the wrong'un at long on

the sun in my eyes and a bludgeoned mass of hardened leather en route to my vicinity…

County Predictions

After the success of last year’s predictions, I thought it unwise to stick my neck out on the line this year. Yet I’ll do it anyway.

Division One

  1. Warwickshire – 9/2
  2. Nottinghamshire – 11/2
  3. Yorkshire – 6/1
  4. Durham – 7/1
  5. Lancashire 15/2
  6. Middlesex – 8/1
  7. Sussex – 9/1
  8. Somerset – 10/1
  9. Northants 30/1

Like last year, Warwickshire are favourites. If Jonathan Trott doesn’t get thrust straight back into the England side and thus become unavailable to them, you can understand why – they’ve enough nibbly all-rounders, wicket takers and depth to be serious contenders. Again it’s hard to see Durham doing as well as they did last season – again, they’ll probably defy those expectations with a results pitch and an excellent new ball pair (with Onions tipped for England duty, I quite like Chris Rushworth for top wicket taker @16/1). Yorkshire seem to have gotten a lot of press this year but although the crop of batsmen look excellent with the addition of Kane Williamson, more significantly I doubt their firepower with the ball since Headingley seems to be a tamer wicket than it perhaps once was. My pick for this season is instead Nottinghamshire at a competitive 11/2Peter Siddle and Luke Fletcher have wickets in them, Samit Patel, Phil Jacques 28/1 and James Taylor should provide the runs. They don’t have much in the way of a spinner but I’m not sure that there will be much need for one; of course this summer will be gloomy and overcast.

I have Sussex down to struggle. A lot might depend on Ed Joyce and Steve Magoffin – never bad men to depend on, but if they lose Prior and Jordan to England duty, I don’t know if Sussex have enough quality elsewhere if Joyce and Magoffin don’t perform well. After tipping Derbyshire to do alright last season, I’ll refrain from applying the same curse to Northamptonshire, and just say that they might stay stay up over Somerset – who look particularly frail this season after Trescothick’s barren year. Lancs aren’t in any danger of doing anything at the top or the bottom.

Division Two

  1. Surrey 7/2
  2. Hampshire – 4/1
  3. Essex – 5/1
  4. Derbyshire – 7/1
  5. Kent – 9/1
  6. Worcestershire – 9/1
  7. Gloucestershire – 12/1
  8. Glamorgan – 14/1
  9. Leicestershire – 50/1

Surrey have Graeme Smith and Kevin Pieterson. There, I’ve said it. They’ll do alright – if they can eke out some consistency from Tremlett, Dernbach and Meaker with the ball then they’ll win the league. If they can’t then I fancy my local side Hampshire to pip them. Kyle Abbott (10/1) and Matt Coles could be a brilliant signings and Jimmy Adams and James Vince will provide enough runs without being picked up by England . Kent were able to let Coles go because they’ve signed Doug Bollinger (12/1) who has an exceptional record in Sheffield Shield cricket – worth a fiver on top wicket taker. Derbyshire have Madsen (@14/1) and Chanderpaul which makes them dangerous, while Essex have been tipped elsewhere. Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Glamorgan will do well to finish in the top half.

Looking at the odds, this means that if you stuck a pound on each of the six highlighted bets, you’d no doubt lose six pounds.

 

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Spinners

Certain things in cricket mesmerise me; an Ian Bell cover drive, Morne Morkel bowling around the wicket to Michael Clarke, Graham Thorpe nudging his way to a ton, the mythical entity that is Shahid Afridi, the certainty of a Ricky Ponting hook, Jonty Rhodes athleticism at backward point…cricket and cricket’s technical skills have an aesthetical pleasantness that are unrivalled across sport. I think it’s why cricket writing is so much better than other sports (and no, I don’t include my own cobbled together mutterings in that).

