Saturday, 20 June 2009

Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann says some remarkable things in a Times interview. Surely the most remarkable, to me anyway was this:

"What I said about Monty is true of several people in this squad. I simply don’t know how they have got to their age without electrocuting themselves or doing themselves some real harm. Ravi’s like that, Luke Wright, too. Some of the things they say and do . . . they are just on a different planet. Rob Key asked Adil Rashid the other day what animal a lamb came from . . . he thought it was a cow! He actually said it out loud. The comedy value is priceless. That’s what I meant about Monty. I love him to pieces but I sometimes wonder how he’s got to this stage without wandering in front of a train or a bus.”

Friday, 19 June 2009

Pakistan give South Africa a chance to choke

South Africa choking in a semi final is almost as good as Australia getting knocked out of the tournament early on. Not as good, obviously. I didn’t think they would blow it this time, I thought they had a good enough team and enough form to carry them through. Happily I was wrong and we saw the choke-meister generals do it one more time. Pakistan, it must be said, played superbly. Afridi played a classic innings and followed it up with a spell of leg-spin bowling that had the South Africans turning their ovens to gas mark nine. Umar Gul delivered the killer blow with some awesome death bowling. Magic stuff. Pakistan of course narrowly lost the first ICC T20 final and ten years and one day after they last played a final at Lords, they will play another. Hopefully this one will be closer.

Every ICC Final has a special ‘ICC shoots foot’ moment. This year they organised it early: the Final clashes with the British Formula 1 Grand Prix...

Monday, 15 June 2009

...and then fall

England’s victory against India means they cannot qualify for the semi finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. A week ago this would have been quite a shock but today no so – for me at least. India played poorly against West Indies and failed to improve against England. Result: two loses and out. Much has been made of the fact that the IPL and the huge pressure involved gives India an advantage. A couple of points about that:

  • The IPL may be a great success but lots of games are won or lost by non-Indian players. Lots of Australians and South Africans make the big plays in IPL – not Indians.
  • The IPL is a great training ground for everyone and the bigger players have more pressure – these are not generally Indians.
  • I was staggered at the technical ineptness of the Indian batsmen. Suresh Raina who batted at three did not have any idea how to play the rising ball. He was there for the taking and England did. He would not last two minutes in a county match with a technique like that. Jadega was also poor and his inability to score quickly was nicely exploited by England.
  • Indian bowlers were rubbish. Period.

England flipped from outclassed against South Africa and flopped into professional mode. They outplayed India in most departments and ‘won by 3 runs’ is one of those results which belies England’s dominance. England had really won three overs out. England now just need to beat West Indies today to book a semi final berth – something they have been doing all year. Easy. However, I think it’s a pretty even match. West Indies have played well in the competition and England may struggle to motivate themselves after the India game. England may flip their form again and this is essentially a final. Slip ups are fatal now.

Friday, 12 June 2009

India falter at first real hurdle

West Indies are a funny side. They can almost lose at will to England, employing a dizzying barrage of dropped catches, poor bowling and batting collapses. They started the competition by destroying Australia and have done something similar today to India. West Indies outplayed India in most departments and had Yuvraj not hit an impressive 67 (from 43 balls) it would have been a demolition. Dwayne Bravo was simple outstanding: 4 wickets and 66* (from 36 balls). He, Simmons and latterly Chanderpaul made the Indian bowling look predictable and unthreatening. West Indies face South Africa tomorrow. Can they win? Of course they can if the same side as today turns up.

India has to pick themselves up and prepare for England on Sunday. England are a bit like the West Indies form wise; they can be good or terrible (more usually terrible of late). The loser of England v India will almost certainly not progress to the semi finals. The winner will have to win their last game. For India that means beat England and then beat South Africa. They will have to play better than they did today to win either of those games.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A golly good thrashing

England was crushed today by South Africa. Everything about the South African game was superior: bowling, fielding, batting, confidence and I suspect mental attitude as well. It is difficult to see where England could have won that game. How to win is easy: score 200 (or maybe 175 on that wicket) and put South Africa under pressure but I don’t think England have the ability to do that. England now have to beat India and West Indies to have a chance of the semi’s - a big ask for a small team.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


There is something poetic almost mystical about Australia getting beaten and dumped out of the ICC Twenty20 Cup. Every non Australian knows that smile they allow themselves when they think of how Ponting’s got to explain this one to the commentator. This time it was even better – he had to give it to the cheerleader general: Ian Chappell (how does he get past immigration). Brilliant.

