Tuesday, 23 December 2008

England 2008 Test batting averages

Name M Runs Avge HS 100s 50s
A J Strauss12972 48.6017743
A N Cook12758 36.097608
I R Bell12676 37.5519922
K P Pietersen121015 50.7515251
P D Collingwood11636 39.7513524
M P Vaughan9363 24.2010611

It is fairly obvious from the figures above that only Pietersen and Strauss have been worth their place in the side. KP has made as many centuries as Bell, Cook, Collingwood and Vaughan. The others have been carried and it has been obvious the whole year. With current selection policy there is no reason to believe this will change. For example, Vaughan is rumoured to be a certainty for the tour to the West Indies...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

2008, the year of the run-chase

The normal dogma about fourth innings chases is that below 200 and the batsmen should rule; above 250 and the bowlers should prevail. 320 and above is not gettable. However, the last few months have seen:

South Africa make 283-5 against England at Edgbaston in August
New Zealand make 317-7 against Bangladesh at Chittagong in October
India make 387-4 against England at Chennai last week
South Africa make 414-4 against Australia in Perth today

The last two are the largest run chases in India and Australia respectively and both were completed with ease. Why would this be? To state the obvious - there are three obvious contributors here: the batters, the bowlers and the pitches...

There seems little doubt that Test match pitches have become better for batsmen over the last year or two. The result is that a 5th day pitch now holds few demons. There is little uneven bounce and although they do take spin there are few ‘real turners’. This makes it much easier to score runs on the 4th and 5th days and I am not sure if cricket is the better for it. Big run chases are exciting but they should also be a rarity.

Big run chases need big players and the four listed above had them in abundance. Graeme Smith played probably the best two innings of his career at Edgbaston and Perth (108). AB de Villiers also played superbly today (106*). Tendulkar made an unbeaten century in Chennai with Sehwag making 83 and Yuvraj 85* -- three quality innings there. Daniel Vettori carried the New Zealand run chase against Bangladesh, he promoted himself to number four and his force-of-will prevailed.

One thing all four run chases have in common is that none featured a quality wrist spinner and this may be the biggest factor in the victories. There were spinners playing: England had Panesar at Edgbaston (33-3-91-2). Panesar also played at Chennai (27-4-105-0) with Swann (28.3-2-103-2). Krejza played in Perth (24-2-102-0). In none of those three matches did the spinners threaten. Surely an attack that featured one of Warne, Muralitharan, Mushtaq or Kumble would not have been so ineffective...

Monday, 15 December 2008

And the winner is...

What a fantastic Test match. Both sides had their chances – England bowled well in India’s first innings and poorly in India’s second. India batted poorly in their first innings and two high classing players made their mark in the second. Test cricket is the winner here as are the people who watched the match. There was a real chance this match was not going to be played, thankfully some planning and quite a bit of courage made it so. India are ecstatic that their favourite sons Sehwag and Tendulkar played such a pivotal role in making the largest run chase in Tests in India. It was somehow fitting that the lad from Mumbai should score the winning runs and complete his 41st Test century. England will, rightly, be disappointed in the result but they should also be proud that they competed in difficult circumstances.

Roll on the second test…

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Off the hook?

I wonder what was said just before England went out to start India’s second innings? Do you think KP said:

“Right guys, we have India in trouble. They need nearly 400 and there is no way they are going to get them. We need to get Sehwag early – he is a bad starter and quite often goes for a single figure start. He loves to have a bit of room, so ‘Big Steve’ and ‘Jim Bob’, I want you to bowl short and wide outside his off-stump. I want you to really telegraph your intentions too so that he is already on the back foot waiting to slap it for six. It will be a difficult task to bowl so poorly, but we are counting on you two guys.”

It is probably the worst spell of new ball bowling I have seen for a while. They fed Sehwag rubbish and he gladly consumed it. I always think Sehwag is a bit like Symonds (but with more talent, obviously) – he is dangerous when he gets to twenty-odd but has no real idea how to get there. Along come Harmison and Anderson who invite Sehwag to an all-you-can-eat square-cutting buffet.

Now that ‘Captain Block’ (Collingwood) has saved his career for another few matches I have a job for him. He is a hard-as-nails northerner and so should become the teams enforcer. Whenever Panasar pitches the ball a foot outside leg stump and appeals for LBW, Collingwood should run over and clip him behind the ear and say ‘idiot’. Similarly when he appeals for a catch and the ball has not got within a foot of the bat -- whack. In addition, whenever Anderson or Harmison bowl a short wide ‘hit me for six’ ball he should catch them at the end of the over and dig them in the rib and say ‘no!’.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Test cricket returns

Two test series start on Thursday and hopefully both will be competitive. Cricket needs them to be true matches because we have just seen a couple of trouncing. South Africa took Bangladesh to the sacrificial altar. New Zealand was disappointing, even by their low standards, against Australia, a side they were never likely to beat.

New Zealand is hosting two tests against West Indies. The West Indies have been the whipping boys of tests for a while and have not won a series away since, erm, well let’s just say it has been a while. This must be their best chance for a while; they have some genuinely good players that are capable of beating New Zealand quite easily. The West Indies are, however, perfectly capable of beating themselves and we should not underestimate their ability to ruin a good chance. Personally I hope West Indies win; world cricket needs a successful West Indies side.

A few hours after the test in New Zealand starts the much talked about series between India and England begins in Chennai. The omens do not look good for England; they were dismantled in the ODI series and have not had their mind on cricket for a while. In addition England’s batsman have rarely impressed in Asia and India have a good bowling attack. However, India’s run up to the test match is also far from ideal. In addition there is rain about and the pitch may be underprepared because of it. A bad pitch usually evens a contest and I am not sure India’s batsmen will enjoy Flintoff or Harmison on a dodgy surface. Hopefully it will be a close series – let hope the Indians come to the ground and watch, or it may sound like an England home game.

Monday, 8 December 2008

England's Indian Aventure II

The England Test side have now arrived in India. I previously called for them to stand up and be counted and show some courage. The full strength squad all decided to go to India and so it seems only fitting to congratulate them on showing ‘the right stuff’ in deciding to go. I for one think more of the players for going and I hope the Indian fans appreciate it too.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

It's Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka West Indies

The West Indies have stepped forward to be second prize next summer. Sri Lanka were due to fill in for Zimbabwe but then everyone realised the much more important IPL was happening and Sri Lanka wouldn’t actually have any test players, so now they are not coming. Of course, some West Indians (i.e. the good ones) also have IPL contracts, so who will they be sending? The first test is at Lord’s on May 6th, which by my reckoning is still technically winter, so the West Indies will feel right at home...

Channel 9

I get to see quite a bit of Test cricket, most of it via my armchair and television. Occasionally I go to see them live but since Old Trafford is now Test matchless and the next nearest venue (Headingly) is a dive I probably will not be seeing any ‘in the raw’ for a while. During the recent Test series (if you can call two matches a series) between Australia and New Zealand I got reacquainted with the Channel 9 team in Australia.

The Australian coverage is the best – it must be because they tell me so. Technically the coverage is excellent, the camera work is fantastic and their hotspot cameras seem better than other countries. The high speed camera work is good too; although possibly not as good as Sky Sports it does seem to have a wider field of view. I don’t like the overall feel of the commentary; it is very overbearing and labours points repeatedly. I find myself thinking ‘I wish they would just shut up and let me watch the cricket’. I expect Australian commentators to be ‘pro Australia’ but the Channel 9 team are more like apologists, so much so that I can only imagine it is company policy. Favourites from the team? There is only one worth mentioning and of course that is Richie Benaud, who is head, shoulders and a tall building above the rest of them.