Which cricket mobile apps do you use (if any)?

ICC mobile app

As the Champions Trophy rolls towards us like the wooden wheel that we made each week in Craft, Design and Technology at school (having always lost the previous week’s wheel at some point in the interim) it seems a decent enough time to pay a visit to the subject of cricket apps on smartphones.

We’ve always maintained our distance from these things up until now, generally having found them to offer much the same information as the internet only in a much less accessible form. However, we’re giving the ICC one a go at the minute and at first glance it seems okay. It’s not too massive and the scorecards feature a little more information than we see on the BBC site.

But what do we know? Nothing, give or take. Do you use a non-rubbish cricket app? What do you get out of it? Leave a comment on the site and let’s see if a consensus magically emerges.

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Laurence Elderbrook benefits from the gift of time

For once the normally laborious aspect of cricketer errantry was swift. My squire, Darron-with-an-O, secured a slot for me with a local club within minutes of our setting off in my motorcar. I had anticipated a long morning roaming from club to club and so this development was most welcome.

An added advantage was that early arrival gave me more time to properly prepare. I asked the captain to give me ten minutes’ notice of when the match was about to start. This would give me enough time to complete my exercise regimen, allowing me to be perfectly prepared for my innings. With everything in place, I now spent my spare time relaxing with a small glass of gin.

At the appointed hour, the captain gave me the nod and I moved into the car park where I embarked upon my standard routine.

As I was essaying my twenty to thirty mad gambols, a small crowd formed, doubtless keen to pick up some tips. They seemed a band of merry souls, but their mood unexpectedly turned when I made to embark on a series of naked frisks.

Several of their number appeared to take issue with my approach and when I attempted to explain that it was impossible to satisfactorily complete frisks without exposing one’s rarities, they refused to believe me.

A somewhat fractious debate then took place after which I took it upon myself to depart, for the good of all involved. After instructing Darron to deliver my immaculate cream flannels to the motorcar, I headed inside to claim some victuals before exiting the scene with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.

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The pressure builds – a four-Test story of two opposing batsmen

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

One is English, one is Pakistani. One is young, one is old – or at least he is in cricketing terms. For much of last summer’s Test series between England and Pakistan, Alex Hales and Younus Khan trod a similar path. Come the last Test, their journeys diverged markedly.

Hales was relatively new to Test cricket and still struggling to make an impact. Arriving at The Oval, his scores in the series read 6, 16, 10, 24, 17, 54 for an average of 21.16.

Younus was coming to the end of his career. His scores were 33, 25, 1, 28, 31, 4 for an average of 20.33.

Different situations but similar pressure. Both faced the prospect of losing their places in their respective teams.

What happened next feels significant.

Hales’ tale

Hales’ fourth Test scores – 6 and 12 – do not tell the story. In the first innings, he hit the ball in the air towards Yasir Shah – a man seemingly possessed of those precious fielding utensils, the safe pair of hands.

It was a contentious catch. Yasir said he took it. After being given out, Hales said plenty of things himself.

Nor did it end there. Hales continued to express himself to the full during an uninvited visit to the third umpire and then delivered a ‘boo hoo hoo’ mime to Azhar Ali when Pakistan were batting.

What can we glean from Hales’ Portrait of the Artist as a Petulant Young Man? The main thing all of his actions have in common is that they are targeted at other people. He appeared to blame Yasir for claiming the catch, the umpire for making the wrong decision and Azhar Ali for playing for the wrong team. Seemingly unable to control his own batting, he embarked on a futile quest to influence the world around him.

Younus calm

Contrast this with Younus. In the words of Mohammad Azharuddin – the man whose advice ultimately rescued him – Younus was batting “like a joker” during this series. That’s an unusually accurate use of the word, because the batsman was indeed a laughing stock.

As he jumped around the crease, people flitted between labelling his performances as either comical or sad.

Younus was on the way out and he was on the way out leaving an inadvertent trail of excrement. However, while Hales seems uncertain of his place in the world, Younus is not. Younus wasn’t going to let a trivial little thing like everyone else in the entire world thinking he’d had it put him off. He knew it didn’t look it, but he reckoned he was only  a whisker away from playing as well as he normally does. And so it proved.

“Stay in your crease,” said Azharuddin. “Wait for the ball to come to you.”

“Okay,” said Younus. “I’ll give that a try.”

After a couple of overs, things felt better. “Yup, seems to be working,” he said. “Guess I’ll crack on and make a double hundred now.”

What is this reslience; this imperviousness to the views of the outside world? Is it a deep reservoir of confidence borne of years of success or is it innate? Which comes first? Do you earn the right to have that trust in yourself or is it the very thing that allows you to be so effective in the first place?

