Saturday, 29 August 2009

Cricket is a product of the Popular Group

For my sins I haven’t seen any of the Sky Ashes coverage. Instead I have been forced to watch ‘streamed’ cricket. That is TV that has been captured from TV and rebroadcast. It may or may not be illegal (depending on where the originator and viewer are) but it seems to be almost always of suspect quality. It is a bit like watching cricket in the rain – that is that the TV is in the rain and the picture a bit blurry.

The quality of the picture however, is not the most irritating part; it is the actual coverage itself. I have watched Pakistani and Indian streams. They take the Sky feed and add their own adverts. When I say ‘add’ I mean spray liberally at all possible moments. The adverts start at the very instant the ball goes dead at the end of an over. The adverts end at some point after the bowler has started his run up to start the next over. Sometimes that point is after the ball has been bowled. Any break in play is met by adverts. The adverts themselves are repeated, endlessly. Over after over the same adverts are repeated, some as many as twenty times an hour. This is brainwashing at its most insidious. There is very little technical discussion and few replays because these are covered over with advert breaks. The show itself is a very pale imitation of the original Sky coverage and I can only feel sorry for people that have to put up with it as their native coverage. It just not cricket. They say that on the radio the pictures are better, well in this case, they are: TMS’s coverage was much more instructive than the TV pictures...

Friday, 28 August 2009

England's Ashes winners

In a shock move I decided to look at the positives for the England cricket team after the Ashes series. After all the won, so there should be lots! The side Australia sent to England was the worst for a long time but that should not detract from England’s performances; after all England can only play against the side sent. Who came out of the series with their reputation enhanced?

Andrew Strauss is a big winner. A year and a half ago his place in the England side was by no means certain and to some degree should not even have been picked. The captaincy seems to have been the making of him. His batting has improved out of sight and he is now back to his best. His captaincy whilst perhaps not of the very highest calibre is improving and shows considerable promise.

Matt Prior is a wicket keeper batsman whose wicket keeping has always been poor. In the West Indies last winter it was a laughing stock. There was a very real fear that he would give away hard fought opportunities in the Ashes with fumbled catches. Not so. Prior’s wicket keeping has improved considerably. He looks much less flustered behind the stumps and although the odd bye still gets past him the all important catches have stayed in his gloves. Prior’s batting too has been impressive finishing with a series average above Cook, Collingwood, Bell and Bopara.

Stuart Broad has come out of the Ashes as a national hero which is odd because two Test matches ago he was being widely tipped to be dropped. His bowling lacked penetration and control. By the end Broad topped the England bowling averages. A real boon with Broad is his batting, he ended up above Cook, Collingwood, Bell and Bopara in the averages. A fact that reflects well on Broad and terribly on the four batsmen.

That is about it, the others struggled one way or another. Trott of course made a century on debut and was a big winner, but he only played one match. He will have booked his place on tour though.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Some pruning required

After a summer of growth it is often a good idea to prune a tree. Remove the dead wood and make precise decisions about the direction you want the tree to grow in the future. Of course the tree will largely do what it wants but you can but try. So it is with cricket teams. England have just had their most important home series ... until the next Ashes battle, so it’s a good time to wield the axe make some space.

Bell and Collingwood must go. These have been on my personal hobby horse for quite some time, mainly because they are just, well, not very good. Okay, they are rubbish; there you dragged it out of me. People will always say things like ‘ah yes but Collingwood’s effort at Cardiff was instrumental in England saving the game and hence winning the series’, which is true. However, that is largely irrelevant because if you give anyone enough chances they will come up with significant innings. It is not the exceptional performances that matter it’s the everyday ones. Collingwood scored 250 runs at 27.77 and Bell made 140 runs (3 matches only) at 28. That is not only crap, it is what I expected! Put it this way, England have just beaten Australia. If there was a combined XI of the two sides, what are the chances of Bell or Collingwood appearing in it? Exactly.

Cook is one who England has to do something about. On paper he is just as poor as Bell or Collingwood (222 runs at 24.66). He had good series against the West Indies but that was very much the exception. England should consider removing Cook’s central contract and make him work for his place. As it stands he has to do nothing and giving him another year will change nothing.

Harmison, Panesar and Sidebottom should lose their central contract status. All are struggling to make the test side (if at all). Make them justify their place in the side with results as Harmison did recently.