Yet even in a sport which contains so many micro enjoyments within itself, spin bowling is in a metaphorical field of it’s own. Get it right and you have outwitted the discombobulated batsman through a vicious combination of verve and technical application. Get it wrong and the batsman will almost certainly have both the time and piece of wood in his hands needed to punish you. An off-spinner bowling someone driving through the gate, a leg spinner clipping the off bail having pitched outside leg, Steve Smith bowling a horrific full-toss to dismiss Ian Bell.  If someone hasn’t written a poem about these moments, they should.

The best part of spin bowling is how angry it used to make me feel as a batsman – I can only assume others are the same. The few occasions I survived the pace bowlers to even face a spinner, suddenly my mindset changed. No longer would I wish to merely survive. No longer was I particularly troubled in terms of being hurt by the 12 ounce mass of hardened leather. Suddenly I wanted to be the aggressor. I wanted to launch it into oblivion. Bowl it flat, I wanted to smash it. Give it flight, I wanted to smash it. On a length, outside off stump, hitting middle, I wanted to smash it.

Quite often I would miss it.

I’d create a whole new sport based around the art; reduce bowlers’ run-ups to a maximum of three paces and use those special “grippy” pitches that England net on when touring the subcontinent, presumably to get them used to being completely bamboozled by spin bowlers. I’d insist that there are a minimum of four fielders within five metres of the bat – ideally there’d be a silly mid off right under the batsman’s snout! We’d use a new ball with an extra seam at 90 degrees to the existing one for extra turn and we’d reduce the size of the popping crease by half; stumped is, afterall, the best method of dismissal after ‘bowled’. It’d be a game based on misdirection, guile, suggestion and showmanship. I’d call it Spincket. Which is a rubbish name that doesn’t even remotely do justice to the potential of the game.

Naturally, the face of the sport would be Saeed Ajmal.

Saeed Ajmal Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan poses for a portrait during the Pakistan Portrait session at the Sheraton Hotel on February 13, 2011 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Devilishly handsome with fine hair, Ajmal is my favourite current bowler and would be the first man I’d turn to in order to promote Spincket. Ajmal has excellent control, gets significant turn and lovely loop. The fact he has a doosra makes him officially naughty and an antithesis of James Tredwell. As much as he’s decent in limited overs for England, I definitely wouldn’t let Tredwell play my game, nor Nathan Lyon. I’d let Graeme Swann play, but only to left handers. Ajmal would be the man though. He is a modern day Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqqy could definitely still play even now, as could Mushy if he’s up for it.

At the other end would be Graham Thorpe and VVS Laxman. Wristiness.  There would be double runs on offer for dabbled sweeps behind square leg – naturally. I’d also give a congratulatory run to any batsman who plays a shot so late that the ball is within a foot of the return crease. Does anyone want to play?

Steve Smith to Ian Bell

Poor shot selection

Toe ended to mid on

Full toss there to be hit

Shabby execution

Part time leg spin delight

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Afghanistan beat Bangladesh!

“The cricketing potential is huge. What they need is encouragement, not criticism. It’s not just about statistics. Our success is measured in many objectives for the individual and the team. Essentially we want to show progress and push the opposition as hard as we can.”

Dav Whatmore.

“We are just trying to help them along the way by improving standards. There aren’t too many countries where cricket is the No1 sport, so they’ve every chance.”

The ICC’s Brendan McClements.

“In a country that only hits the headlines only when some form of disaster strikes, cricket is more than a mere pastime. It’s a potential lifejacket. It tells the world that the country has more to it than natural disasters, and it provides the people with a welcome distraction from their worries”

Wisden’s Lawrence Booth.

Although these quotes are similar to some of the words being bandied about regarding Afghanistan this week, they probably do not make great reading for the country for whom they were originally penned – Bangladesh. The words describe a country whose slow progress in the early 2000′s appears less and less like any sort of progress at all: only against Zimbabwe and what was essentially a West Indian ‘B’ team  have Bangladesh found their level in Test cricket.

In limited overs cricket however there has been more success. Just two years ago Bangladesh were 2 (two!) runs away from winning the Asian Cup – a rare peak in performance which included scalps of both India and Sri Lanka. It was hoped that they would build on that showing in the 2014 Asia Cup, however a loss to a Virat Kohli inspired India (could Kohli become the greatest ODI batsman ever?) was followed by a performance which handed Afghanistan an historic first win over a Test playing nation. If David, used to fighting men of Goliath’s ilk, comes acropper against a fellow midget of the world…is this even an upset?