Australia didn’t lose because of luck or umpiring decisions. They didn’t lose because of injury problems or questionable selections. Australia lost because the team, as a whole, were not good enough. In reality they were thrashed, twice. They were completely bamboozled by Mendis today – it was almost embarrassing (for embarrassing read ‘hilarious’) to watch David Hussey, clueless, trying to get the ball past the 22 yards of cut turf. Without a bit of tail-end wagging, the match would have been a walk-over. The bowling was its predictable self. Brett Lee ran in hard again and committed the same set of errors he did against Gayle on Saturday – with a similar result. Watson looks like a guy who is just glad he made it from his mark to the umpire – if it doesn’t go for a boundary that is a bonus. Johnson – maybe Ricky should consider bowling him his full allocation...

Sri Lanka was excellent. They have easily the best bowling side in the competition: Malinga, Mendis, Murali = Scary. Their batting is not so good, fragile even, but provided Sangakkara stays in they are safe. It was a real delight to watch Mendis – the first time I have seen him. A real wizard.

Can Sri Lanka win it? Not sure, their fragile batting means they will probably come unstuck at some point.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Australia sunk in a perfect storm

We don’t have many of these days in England. Where the weather is moody, hot and sticky. The clouds bunch up. For hours it looks like the storm will break. Eventually, all hell breaks loose – hail, thunder, lightning and flood. So it has been this year with Chris Gayle. He has spent the previous month looking stormy and moody. Hardly a smile and not many runs. Sulking at his position and the weather – not that I can blame him there. The storm finally broke yesterday with Gayle and Fletcher assaulting the Australian bowling. Australia were not so much beaten and blown away in ten overs. Chasing 170, West Indies were 120-0 after ten! Brett Lee on his return to the Australian side bowled very quickly, topping 93mph. He disappeared even more quickly with Gayle hitting him clean out of the ground and taking 27 from one over. Andre Fletcher’s contribution to the thumping should not be forgotten. He started the assault and after they had broken the back of the chase he batted sensibly – milking the bowling. A real revelation.

Gayle’s innings was not all savagery and violence. He played proper cricket shots full of style. Earlier in the day we saw McCullum and Taylor blast it for New Zealand but their innings were just slog-fests. They had none of Gayle’s class. Will we see a better innings this tournament? I hope so.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The future is orange

I don’t suppose anyone actually thought Netherlands would actually beat England. This was supposed to be a walk in the park for England. A gentle opener against a mostly amateur side. Someone forgot to tell the Netherlands. England won the first ten overs, Holland the remaining thirty. The Netherlands were far superior in their running between the wickets – running virtually every ball. I don’t think England even know how to do that. In the end it all came down to the three usual suspects for England:
  • No batsmen to blast it when it counts
  • No bowlers that can stop runs being scored or take wickets
  • The opposition are more skilful.
England have to beat Pakistan – so they better hope the forecast rain doesn’t wipe out their match on Sunday...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

England scrape past Scotland

There have been some pretty impressive performances in the warm up matches for the ICC World Twenty20. South Africa looked mighty against Pakistan both with the bat and ball. India and New Zealand looked sharp with New Zealand recovering a poor start against Australia to make a game of it. England? Oh they demonstrated the exact set of failings you would imagine: predictable bowling that made little headway followed by a batting display that would not scare anyone – it didn’t scare Scotland that is for sure. Without KP (who survived a pretty simple LBW early on) England would have been sunk. Most of the other major sides look far superior – no surprise there then.

Performing worse that England were... the umpires. There were some pretty poor decisions out there – Afridi was caught from a chest high full toss that was not called no-ball even after a consultation. There have been quite a few run-outs not given. Thankfully we will get third umpires in the tournament proper.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Cricket Bonanza

What is the most important cricket series this summer? The Ashes of course, or is it. Well, yes it is actually. In twenty years time people will still talk about the 2009 Ashes much as they do about every other Ashes series. Whether it be a classic series or a whitewash it will be remembered for years. So where does that leave the ICC World Twenty20 cup which starts on Friday? Is it just a hit and giggle? For most of the people that take part (i.e. the cream of world cricket) the ICC World Twenty20 is the most important tournament this summer. That is because it is a shop window for the IPL and any other Twenty20 tournament that may spring up. The World Twenty20 is a deadly serious affair for those taking part – it will help decide salaries for the next few years. So expect lots of fantastic cricket, barrel loads of passion and gallons of pressure. Personally I cannot wait for the World Twenty20 to start...