try and put in place come kind of "respect" campaign for the players on the pitch, but much more importantly on the supporters around you. It's really simple - if your behaviour is detracting from someone else at the ground's enjoyment, you've gone too far. By buying a ticket you must have bought into that and it needs to be firmly policed/stewarded for years rather than one season.

I hope there is a middle ground to be found that doesn't allienate traditional cricket followers in the chase for increased revenue....

4 August 2009

Very short Cricinfo site review

This very short piece appears in the current issue of Marketing. I can't believe they omitted the mention of Cricket Burble despite the fact that I made sure it was in there!!

3 August 2009

Caddick's batting

You've probably noticed the news that Andy Caddick is retiring at the end of the season. He ended up with a Test bowling average under 30 and that's not to be sniffed at so he can look back on a top bowling career. But I happened to also notice his Test batting average of 10 too - my memory was that be batted at 8 or 9 which his stats support.

It's amazing how much more the bowlers are now expected to contribute with the bat - Anderson who bats 10 for England averages 15. (Onions hasn't played enough to have a realistic average to date, but for what it's worth, it's 17.)

Real time stats/charts

For the statos amongst us, here's Hawkeye analysis available live. Check out each wagonwheel, beehive etc etc to your heart's content....

1 August 2009

More wrong decisions

As Jez referred to in an earlier comment, it's getting a bit silly now from what I hear and read. It sounds like Clarke definitely wasn't out LBW, but possibly had been earlier in his innings and not given. Johnson wasn't out either but got given and then, just to prove to those that say these things even out what rubbish that is, Johnson couldn't have had a plummer LBW turned down in his life than the one against Bell.

It's not as bad as tossing a coin for each decision but technology certainly can't come in quick enough (with appropriate sensible laws in place on how it's used - sorry had to get that bit in there!).