I wrote in October about Afghanistan qualifying for the 50 over World Cup in 2015 and like the cricket dork that I unashamedly am I had a quick glance through their stats to see if they perhaps had a world beater hidden away in there, or perhaps a core of solid players to build on for the future. Qualifying for the World Cup over nations like Kenya was certainly a surprising feat – in March 2003 the new Afghanistan was just two years old yet to even formalise a constitution, whilst Kenya were reaching the semi finals of the World Cup.

What I found was that the Afghans certainly look to have a solid enough batting line up for the level that they are at; they have four players who average in the mid 30′s with the bat in ODI cricket (Mohammad Shahzad, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari). In the grand scheme of things this is nothing outstanding in a world where stars like Virat Kohli are currently averaging nearly double that in run chases, but bear in mind that Bangladesh have just one batsman in the same bracket (the excellent Shakib Al Hassan). Of the four Afghans, it was Shenwari in this instance who hit a quickfire 81 from 69 balls to give support to Asghar Stanikzai (90*) and provide Afghanistan with a competitive total.

I also mentioned that Bangladesh appear to meet that time-honoured subcontinental tradition of being able to squeeze the enjoyment out of the middle of a 50 over innings by taking pace off the ball – Shenwari (1-23 from 6 overs) and Hamza Hotak (0-24 from 7 overs) fulfilling this role excellently in Fatullah. However what really stands the Afghan’s out is the two opening ‘quick’ bowlers Shapoor Zadran (2-39) and Hamid Hassan (2-26). With ODI averages of 27.15 and 18.94 respectively they have all the makings of a stronger new ball pair than Bangladesh have ever been able to boast. In this respect the Afghans are more in line with Pakistan in terms of cricketing heritage than Bangladesh. It is difficult to compare ODI averages like-with-like between two nations of a full ICC member and an Associate Member due to the nature of their respective regular opposition, but given Hassan especially is supposed to hit 90+mph, this Afghan side look like being capable of more than simply making up the numbers in NZ & Australia in 2015 – unlike, dare I say it, Bangladesh.

Hand up if you’re a decent new ball bowler…

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Domino Effect for Duminy Domination?

It is no longer unexpected to see a brilliant innings from AB de Villiers, and it almost was an inevitability that he notched up his 18th Test ton to drag South Africa past both respectability and then formidability in the first innings in Port Elizabeth. The 30 year old became a record breaker on Day One by reaching 50 in his 12th consecutive Test match, and then became a centurion on Day Two as South Africa grittily edged ahead on Day Two.

Most impressive about de Villiers’ Test stats are that he has managed to improve his average on taking on the extra burden of wicket-keeping duties from a ‘mere’ 50.42  to 59.89 with the gloves,  and notably his figures are not improved by ‘cashing in’ against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – he does not have a single century against either.

What was less expected on Day Two was the support de Villiers received from the other end, he no longer has the rock that was Jacques Kallis alongside him at number 4 and so looks a little isolated in the middle order. Instead it was left to an unheralded performer to back him up, and this is what happened – today was comfortably JP Duminy’s second greatest Test knock.

Duminy has flattered to deceive at Test level since bursting onto the scene with a stunning 166* in what was just his second Test against Australia (an Aussie side incidentally also containing Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle). It looked then that he would step into the South African Test side and provide a perfect lower order foil to a top order containing Smith, Amla, De Villiers and Kallis. It has not quite happened. In 22 Tests Duminy has just 3 Test centuries and a nondescript average in the early to mid 30s. For a man with 15 First Class Centuries and 10000 First Class runs at 48.13, this seems a poor return. Yet it is this First Class record combined with a handy average of 39.27 in ODI cricket (and no doubt his excellent spell for Devon!) that has seen South Africa persevere with him in spite of a less than glorious Test career to date. It was this First Class record and volume of runs that Duminy leant on during his excellent knock today which has shifted the momentum of the Test series’ back in South Africa’s favour.

