Night-day cricket should be the next innovation

Those watching the first day of the inaugural day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand will have been sorely disappointed. We were promised slapstick and catastrophe, but got neither. If you asked us to describe it, we’d say it looked very much like Test cricket, only with a pink ball.

The pink ball’s weird. An optical illusion makes it seem bigger than it really is – like a cheat mode of Sensible Soccer that we may well have imagined. But that’s no bad thing. Throw in a large crowd and a beautiful sunset and it was quite a successful day.

If there’s one problem, it’s the names of the intervals: tea and dinner. As Sam points out, this triggers the somewhat tiresome and impossible-to-resolve north-south debate about lunch/dinner, dinner/tea.

To bypass this, we propose night-day cricket. Beginning at 2am and finishing at 9am, the two breaks would be breakfast and tiffin. Playing so early would also allow people to attend the game before work. Don’t worry about the players either. They’re forever complaining about jetlag, so this is no different.

We mustn’t let the traditions of day-night Test cricket hold us back. The pink ball game is crying out for innovation.

When did Eoin Morgan become England’s short format ‘anchor’?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Remember when Eoin Morgan was the exciting one. Remember how you used to shout “Morgan’s in!” when he came to the crease and how the person you were shouting to used to respond: “I don’t care. I don’t like cricket.”

Remember how you used to flaunt your knowledge by telling everyone within earshot that those miraculous rubber-wristed shots were down to Morgan’s background in hurling. Remember how, shortly after, you use to flaunt your knowledge by telling everyone that actually, he didn’t play those shots because of hurling, because he never really played the game.

Good times. Great memories. Different times. Old memories.

Nowadays Morgan’s a middle-order rock. He’s not the flamboyant one. He’s the guy who’ll hold things together with a nuggetty 45 off 38 balls while the guy at the other end switch-hits reverse-ramp maximums and canes it to cow corner.

Reverse sweeps are pass√©. Morgan’s an anachronism. Sometimes, if you squint quite a bit, it even looks like he’s smoking a pipe and wearing a monocle when he’s walking out to bat, as if he’s just set down his glass of port and risen from a Chesterfield wingback armchair.

We’re not even sure that he has any tattoos. Maybe he does, somewhere – but not so many that he looks like a guy who’s going to try and sell you some stilton in a canalside pub in some dark corner of the Midlands.

He doesn’t even keep wicket. Just think about that. Here’s a guy playing short format cricket in 2015 who doesn’t bowl and who also doesn’t keep wicket. Of course he’s the captain – they had to give him something to do other than bat.

WiFi on aeroplanes, paleo diets and Eoin Morgan taking second, third or fourth billing in an England one-day batting line-up. The modern world is a strange and unsettling place.

Who says Tests are supposed to last five days?

We’ve always been of the opinion that a Test can last up to five days and that if all of that allotted time is required, things haven’t really panned out correctly.

Others see it differently. We often see comments of the oeuvre ‘a Test is supposed to last five days’ in criticism of turning pitches, such as that being used for the third Test between India and South Africa. It seems to be one of the fundamental philosophical differences defining how you view low scoring games.

India were bowled out for 215 in their first innings. Not a great score, but within the bounds of normality to our eyes. Maybe it’s a generational thing with younger cricketer followers accustomed to 560-5 declarations seeing such a total as freakishly abnormal.

This pitch is certainly doing a lot, but without wishing to unnecessarily retread ground, let’s wait and see how the match develops before drawing conclusions on its quality.

We will ask one question, however. Which online scorecard most commands your attention – the one where you’re waiting to see whether someone’s made their double hundred yet, or the one where a bunch of wickets is liable to have fallen?

Liam Plunkett gets a fractionally undercooked deal

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Not a raw deal, like Chris Read got, but pretty rare – bloodier than he asked for in the middle.

Plunkett was picked to go on the tour to the UAE and then somehow found himself three places down the pecking order for the South Africa tour despite not having played. From the outside, this seems bizarre. From the inside, it presumably makes more sense.

The captain and coach see plenty of the players in the nets. We all know the meaninglessness of them ‘coming out well’ or ‘being hit well’ in a net scenario, but that isn’t to say that spraying it around like an unmanned fire hose should also be ignored. We’re not saying that’s what Plunkett’s been doing necessarily. Maybe he simply hasn’t impressed. Trevor Bayliss is still fairly new as England coach and perhaps he’s still making up his mind about a few players.

None of which is the point we were going to make. Our point is that in recent years, while he’s been on the fringes of the England team, Plunkett has generally been considered only in unfriendly environments.

Green seamer – stick to the usual guys.

Flat pitch, unhelpful conditions – we need something ‘extra’.

In a sense, Plunkett’s benefited from filling that niche, but it’s also indicative of how perceptions can be skewed when you live your international life on the periphery. We don’t have separate stats for the infamous chief exectutives’ pitches. No-one adds an asterisk and gives you extra points for effort.

Within weeks and months, all that remains are the numbers. Whether or not they’re coming out well in the nets is the only other thing people have to go off.

Last in the Tin Bath – a review of David Lloyd’s autobiography

Back when we reviewed Start the Car: The World According to Bumble, we suggested that rather than majoring on Lloyd’s zaniness, they might have been better off writing a traditional autobiography. Well this is what they’ve done. The result is indeed a better book.

For those that don’t know, before Lloyd was a TV commentator, he was variously county captain, Test cricketer, first-class umpire and England coach, all while maintaining strong links with Accrington CC in the Lancashire league. If you want a rounded perspective on cricket, he is perhaps uniquely qualified.

That’s very much the strength of the book – the various vantage points on the sport. That breadth of experience combined with Lloyd’s many years in cricket means the book transcends most modern autobiographies in having plenty of subject matter to tackle.

We also prefer reading about eras we don’t know so well. It means you’re less likely to find yourself enduring yet another account of a story you already know too well featuring characters who are all-too-familiar. We’d rather learn something new, like that Vanburn Holder was nicknamed ‘Hosepipe’ due to certain physical attributes.

One concern you may well harbour is that rather than trying to sell this book on wackiness, they’re instead trying to sell it on salt-of-the-earthiness. Look! There he is on the cover in a tin bath! He’s from Accrington, you know!

It’s a legitimate fear and while it’s occasionally justified, the relatively straightforward nature of the book means moments like this are rarely gratuitous. When we learn that he was last in the queue for said tin bath, it really is just to give some sense of what his upbringing was like and you then see how that upbringing informs many of his decisions later in life.

If there’s a flaw, it’s in the tone. For the most part, it reads like any other autobiography, but there are occasional flashes of ‘personality’. Ghost writer Richard Gibson had an impossible task here in our opinion. People tend to think that it would be easier to capture the tone of someone like Lloyd who has a very distinctive way of speaking, but it’s the opposite really. Every time there’s a ‘flipping ‘eck’ or a ‘not on your nelly’ it’s not a natural, casual thing. As a reader, you’re aware that someone else has seen fit to write it and that it’s subsequently been passed by an editor. It makes these turns of phrase kind of laboured and awkward.

We enjoyed Start the Car, but it did manage the somewhat unusual feat of leaving us less certain of how much we really liked David Lloyd. This book redresses the balance a bit. Don’t buy Last in the Tin Bath for the zaniness or earthiness, buy it if you’ve a genuine interest in the career of someone who maybe wasn’t the greatest player, but who has been around and seen a lot. It’s a straightforward autobiography really, but in this instance that’s no bad thing.

Last in the Tin Bath: The Autobiography Р£8.99 in paperback (Kindle and hardback versions also available)

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