31 March 2011

Shaun Tait retires from ODIs

It appears that even ODIs are too long for Shaun Tait who has now retired. Over at King Cricket they have predicted his next retirement news....

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Terrorists rounded up

Perhaps it will give the Sri Lankan's a little psychological boost to know that some of the terrorists that attacked them have been arrested....

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The final most people wanted

India and Sri Lanka have made it through their semis, both relatively easily in the end despite some worries in their matches. So as predicted and as many people wanted, the two home nations in the knock out stages have made it through. Sri Lanka's middle order had to bat under pressure which has been rare in the World Cup, and India had to work hard for their 260 and bowl tightly to take their place in the final.

A lot has been made of Younis Khan and Misbah Ul-Haq's slow batting during Pakistan's chase. It certainly cost Pakistan dear because by the time Razzaq and Afridi came in the run rate was climbing, which meant they had to get going quickly. Having said that Razzaq, strangely promoted above Afridi for the first time in the tournament, was out playing defensively. It almost felt like Pakistan hadn't agreed amongst themselves how they wanted to go about the chase - was it a case of keeping wickets in hand and then looking at 100 off the last 10, as Younis and Misbah seemed to think, or did they want to stay with the rate or even ahead of it throughout, as Umar Akmal seemed to think? Only they can say, such were their confusing tactics but what we can say is that going from 3 an over to 9 is always going to be tricky, where as 5 an over to 7 might be more achievable.

In defence of Misbah, Younis and MS Dhoni in India's innings, batting in the middle order seems like a struggle in the sub-continent, a point made by Mickey Arthur when looking at South Africa's demise. That's why I think the fitness of Angelo Mathews is critical if Sri Lanka are to win the World Cup as I predicted. With Mathews at 7, Sri Lanka's batting looks very strong up to that point, allbeit with the tail starting at 8 with Malinga who averages only 8 in ODIs. Without Mathews the alternatives look worring with Perera the most likely to come in - he's got some quality and can hit the ball miles but an average of less than 15 tells you all you need to know about his batting, and he doesn't have a history of handling pressure at the top-level - he'll be 22 the day after the final.

The other option Sri Lanka have is to play Kulasekera, who can count himself as extremely unlucky not to make it into Sri Lanka's first choice XI. He would be in the side every time outside the sub-continent where it seems a minimum of 3 spinners are needed. With an average of 17 with the bat he doubles that of Malinga but he hardly strikes fear into the opposition, were he to come in at 7.

Perhaps this thinking is why Sri Lanka have called up Chaminda Vaas and Suraj Randiv in case Mathews and/or Murali don't recover from injury. Randiv is a given as he was incredibly unlucky not to be in the squad to start with and Sri Lanka will benefit from a little extra batting if he replaces Murali. But Vaas, despite his poor ODI average of 14, has been batting higher recently, notably opening for Northants in the T20 last season and averaging in the late 20s. Hardly setting the world alight but perhaps they are considering him at number 7 if Mathews isn't fit - it would be an amazing story if they did go back to him. Personally I'd have been going for Maharoof rather than Vaas.

It may seem strange that players might come in from outside the squad and play their only match in the final, but that's how I think it should be - I still have the same objection to limited squad numbers as I had at the start of the tournament.

Much as I want Murali to play, Randiv on the face of it is a quality replacement, where as Mathews would be a big loss with no obvious replacement. The destiny of the World Cup could rest on the fitness of someone who's not yet 24, rather than the man soon to turn 39 and the most successful wicket-taker the game has ever seen.

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30 March 2011

Dravid avoids World Cup euphoria

No doubt Rahul Dravid could have been at home in India earning loads of money for commentating or writing about the World Cup. Instead, he's left the country altogether to go and play for the MCC in Dubai and score the match-defining century that helped win the match for MCC. He'll be fighting hard for his international Test place but having seen Virat Kohli bat in the World Cup he could be struggling. Both Kohli and Raina are nipping at his heels but to me Kohli looks the classier player, especially in relation to Test cricket as he looks like he has the tighter technique. And of course Yuvraj has been revitalised by this World Cup.