In this I think that there is a lesson. Since the retirement of Paul Collingwood the England selectors have been desperately trying to find another jewel in the crown. Eoin Morgan was tinkered with and found out, James Taylor got a Test then the wilderness, Johnny Bairstow had a few to prove himself, even Joe Root went from hero to zero whilst Gary Ballance has featured in a Test, Michael Carberry had one Test at his peak before being oddly thrown in for 5 when slightly past it. Nick Compton was harshly done by, while Ravi Bopara has as many tons as Duminy from half the Tests. Who remembers Samit Patel’s Test appearances as a second spinner? For the summer coming Ben Stokes is now seen as a number 6 – but for how long?

South Africa have eschewed this scattergun approach and have taken a longer term approach with Duminy. They have basically accepted that you cannot have 11 world beaters in your side, and taken the approach that Duminy’s stats suggest that he will become a ‘good’ and steady player for them in the long term.

Now they have been rewarded for their patience with this excellent knock, I’d suggest that Duminy is now likely to add further value to their investment and is certainly likely to improve his current average in the mid 30s and push it over the “decent Test batsman” mark of 40. Ultimately Duminy will most likely never be a great, but when you have players like de Villiers in your side that isn’t the issue. South Africa’s blueprint for proven performers seems to have created a formidable unit. Other countries should take note.

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Ball of the Century

The best parts of this one is the contours of the keeper gloves and Gatting’s face. Even though you can’t see the detail on Gatt’s mug you know what emotion he’s feeling; confused and defeated.

One of the best things about the ball is the reaction of Gatting. As the Australians celebrated, he just sort of stood there confused. This accusing and bewildered stare at where the bail should be, contrasted with the group happiness at the back of the shot.

On a side note, whatever happened to Cornhill Insurance? Did they exist solely to sponsor cricket in the 1990s because I don’t think I’ve heard of them since…

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Sketch Cricket

Just mucking around with an image or two.

If this one works I’ll try to upload more tomorrow.

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ECB and PCA Statement

It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.

“Unwarranted”? ….”unwelcome backdrop”!?

Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.

“successfully”!!!!?!!!

The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.

FACT.

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

There are a lot of hints to be gleaned when reading between the lines here. Nothing concrete, of course, let alone an example.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

“People outside cricket”, like Paul Downton was 3 weeks ago?

“Attacking the rationale of”…getting rid of your best batsman?

“Questioned without justification”…try seeing our best and most exciting player be sacked without justification.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

Clearly.

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

“Uninformed and unwarranted”!?!! 0-5.

These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.

Oh, the cruel irony.

—————————————————————————-

A statement which can ONLY have been designed to add fuel to the fire. Nothing new therefore pointless and frustratingly uninformative, not to mention being really rather rude to anyone with an opinion which goes against the actions of the ECB.

I don’t necessarily want Pietersen back if he is going to be a disruptive nightmare which makes the 10 other players in a cricket team play shit. I do however want some form of good reason behind ditching our best batsman other than shoddy management. From the outside looking in, the combined trio of Flower, Cook and Prior had a lot more to do with the shambolic 5-0 loss than Kevin Pietersen, yet they are being backed to the hilt whilst Kevin Pietersen is the fall guy.

The ECB should treat it’s customers with more respect and either give us something or just shut up – Kevin Pietersen’s silence has played the situation x10 times better than they have. This is playing wildly at a ball they really should have left; it is a terrible start to Paul Downton’s tenure, another failure from Andy Flower, and hardly a strong chapter in Alastair Cook’s book.

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In Memory Of…England winning a Global Tournament

T20 World Cup, 2010 – South Africa

Group D

There was a very real danger that unfancied England might have fallen at the first hurdle, a danger exacerbated when Duckworth-Lewis contrived to give the West Indies a win in the opening fixture when they’d made no more than a decent start when chasing 191 -the tournament’s highest total to that point. As it was, West Indies’ thumping of Ireland in the opening match was enough to cruelly cement Ireland’s exit, when having limited England to just 120-8 their chase was washed out and a no result verdict was passed.