Perhaps it’s both. Batting is a fragile profession. On these fine margins the difference can lie.

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Normal service not really resumed

There’s been a daughter!

Her name’s Niamh. She’s basically the best thing of all.

Obviously she’s not our sole creation, so please resist the temptation to assign her some sort of royal cricket title.

Niamh and her mother are the main reasons why we’ve been a trifle pressed for time this week. Shame on you for assuming it was a conviction for knife crime.

If you’ve been frustrated with the lack of updates this week, don’t fear, because we’ve been steadily accumulating a number of ploys which will free us up a bit in coming weeks.

To give just one example, we’ve taken to drinking black coffee because it’s one quicker than white coffee and two quicker than white coffee with sugar.

Just think of the time savings! Mostly this week we’ve been using all that extra time to roll down our eyelids for a few seconds. Without any completely overwhelming visual stimulation getting into our brain during that time, we’ve been able to file away some of what had got in before.

This, combined with eating most of our meals straight out of an open fridge and maybe a couple of other things should hopefully provide us with the time needed to carry out detailed tactical, statistical and psychological analysis of cricket matches.

Failing that, we may still be able to find time to knock out the usual toss only slightly less often.

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An acceptable way to finish a cricket match and an unacceptable way to report on one

We’ve been having some absolutely belting weather for the last week or so in these parts – but only on the sly. The gale force winds that have been partially masking things finally abated today and the lull revealed one of those perfect spring days that make you slightly less annoyed about your inability to think straight on account of having been woken up at 5am.

What we’re trying to say is that we didn’t watch England v Ireland because it was sunny out. We didn’t even listen to the radio. We just repeatedly watched that demented scene from Hard Target where Jean-Claude Van Damme punches a snake in the face before turning it into a lethal trap until our phone battery ran out. After that we just sat there.

Returning indoors, we see that England won. Hurray! Only not a real roaring ‘hurray’ because it would actually be quite nice if Ireland did well.

Unlike the first match, today’s fixture seemed more like a run-scoring victory.

That said, it did end how all matches should end – with a Mark Wood yorker.

Yorker!

Of course if that were mandatory, it would be very wearying for Wood, what with the obligation to deliver yorkers on demand for hundreds of different teams all across the globe.

We have therefore come up with three other acceptable match climaxes.

Acceptable ways to finish a cricket match

  1. Mark Wood yorker
  2. Comedy run-out
  3. Overthrows
  4. Quietly shaking hands having accepted that you aren’t going to get the overs in

Footnote

Reportage is going to fall some way short of our usual atomic clock level of reliability this week.

If by some miracle it should hit the heights of ‘patchy’ then you should consider that a win.

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England’s bowling and some clarification on the current condition of Aleem Dar’s lower face

Yesterday morning, our cat Monty did a more than passable impersonation of Mark Wood’s backwards press run-up as he exited the house. Despite his unutterably poor track record of predicting cricket matches, we took this as a clear sign that England would beat Ireland. And so it proved.

We’ve just moved into a great fat wodge of one-day internationals and after flitting between the County Championship, the IPL and the occasional Test match for the last month or so, this is actually something of a relief. There is some sort of narrative to the next couple of months with every nation moving into 50-over mode ahead of the Champions Trophy.

So what can we learn from England’s first foray of the summer? Well, it was very much a bowling performance kind of day, so we should probably focus on that. However, there’s one issue we should deal with first.

Beard or scarf?

If you’ve watched the grainy little highlights package of England’s wickets, this may have been a question you found yourself asking about umpire Aleem Dar.

Having resorted to a screengrab, we’re now confident that the answer is ‘beard’.

Aleem Dar

With that matter resolved, you can now watch the footage entirely liberated from difficult questions.

So basically, the big takeaways from this (mmm, big takeaway) are that Mark Wood pinged one straight through, David Willey swung one into the pads and then Adil Rashid sauntered in when people were trying to hit boundaries and encouraged them to mishit or miss the ball.

This is actually a pretty decent overview of England’s one-day bowling strategy. Every bowler has one main approach for taking wickets and Eoin Morgan tries to wheel them out at the best time to exploit it, whatever it happens to be.

‘Keeping it tight’ isn’t much of a thing any more. It’s really just a fallback.

Next match?

Against Ireland again – at Lord’s on Sunday.

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Shannon Gabriel nicks one for the Windies

Maybe this is why people have started saying ‘snick’ to mean ‘nick’ – to prevent headlines like this one from being ambiguous.

Shannon Gabriel – arguably the finest fast bowler called Shannon currently plying his trade – took 5-11 as the West Indies dismissed Pakistan for just 81 to win the second Test.

