England’s recent ODI performances summed up with a picture

This photo is far more effective than if I used a few hundred words to ask what Luke Wright brings to the team.

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The whole spot-fixing thing

So one thing led to another, and the Crown Prosecution Service’s charging of the three players involved in Majeed-gate was followed soon after by the ICC’s announcement that sanctions against the trio had been carried out, temporarily putting the whole thing to bed (it might as well rest, it’s far from over).

The ruling was a strange one, given all the rambling about minimum charges being harsh in exceptional circumstances and whatnot, as for the time being, all three have been banned from cricket for the same amount of time (Butt and Asif have five and two suspended years).  Given the CPS’ charging of the three, there’s still the court date and the players’ appeals against their bans from the ICC to provide more in the saga.

Five years is quite a long time in a cricketer’s career, so what might they get up to in the meantime?

Salman Butt

The now ex-captain’s been dropped so times in the past by his selectors that the first year or two of his ban probably won’t feel any different to any other in his career.  If he’s serious about possibly being picked again if and when he returns, perhaps he could find someone to work on his running between the wickets.  That all depends on whether anyone wants to go out to play with him to be honest, I can’t imagine him being all that popular back in Pakistan at the moment.

Mohammad Amir

If you were to measure the amount of sympathy from the cricketing world that these three are getting, Amir’s probably got 99.9999% of it.  When you consider that Steve Finn was the next best thing on the nominations list for the ICC Emerging Player award, you can kind of see just how big an ‘exciting opening bowler’ shaped hole has been left in world cricket.  Of the three, at least he can seek solace in the fact that, at 18, he at least has a relative chance of playing cricket at the highest level again.  One wonders if he’ll be invited to enough back garden games to stay sharp in the meantime.  I mean, I’d be more than happy to have him round for a game, if our back garden was actually long enough for a regulation length wicket.  And he’d still be limited to a two step run up.

Mohammad Asif

While his bowling has never been reliant on express pace, by the time Asif returns from his ban, he’ll probably be just a bit too old and rusty to play international cricket again, but given Pakistan’s tendency for strange selection choices, I suppose he can’t be counted out just yet.  Other than that, for probably the most intelligent bowler I can think of in recent times, he sure is a div off the playing field – he probably thinks spaghetti trees are real after watching that fake documentary.

And what about corruption in cricket?  Well that’s too big a question for my small mind to really give a decent answer, other than a bit of rambling about gambling not being legal on the subcontinent leaving the opportunity for shady gambling rings to exist and how the ICC’s anti-corruption unit being outdone by some tabloid hack dressed up as a fake sheikh leads me to believe that they might as well all dress up as wealthy Arabs and see if it works again.


Bad news, folks

If I had to pick my biggest jip with cricket, it would probably be how quickly the atmosphere surrounding a triumph in one format can be flattened by your team getting battered in a different form of the game.  England, emphatic Ashes winners, are still in Australia (home of some crap Test cricketers) playing more cricket, only not as well as when the kits were white, or off-white in Australia’s case.

It’s quite a rare thing for sportspeople to suffer – it’s not like Rafael Nadal’s fans are ever in uproar following a dominant performance at Roland Garros because it turns out that he’s quite shit at playing table tennis with a desert spoon.

Some folk just like a good moan.  And they’re in for a treat if England carry their ODI form into next month, because the World Cup begins.  Yes, the supposed biggest prize in world cricket, and they’re currently a bit toss.  You couldn’t coach timing like this from out of a textbook.


Fifth Test Post-Mortem

Such was the eventual feeling of this Test being a baked good stroll for England, I forgot to come up with anything decent to write for this post-mortem.  Not that I was any better prepared when I wrote the other four, but I like to get my excuses in early and whatnot.  Perhaps I could land Cricket Australia’s press release writing gig if I play my cards right.

A lot of talk after Melbourne was how retaining the urn was for nothing if Australia managed to level the series at the SCG, so it was nice to see England not only avoid bottling it, but also absolutely eviscerate Australia like they enjoyed doing with the roles reversed over the last 24 years.  Three innings defeats in a series, that’s absolutely mental!

