Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting is the best Australian batsman of his generation, probably of several generations. His relentless run scoring during this last decade has won world cups and test series. However, it can be clearly seen on his graph above that he has been in decline for a number of years. The start of which seems to coincide with the retirement of Shane Warne and Glen McGrath. He has been captain of Australia since the beginning of 2004.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sachin Tendulkar

Yesterday Sachin Tendulkar scored his 50th Test century. An astonishing achievement having scored 20% more centuries than anyone else. Sachin also has 46 ODI centuries and so it only seems a matter of time before he hits a century of centuries in International cricket. It seems likely that his records will stand for a long time (Kallis has 38 Test and 17 ODI centuries, Ponting has 39 Test and 29 ODI centuries). In addition to being a one-man run machine his humility and general demeanour make him a genuinely nice guy. Congratulations Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin has scored centuries in his last three Test matches against South Africa - maybe that is why Graeme 'Sour Puss' Smith doesn't like him. We have news for you Graeme...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

URS, the game changer at Adelaide

There was a dramatic shift in the way the game was played in Adelaide. I am not referring to England’s supremacy over a floundering Australia who had their first innings defeat inflicted upon them since 1993. I am in fact talking about the Umpire Referral System (URS) in which players can ask a third umpire to take another look at a decision. In particular two referrals on the last morning show how the game is changing.

Jimmy Anderson removed Brad Haddin with a classic seamers dismissal. Ryan Harris came to the wicket and shouldered arms to a straight ball that hits him straight in front of the stumps. He is stone dead out and the umpire gives it immediately. Harris and North (his partner for one ball) thinks he is out too. However, given the situation they refer it. It is out, but it is only just out. It clips the top of middle-and-off. An absolute stone dead LBW has been turned into an ‘only just’. Suddenly even simple LBWs are looking complicated.

Two balls later and Swann is bowling to Marcus North. It pitches in-line and straightens hitting North in-front of the stumps. Swann appeals and it is turned down. England refer and on reply the ball is seen to miss the edge of the bat and hits North in front. North sees it on the big screen and doesn’t even wait for the umpire to raise his finger. Simple then, the right decision has been made in the end … except when it is seen at full speed the ball is very near the edge of the bat. North is at full stretch going forward and so the impact point is at least eight feet from the stumps. Given the very close edge and the fact he went a long way forward the umpire would have had some doubts about giving North out. The ‘not out’ decision was correct – he gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt as umpires have always done. Of course the ‘out’ decision for the referral was also correct. This is not a contradiction, we are deciding the batsman’s fate based on two separate judgements: full speed from 22 yards OR in high definition slow motion with technological aids. When judging an umpire’s performance we should remember that.

My point is that cricket is changing because of the referral system. LBWs that seem obviously out are not always so clear cut. Other situations where the batsman has always received the benefit of the doubt may no longer hold. In the end Marcus North was out and so the correct choice was made. The interactive reply was also very exciting with the players and crowd watching and cheering. Pure drama. Referrals are a game changer; we have to make sure cricket changes into something we want to watch and cherish.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A field of dreams for Ricky Ponting

Can you imagine how difficult it is to be Ricky Ponting today? For years he has cruised around the outfield marshalling Shane Warne and Glenn MacGrath, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill. When they had finished embarrassing world batsmen Ricky could have a bat with Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. He could watch and grin as Damian Martyn and Adam Gilchrist made the opposition bowlers wince. What does Ricky have now? Memories are about all – a side without a bowling attack. A side whose batsmen are already nervous of facing the English attack tomorrow. A side where the team talk for tomorrow is ‘go to bed and think of rain’.

However meagre the resources sure the captain’s job is to get the most out of them. Two of Ricky’s decisions in the current test staggered me.

