Test Three – The Saafampton Bowl

The last time I found myself at the Rose Bowl, Aaron Finch bludgeoned his way to a world record 156 in an international T20 match, and England, in spite of posting 200+ themselves in the chase, found themselves falling rather short. It was Finch’s greatest innings to date, and one suspects it’ll retain that mantle for the rest of his career.

It wasn’t the first Australian ‘innings for the ages’ I have been witness to; I was there for Michael Clarke’s elegant treble against India at the SCG, as well as a brutal 160* from Shane Watson against England in an ODI in Melbourne which saw Australia chase down a record total. Three Australian batsmen, performing the greatest acts of their lives, in front of a miserable and bitter Janner, sat there wishing them to fail.

I honestly can’t remember much from English batsmen that would compare to any of these three knocks that I have seen live – I certainly don’t think I’ve seen a “career definer” of an innings like the three above, though.

Actually that’s a lie – “I WUZ THERE” for Samit Patel’s 5fer against the South Africans in an ODI at the Oval in 2008. Err, yes that is right: some people get to see Bell’s and Trescothick’s double tons, KP 150s, Vaughan in Adelaide, etc, and I get fat Samit’s five-for in a bleddy One Day International – (“scalps”: Ntini, Boucher, Morkel, Morkel and Botha). Harumph. I think it’s time to take this post back to Finch and the Rose Bowl:

Since that day in late August last summer, England’s record is not so grand: beaten 1-2 in the following ODI series at home, then  rotten tour Down Under which saw 0-5 in the “Return Ashes”, 1-4 in the ODI series and 0-3 in the T20 series. A patchy tour of the West Indies (a 2-1 series win and a 1-2 series loss) was the warm-up to a shocking World Cup (W1, L3) which of course included humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands. Edging desperately home to English conditions didn’t help; series’ losses to Sri Lanka is Tests (0-1), T20 (0-1) and ODIs (2-3) and we are now facing a (0-1) reverse at home to India.

W8-L27 – not a pretty stat. I could include the one off fixtures against Ireland and Scotland; if I were a Cook/ECB fan I probably would. It still wouldn’t make good reading, though.

As for tomorrow, there might be a spot of rain about. It has threatened to hum it down all week here in a very humid and warm Hampshire. It hasn’t done so yet, though. No doubt saving itself for mid-morning tomorrow.

The Rose/Ageas/Pudding Bowl tends to play true and reasonably fast – Finch’s knock wouldn’t have been achievable at Lords. Thus unless there’s extremely good overhead conditions for swing I’d back the side batting first to score runs. Whoever bats second will probably score runs too. Third and fourth might be slightly trickier, but only slightly. If there is a winner it’ll be down to which side collapses unnecessarily worse, but the verdict must be for a draw.

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Photos From Lords

Vijay taking evasive action from an Anderson bouncer

Vijay taking evasive action from an Anderson bouncer

Jadeja hooking...spot the ball?

Jadeja hooking…spot the ball?

Kumar's impenetrable defence

Kumar’s impenetrable defence

Sam Robson. Nothing to say about this shot other than my timing was shocking.

Sam Robson. Nothing to say about this shot other than my timing was shocking.

The man of the hour; Ishant Sharma

The man of the hour; Ishant Sharma

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A Trip To Lords

Tomorrow. It’s my birthday. Well done her – much better than the usual codswallop she gets me on these occasions.

Naturally this means I hope today gets completely rained out and the extra time is made up when I’m actually there. Weather forecast for this scenario looks promising.

Considering making a sign to take and get myself exposure on TV:

#FreeCook

#RootForSkip

#£20ticketLOL

#lashedasBallance

#hashtagwanker

Who am I kidding – like I’m even remotely bothered enough to make a sign. Also going to see Jeeves and Wooster in the theatre this eve. Not really my bag, but, I have it in my head they like cricket.

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Goodbye to Mike Selvey

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Yet Another Hypothetical Cricket XI

The Worst XI Where Every Player Has Made A Minimum Of Ten Test Centuries

> Ashwell Prince

>Mike Gatting

>Ijaz Ahmed

>Nasser Hussain (c)

>Ramnaresh Sarwan

>Nathan Astle

>Alec Stewart (wk)

>Thilan Samaraweera

>Ian Botham (new ball bowler)

>Paul Collingwood (new ball bowler)

>Carl Hooper (frontline spinner)

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Test Cricket – The Big Two – Huzzah!

Finally, the two biggest cricket playing nations in the world lock horns!

We’ll ignore the sizeable populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. We’ll ignore the ICC rankings. We’ll ignore South Africa’s general dominance of both sides over the past five years. We’ll even ignore Australia.

After all, they might be 4th vs 5th in the world, and they might both be pretty dire; captained by two leaders impersonating Neville Chamberlain and Nero respectively, both sides lacking their All-Time-Great Number 4 batsman, together limping towards this contest with the false outward enthusiasm of someone who hasn’t trained for a marathon, racked by self doubt and wondering how it got to this.

Yet this is two of the self-proclaimed Big Three! This is the two biggest cricket playing nations in the entire universe – England and India! SO BUY TICKETS NOW – AVAILABLE AT EVERY VENUE, COURTESY OF THE ECB!

England whitewashed India just three years ago, by a total of two innings and 765 runs across just four Tests. It was a fairly wet summer, with rain interrupting all but the second Test, which was held at England’s (Anderson’s and Broad’s) favourite venue – Trent Bridge. England play better in the wet, apparently.