Highlights

  • First and foremost, if a Sydney Test wasn’t already something you looked forward to, its transformation into a McGrath Foundation event has made it stand out even more on the Test cricket calendar.  I will not get tired of seeing this ground awash with pink everything – pink sightscreen, pink stumps, pink hoardings etc.  As far as sporting association with charities goes, this is up there with Livestrong.
  • Michael Clarke won his first toss as captain, so there’s something for Australia to smile about if they like.
  • The billion billion billion billion puns and play on words regarding Michael Beer, who made his debut in this match.  My personal favourite was Jim Maxwell on Test Match Special declaring, “And now here is the Beer before the champagne,” after Australia’s ninth wicket fell in the final innings.
  • England not particularly worrying after Australia put on more runs in their first innings than they probably should have.  In the past, that would have set the tone for the rest of the match.  It didn’t this time.
  • Shane Watson’s run out in the second innings, he’s like the run out gift that keeps on giving.

Lowlights

  • Did Phil Hughes think he’d caught that ball off of Alastair Cook?  Well I’ll probably never find out, but it certainly upset the ex-pros in the Sky commentary box.  I’m almost certain that I could hear the steam coming from Sir Ian of Beef’s ears, but then I was quite sleep deprived by then.
  • If that wasn’t enough, there was then utter confusion over the life given to Ian Bell by the UDRS after it seemed that he’d nicked behind when he was 67 runs into his innings.  The Bell boy had it referred, not that he looked certain that he hadn’t touched it.  Now this is where things got interesting, as hotspot was unable to produce concrete evidence of a nick on the inside edge of Bell boy’s Incurza, meaning that somehow, he wasn’t out.  Snickometer, which isn’t used in the UDRS, showed the faintest of sounds as the ball passed the bat, raising the question as to why snicko isn’t used alongside hotspot.

England

  • Alastair Cook continued to carry the form of a batsman who looked like Optimus Prime crossed with He-Man.  He’s made owning a turntable seem utterly pointless what with all the records he’s been breaking.  A second double ton looked a near certainty before the inevitable Twitter jinxes led to him wafting at a wide one, bugger.
  • Ian Bell finally got an Ashes century after some three trillion half centuries against the Oz.  It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing him batting at #6 against Sri Lanka come the northern hemisphere summer.  Almost fell to the same Twitter jinxes as Cook, but the UDRS madness spared him the same fate.
  • Matt Prior batted like he had to be somewhere else, but only after scoring a hasty hundred of his own.  Not quick by Adam Gilchrist standards, that would be like sprinting with a jet pack on, Prior’s innings was more of a brisk walk to the shops when they’re closing in 15 minutes and you need two pints of semi-skimmed.
  • Paul Collingwood decided to call it a day, and who can blame him?  It’s not often that you play all five Tests of a series when you’re in horrendous form, so if you feel that the light’s fading, what better time and place to retire from Test cricket than at the SCG after battering Australia.  Fair play Colly.  Dismissing Michael Hussey with his final delivery in Test cricket will always be a highlight of this series.
  • The only criticism I could have of Group Captain Strauss in this match is that he was too conservative when all that was left in Australia’s batting lineup was the tailend, which meant that the likes of Mitchell Johnson ensured that they got some 70 runs more than they probably should have.  Other than that, can’t really fault him – he got to a fifty at a canter and learned from his mistakes in the second innings.