Firstly, before lunch on the second day England had reached 80-1 and the Australian attack bowled wide of off stump. This was a plan: a negative confining plan; a plan to stop England scoring. There are times and places for this sort of thing and 80-1 with ball less than 20 overs old is definitely not one of them. Ricky hadn’t even tried his spinner at this point – what sort of a message does it send to Doherty?

England came out to bat after lunch on the third day in a very strong position. Petersen and Collingwood looked good. The forty minute break will have disturbed the batsmen’s concentration so it is vital Aussies have an attacking blast before settling back to containment. Who does Ricky choose to bowl: Shane Watson and Marcus North! Bowlers Ricky had such faith in he didn’t even let them have a bowl in the morning session.

Tough times for Ricky – I wonder how his batting will hold up…

Friday, 3 December 2010

Australia on the ropes

Australia 2-3 (or 3-2 if you like), who would have thought it? It was a bit like watching a dream – Ponting, Katich and Clarke behaving in the way so many English sides had done before them. The bowling was too good and the batting not up to it. In previous Ashes contests I would watch Hayden and Langer play and miss. Play and miss. Struggle. Then, as if by magic Australia would be 60-0 and our bowling would be ineffective. Huh? I would think ‘those lucky so-and-sos’, ‘if we had their luck we would win too’. Of course what I didn’t realise at the time was that playing and missing is down to ability and talent. The really good player doesn’t nick off to slip. The quality play finds a way to survive. Ponting, who by any yardstick is a quality player, appears to have the weight of a continent on his shoulders. He just doesn’t look like he is enjoying it anymore. How much fun can presiding over the destruction of a once great cricketing nation be - Brian Lara. Clarke looks like a man who has broken something and doesn’t want anyone to know. Future captain? No chance.

Of course England may well bat poorly tomorrow – but that will not change what is happening to Australia. Cricket is a fantastic leveller.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Katich has hypnotised the England attack

Is there a conspiracy at work in the Ashes tests to not bowl at Simon Katich’s leg stump? He walks across to somewhere near middle stump every ball before the bowler has released the ball. Surely a leg stump Yorker would have him in trouble. Flintoff did for Lara at Old Trafford a few years ago he didn’t get anywhere near as far across. Why wouldn’t they do it? If nothing else it would discomfort him. Currently he plays every ball about two feet outside off-stump. Come on bowlers – try and discomfort him a bit, you are doing exactly what he wants!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Australia prop up the ICC test league

India has completed a 2-0 whitewash of Australia – if you can call 2-0 a whitewash. Do all the people on the planet who think two test series are a good idea happen to work for cricket boards? The first test was quite even and, really, Australia should have won. India, chasing 216 was 124-8 before Laxman, Sharma and Ojha turned it around. The second match was fairly even until half way through the Australian second innings at which point they subsided from 126-2 to 223 all out.

Amazingly the loss to India means that Australia are ranked 5th in the world – behind England. 5th! How the mighty have fallen. What does this tell us about the upcoming Ashes series? No much. England is going to struggle to take wickets on flat tracks. Australia’s mediocrity will be lifted by being at home. Hopefully it will be a close series – hopefully the closeness will hide the dearth of talent on show.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Hey Abbot!

What sort of scheduling was it to play Bangladesh three times in a row? How could that produce close exciting cricket, the type that is needed to keep Test cricket to the fore. Granted the third instalment is against West Bangladesh and this side seems to have a better bowling attack but a much more fragile batting line-up than their eastern cousins. They also seem to have a wicketkeeper who would make Gerraint Jones look world class – which is strange because I am sure Kamran Akmal used to be quite good.

What on earth has happened to Pakistan? I can guess the real answer has something to do with their laughable cricket board. If ever there was a set of guys who the ECB could sit next to an (almost) guarantee to look competent it would be PCB officials. The PCB have a special kind of genius, unfortunately it is not for cricket but for the Lou Costello style of comedy. The trouble is it cannot be very funny for Pakistani supporters, or the hapless teams that have to play them.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pakistan in turmoil

The Pakistan cricket team; what a weird place that must be. They are always involved in some sort of controversy and have now picked a captain known for being, shall we say known for his ‘sharp practice’? No, no pussy-footing around, Afridi is a cheat and has been caught on camera a few times. Hmm... lots of disciplinary issues and they appoint a cheat – how is that going to end do you think?