England also had a better team than India at the time, in terms of individuals. Both sides were better then, with a few exceptions, than they are now. India were number one! England overtook them!

England had the second best batsman in the world in Jonathan Trott (ICC rating 840 then, 628 now), the 5th best in Alastair Cook (783 then, 633 now), and three others in the world’s top 21 batsmen – Kevin Pietersen (722 then, 661 now), Ian Bell (720 then, 657 now), and Matt Prior (692 then, 583 now). Bell at 18 is England’s highest ranking batsman who contributes enough to an great dressing room atmosphere to actually get picked; Pietersen of course is 17th.

India on the other hand had three batsmen in the top ten then, in Sachin Tendulkar (832), VVS Laxman (771) and Virender Sehwag (759). Now they have just two – two more than England – Cheteshwar Pujara (216 then, 819 now) and Virat Kohli (784), whilst wicket keeper and captain MS Dhoni (553 then, 604 now) has also risen in the rankings.

The bowling fortunes of both sides are even more starkly contrasted. In 2011 James Anderson (800 then, 731 now) was ranked the second best bowler in the world after just Dale Steyn; today he is ranked 12th. England also had Graeme Swann (780) rated as the third best bowler in the world. Chris Tremlett (638 then, 465 now) and Stuart Broad (621 then, 719 now) were backed up by Steven Finn (564 then, 541 now), Monty Panesar (436 then, 424 now) Tim Bresnan (406 then, 502 now).

India too don’t fare too well with the bowlers either, although at least in Ravi Ashwin (744) they do at least have one player in the top ten of the rankings, with Pragyan Ojha (418 then, 726 now) sandwiched between Anderson and Broad in 13th. 2011 attack leader Zaheer Khan (735 then, 581 now) will be missed, as will the 2011 form of Ishant Sharma (665 then, 548 now).

But-but, sir, but sir, what does this mean?

Not a lot, like the rest of the ICC player rankings, the wrong’un opines: opponents in Test cricket change too slowly to match the individual fluctuations in form to make the player rankings mean very much. I didn’t bother to go too far down the list, if a player wasn’t in the top 30 either then or now then they were beyond my research botheredability; which is a grossly unfair way of ignoring the newer players like Ballance, Dhawan, Ali, etc.

If it means anything, and ok it might, it probably means that the cricket on display won’t be as of high a standard as it was in 2011. I fink we knew that anyway. Good luck flogging them tickets.

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A Spot Of Drizzle In Yorkshire

The scheduled T20 match for yesterday was one of the most anticipated of the season. A domestic game selling out a venue that the national side failed to do just two weeks before, an occasion that is one of the county circuit’s few money spinners.

Yorkshire vs Lancashire is a bit of a thing, ya see: It is the El Classico of cricket; two sporting institutions separated by more than simply geography. Two burly northern man-tribes sporting their different coloured roses, seemingly destined to be rival for ever more – it is basically He-Man vs Skeletor, with the Pennines replacing Snake Mountain. Only more fearsome, obviously.

So when rain came, didn’t refrain, and drenched Yorkshire’s domain, the punters complained. They probably would have complained anyway, as no-one likes a washout. However, what then rubbed salt into the wounds was the subsequent reading of the small print on the back of their golden tickets:

“NO MONETARY REFUND”.

Ouch.

This is something that hasn’t gone down well.

“Customers can exchange their Lancashire T20 ticket for any remaining games (NatWest T20 Blast, Royal London One Day Cup or one day’s play of an LV= County Championship match) at Headingley this year (excluding all quarter and semi-finals).”

Basically, in Fred’s words, you can swap your Golden Ticket for a ticket of lesser value for the other games that YCCC will be unable to sell out.

I can sympathise with Yorkshire CCC on this one. They are a club struggling to manage their debts, and as mentioned above, they didn’t get a great crowd for the recent Test match, after the national side’s alienation and subsequent non-“reconnection” of those “stakeholders” who are “outside cricket”. They need cash. They budgeted for cash from this fixture. They were given cash by 16,000 odd spectators. They don’t really want to lose that cash.

Of course, in the long term they are put in a very awkward position. Piss off a customer, and you might not see them again. Piss off a Yorkshireman, and you might not see them again AND they’ll whinge on social media. Seriously though, it’s not great practice to alienate your customers. Quite why the ECB and the Natwest T20 Blast competition don’t allow for rescheduling of abandoned matches, is beyond me.

Even the Football Association can do it:

“28.1 In the event of any League Match not being played owing to Football Association Cup Matches, weather or other causes over which neither Club has any control or being ordered to be replayed it shall be played on a date to be mutually arranged, but at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Both Clubs shall notify the Executive of such arrangements within seven days of the postponement being identified, for the approval of the Executive. Any League Match not so arranged shall have it’s date fixed by the Executive.”

So over to you, ECB. Are you telling me that Yorkshire and Lancashire wouldn’t be able to find 3 hours between now and August to catch up on this missed fixture, and simultaneously give 16000 people the opportunity to watch what they’d paid to watch? If matches were open to being rescheduled, Yorkshire in this instance would have been able to operate a more flexible refund policy, in the knowledge that most of the fans would do their best to get to the re-arranged fixture anyway. They wouldn’t lose out on the cash, they wouldn’t lose out on long term fans. ECB: sort it for next season.

(my MS Paint skills aren’t good enough to replace the words “Nathan” with “He-Man” in this image, unforch. Soz.)

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