An Indian Test line up of Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj, Dhoni gives extra bowling options and would strike fear into all opposition bowling attacks....Dravid has his work cut out but he's going about fighting for his place in the right way.

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Fantastic decision by Taufel

Taufel just gave Sehwag out LBW to a short left-arm over ball from Riaz. Quality decision - as Mike Atherton said on commentary the instinct is to assume that from left-arm over, short balls must pitch outside leg. This time Taufel knew different. It would be interesting to know if the umpires review the bowling actions of the two teams coming into the match to check how they tend to shape the ball and how wide of the crease they tend to go. Riaz on this occassion was very tight to the wicket.

On another note, there's been some criticism of Dhoni for batting first but whatever the result I think he's done the right thing. It's by all accounts a good batting track that will get slower as the match goes on which suggests batting first is a good idea, but equally it takes the pressure of the Indian batsmen. As it is the pressure will be on India's bowlers, but most importantly, Dhoni himself as captain of the side bowling second, and I think he's happy to take that role on.

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28 March 2011

Sri Lanka must be feeling the pressure

As you know I think the best two teams who should contest the final are India and Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka are no doubt favourites tomorrow. But I can't agree with the headline "Mismatch unless NZ can raise game"! New Zealand just beat South Africa pretty easily so I don't think they need to raise their game that much....they just need a bit of luck to go their way, as any short format game can go either way.

Sri Lanka may be worrying about Murali's fitness, but equally if he isn't fit they're likely to being in Kulasekera who is the 5th rated ODI bowler in the world - not a bad replacement.

But whatever team Sri Lanka pick, if New Zealand play as they did against South Africa it certainly won't be a mismatch - it'll make interesting viewing. I'm sure that given the media assertions of their superiority, including here at Cricket Burble, Sri Lanka will be sleeping a little uneasily tonight....

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The alternative to Strauss - Stuart Broad???

As I said in a previous post, I think Strauss should carry on as England captain. And that's irrespective of whether he wants to try to carry on to the 2015 World Cup - even if he doesn't there's no ideal candidate to replace him right now.

Michael Vaughan has suggested that if England were to look past Alastair Cook, he thinks Stuart Broad should be considered. I struggle with that - a guy who is so petulant clearly has problems remaining emotionally detached as the skipper needs to. The old Bob Woolmer saying "Your heart's in the oven, your brain's in the fridge" is something completely alien to Broad. He may have captaincy potential eventually but, dare I say it, he's got a bit of maturing to do before he reaches that point.

You can see how Vaughan has ended up considering Broad though - who else is there exactly other than Cook, who currently doesn't get in the side? It's difficult to be able to tell from outside the changing room who has the respect of the other players and who is tactically astute. My guess is that they'd go to Ian Bell. I don't know if Graeme Swann has any captaincy credentials but it would be interesting to know if he even gets a thought given his care free attitude.

I hope for England's sake it doesn't become an issue and Strauss continues.

27 March 2011

The World Cup final will be between...

...India v Sri Lanka. You heard it here first.

The shorter the format, the more likely the upset, but even so I find it hard to see either side losing in the semis. My hopes for the semis are that the India/Pakistan game concludes without crowd violence, and that Murali is rested if necessary so that he can get one last hurrah in the final.

Fingers crossed.

More of the same as England exit the World Cup

A few observations now England have gone out.

Strauss needs to continue as captain, despite speculation about his position. It would be different if he played Twenty20 but as he doesn't, hopefully he can use any Twenty20 time, miss County games and use the international rest periods to make sure he's physically and mentally fit to play and lead. His conservatism frustrates me, but he's still the best man for the job.

The administrator who was responsible for England's pre-World Cup schedule needs shooting. A long drawn out ODI series in alien conditions compared to what they faced in the sub-continent.

Prior isn't an England opener in any format.

Bell still flatters to deceive. If Bopara gets the same chances I'm sure he'll make more of them.

Trott is class, long may it continue.

KP has a low pain threshold.

England need Samit Patel to get fit. If Yuvraj can do it for India, so can Patel for England.

