Younus Khan’s just made his third Test hundred on the bounce. We mentioned that he was underrated after the first one. Let’s revisit that.
We all know Younus averages some way north of 50 and that he’s now made Test hundreds against every nation, but let’s dig a little deeper. Last time we mentioned that only 19 of his 93 Tests have been played truly at home and that hints at what’s so great about him. He’s adaptable.
The first of this trio of hundreds saw him construct non-scoring foundations for his innings. Since then, he’s become ever-more expansive. This third hundred came off 128 balls.
But it’s conditions as well. Not only has Younus scored a hundred against every Test-playing nation, he’s also scored one in every country bar Australia, where he’s only played three matches. Only in South Africa and the West Indies does he average less than 40 and only in the Windies does he average less than 30. There are always gaps and that’s some CV.
Midway through our Cricinfo piece about how Pakistan and Australia have prepared for this Test, we poked fun at Australia’s tendency to believe that their success is directly linked to how attacking they are. It was therefore quite amusing to see that they’d tweaked their team and brought Glenn Maxwell in to bat at number three.
Maybe it’ll work.
YouTube can make wasters of us all, but every now and again a long shift is justified when you catch a glimpse of what must rank as being one of the all-time great cricket banners.8 Appeals
Fans of inexplicable additional consonants in first names rejoiced today when it was announced that one of England’s former bowling coaches will be returning to the setup, albeit on a short-term basis.
No, it’s not Allan Donald – it’s Ottis Gibson.
Gibson may or may not have said:
“I was sitting at home, watching The Last Airbender, when someone with an English accent phoned and asked me if I wanted to spend three weeks in Potchefstroom telling 20-year-olds to put in the right areas. At first, I was completely irritated because I hadn’t pressed pause, but then I realised I could rewind.”
There are echoes here of the first time Gibson was asked to work with England. Back then, a telephone call caused him to miss vital scenes in Thunderpants and he subsequently struggled to follow the plot.
Regarding whether even more coaches are likely to come in, Peter Moores or someone may or may not have commented:
“If Kraigg Brathwaite needs a new job, all he has to do is get in touch.”
At least we think that’s what’s happened. As far as we can tell, Trott and a handful of others have signed for Yorkshire in time for the county’s tour to South Africa. Weirdly, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation why only seven of last year’s Championship-winning squad will be travelling. Maybe they’ve had a clear-out.
In what may be related news, Trott has also been passed mentally fit for England selection by the same ECB staff who let him train himself into a pit. If we’re reading today’s news correctly and he really has signed for Yorkshire, does that sound like the act of a man who is mentally fit? What kind of a person would willingly move to Yorkshire, even if only for a few years?
It could be that Trott is aiming to learn some superior vowel sounds. That is the only explanation we will accept. Kevin Pietersen once promised us that he would develop a ‘northern’ accent – whatever the hell that is – but he clearly didn’t, the lying shit.
We may have erroneously inferred the promise part of that promise, but if there’s one thing we’ve all learnt in the last month, it’s that you can take anything KP says and use it to reinforce whatever position you already hold. Our position was that he was looking to learn a better accent and we must therefore conclude that he reneged on that promise.16 Appeals
It can be hard to keep up with Pakistan’s playing staff. Mitchell Marsh gets a debut and great tracts of webspace are devoted to him, explaining what this decision means and why it’s such a monumental event. In contrast, Pakistan players ghost into the side and it’s only when they’ve become the top-ranked batsman or bowler in the world that anyone finally pays any attention to them.
For one reason or another, Pakistan’s bowling attack is particularly untested at the minute but they seem to be doing okay. Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, the two spinners, were the architects of Australia’s downfall and it’s tempting to wonder whether we’ve just seen the first steps taken by a duo that will one day rank alongside Wasim and Waqar, Lillee and Thompson and Ambrose and Walsh.
Then you look at them and this clearly isn’t the case. Spring chickens they are not. Zulfiqar Babar in particular is an old stewing chicken. He looks like an Indian Railways employee on his Cricinfo profile page. In fact we’re pretty sure we once bought a ticket off him. We remember him repeatedly answering our question about whether the train stopped at a particular station with the Indian ‘maybe, maybe not’ head wobble. Apparently there’s a version of ‘yes’ which is quite similar to that movement, but to Western eyes it was a decidedly unhelpful response. Yasir Shah is at least wearing cricket gear in his picture, but he could still pass for a ticket inspector.
As for Australia, where do they stand after this heavy defeat? We didn’t see the match, but apparently Alex Doolan looked out of his depth, while Mitchell Marsh is never a number six batsman. The two spinners were also strikingly ineffectual on what was clearly a turning pitch. You could perhaps defend Steve O’Keefe by saying it was his debut, but that rings a little hollow when Pakistan’s entire attack was pretty much new to Test cricket.
The whole Australia team probably just needs to be a little bit more aggressive. That’s the answer. That’ll sort it.8 Appeals
Pakistan. Is there any sporting team in the world for which the link between sound preparation and performance is less meaningful?
