Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Test cricket feast

I thought today may have been a day to remember for Younis Khan, the Pakistan captain started the day on 306 not out and must have been reminded a hundred times that Lara’s 400 was in sight. It was not to be but I am sure he will still remember his record breaking innings of 313. It must have been quite a batting wicket though, the same test provided innings of 240 (Jayawardene), 231 (Samaraweera) and 158* for Kamran Akmal. Mendis and Muralitharan had combined figures of 2-329. Ouch.

It is a big day tomorrow for Test cricket with two Tests starting. First up is the start of the home series for South Africa who are entertaining Australia. South Africa has traditionally been thrashed by Australia on home turf. The first match is at the Wanderers, the scene of some real thumpings of late - quite often by an innings. All that is, of course, in the past and a resurgent South Africa has just beaten the Aussies on their home turf, and fancies doing the job again. It will be a close series but I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia is defeated again – especially as they don’t seem to have brought any bowlers... Their bowling attack will be on the lines of Johnson, Siddle, Bollinger and Hilfenhaus -- maybe with a non-spinner thrown in. The same attack that struggled against New Zealand in ODIs. I hope their batsmen remember how to bat...

The second match is the (now) fourth Test at Barbados where West Indies play England. It is a big match this for both sides. England must win to have a chance of taking the series and salvaging some Test championship points. If West Indies win they will have won the series and you could have got long odds on that happening before the series began. England are without Flintoff and the bye making machine Prior (he let through 38 byes in the last Test). Ambrose gets the gloves and Bopara should get the other spot after making 124* after flying-in as a replacement ... or will they pick the useless Bell and make everyone shout at the TV (I know where my money is).

Friday, 20 February 2009

Rollercoaster Week

It has been a funny week and a bit. It started with high-farce in Antigua and the West Indies administrators surpassing even their dizzying heights of incompetence. The ground was, literally, built on sand. Like the ground at North Sound (I am refusing to call it after Viv Richards until it is worthy of such a great cricketer), our garden has a bit of a drainage problem. We had it levelled and returfed a couple of years ago. The gardener used ‘a bit’ of sand and it seems okay now. He did not use 100% sand because that would have been stupid. I wonder if the Chuckle Brothers are on the WICB...

With one ground consigned to the sand pit it fell to the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG) to stage a Test match with 36-hours notice. How could you expect them to do a good job given no notice? That didn’t stop them though and they produced a good cricket wicket. Moving the Test match to where the people ‘are’ also meant they could come and watch – a revolutionary idea. We saw a fantastic Test match in which England were denied by some excellent West Indies batting. England threw everything, including an injured Flintoff, at West Indies but they held on with nine wickets gone. Thrilling. Should Strauss have declared earlier? Probably, but then if we played using hindsight Chris Gayle would have batted first... Roll on Barbados.

Underlying all these events has been the on-going drama and revelations regarding Allen Stanford. I am no financial guru so I cannot really comment on what he did or didn’t do. What seems clear is that he is in a heap of trouble and the ECB are looking pretty silly. We can expect a lot more on this and this is interesting reading:

Friday, 13 February 2009

WICB - a bunch of jokers

What a joke. A test ground that, effectively before a ball is balled, is not fit for purpose. The WICB have shown staggering incompetence over the past decade and a half. The debacle in Antigua is par for the course for the WICB. The ICC should demand the block resignation of the WICB.

Monday, 9 February 2009


Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are rubbish. Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss are also rubbish. Their statistics demonstrate this very clearly. You can argue about them being ‘good players’ or ‘batsmen with a sound technique’ until the cows come home but they are still rubbish. A Test average of just over 40 after a good number of Tests is grounds for de-selection, not retention. Not only are they rubbish, they have been rubbish for years – literally. Look at the graphs below. Rubbish.

Why are they rubbish? That is a more difficult question to answer because all four of the mentioned players have played good innings; innings after which people have said ‘xyz has come of age’, ‘what a quality player xyz is’. Strauss and Cook made centuries on debut and have averaged over 50 in Tests. Bell made 162 not out in his second match and 199 against South Africa last summer. Collingwood has a double century against Australia. There seems to be a paradox – they are rubbish but somehow can produce innings of quality. I suppose you could argue that if they play enough innings they will occasionally make big runs; they certainly have been given plenty of chances.

My dad’s favourite hobby horse is that they don’t play enough cricket. Whether he is correct or not, one thing is for sure – they don’t play much. In 2008, Cook played twelve test matches: three in March, seven spread between mid-May and mid-August followed by two in December. Cook also played four games for Essex. That is sixteen first-class matches, twelve of which were Tests – and not a century any of them. Is that enough to maintain form? How is Cook going to progress if he doesn’t play much cricket? There has been the suggestion that the England players don’t need to play much and can just turn up and ‘turn it on’. I would suggest that they are simply wrong and if you look at other sports players progress by playing. Top footballers do not become world class players by avoiding games and only playing once in a while. Top tennis players do not dominate their sport by only playing the odd tournament. Why should cricket be any different? The current players and system is not working. Maybe my dad has a point.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook, like Ian Bell in the previous post, had an excellent start to his career. An unbeaten century against India in his first test set a high bar for his achievements. As can be seen from the graph Cook has been in decline ever since and shows no signs of reversing the trend.

Ian Bell

Career graph for Ian Bell. He had a fantastic start with a 65 and 166 (both) not out against Bangladesh. With the exception of three centuries in three matches in 2006, his career trend is very much downwards -- and quickly.

Paul Collingwood

An updated graph for Paul Collingwood. A long downward trend.

Andrew Strauss

I posted a graph of Andrew's career early in 2008, here is an updated graph. As can be seen he has played better since the start of 2008. Not setting any records though...

Jerome Taylor showcases new West Indies resolve

Jerome Taylor ran in today and bowled like a man who had already seen the script and knew he was the leading man. He knew exactly where to bowl for each batsman. He didn’t bowl super-fast, he just bowled quick enough to make it difficult. He didn’t bowl big swingers or move it excessively off-the-seam, he just bowled in the right place for each batsmen and got touch of movement. His genius was to let each batsmen provide the seeds of their own downfall. Cook, Strauss, Collingwood, Pietersen and Prior; all those wickets were classic dismissals for the respective batsmen. The wicket wasn’t bad, in fact it played more-or-less true but like all good spells of quick bowling it looked difficult to play. The demons played in the batsmen’s heads and they forgot what they were there for – to bat and make runs. Not for the first time English batsmen looked like startled rabbits in a West Indian quick bowling headlight. 9-4-11-5 are spectacular figures and it could easily have been six or seven wickets. It will be interesting to see how Taylor goes in Antigua, there will be lots of expectation on his shoulders; for now Jerome Taylor, take a bow.

England? They batted like rubbish amateurs of course, bowled out for 51 (a recovery from 26-7), how could they be anything else.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Win, Lose or Draw? Part II

It seems the ICC have, in a moment of madness, made the correct decision and decided England did after all win the match against Pakistan at the Oval in 2006. We all know England won. England knows England won. Pakistan knows England won and now it seems the ICC have recognised the fact. What's next: the end of two match Test series?