Australia

  • Michael Clarke’s been touted as a future Australia captain for years now, though I’m not sure he’d wanted the first Test under his watch to be in such circumstances.  With Australian cricket seemingly in dire straits, the poor sod had been handed a virtually impossible task.  It’s no wonder he keeps talking about how he expects Ponting to return to the side once his finger’s better, he can’t wait to give the skippership back.  Seems more likely to be the next Kim Hughes than the next Steve Waugh.
  • Shane Watson’s tendency to become bogged down when he starts finding fielders instead of gaps reminds you that he isn’t really an opening batsman.  Add to that the fact that he’s been involved in a number of tone-setting run outs and you start to wonder if you really want him alongside Phil Hughes and his apparent technical gremlins at the top of the order.
  • The bowling attack still looks nowhere near being 100% decided, which goes to show how hard the times which have fallen upon Australia are.
  • The only bright light for Australia in this match was debutant Usman Khawaja.  You might have heard that he’s the first Australian Test cricketer of Pakistani descent, but they say he’s also quite alright with the willow as well.  Having only seen him in the tour match at Hobart where he didn’t really do much, he certainly looked a lot better in his first innings here, playing his shots with confidence and not looking anywhere near as jumpy as say, Ravi Bopara did in his first Ashes Test.  He certainly has the flair associated with #3 batsmen, so it will be interesting to see what happens if and when Ricky Ponting returns to the team.

Anyways, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and with the series now being over, I’m going to have to find something else to write about in this blog.  Does anything else happen in cricket?


A glimpse into the future?

What with Ricky Ponting finally succumbing to his broken finger (a handy excuse besides the run of shite form and desperate captaincy), the reins have been left in the hands of Michael Clarke for the final Ashes Test.  Some of the reactions to this reminded me of events which happened a little closer to home (Kent, before you ask).

After popularity in the early days, the recent luckless runs following the retirement of all the Oz greats, support for Ricky Ponting’s captaincy became as thin as it seemed to for Tony Blair back when he was busy taking us to whatever war the USA were going to.  It looks like these parallels are set to continue, with Michael Clarke being a slightly more aesthetically pleasing Gordon Brown of some sort.

Not that I don’t think that Gordon Brown got an unfair rap as PM, but he just couldn’t get people to like him, and I’m currently aware of more people hating Michael Clarke than having favourable things to say about him.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I could stretch this analogy any further, but then after hearing that Andrew Hilditch reckoned their seamers had bowled well recently, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Australia having two captains taking the field in the near future.


Fourth Test Post-Mortem

Mental Disintegration isn’t the kind of place where you find folk being kicked while they’re down.  Given the circumstances however, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to indulge in the art for a bit.

For the first time in my existence on this spinning stone, England have retained the Ashes on tour Down Under.  I’ve seen a fair share of false dawns in international cricket, hopefully this achievement isn’t going to be one of them.  There’s still a Test to play in Sydney and it would be quite disappointing if it became apparent that certain feet had been taken off of the momentum gas pedal.

Highlights

  • Bundling Australia out for 98 is fairly nice.
  • Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior keeping their heads in the middle of a miniature crisis following a few quick wickets, pretty much making the difference between a good innings total and a match winning one.
  • Peter Siddle showing that someone in Australia is still putting up a fight, both with bat and ball.
  • Everyone on Twitter being up in arms about Aleem Dar checking to see if Mitchell Johnson had over-stepped having already given Prior out.  This has happened before, folks.

Lowlights

  • Ryan Harris pulling up with a stress fracture in his tibia.  When you’ve putting in the hard yards despite everything going to pieces around you, the last thing you want is your body going to pieces too.
  • Ricky Ponting spending an eternity remonstrating with Aleem Dar after Kevin Pietersen wasn’t given out after a referral.  Given how the replays showed no sign off an edge on Pietersen’s bat, it was just toe-curlingly cringeworthy.  His punishment was fairly lenient given that he’s the captain and all.

England

  • We’ve entered an interesting moment in time where England have a selection of seam bowlers who probably wouldn’t look out of place in the Test attack.  Whilst they might not necessarily deliver spells as memorably devastating as Harmison & co. used to, they’re certainly proving to be somewhat effective when given the opportunity.
  • I had my doubts about Tim Bresnan and he went and dispelled them, so hats off to the burly Yorkshireman.  Him and Tremlett went from being back ups at the start of the tour to looking like our best bowlers.
  • Jonathan Trott, oh Jonathan Trott.  He’s now played a big part in Strauss getting his hands on the urn on two occasions and averages over 100 against the Oz.  He also had a nation wincing when he managed to edge a delivery onto his knee, ouch!

