Friday, 21 March 2008

Is it because I is white?

If your name is Andre Nel, then the answer to this question, sadly, is 'Yes'. Nel was selected for the South African tour of India. Nel always gives his best and his best is frequently good enough to worry most batsman, including Brian Lara who he had a penchant for dismissing. However, South Africa have a policy of picking six players ‘of colour’ in their 14 man squad. As a result Nel was replaced, in a process called ‘transformation’, by Charl Langeveldt. How can this possibly be to the advantage of anyone? It is clearly unfair to Nel and it would not be a huge surprise if he now turned his back on South African cricket (just have they have turned their back on him). Langeveldt has been thrust into the ‘not good enough to be picked’ limelight and promptly, and not unexpectedly, pulled out of the tour and will have to be replaced with the guy who wasn’t as good as the guy who wasn’t as good to be picked (Zondeki in this case). It is also worth sparing a thought for Graeme Smith who has the unenviable task of deciding when the bowlers who are not really good enough to be picked get to bowl...

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Where have all the good men gone?

A post on Third Umpire about Malcolm Marshall has had me browsing the internet for some clips of the Barbadian. I grew up in the (19)80s and whoever England played, it seemed, brought at least one top class pace man. Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Garner, Croft, (Winston) Davies, (Sylvester) Clark, Paterson came from the West Indies, any one of which would walk into the current England team (and maybe even Australia). Then there was Dennis Lillee, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev, four greats in their own right; not forgetting Willis and Botham from England.

What do we have now? Err, hang on, I know this one... Well, there is Brett Lee and there used to be Shane Bond. There is also Shoaib Akhtar who is definitely quick and has his moments but is nowhere near an all-time great. What has happened, why are there no quality quick bowlers anymore? International bowlers probably play less that they used to in the 1980s -- that is certainly true of English players, so it cannot be a workload problem. Whatever the reasons it is a great shame, the game needs the spectacle of a fearsome fast bowler thundering in.

In case you do not remember Marshall et al:

Monday, 10 March 2008

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss made a big impact when when he started to play test cricket, he almost had two hundreds on his test d├ębut. I have blogged about his reintroduction to the test team. I thought it may help to give some facts rather than shooting from the hip. The graph below shows Andrew's test career. The blue line is his average as it has progressed. The red line is a three match rolling average. This means that the last red point is the average of the Hamilton test and the previous two he played (against India).

His average has been on a slow decline before the 2005 Ashes and is nor just above 40. His three match average indicates that his average has been regularly below 30 and is also trending downwards. It looks like it is now or never for Stauss.

I intend to follow this post up with a few other players figures for comparison.

Andrew Strauss Test Career up to 10th March 2008

Trouble in Hamilton

If we discount victories against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the West Indies, New Zealand have only won three test matches in the last five years. With that in mind, winning the first match of a series against England is a surprise. The fact is however, that this was no closely fought test match with the underdogs coming out victorious, New Zealand thrashed England. They outplayed England in virtually every session culminating in a devastating final day performance when they dismissed the tourists for 110. New Zealand were fantastic, they showed fight, zest and enthusiasm.

In contrast, England were poor. I would go as to say that England’s performance in Hamilton was the worst I have seen in a long time. At no point were England competitive, a late charge by Sidebottom could not disguise that. I have mentioned Harmison previously but he is not on his own in the bowling department, Hoggard’s was also less than impressive. As for the batting.... the top four were dismissed by, as far as I could tell, straight, true bouncing deliveries with Pietersen being almost bounced out and worried by a medium pacer. Collingwood (amusingly titled Brigadier Block by Bob Willis) took thirty-three balls to get off the mark before succumbing having made two from fifty deliveries -- that is a strike rate of 4! Ambrose was bowled by a straight ball and as if to outline how ridiculous it all was, Bell batted beautifully.

There is something sinister going on in the England camp. I do not know what it is but there is definitely something going on that is not right. Test sides do get dismissed for 110 but not normally on featherbed wickets to county standard bowlers in perfect conditions. Every player looks depressed even Pietersen is quiet and withdrawn. The coach talks about being competitive -- rather than winning! Something is very wrong in the England camp, anyone care to make a guess?

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Mostly Harmiless

The first two days of the first test match has exercised David Lloyd’s full range of coaching euphemisms for rubbish. In his tenure as England coach Lloyd had to tread lightly with some individuals. What good practice that was for his commentary stints for Sky Sports when Steve Harmison was bowling. We had “He is just easing himself in” and “He still has plenty in the tank” and of course the full “He needs to slip himself”. Sadly, the truth is that Steve Harmison, once the world’s number one ranked bowler, is now rubbish. It is not just the James-Anderson-spray-it-around variety of rubbish either, Harmison was well, crap. It was a bad sign when, after not taking the new ball, his first ball was applauded and cheered by the entire slip-cordon. His accuracy is poor and his pace is even worse. He regularly bowled at 78 mph, and rarely above 82 mph. This is a full ten mph slower than his best pace. That makes him military medium! Spraying it about is one thing, but doing it slowly is laughable.

In addition to being completely unacceptable it is also not unique. Harmison has struggled to earn his place since the 2005 Ashes and quite often has people confounded by his lack of form. Why does England keep picking Harmison? I do not think he would get into any other test nation’s side (go on, name one that does not begin with B), certainly not New Zealand’s; Martin and Mills looked much more menacing. I cannot believe that Stuart Broad would have bowled that ineffectively...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Streaker Advice

Tip: If you have to streak at Brisbane, don't run near to Andrew Symonds...

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A game of two halves

They say in cricket that you never know what the next ball will bring and that even when a side is in total control, batting with the gods, a lapse of concentration or an inspired bowling spell can completely change that. This has been vividly demonstrated twice in two days.

Firstly Australia faced Sri Lanka at the MCG. This was Adam Gilchrist’s last appearance at the ‘G’ and what a performance he put on. Chasing 222 for victory Gilchrist struck 83 from 50 balls and demonstrated exactly what we will be missing when he retires – class. At 113-2 from 15.4 overs when he was dismissed it all looked a formality and Sri Lanka were in the process of being crushed (again). This was not to be as the Sri Lankans reduced Australia to 123-6, then 158-8 bowling them out for 208. Ponting, Clarke, Symonds, Hussey and Haddin managed twelve between them! A remarkable turn-around.

Secondly South Africa started their second Test Match against Bangladesh. The first was a surprisingly close affair and so Smith and McKenzie must have gone out to bat on the first morning with a few nerves. If they did, it didn’t show. By stumps on day one, South Africa had amassed 405/0 with Smith on 223 and McKenzie 169 – a record highest first day score without losing a wicket. The highest first wicket stand ever (413) looked a formality and given the way Smith in particular played, all sorts of records looked like being broken. Smith and McKenzie broke the first wicket record and then, relatively at least, collapsed -- slowly. Smith went at 415 having make 232 from 277 balls, a truly commanding innings. From that point only Amla 38 from 87, Boucher 21 from 83 and Kallis 39 from 120 made double figures and South Africa made very heavy weather of getting to 583/7 dec. 583/7 is still clearly a commanding position but I expected to wake up to hear Lara’s 400* had been broken...