Having lost what was arguably the best new ball attack of its time as a result of that spot fixing thing, Pakistan rebuilt their bowling around Saeed Ajmal. Being as he’s been banned for chucking, they have now been forced to field an attack where the four main bowlers boast eight Test matches between them.
Needless to say, they’re absolutely battering Australia.
Australia’s first innings 303 hinted that maybe the pitch was deteriorating. Pakistan’s second innings 286-2 rebuffed that. Pakistan’s batting has been dire for the last few years but it has just managed 700-odd runs for the loss of 12 wickets.
Younus Khan has spent most of the build-up to this series maintaining a gold standard strop about being dropped from the one-day side.
“Don’t select me, not even in Tests – I sacrifice my future,” he said a couple of weeks ago. Today he scored his second hundred of the match.
Australia are currently 59-4 chasing 438 and will almost certainly win.32 Appeals
When Daisy and I go to a day of international cricket at Lord’s these days, I apply for seats in the Lower Compton or Lower Edrich, as Daisy likes to hide from the sun. These seats are relatively unpopular with the county members, so we tend to get seats pretty close to the front of that stand, where the seats are just fine for both of our tastes.
I made a similar picnic to that for the lads’ outing on the previous day, including the remainder of The Lord’s Throdkin and two types of Banh Mi sandwiches – one small sandwich each traditional Hanoi style, with the remainder of the char siu from yesterday; another small sandwich each “Lord’s Banh Mi” style, using the remainder of the Iberico streaky bacon, with mustard mayonnaise rather than sweet chilli sauce mayonnaise. Only at Lord’s.
At lunch, Daisy and I went for a stroll round to the MCC members’ side, where you get a higher class of floor piss in the gents’ toilets and a higher class of soap in the hand wash dispensers. On leaving the toilet, I ran into Johnny Friendly, an MCC member whose family are all clients of Daisy’s. Delighted to learn that Daisy was with me that day, we three gathered for a chat.
“What do you think of the cricket today?” asked Daisy.
“I’ve hardly seen any, frankly,” said Johnny. “I was playing real tennis for most of the morning session. Have you ever seen real tennis?”
“Yes,” I said. “At The Queen’s Club”.
“No,” said Daisy.
“Would you like to see some?” asked Johnny.
“I can think of nothing that would give me more pleasure,” said Daisy, sliding effortlessly into Jane Austin-style language for the occasion.
So within seconds we were sitting in the viewing area of a real tennis court, having the game explained to us patiently by Johnny Friendly. After about ten minutes of this, Daisy displayed her ability at Jane Austin-style manners by exclaiming: “This is so wonderful, I think I could delight in watching real tennis rather than cricket all afternoon. But we must allow you to return to your business, Mr Friendly. Thank you so very much indeed for your kindness.” (Or words to that effect.) Only at Lord’s.
We had a bunch of beer-spilling posh boys in front of us – similar in many ways to the beer-spilling posh boys I had suffered behind my group the day before. Today’s posh lot had also been mixing Champagne and beer to clear ill effect on their full-beer-skiff-balancing-skills. At least this time it wasn’t my party but some other poor victims (a rather sweet, elderly couple as it happens) getting systemically soaked in beer.
The sweet couple were charming with gentle reproaches to the posh boys. “Please try not to spill the beer over us again this time.” The day three posh boys were at least polite and apologetic to their victims and weren’t talking so much rubbish about the cricket. They also had more staying power than the day two posh, sticking around all day.
Towards the end of the day, a few people in the Lower Compton, including our posh boys, produced some beer skiff snakes, much to the frustration of the stewards. Compared with Old Trafford and Edgbaston, these beer skiff snakes were pathetic in their length and potency, but that didn’t stop some enterprising rascals commissioning a couple of young kids to “run the snakes” to frustrate the stewards, which was genuinely funny for a while. Nor did it stop the stewards from (idiotically) calling the police in at one point. Once that excitement had died down, the posh boys in front of us attempted a skiff snake with their multitudinous empty Champagne-flute-skiffs, with predictably hilarious results. Only at Lord’s.
Send your match reports to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.9 Appeals
First up, Pakistan v Australia where the ‘home’ side appear to be doing a reasonable job of putting a score on the board. It’s always hard to tell what’s a decent first innings total, but with Pakistan’s flaky batting, you reckon they’d be pretty happy already.
The major contributor has been Younus Khan. It always strikes us that Younus and his former team-mate, Mohammad Yousuf, don’t get the credit they deserve. Both average over 50 with Younus now one ton ahead with 25.
One argument is that they’ve played a lot of cricket on flat Pakistan decks, but Younus, for one, has played only 19 truly home Test matches – surely that should add to his reputation? On top of this, contrast his scores with those of his team-mates in recent times and you can see that he also has to carry some extra weight.
This hundred against Australia completes the set. He’s reached three figures against everyone now.
Also of note is the return of Peter Siddle. Having written about overtraining earlier in the year, we were interested to see how he’d go. He’d complained of fatigue and claimed he could recover his pace given a rest and a chance to train properly. Now he’s had that and sure enough he’s back on track.
Fast bowlers in particular need an off season. Just a reminder that England are playing a match in every calendar month from November until September 2017. Hopefully that much-needed downtime won’t be delivered when they’re scheduled to play the Windies.