Anderson imploded - let's hope it was only temporary and time away from cricket and with his family sees him fresh and performing well at the start of the Test summer.

Swann can't win games by himself. And he should never ever bat above 8 in any circumstances.

Flower is Strauss' coaching double - fantastic work ethic and attitude, but a conservative thinker who struggles to adapt. England never went with more than two spinners despite the evidence of the success of spinners all around them. Dernbach instead of Rashid when it had become clear all countries needed to play at least 3 spinners?

Luke Wright isn't an England player outside of Twenty20, great attitude though he may have.

Paul Collingwood isn't an England player at all it seems, in any format, given recent selection. But his bowling - while hardly of the strike bowling variety - would have been superior to most that played the quarter-final, even if you ignore his batting and fielding. A bowling line up of Bresnan, Swann, Tremlett, Bopara, Tredwell, Wright wouldn't strike too much fear into a County batting line up, let alone one of the favourites for the World Cup, Sri Lanka.

Jack Iverson

Another book I read not so long ago was Mystery Spinner: The Story of Jack Iverson. A truly incredible story of someone who turned up to his local cricket club in his 30s, started out in their 3rd XI, moved up to the 1st team, onto "proper" cricket, and then into the Australian Test side. And he didn't just make it into the side - he was the most threatening bowler, bowling with a style that is best described as individual, but equally might be loosely likened to Ajantha Mendis.

Not surprisingly his career was short-lived given his age, and he resumed a fairly anonymous life, allbeit one with glorious Ashes winning memories. But the sudden notoriety followed by relative anonymity appeared to be difficult for him to deal with and he committed suicide on my birthday. Hopefully it will be Jack Iverson's many international wickets that will come to mind annually each time I get a year older, rather than his final moments. I'd encourage you to read the book for yourselves if you haven't already....

JR Hartley, the leg-spin bowler

In case you hadn't guessed by my lack of posts, I was away last week soaking up the sun in the Brecon Beacons (really - I was, thanks to the unseasonal weather). I randomly found Fly Fishingby JR Hartley in a second hand bookshop and thought I'd better buy it, given the book's notoriety thanks to playing a leading role in an old Yellow Pages ad.

You don't need to know about fly fishing to enjoy it and it's a quick and easy read so I'd recommend it. And early on he explains that he was a promising school boy leg break bowler, so he immediately endeared himself to me. Perhaps it's too much to suggest that all good people take an interest in cricket, but it certainly acts as a pretty good indication of character to me!

Trott can look back on a successful World Cup

Amazing (I think) that at this stage of the World Cup, Jonathan Trott is the leading run scorer. He continues to surprise people and there's no doubt he's been England's one success story in this World Cup. His strike rate is 80, but imagine what it could have been with better support from those around him, rather than having to hold most of England's innings together.

This piece by Duncan Fletcher sums things up for me - he compares Trott to Kallis, which in itself is a huge compliment to England's number 3, with Kallis being one of the all-time greats.

26 March 2011

Bye bye !

What's more startling than what Boycott said about Yardy is that he actually can't see depression as an illness as opposed to just being a bit gloomy. With a bit of luck the broadcasters will treat him like Andy Gray and that other bloke. A World Cup that saw the end of having to listen to his ego-centric outbursts as well as not having to watch that dart player would be a really memorable and worthwhile World Cup

24 March 2011

Rolling news

We're now used to what the media call rolling news but is just the same story repeated endlessly to fill up space and so it was amusing to see yesterday's morning papers saying Ricky Ponting is set to retire from International cricket and is looking for a county to captain and then see the evening papers saying the opposite.
The much more important news is that there will be a reduction from 16 to 10 in the number of group stage T20 games in 2012. Is it possible that the ECB is listening to the cricketing public? and does that mean that the ridiculous notion of having 8 teams (14 matches) in the First Division of The County Championship and 10 ( not sure how many matches but not the mathematically logical 18) in the Second will be dropped?