Bopara looks to be a man with talent. He was excellent against the West Indies and awful against Australia. He doesn’t look a natural number three against quality bowling, so maybe he should come in at five (i.e. replace Collingwood). The guy had three consecutive Test centuries earlier in the year so he deserves a chance.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Pot, kettle, Shane Warne

I heard Shane Warne going on about the Oval pitch again today. He had changed his position slightly from “He (the curator) overbaked it a little bit to make sure there is a result” to “looks a little worn”. I wonder if the mellowing of his position is because someone pointed out that Warne himself had custom made, specially prepared wickets in Australia for a DECADE AND A HALF. Pitches that became raging turners and that looked like a tank battle had taken place within two naffing days. Talk about being hypocritical....

And so it ends

England winning the Ashes, who would have thunk it? Not me, that is for sure, I didn’t believe they were good enough. Heck, I still don’t and I just checked the sports to make sure I didn’t dream it. How does a side that scores two individual centuries beat a side that has eight? Or a side whose two best players have injuries that stop them playing a full part in the series beat a side with world class players that return to the side. Or a side that lost to West Indies a few months ago beat the Aussies who had just trashed South Africa in South Africa.

There seems little doubt that Andrew Strauss played a vital role both as opening batsman and captain. He has grown into the captaincy role and has a happy knack of getting good performances from himself and from unreliable bowlers. I think he summed it up best himself “when we are bad we are very bad, when we are good we are just good enough”. England were certainly just good enough today and it won them the biggest prize in cricket.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Flip flops

I thought I understood cricket. Good teams win and bad teams lose. Good players do well and in general poor ones do not. We seem to have a series here in which the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are chosen at random. At Headingly England was predictably terrible and Australia trounced them. Today the complete reverse has happened and Australia are firmly in reverse gear. What is even more unlikely is that their destroyers are Broad and Swann. Swann, the only man who looks less likely than Broad to take wickets! What will we get next, a Collingwood hundred?

What can we expect tomorrow? Go on... flip a coin.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Monday, 10 August 2009

England Ashes Batting Averages

The England batsmen were spectacularly poor at Headingly and there will be pressure to make changes. Past experience tells us there will be few and they will, magically ensure that England play their first Test in South Africa with: Cook, Strauss, Pietersen, Bell and Collingwood. In other words the same set of suspects it has been for years. The batting averages for the Ashes series are:

Strauss 344 at 49.14
Prior 239 at 39.83
Collingwood 225 at 32.14
Cook 203 at 29.00
Bell 64 at 21.33 [2 tests]
Bopara 105 at 15.00

Not looking good for Bopara then although everyone’s figures except Strauss are poor. Collingwood, Cook and Bell’s averages are well down on their mediocre career figures. It is worth remembering for all the shouting that Bopara ‘is not a Test number 3’ that he has scored three consecutive Test centuries this year. They were against the West Indies and their pop-gun attack but he still made them.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Can England win the Ashes?

It has been a funny series so far with one side dominating all the Test matches so far. Oddly the side that has dominated started as Australia in Cardiff, switched to England at Lord’s and then back to Australia at Headingly. Can England win the Ashes at The Oval? Well, given the form has flip-flopped in this series anything is possible. Whether The Oval will be a pitch England can win on is another matter. The last first class match there would suggest a draw is likely – or at least an Australian capitulation is unlikely: http://www.cricinfo.com/countycricket2009/engine/match/383021.html. In general Australia may bat badly once on a good pitch but rarely twice.

England need a 'result' pitch at The Oval and need to be in the state of mind to get a result! The Australian bowlers performed quite well at Headingly and will be confident at The Oval but England would do well to be not over awed - England played poorly and when put under a bit of pressure by Broad and Swann the Aussies reverted to type and fell to pieces for a while.

Flintoff's last Test [stand] of course...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Normal service is now in operation

In case you missed the previous post:

Friday, 7 August 2009

Normal service is resumed

If it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and swims like a duck then there is a fair chance it is a duck. Similarly if a side bats like a plate of lemons and then bowls like a bag full of lemons then almost certainly what you are watching is a set of lemons. England were dreadful today and it really is no surprise. The batting line-up looks woeful. It looks like it is designed to fail. If Strauss, the only man in the side that can make more than fifty, gets out early who is going to make runs:
  • Cook? Err, no.
  • Bopara? Not very likely. Has gone from impressive to schoolboy-like in one series
  • Bell? No, obviously.
  • Collingwood? Has there ever been a crisis that Collingwood didn’t make worse?
  • Prior? Well, maybe actually but by the time he comes in everyone else has lost their head and he has to manage the crumbling tail-enders.
Without Pietersen or Flintoff to give England some backbone they are a failboat just waiting to be launched. It all looked so promising for a few weeks too...