Pakistan toured Australia a few months ago and the ramifications are still going on. Most of it revolves around the match at Sydney where it is suggested that some players helped to ‘throw’ the match. Pakistan managed to lose after gaining a 200 run lead on first innings. Impressive. There seems to be much fire aimed Kamran Akmal for various wicket keeping mistakes. Next time someone suggests that Pakistan have thrown a game, remember this little nugget, Intikhab Alam, Pakistan’s coach is

“critical of the players' behaviour away from the field, questioning their education levels and upbringing, their mental aptitude and ultimately concluding that they "seem to be mentally retarded.". He suggests, as remedial measures, that Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan be removed from the team, though he says of Younis that "he is not a troublemaker but he has other issues."”

I can certainly see how Akmal’s mind may be not been 100% on the job in hand, can you imagine playing for a team where the coach thinks that? I suspect the players are scared silly about making mistakes in such an environment.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Time for a thrashing?

Oh good England are going to play Bangladesh – I cannot wait. Surely it is going to be a right thumping – and what would be the point of that? Teams like to think they will win by a large margin but where is the fun if it is a foregone conclusion? The only morsel on offer is seeing if Eoin Morgan can make a fist of it. I have heard it said that he would be the first Irish born cricketer to play for England – can that be true? England players have been born all over the world – even ones that appear completely English (Ted Dexter, for example was born in Italy and Nasser Hussain in India).

Monday, 17 May 2010

Englandish are World Champions

So England has beaten Australia in the final of the T20 World Cup. They are World Champions. What is more they thoroughly deserved to win, England were clearly the best side on display. No contrivances. No Duckworth and Lewis. Not even a dodgy umpiring decision. England won; fair and square. Whhhooo.

There is a fly in the ointment of course. When I say ‘England’ what I actually mean is ‘People who qualify to play cricket for England’. Only one batsman in the top five (Collingwood) was born in the United Kingdom and for me at least that does take some of the gloss from the victory. The first Englishman walked to the crease with the score on 118-2. I can at least console myself in that the bowling was all done by who were born and brought up in England – and it was the bowling that really won it for England. Australia didn’t fully recover from (yet another) top order collapse. No miracle this time – happily.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

England's jinx

England’s performances in international competitions are usually pretty poor, bordering on very poor. They have managed to squeeze into the Super Eights after a loss to West Indies and wash-out against Ireland. However that belies a bit on injustice. England made 191 against the West Indies and the West Indies managed to win in six overs with 60. That is not much more than the average asking rate and they had more than a third of that innings with fielding restrictions.

The Duckworth-Lewis method of determining target scores is all about resources. Remaining overs and wickets are resources. When West Indies came back out (after 2.2 overs) they were set 60 after 6 overs. That is because the calculation took the overs remaining (3.4) and wickets (10) into account to come up with 60. However, most people can see than 60 in 6 overs is a lot easier to score than 191 in 20. The D/L method is a good system but I think it may need some tweaking for T20. One such tweak would be to reduce the number of wickets available in the calculation if there are only a small number of overs to play. For example if there are less than eight overs to play, reduce the number of wickets to five in the calculation. This would push up the par score and give the side batting second more of a chance. In the end all we want to see is a fair matchup.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