21 March 2011

Interesting interview with Ian Bell

Always interesting when a particular hero gets put up as the interview candidate by 'Team England' and apart from all the stuff about hoping to stay in the tournament long enough to get back to England with his wedding fully organised and the only requirement on his shoulders being to turn up in the right time at the right place ( I suppose people have turned up at the wrong venue for their own weddings ?!) I was interested to hear that he hopes to pick up player of the match awards in the remaining fixtures.

The surprise is in that I'd always imagined the players put the m o m money into the pool and that, as they always say, the result is the most important part.
Perhaps he fancies getting back to England by motorbike via the Channel tunnel!

19 March 2011

Graeme Smith's tactics

Interesting that Smith took Botha off when he was right on top of the batsmen. I definitely would have kept him going against Shakib, and would have had a short-leg, silly point and slip as he had bowled 4 overs, 1 for 11 before that. Even those figures were a little worse than they needed to be as Smith kept a long-off out throughout, allowing the Bangladesh batsman to occasionally nudge the ball down the ground without risk.

I see Smith as a similar type of captain to Strauss - pretty conservative - and I wonder if captaincy might be one of the factors that decides the winner of the World Cup on 2nd April. It made me smile when the commentators got all excited about Strauss keeping a short-leg in when Swann was bowling to Sarwan towards the end of the West Indies game, and the catch was taken there. Surely short-leg was a regulation position given that England had to take 10 wickets to win the match and they were running out of time?
46-5 off 19 as I type, and surely even in this topsy turvy World Cup, Bangladesh can't come back from here....

England on course

Great start for South Africa...England have one foot in the quarters. I don't feel I can relax completely until Shakib is out though....

18 March 2011


Not sure about calling up Dernbach (and anyway, England may not get the quarters still). Not the conventional call of Woakes or the unconventional (that I would have gone for) of Adil Rashid.

Spinners, and leg-spinners in particular seem to be doing well, and do England need to open with a spinner and perhaps play three? I'd be tempted. It doesn't seem that Swann is that up for opening and Rashid is used to opening the bowling after his Twenty20 experiences in Australia this winter....

Who would you have gone for?

17 March 2011

Wrong England team?

I presume that the England management have weighed up the potentially galvanizing impact of changing a few players against playing an on-paper weaker team, and have decided the former is most important! Definitely not the team I would have picked, but if they win and go through it won't matter....

16 March 2011

The rise of West Indies cricket

Out of The Ashes proved to be an interesting watch but was perhaps slighly over-hyped. But I've got high hopes for Fire In Babylon - the story of the rise of West Indies cricket that is being screened at a film festival in New York next week. You can see the trailer at the Fire In Babylon site.

15 March 2011

Manou retires

Englishmen might remember Graham Manou as the wicket-keeper who played his only Test in the 2009 Ashes. He's recently announced his retirement from professional cricket at the age of 31. It's rumoured to be another great piece of man management by Jamie Cox to rank alongside the selectorial shambles that was the Aussie 2009 Ashes campaign.

Manou has played his whole career with a hole in his heart, so perhaps he was destined to retire early....it appears a little strange though. Manou's last game saw him top score in the first innings for South Australia but then lose a match they seemed destined to win as Tasmania chased down 373 in the 4th innings of a low scoring game.

12 March 2011

Anderson and England make life difficult for themselves

Looking at the scorecard from England's match against Bangladesh I assumed that Strauss had done his usual and set defensive fields when England needed to take the final 2 wickets, and made a mistake in not letting Collingwood bowl out. It wasn't quite as bad as I feared, but it would be great if bowlers like Bresnan don't have to plead with their skipper to have a slip, as happened in the 48th over. Although there were no attacking fielders in the closing overs, Strauss was quite attacking by his standards as there was a slip in when Raqibal Hasan was bowled by Shahzad and again when Swann bowled Shakib. And taking Collingwood off, even when he was bowling economically, was the right move too. So still some way to go but a slight improvement I reckon.

But what is the skipper meant to do when players let him down with poor performances? Prior cost England several runs with missed attempts to take the ball behind the stumps and, with Prior's help, the bowlers racked up 23 wides. James Anderson's 7th over was one of the worst of all time, and swung the game in Bangladesh's favour....with Broad out England desperately need Anderson to find his range, but it's not looking hopeful. And to make matters worse, Shahzad dropped his caught and bowled and Trott missed a stop at 3rd man as things got tight....Strauss must have been tearing the hair he has left out.

