29 January 2010

Neil McKenzie joins Hampshire

My take is that Neil McKenzie is a brilliant signing - possibly the best of Hampshire's signings that include Kabir Ali, Simon Jones, Shahid Afridi and Ajantha Mendis. McKenzie will play the whole season (assuming South Africa don't have a change of heart) and - while it's difficult to know from the outside - my perception is that he's a really hard grafter and Hampshire need that grit to go alongside their big name stars - especially in the 4-day game. Not that McKenzie is exactly a little name - he just won't attract quite the attention of some of the others.

I reserve the right to retract the above if he averages 10 half way through the season!! It will be very interesting to see how Dimi Mascarenhas does trying to handle his team of highly paid stars....I was quite keen on giving him the England Twenty20 captaincy when Paul Collingwood originally resigned in 2008 but this will be a real test for him....

Afridi Pakistan's only hope

Pakistan desperately need something special from Afridi and he's certainly started well - 4,4,2,6,6. 22 off 5 balls - not bad. I hope for the spectators sake he can keep going!

26 January 2010

Dravid is human...

Rahul Dravid was brought down to earth yesterday having drawn level with Don Bradman on 29 centuries, as the second new ball proved troublesome. A ball from Shahadat Hossain broke his cheekbone or jaw (depending on which report you read!)and Dravid is now in doubt for the February South Africa series. That's huge, as India will be wanting to prove that they are the number 1 Test side in the world.

And of course in the same game, Tendulkar reached 90 international hundreds - an even 45 in Tests and 45 in ODIs. Now that's pretty special and there's no doubt that India's first choice top 7 is one of the best ever, if not the best ever.

23 January 2010

Broad, Swann and Anderson - a quality tail

I recently wrote about how England should be able to feel comfortable with their batting line up given that they're playing 7 batsmen and 2 allrounders. Of course they were soon bowled out twice for less than 200!

But Cricinfo's numbers game has presented the stats the demonstrate just how strong England's tail has become, especially compared to their recent history. On top of 9 batsmen or allrounders, Anderson has averaged nearly 17 since the start of 2008, and Onions averages 32 balls for each of his dismissals. (When Sidebottom came in for the 4th Test v South Africa, I somehow didn't feel comfortable with Anderson losing his number 10 spot and now there's some statistical justification for that - that average of nearly 17 in the last 2 years is superior to Sidebottom's career batting average).

22 January 2010

John Howard to be put forward for ICC top job?

Although his cricketing skill has been widely ridiculed (not that it matters for the role), it seems that John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, is going to be put forward by Cricket Australia for the role of Deputy Chairman of the ICC. That possible course of action doesn't seem to be getting a ringing endorsement in the media, so it will be interesting to see if Mr Howard really does get put forward.

20 January 2010

IPL auction - Shakib misses out again

I think I've put the mockers on Shakib Al-Hassan. Last year I thought he'd be snapped up for the IPL and he wasn't. This year it was surely a certainty after he's performed brilliantly in a largely losing Bangladesh side all year and was picked in the World Test XI and chosen as TWC's Test Player of the Year. Today, he emphasised the fact that he's a true allrounder by running out Rahul Dravid. But again he was ignored by the IPL franchises!

I am at a complete loss, and he's not the only one. Shahid Afridi - who would surely make any World XI in Twenty20 didn't attract a bid. It appears the IPL franchise owners have money, and in Shilpa's case beauty (I know, unnecessary image of her!), but not cricketing brain...

A "Daryl Harper moment"

It really is getting bad for Mr Harper when a wrong decision in last night's Manchester City v Manchester United football match was described as a "Daryl Harper moment" by commentator Mark Lawrenson. He used the term to describe an incident when goalkeeper Shay Given was said to have carried the ball over his goal line and therefore given away a corner, but replays showed that it was only his legs that were over the line, not the whole ball.

The farce of the UDRS rollout continues....and Daryl Harper's infamy continues....

19 January 2010

Keeping wicket and goal similar?

I'd not really thought about the similarities in shot stopping when goalkeeping in football and wicketkeeping, but now that I do, after the Charlton goalkeeper Rob Elliott announced his desire to train Geraint Jones, there are some similarities. As an inspirational session, or few sessions, to relieve the boredom of monotonous training I can see some potential merits - I'm not sure Elliott can expect a long-term role with Kent though.

Watch the IPL on YouTube

This article is a little out in terms of cricketing facts, suggesting that Swann and Trott will be playing in the 2010 IPL, but it also says that YouTube will show the IPL games.

Some of the England players didn't have a hope - Anthony McGrath for example!! - but interesting that only Eion Morgan made the grade.

If I have time I'll be watching YouTube....

15 January 2010

More of the same...