So England, Played 2 Won 0, went through as a result of run rate. Inspiring, huh.

Group E?

Having scraped through the formalities of Group D, England went into Group E (obviously).

From this point it’s worth mentioning that they didn’t lose another match.  First Pakistan were limited to 147 after being bamboozled by the mystery non-spin of Michael Yardy (4-0-19-2); Kevin Pietersen then began a run of form with a blistering 73* to guide England home with 3 balls to spare.

In the second fixture Dale Steyn (4-0-50-0) and South Africa were then sent to all parts with Pietersen (53 from 33) again starring, Ryan Sidebottom and Graeme Swann  with 3 wickets apiece sealing an empthatic 39 run victory.

A bog-standard, unmemorable victory sans a rested KP against New Zealand kept the momentum for the already qualified for semi final. Apologies to Tim Bresnan whose stats (4-0-20-1 plus 23* from 11 balls) indicate a bit of a match-winning performance; sorry Tim but I don’t remember it, and the rest of your tournament was pretty mediocre.

Semi-Finals – England vs Sri Lanka

The semi-finals awaited; Sri Lanka awaited. Sri Lanka were a well rounded side with a strong top order, big hitters in the lower order and plenty of variation in their attack. Phenomenal bowling from Broad, Sidebottom, Yardy and Swann (sorry again Bresilad) kept a much fancied Sri Lanka to 128 (Angelo Matthews 58 from 45). The mystery spin of Ajantha Mendis and the more obvious talents of Lasith Malinga could not keep Pietersen (42* from 26) from guiding England to a comfortable victory with 4 overs to spare – to face Australia in the final.

The Final

Again unfancied to be anything resembling successful, England’s bowlers limited Australia well too; Australia reaching just 147 (David Hussey 50) with a good all-round bowling performance (with Yardy and Bresnan expensive – sorry Tim). Yet again Kevin Pietersen (47 from 31) was at the fore-front of a comfortable chase, this time with Craig Kieswetter (63 from 49) also contributing and seeing England home with 3 overs to spare. Australia were not a 2006 or even a 2001 juggernaut at this point, but they were still pretty dominant in terms of limited overs cricket and really expected to see off England.

What We Learnt

Not a lot, apparently.

Five Things We Should Have Learnt

1. You can get away with starting a tournament slowly, but you won’t win unless you turn it on at the business end. The nature of England’s final two matches could not have been further from those of the opening fixtures. Momentum may or may not be a real sporting variable, but if it exists it had certainly swung in England’s favour by the end. 

2. Kevin Pietersen is a World Class T20 asset. Only Mike Hussey averaged more (boosted by four “not outs”), only Mihela Jayawardene scored more (boosted by a ton vs Zimbabwe). At the aforementioned “business end”, Pietersen averaged in excess of 100 in England’s final four matches. Irreplaceable. Sorry Rajasthan Royals and co, but I’m even considering bidding for him for my team in the Plymouth & Districts weeknight T20 league. He’d open the bowling too.

3. Sidebottom, Bresnan, Broad, Yardy and Swann. Five pretty uninspiring names, with two uninspiring bit part bowlers in Collingwood and Wright as back-up. Yet although individually they wouldn’t strike fear into anyone, as a unit they worked: Left arm over the wicket, the short right armer who bowls a “heavy ball”, the tall quick with the awkward bounce, the left arm tweaker, the off-spinner with an excellent length, plus the dibbly dobbly medium pacer and the spare 80mph bowler. The individuals in England’s bowling unit were not great, but the variation available was. And I’m not talking about Dernbach’s back of the hand long hops…

4. Fielding. David Hussey was run out by Luke Wright having reached 50 in the final to slow Australia’s late dash. Angelo Mathews was run out by Collingwood having reached 50 in the semi final. This wasn’t an electric side in the field by any means but at the key points they delivered, and some individuals in vital areas were consistently outstanding.