Elsewhere in England's group Ireland felt the cost of dropping Kieron Pollard in the 20s and Asoka de Silva's inability to remember that the batsman can't be out LBW when they're playing a shot and are hit outside the line. England should still qualify if they beat West Indies, but the way they are playing, and with Pollard in form, I can't say I feel confident!

I'd love to see Bopara opening rather than Prior, and Strauss to attack (much) more but, more than anything, Anderson needs to bowl properly and byes, dropped catches and misfields need to be a thing of the past. Strauss had some good company today in going defensive - Dhoni suddenly lost his bottle at the end of India's game against South Africa and suffered the consequences. Harbajan had to bowl one of the last 2 overs with 17 needed and South Africa having 3 wickets in hand. But instead he turned to the expensive Nehra with 13 needed from the final over, and he went for 4,6,2,4 to allow South Africa to win the game with 2 balls to spare.

Will England make it through?

9 March 2011

Sony and Hawkeye

Following yesterdays news that Sony have bought Hawkeye, I've been pondering what Sony will do to extend Hawkeye into something worth more than the purchase price (yes, I am that sad!). I remember talking to Cricinfo many years ago about what I thought was a brilliant revenue opportunity for them - they claimed to record every international delivery, so the company I worked for at the time thought this data would be fantastic for gaming companies. That data would allow computer game players, for example, to face the exact balls that a particular international bowler bowled - surely if you're an English kid (or adult as gaming seems to have seeped into adulthood too, although not for me!), you'd love to face Mitchell Johnson's spell from Perth in the recent Ashes?

I wonder if Sony want to use the Hawkeye ball tracking technology for similar purposes?

How is the UDRS accuracy checked?

I love the fact that more decisions are being made correctly - I think it's all that professionals who dedicate much of their lives to improving their performance deserve. But I've got a question....

How does anyone REALLY know whether a decision was made correctly or not?

If there is a way of telling, can we use that for the UDRS please and then we'll get 100% accuracy on decisions?

BCCI looking for more money

Not surprisingly, World Sport Group, that purchased the rights to the IPL for 10 years in 2008 for $1.5b are a little concerned that the BCCI might be selling the rights again! I imagine someone at the BCCI has done the maths:

Greater sales price - legal fees = greater profit than the existing deal with WSG!

I look forward to them ploughing money into technology for the UDRS. Pigs might fly.

8 March 2011

NZ score 14 an over for last 10

Pretty explosive stuff....I wonder if the Pakistan innings will follow the same pattern with the likes of Afridi and Razzaq down the order....

Well batted Ross Taylor....

Sony buy Hawkeye

It seems that the Winchester based company, Hawkeye Innovations, who provide the ball tracking part of the UDRS in some counties, have been bought by Sony.

What are the implications for cricket? I'd love to be able to tell you....I presume that with greater financial backing, Hawkeye Innovations will be able to afford to go further in demonstrating their technology for free during pitches. That was something of a stumbling block when dealing with FIFA in the past, as football's governing body wanted full demos paid for by pitching companies without any commitment to use the technology for goal line decisions even if the technology tested successfully. Hawkeye weren't willing to commit to a huge spend to do all the tests without any guarantee of business off the back of it.

I imagine that Sony will be able to utilise their greater international coverage too....it will be interesting to hear what they plan to do with Hawkeye know they've bought it.

Incidentally, this is an interesting piece I noticed having just gone to the Hawkeye site about issues with the Virtual Eye technology used in The Ashes. Worth a read if you're as sad as me....

7 March 2011

South Africa try to shake off chokers tag

When India won the 2nd ODI in their series against South Africa by 1 run, a crucial wrong decision went against them (Johna Botha) as there was no UDRS in place. I would argue that decision changed the result although of course there's no way anyone can say for sure.

From there the collapse specialists / chokers tag was always going to come back - it's like speculation on the stock market...it becomes self-fulfilling given the extra pressure.