I'll keep it brief as I'm sure you know what I'm going to say:

1. I don't understand why you'd risk a poor reaction to a change in the way a game is run by not utilising all the technology available.

2. I don't know how the ICC can get it quite so badly wrong when rolling out the use of even a limited amount of technology - attempting to do it without testing their approach comprehensively at a lower level.

3. I don't know how the people responsible for the balls ups aren't resigning immediately in embarrassment. Far from it - they don't even recognise there's a problem!

Strauss is best off losing the toss?

A witty article all about how Strauss is good at winning the toss, but when he does his results are actually worse. Perhaps poor old Kirsty Perrin, who I posted about in December as she had lost 30 tosses in a row, didn't need to worry after all!

I still really like the idea of having some kind of auction at the toss as John Wright Burbled last year - doubt it will ever catch on but it seems like the best solution to taking out the luck of the coin toss.

Ranji trophy - stunning game, stunning catch

All of India have been glued to the exciting Ranji trophy final between Karnataka and Mumbai which Mumbai managed to win by 6 runs. I can't help feeling sorry for Manish Pandey who not only scored 144 in Karnataka's 2nd innings, but also took this truly stunning catch. The catch isn't the only remarkable bit - check out the volume of sun cream he's managed to put on his face!

Sidebottom for Onions seems strange

Graeme Onions hasn't bowled that well on this tour as his average of 45 demonsrates, but it was still a massive surprise that Ryan Sidebottom was preferred for the vital 4th Test in South Africa.

At the start of the series I would have played 6 batsmen rather than 7, leaving Bell out, and played Sidebottom and Onions, but that time has passed and Ian Bell has had a good series. Onions hasn't blown the South Africans away but it must have been a very marginal 50/50 call between Sidebottom and Onions. So for me, team unity and consistency of selection should have won the day, just as it does with batsmen.

That still applies even if Sidebottom takes loads....England certainly need him to!!

14 January 2010

Taxing the BCCI

The interesting thing about this article that says the BCCI will now pay tax, is the fact they thought they could get away with "charitable" status!!

The future of cricket?

Daniel Vettori shows how it's done. Play match in NZ, fly in to Sydney....help win game for your team...fly back no NZ, play another game.


12 January 2010

Few thoughts on the Newlands Test

1) How is Daryl Harper still employed as an international umpire?

2) Noted in a previous post, AB De Villiers is no saint when it comes to cheating.

3) Graeme Smith declared too late. Surprisingly, not a lot has been said of the timing of his declaration, which I find odd, as England were never going to chase anything above 350 runs and with an extra 20 or so overs, Smith would have had a third new ball at his bowlers' disposal.

4) Of the fifth bowler options available for England at Cape Town, why is Trott being chosen ahead of Pietersen, who I feel should bowl more, and Bell,who isn't a bad medium pacer but seems to be forgotten amongst the part-time bowler options?

England's Ashes hopes...

A long way to go I know, but interesting to see what the Aussie view on England is at the moment...

10 January 2010

Test stats over last decade

If your a bit of cricketing stato like myself, you'll like this top-level analysis of the Tests stats in the "noughties" compared to the previous decade.

England middle order - well played Ian Bell

Having predicted that it would be Anderson, Trott and Collingwood that would have to save the game, Ian Bell's innings was a revelation. Good on him - hopefully he can become England's version of Damien Martyn as I've Burbled before and come back all the better for a break (all be it a much shorter break). It was great to escape with a draw but as always there's room for improvement and Flower has already called for Bell to go on from here.

What I think England need to look at is how they lose wickets in clumps - with 7 batsmen and 2 all rounders they shouldn't be collapsing in the way that they did whatever the match situation, and it's certainly not the first time. It all seemed so easy until Collingwood's wicket, and what was interesting listening to TMS was the almost reverential praise from Duncan Fletcher to Collingwood. Praphrasing he said he's always positive, a great member of the dressing room, doggedly determined, very thoughtful and tactically aware, and would make a great coach. Michael Vaughan is a mate of his but made similar comments about how crucial he was to England's middle order, and Andy Flower has also praised him. In fact what Bell no doubt won't be happy about is the fact that all the TMS commentators thought it was vital Collingwood stayed with Bell to "talk him through" despite the fact Bell has played 50+ Tests.

Interesting. It's pretty clear that Collingwood has total respect in and around the England changing room and yet he's seen as an also-ran by most of the watching public. As a Collingwood fan, I'm very pleased that his place appears a lot more secure than I thought.

7 January 2010

De Villiers hardly integrity personified

Whether there was any intent to change the condition of the ball from James Anderson or Stuart Broad seems to be open to question, but AB de Villiers is keen to suggest they've done wrong.