5. England’s batting order just felt right. England weren’t afraid to open with their Somerset produced wicket-keeper and tell him and his partner to go for it from the off. The best player (Pietersen) was at 3 and the captain Collingwood at 4. Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright were reduced to finishing roles but they rarely slowed the innings. Someone like Bresnan at 7 is absolutely fine in this format if you have confidence in the top order and you have Yardy at 8 and Broad and Swann at 9 and 10.

Kevin Pietersen

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Sachin Tendulkar

1. He hit 100 international hundreds. He’s the only man to have done so. Oh wait, you knew that? Shit. I’m gonna have to up my game.

2. He started playing Tests so early that we don’t even know his career strike rate. Hmm, you’ve heard that one before too?

3. Tendulkar holds the record for being the player who has tied the most ODI matches ever: 5. Naturally by “holds the record”, I mean he holds a seventh of it – joint with Ricky Ponting, Mark Boucher, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh, Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock. However he is the only one of these record holders to not have featured in the three tied matches between Australia and South Africa  between 1999 and 2002. Good work, Sach…

4. He hit over 500 more fours than the next highest boundary striker in ODIs, Sanath Jayasuriya. Jayasuriya clobbered 75 more sixes.

5. He got more 50 more One Day International wickets than England ‘legend’ Graeme Swann - he is India’s 10th highest wicket taker in ODIs.

6. He’s just the second Indian in history to feature on a postal stamp whilst still being alive (after Mother Teresa).

7. He averaged 21 against Ireland – George Dockrell and Roger Whelan have both taken his wicket.

8. He opened the bowling just once in a Test match, in 2002 against the West Indies. The Windies needed just 5 runs in the fourth innings to win, yet Sachin kept Chris Gayle scoreless in the first over. The Windies won the Test just two balls later.

9. Tendulkar played just one T20 International. He made a good start and took the wicket of Justin Kemp, but presumably getting bowled by Charles Langeveldt was enough to prompt early retirement.

10. With Virender Sehwag (8586 Test runs) he holds India’s 3rd wicket partnership record. With VVS Laxman (8781 Test runs) he holds India’s 4th wicket partnership record. With Zaheer Khan (1178 Test runs) he holds India’s 10th wicket partnership record.

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Assault and Battery; Arsehole and Brett Lee?

You might well have seen it: six deliveries bowled at full pace from one of the two or three fastest international bowlers of the past 15 years to a tubby 48 year old village cricketer. 5 1/2 ounces of hardened red leather rifled in at the body of a basically defenceless, if not undeserving, target.

Many initially chuckled, for this was no ordinary village cricketer but the easily dislikeable Piers Morgan. Piers’ creepy obsession with celebrity irritates most, and when it comes to cricket his regularly tweeted man love of Kevin Pietersen seemingly rises above all else in the sport. Which irritates me.

Whether or not it irritated Brett Lee brings us to the case at hand. As the hurler of the aforementioned 5 1/2 ounces of hardened leather, Lee came in for criticism from Sir Richard Hadlee, an excellent propeller of leather himself. Hadlee was “appalled” and said that Lee had “damaged the image of the game” with his “dangerous and very wrong” actions.

Morgan listed his injuries as “a cracked wrist” and “a bruised rib”, whilst also tweeting a picture of a bruised hip. The bruised rib has since been confirmed as a fracture. Apart from those three blows he managed to duck one delivery, was bowled from another and narrowly avoided being poleaxed from the last.

My initial reaction was that Morgan had placed himself in this firing line and to thus eschew any sympathy. It was a cheap sideshow and not something I was overly interested in.

Then Hadlee got involved, a superb thinking bowler of just slightly before my time but not before my mother’s and uncle’s; a cricket brain which delivered over 400 Test scalps and 3000 runs. These were not outrageous claims from a man who wanted more spotlight but reasoned thoughts from a retired legend of the game which are worth listening to.

As any criminal law student would know there are two basic components which constitute a crime. Latin for “guilty mind” is ‘mens rea’; put simply there must have been some intent on the part of the actor in order for it to constitute a crime. There are different levels of culpability of intent which range from criminal negligence – where the actor did not foresee consequences when a “reasonable” person would, up to direct intention – where the consequences were as a result of clear foresight and it was the aim or purpose to achieve that consequence.