Australia

  • Whereas the Australian side of ten years ago was hewn from granite by killer robots, this one seems to be random bits of plywood and MDF glued together by blind puppeteers.
  • That point alone says it all about their current situation, to be honest.

So much for kicking them while they’re down, perhaps I’m just more polite than I thought.  Suppose everyone else is doing it on my behalf.


Third Test Post-Mortem

So the collective feeling of English optimism was quickly sent running for the hills with its tail between its legs in Perth, and my body clock was utterly wrecked by the fact that the WACA’s in a different time zone.  What a nice sequence of events it proved to be.

Highlights

  • Paul Collingwood’s über awesome diving catch to get rid of Ricky Ponting in the first innings.  Not that I saw it live as I was in the kitchen making a cup of Horlicks and bemoaning the lack of a slip in the position which Ponting had edged through at the start of his innings.
  • Shane Watson’s hissy fit when he was out for 95 in the second innings.  What made it all the more amusing was how adamant he was that he’d edged the ball first, despite his unsuccessful referral of the decision saying otherwise.
  • Chris Tremlett bowled rather well.
  • Australia’s bowlers spared us a whole day of watching the tailenders struggle.

Lowlights

  • Reality slapping us all in the face and reminding us that our batting lineup isn’t always going to look invincible when Mitchell Johnson suddenly finds an iota of late swing.
  • Collingwood getting out to the last ball of the third day ranks up there with Michael Clarke in terms of setting the tone for the next day.
  • Getting tonked so soon after a comprehensive win can be pretty hard to stomach, although I was probably too tired to care at the time.

I suppose that it was inevitable that all the voices of dissent would emerge from the woodwork after a match like them, so I thought I’d join in.

England

  • The bowling attack is suddenly under scrutiny, and it can’t entirely be blamed on Stuart Broad’s injury, since Chris Tremlett didn’t look out of place at all.  What was worrying was James Anderson lacking the same degree of control which he had achieved in Adelaide, whilst Steve Finn’s bowling suddenly looked fairly attractive to Australian batsmen, resulting in him going for around five runs an over.
  • The only highlight for Graeme Swann was the wicket of Hussey in the first innings – from then on, it was all downhill.  Not that you can really be that critical of him, the WACA pitch didn’t have much in it for the spinners, hence Australia’s five-strong seam attack.
  • The batting went from god-like in Adelaide to quivering field mouse-esque in the first session of the second day, a transformation from which they didn’t recover.
  • It’s not necessarily cause to start panicking over, although given how relatively comfortable Ian Bell’s looked, perhaps it would be a good idea to move him above Collingwood so that he has more batting partners to eventually run out of.  Or just tell Collingwood that he’s at last chance saloon, that tends to bear fruit.
  • The talk about ‘resting’ Finn for Melbourne has left me raging over comments in the media.  Quit with the euphemisms and admit that he bowled bobbins and that possible alternatives are being lined up – see it as character building.  Whether Tim Bresnan would cause Australian batsmen to lose sleep is anyone’s guess.

Austalia

  • Battering us has probably done the series a world of good, given how many fans in Australia seem to get turned off of cricket the minute Australia look a bit turd.
  • Mitchell Johnson was back to his best, making the decision to rest him in Adelaide look a masterstroke.  The ‘resting’ of Steven Finn is probably England’s attempt for similar results.
  • Mitchell Johnson’s form doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he’ll play as well in the next Test, nor will he have the Fremantle Doctor over his shoulder.  But then I said something similar about Michael Hussey being crap after career saving centuries, so I’m willing to believe whatever happens in this series now.
  • What’s more remarkable is how Australia managed to win as comfortably as they did with the likes of Phil Hughes and Steve Smith in the top six.  Correct, some genius thought that bits and pieces cricketer Smith could do a better job at #6 than in-form Brad Haddin.  And with Ponting and Clarke not necessarily batting well, it’s been largely the likes of Watson, Haddin and Dr. Cricket, Michael Hussey getting all the runs.

Suddenly this series has exploded with unpredictability.  Good for Test cricket, bad for people who make relatively safe bets.


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