Whether they did or they didn't, I'd just like to remind Cricket Burble readers that this is the AB de Villiers who claimed a slip catch during South Africa's last trip to these shores which bounced a long way in front of him...it wasn't a half-volley, it bounced miles in front of him. He knew that and still claimed it so he is hardly integrity personified.

England's possible heros

No, I'm not suggesting they can win it after the last hour yesterday (although before that I was thinking that if they could get through the 2nd new ball only 4 wickets down or less, they had a decent chance).

No, now it's about dour defence. So I'm going for 3 key players, and sadly we'll know in the morning session how they're doing as they are the current pair, plus Collingwood. Yes, if Anderson can play out an hour or more of the morning session, I think it could have a big psychological impact on the game, and Trott and Collingwood are the key batsmen given the match situation.

An an Englishman, I have my fingers crossed but I can't say I'm hopeful!

England's last decade

Andrew Miller's article on Cricinfo looking back at English cricket's last decade makes an interesting read.

Some very valid points - Vaughan managed to make an average team into a good and at time very good team by managing to win the really close games. But for all their press coverage leading to iconic status, England's "greats" (Pietersen and Flintoff) aren't really up there with the best in the world statistically - compare Pietersen who now averages less than 50 with Ponting, Sangakkara or Tendulkar for example.

There's two big criticisms of the ECB - 1. Not utilising their first mover advantage on Twenty20 and 2. Not dealing with the County cricket issue. They're both valid criticisms but the problems of County cricket simply will not go away until there are less professional cricketers in the UK and it's going to take a brave Chairman to tackle that thorny issue. A look at the way Wales handled their reduction in top rugby clubs - which was vociferously opposed by many but ultimately very successful - would perhaps give good context to learn from.

It will be interesting to see where England get to over the coming decade. More mid-table mediocrity and the same failing County Cricket structure would be my guess....

6 January 2010

Ponting gets out of jail

Quite amazingly, Australia came back from over 200 down in the 1st innings to beat Pakistan at the SCG - an incredible come back in anyone's book. The Aussie side can relax knowing they've got themselves out of jail, but some of Ponting's comments seem a little bizarre! In an article on Cricinfo titled "Ponting's toss decision vindicated" there are a couple of paragraphs that make strange reading:

Ponting was heavily criticised from the first day for his decision to bat on a juicy surface that set up Australia's fall for 127. By the end his logic was satisfyingly sound. "I backed us at the start of the game to make more runs in the first innings than what I thought Pakistan could make in the last innings," he said. "As it turns out we got 120-odd and bowled them out for 139 in the last innings of the game."

At one stage during his post-mortem a relaxed Ponting teasingly asked all those in the press conference who had doubted his decision to raise their hands. All the Australian journalists' arms went up. "I feel better now," he said. He smiled, knowing that when it comes to Australia's Test team he knows best. "It comes down to results and we've got a great result here," he said. "So I look like a genius where I didn't a couple of days ago."

Que? His logic is anything but sound and he certainly doesn't look like a genius! You don't bat first because you think you might just score more than the opposition will get in the last innings! He's trying to retrofit an idiotic decision to demonstrate some kind of thought process. It's a bit like Haroon Lorgat the other day - just admit you got it wrong and move on. The other thought that occurs to me is that this really was a battle of two terrible captains - Ponting versus Yousuf whose captaincy was apparently "bizarre" - i.e. very defensive when Pakistan needed 2 wickets to wrap up the Australian 2nd innings.

On another note, well batted Mr Cricket.

4 January 2010

This is Bell's chance

This is it! Ian Bell's chance to build on his start at making runs under real pressure when he did well in the 1st innings of the Oval Test against Australia. If he can help pull England out of the brown stuff here then he'll be able to keep his doubters quiet for a while....

Cricket Burble dismay at Lorgat interview on DRS

I learnt 2 things from listening to Jonathan Agnew talk to Haroon Lorgat during the lunch interval on day 1 of England's Test v South Africa:

1. The UDRS now seems to be termed the DRS! Someone must have decided that the word "umpire" might give the impression that the umpires were under review.

2. Haroon Lorgat seems to be in denial about the success of the DRS. He thinks that all the problems are simply part of a process of change. He seems to give no consideration to the point that the ICC could have handled things differently and the whole thing could have been considerably smoother. One of the hardest things in the workplace is working with those that really do believe they have nothing to learn - those that recognise their errors are always stronger. So it scares me that Lorgat can be so one eyed....

Swann and Broad in top 5 Test all rounders

This is presumably the first time for a very long time that England have had two all rounders in the top 5 according to the ICC rankings. With a keeper that's capable averaging 40+ too, England really shouldn't have so many worries about their batting order as they used to (whether they play 6 or 7 batsmen), but no doubt that will lead to 100 all out soon...!