In October 2013 Darryn Randall died aged 32 after being hit on the head by a cricket ball while batting. He was struck on the side of the head and collapsed in a league game. Randall was a former First Class cricketer in South Africa. There have been other notable cricket-ball related deaths and no doubt serious injuries of note too. I remember getting struck on the shoulder by a beamer from a Devon u13′s quick bowler playing for Ivybridge when I was growing up.

The second main component of a crime is the “Guilty Act”- ‘actus reus’. This means that there must be some form of action for there to be a crime. Fundamentally this excuses those who would love to throw hard objects at Piers Morgan but have managed to stop themselves from actually doing so; it removes the concept of thought crime.

Brett Lee knowingly bowled six seriously sharp deliveries to a man who was ill-equipped to do anything with them save be struck. Three of them resulted in injury. In terms of culpability Brett Lee could at the very least be described as “reckless” and would most likely go down as “knowing” that there was an excellent chance that he could cause injury. Lee did not just float deliveries outside off stump and laugh at Morgan missing them by a country mile, he bowled five bouncers directed at the body.

When actus reus and mens rea are combined through concurrence and causation, there are sufficient grounds for a crime to have been committed. By these most basic principles, Brett Lee could face charges for assault and battery.

Of course there are caveats in the law. In sport there is the notion of consent. Consent to the force of a normal tackle in rugby is a full defence to a charge of assault in these instances. Determining what it is a person consents to is very often the most vexing part of any assault matter. We casually accept the notion that when one participates in a sport, one accepts the risk of being injured. But the question is, what risk did the person consent to? All risks? Limited risks?

As a young teen in 2001 I vividly remember a Brett Lee barrage of Andrew Caddick at Lord’s, who was backing away metres from the stumps. Was Brett Lee seriously trying to get Caddick out, or was he just trying to hit his opposite number? As a seriously fast fast bowler, Lee is a little unfortunate in this instance to be the one of his ilk in history that I am singling out but he’d have been far better served aiming for the unguarded timbers if he was trying the former.

It is surely fair to say that Piers Morgan consented to facing an over bowled by Brett Lee, though would he have consented to Lee bowling six “beamers” at him from ten yards? Probably not as this would not have been within the rules of the game.

However by that notion it is unlikely that he consented to being “bounced” five balls out of six when the sport usually limits a bowler to just two bouncers per over. Moreover, the fact that Lee bowled all six deliveries from comfortably beyond the popping crease which in a match would be classed as an illegal delivery was even more unsettling.

Playing culture as a legal principle was founded in Canada in 1989 during an ice-hockey match; the defendant skated towards the victim and pushed him into the boards with his stick and the victim suffered various facial injuries. The incident resulted in the defendant being dismissed from the ice by the referee at the time, but in the courts it was held that this was an act that fell within the “Playing Culture” of the sport.

The UK courts were a little slower to react to the principle. But in 2004 after a tempestuous challenge during a soccer match it was stated that although “Playing Culture” was accepted as a legal term the courts had to look at ‘The nature of the game played; whether amateur or professional league and so on; the nature of the particular act or acts and their surrounding circumstances; the degree of force employed; the degree of risk of injury; and the state of mind of the accused’.

In terms of the technical language of the criminal law, the principles of the “playing culture” of sport have been translated to mean that where a player shows “reckless disregard” for the safety of an opponent, criminal charges can be considered on the above. As a fan and much more loosely as a player I expect that the consensus would not be to want sport to be softened up in any way whatsoever, but from the above criteria a professional sportsman should certainly know far better than to put an amateur at risk as Lee did with Morgan.

Imagine the reaction to this had this been a boxer involved rather than a cricketer. After his previous fight I innocently tweeted something about Amir Khan having a “weak chin”, a typical sofa-dwelling barb on a social networking site from someone not really qualified to comment. Should I go a round with him, to let him physically settle a score?

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