On a lighter note, we wrote a piece for last month’s All Out Cricket about the lost art of understated celebration. It’s not just handshakes we miss, it’s also quietly retrieving your cap from the umpire as well as ambling about looking at the floor. Folding your arms is another we’d like to see brought back. Beats all that shrieking and fist-pumping hands down.
The article’s now online, but please do buy the mag whenever you get chance. It’s decent.
And finally, Twitter. Our latest round-up’s just gone up at Cricinfo. We’ve tried to cover the Windies thing. Not easy when you’re relying on the words of others.12 Appeals
Steve O’Keefe’s finally been picked to play a Test match for Australia. We mentioned him as far back as 2010 as being a spinner who wasn’t completely rubbish, but who was somehow being overlooked in favour of any number of slow bowlers who were.
O’Keefe’s the second spinner, so Australia haven’t reverted to punishing Nathan Lyon for being Nathan Lyon – he’s still playing as well. Mitchell Marsh is making his debut too and one can only hope that he’ll be as majestically inconsistent as his brother, Shaun.
Pakistan have also given two players debuts. Yasir Shah is a legspinner who played a solitary one-day international in 2011 when he also played two T20 internationals. We know nothing about him.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan is, as you might imagine, a pace bowler of some description. He’s down as right-arm medium-fast on Cricinfo, but that’s what they tend to put when they don’t really know a player. Being as Imran has neither a photo nor a written profile on his player page, we suspect that is the case in this instance. In classic Pakistan tradition, he was probably hired to drive the team bus but impressed in the nets where he was bowling with an orange.
At the time of writing, Australia were one wicket away from the inevitable Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq rebuilding partnership.17 Appeals
Is it a sign of a good side that they can get away with working to a fairly predictable strategy? Innovation is often a way of making up for shortcomings.
South Africa’s approach to one-day cricket is what comes up by default in cricket strategy software. You’re meant to tweak it, twisting it to fit your strengths and weaknesses, but the Saffers haven’t bothered. Perhaps this is a sign that they have some rather good one-day players.
Opening partnerships are vital in 50-over cricket – just look at England for proof of that. South Africa have one all-time great in Hashim Amla balanced by Quinton of Kock, who is there to provide a bit of impetus at the outset. They provide a decent platform by any stretch, particularly when that platform is being built for AB de Villiers whose job it is to do whatever’s left.
Along with Virat Kohli, de Villiers is the best one-day bat in the world. He averages 50 and scores at a run a ball, as near as damn it. This year he averages 76. In 2012 he averaged 107. Last year was the first year since 2009 when he didn’t score at more than a run a ball.
Between the openers and de Villiers stands the waxed bulwark of Faf du Plessis. For the first three years of his one-day career, du Plessis failed to score a century and averaged in the twenties. Impressed by this, South Africa moved him to three and since then he’s made three hundreds and averaged 50.
Bowling-wise, South Africa have Dale Steyn. He is the reigning Lord Megachief of Gold, so we don’t feel we need to write about him. Of greater interest is Imran Tahir.
Yes, that’s right – Imran Tahir. The legspinner who concedes about four an over in Tests also concedes about four an over in one-dayers. And he takes a few wickets. We’re not sure anyone’s noticed, but he could be the trump card in what is already a hand full of jacks, queens and kings. You can assign those face cards to the players as you see fit.
King Cricket rating: The Departed
You feel like you’ve seen it before, but it’s done well and there’s a strong cast.19 Appeals
We consider the Spirit of Cricket – the branded, upper-case initial letter creation of the MCC – to be a nebulous pile of bollocks. You can quote us on that. However, that isn’t to say that there is no such thing as the spirit of cricket.
The Spirit of Cricket (branded) is all about fair play and doing the right thing. The spirit of cricket (unbranded) is the way the game really works; the unspoken rules of the sport as they have naturally evolved. As such, the West Indies abandonment of their tour of India is most definitely in contravention of the spirit of cricket.
The board’s argument is that they had no choice but to call the tour off once the players had announced their intention to return to the Caribbean. What utter, utter horseshit.
Since when have cricket matches demanded that both sides have their best players, or indeed sufficient players, available to them? Cricket in its purest grassroots form demands only one individual to represent his or her side. That person phones round available players in a vain attempt to drum up an eleven – any eleven – for the next match. If they fall short, the team either plays short-staffed or the opposition provides a few spam-handed incompetents to supplement their numbers.
On no account is the match called off.
A West Indies XI… or VIII or IV or whatever
Obviously, as this is international cricket, the West Indies cannot make use of Ajit Agarkar or any other Indians as they are the wrong nationality and therefore ineligible for selection. That’s fair enough, but surely they can still get a few blokes out onto the park?
Richie Richardson’s there; he’s a decent bat. Stuart Williams is assistant coach; he can open. Clive Lloyd’s knocking about and Curtly Ambrose has been working as bowling consultant. You’ve already got a half decent side there in our opinion. Rope in a few physios and management figures for fielding duty and they could still beat most sides in the world.
Stop your bleating and get on with it.25 Appeals