200 at last

It had to happen; someone had to make 200 in an ODI. Thank heavens it was Sachin Tendulkar, a man who deserves all the records and plaudits he receives who did it first. I was worried it might be done by a flash-in-the-pan player, someone who turns up, slogs for a bit and gets 200. It could have happened but happily it didn’t. The score was made by someone who is more than worthy. It was also made against South Africa – no six sixes against Bermuda type falsies here. A proper innings by a proper batsman against a proper bowling attack. Nice one Sachin.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Andrew Strauss is jaded. He is a tired man who needs a break from cricket. He is so tired that Strauss not going to Bangladesh has been a foregone conclusion since September when the ECB leaked as much. So he is not jaded, it is just convenient ECB lie. Indeed, the surprise is that other players are not tired enough to skip going. Hold on a moment, Strauss is a batsman who does not bowl – how can he be tired? He hasn’t even done much batting of late and he will not be going to the World Twenty20. For those of us who actually do a day’s work ... the thought of being given three months off from visiting hot places and playing cricket seems a bit like a mickey-take. Burn-out? I wouldn’t mind the risk of that type of burn-out.

They gave Strauss’ job to Alastair Cook. It makes perfect sense to give it to a guy whose Test average is on the slide and can barely justify his place in the side. Oh, hang on that covers the whole batting line-up except Collingwood – so Cook is probably as good a sacrifice as anyone. I wonder if he will get Strauss' extra Captain's salary...

They have announced a few replacements for the ‘jaded’ player but I am not going to even type their names: they have NO chance of being picked – it may rock a boat somewhere.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Just pick your mates

Michael Vaughan is now a cricket commentator for TMS. In this interview he says of England’s defeat:

“This is a developing team, a lot of the players are worth sticking with and given many, many more chances.”

Two years ago and 150 odd posts ago I started this blog. The first Test England played after that time their batting line-up was:


The only difference between this side and the beating at Jo’berg was Vaughan himself who has retired and his place taken over by Trott. In that time Shah and Bopara weren’t given ‘many, many more chances’. Still others never got a chance.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Not much sun with mostly showers

So South Africa made it – they managed to win the last test and draw the series. Odd that, because the fact they managed to force a draw in the last test make it look as if England were the dominant team, when in reality it was the other way around. South Africa really should have won the series 3-1 and had it not been for the heroics of England number 11s (i.e. Graham Onions) the Proteas would have done. England was thrashed ... and nearly won the series. In those terms, a draw seems like a good result.

Interesting England averages:

Cook 287 @ 41 (about average for a poor player)
Strauss 170 @ 24.28 (very poor)
Trott 190 @ 27.14 (very poor)
Pietersen 177 @ 25.28 (very poor)
Collingwood 344 @ 57.33 (only batsman that had a good tour!)
Bell 313 @ 44.71 (what sort of a team is it where 44.71 is a success?)
Prior 158 @ 22.57 (at least he didn’t drop many)
Broad 76 @ 10.85 (allrounder? Nope)
Swann 171 @ 28.5 (better average than Strauss, Pietersen and Trott. Topped bowling averages, the tours real success)

Trott is an interesting one. 27.14 is poor and he has no record to call on. By all rights he should go the way of Bopara and Shah – I wonder if that will happen. I bet he gets to tour Bangladesh for some buffet runs.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ian Bell (who else)

Ian Bell, much derided on these pages has finally played an innings that mattered in the context of the game. Ian Bell is a bit like a bus – you wait ages for him to do something significant and then he does it twice in a match. The Cape Town match was Bell’s fifty-second Test match and by my reckoning the first innings he has played that made a substantial difference to the result. At the start of the day South Africa were definitely favourites to win the game and Bell and Collinwood denied them. Why has it taken Bell so long to produce some innings that matter? You could argue (in fact I probably have) that if you give any player enough chances they will eventually do something significant. In Bell’s case though, his technique and ability always suggested something greater – that he was good enough to play Test cricket – he just couldn’t because of a mental problem. They say top sport is mostly played in the head and Bell seems a prime example of that. He would make the best looking innings of 32 you have seen and then get out in a silly fashion - repeatedly. I would suggest today’s innings was the best he has ever played. Let’s hope he has learnt something from this Test and that this is not a one-off.