I wonder if this "marshmallow syndrome" that has been written about would have surfaced if the UDRS had been in place in the South Africa / India ODI series?

Door opens for Morgan and Hussey

I previously questioned why squads had to be limited in number and said it wasn't good for the World Cup that Eoin Morgan and Mike Hussey wouldn't be gracing the latter stages of the tournament. Well, it seems fate has conspired to allow them both their chance and Hussey describes it as "a dream come true".

Morgan is getting his chance following Pietersen's withdrawal due to a hernia. Pietersen isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think his withdrawal is a huge blow. His batting is good enough that in the latter stages of the tournament he would have had the capability to win the game single-handedly, as Adam Gilchrist did in the 2007 final. But on top of that, his bowling should always have been a key part of England's strategy in this World Cup and he's being replaced by a non-bowler. Pietersen's bowling was quality yesterday and he was extremely unlucky not to have wickets to add to his economy rate of 3.75 in 8 overs, particularly the missed stumping.

England's best team now is: Strauss, Bopara, Trott, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Collingwood, Bresnan, Swann, Broad, Anderson. And Bopara needs to bowl.

6 March 2011

England tactics are worrying for the rest of the WC

I know, I know, England won. And it's not fashionable to criticise a winning team. But I'm afraid I can't help it.

Strauss seems to have a happy knack of turning to the right bowler at the right time, but for the most part I hate his defensive field placings. When South Africa were 7 down he allowed Van Wyk and Steyn to knock the ball around without pressure with a deep field. England had to take wickets - a ring field assumed the only way to get wickets was through a huge batting error, hitting the ball in the air, apart from bowled and LBW.

This Cricinfo piece suggests that Strauss did a good job as captain but his fields drove me quietly insane! When Swann bowled his 10th over - one that England desperately needed a wicket in, there was just the slip and backward short-leg - where was the forward short-leg and silly point?

And when Broad bowled the match-changing 48th over of the South African innings, there wasn't a catcher in site - as Prior took the catch to win the game there was no lone slip next to him, let alone two - what if the edge had been a little thicker?

It seems only Dhoni and Sangakkara in world cricket are advocates of attacking captaincy and backing their bowlers....of course I want England to win the World Cup but assuming they don't, it would be nice to see an attacking captain win rather than one of the conservative camp, which Strauss, sadly for England, definitely falls into. He won't always get so lucky.

P.S. The best England team is still the one that hasn't been played yet, that I put forward at the start of the World Cup...hopefully England will get to it eventually.

Ireland - the home of cricket?

Grudgingly, I've got to admit I quite like Michael O'Leary's Ryanair advert declaring Ireland the home of cricket!

4 March 2011

How come................

...............Ajit Agarkar has a Welsh accent?

World cup thoughts

Interesting to see that the Daily Mirror is so football-centric that it thinks that our men wear the same 'three lions on a shirt' that the players of the game for those with short attention spans wear.

Also nice to see that Sky has found a good use for that screen that Grey and that other bloke used.

Best bit is that Magners production should be back to normal.

3 March 2011

Quality comments

These were in "The Spin" today from Kevin O'Brien:

"I am pretty heavy so I just get all my weight behind it."


"The wicket was flat and the ground was small."

Very self-deprecating!

Dropped catches

I hadn't seen the catches that were dropped by England until I saw this video - what a nightmare! The easiest has to be Anderson's at long-on, but they were all very catchable and the only one that looks "droppable" by international standards is Anderson's first one....

Ireland's boundary-laden chase

Interesting to see just how the two sides varied in the way they made their runs in the England v Ireland game. Ireland had far more dot balls but a huge array of boundaries too!

2 March 2011

Well played Ireland...

...and in particular Kevin O'Brien!

Irish hair

Looking forward to seeing the Irish team with either green hair or shaven entirely. Apparently it's to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society.

1 March 2011

Cricket betting in India

Betting is of course illegal in India but if Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, gets his way then the sport governing body will receive a cut of betting revenues. I imagine that in that scenario the BCCI would be able to quickly change the Indian government's views on betting and it would soon be legalised...