Gabriel’s figures were so good that the the official Twitter account of the West Indies Cricket Board added a few runs to make them seem more credible.

Kudos for the #WEvTHEM tag, which can presumably be appended to every post, no matter who they’re playing.

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Laurence Elderbrook confronts a new challenge

Previous instalment from Laurence Elderbrook

Life as a cricketer errant continues to be wearying, but it is the path I have chosen and a path I will continue to walk. This week my squire, Darron-with-an-O, must have asked at more than a dozen clubs whether any team required a dashing opening batsman to make up the numbers before he found a taker.

I exit my motorcar and stride into the clubhouse. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. Darron points me in the direction of the captain and I shake him firmly by the hand. He seems pleased to have been gifted an eleventh player and thanks me for offering to help out. Sadly, the pleasantries end there, for he also informs me that my new team will be fielding first.

I take the only option available to me. I let fly a huge bestial roar and march back to the motorcar. When Darron appears, I instruct him to return inside to claim some of the victuals prepared for the lunch break.

As I make the most of this sustenance, Darron asks me whether I will be returning to the ground when it is our turn to bat. I give him a withering look and start the motorcar.

More Laurence Elderbrook

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Misbah-ul-Haq – King of the Daddy Fifty

Last week Ian Bell was dismissed for 99 and we wondered whether that was more or less painful than Misbah-ul-Haq being left stranded on 99 not out against the West Indies.

Well, it seems Misbah was wondering the same thing. One Test later, he executed a textbook fatal bat withdrawal and edged to the keeper on the same score.

Misbah has always been King of the Fifty and it would seem that he is hell-bent on maximising his average before retirement without recourse to three figures. This was the third time he has made 99 in a Test match. He also has a 96 and a 97 to his name. It would perhaps be more accurate to brand him King of the Daddy Fifty.

Anyone who has watched him bat won’t be entirely surprised by this tendency. A man who at times boasts an almost tangible air of lack-of-intent, Misbah is not averse to completely renouncing progress during the latter stages of his innings.

He doesn’t so much become becalmed as struck down by a nasty case of rigor mortis. This tendency can transform the short trip from 90 to 100 into an incredibly protracted quest, such that being dismissed in the nineties becomes a statistical probability due to the sheer number of balls he faces.

You could argue that Misbah’s best hope for reaching three figures has been to do so before even he himself has noticed that it’s a possibility – but had this been a regular ploy, it would have greatly devalued one of the all-time great inexplicable innings.

Misbah-ul-Haq will retire from Test cricket after this series and anyone worth knowing will miss him enormously.

 

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Ben Stokes or Sunil Narine?

Ben Stokes played a handy innings yesterday.

With his team, Rising Pune Supergiant, chasing Gujarat Lions’ 161, Stokes made 103 not out, batting at five.

Cricinfo said that Stokes “owned the MCA Stadium” – although their use of the past tense implies that he’s since sold it or perhaps had it confiscated.

What people want?

This knock would, on the face of it, seem to be what the IPL is all about: big name players making big scores in dramatic fashion. Yet to us, it’s almost the least interesting thing about the competition.

Throw enough decent players together and ask them to play enough T20 cricket, and you’re going to get a few head-turning innings. Without remotely wishing to diminish what was clearly a magnificent example from Stokes, this sort of thing seems almost inevitable. It’s how the competition’s set up.

We find the shadier corners far more interesting; the areas where well-paid coaches are ferreting around trying to eke out an advantage. Because while Stokes won a match for his team, his only other batting contribution of note has been a fifty in a losing cause.

So what else has been happening?

So far this IPL, the storyline that’s had us most intrigued has been that of Sunil Narine the opening batsman.

This is interesting for a kick-off because statistically speaking Narine isn’t any kind of batsman whatsoever. He has never made a fifty in any of the major formats – not even in domestic one-day cricket.

He is, in essence, a pinch hitter.

Narine’s team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, started the tournament with the relentlessly straight-hitting Chris Lynn, a man who’d scythed through the Big Bash League scoring at 177 runs per 100 balls and averaging 154.

Lynn started the IPL in similar style, making 93 not out off 41 balls in his first match and 32 off 24 in his second. Then he got injured.

Cometh the hour, cometh the spin bowler

Lynn was the fifth-highest run-scorer at the Big Bash. His replacement was the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the same competition.

What’s most interesting is that the move has sort of worked. It certainly hasn’t been a failure. Narine still doesn’t have a fifty to his name, but he made 42 off 17 in one match and 34 off 17 in another.

These are handy starts. They give his team-mates time and the risk is low as the loss of Narine is, on the face of it, not the greatest blow to a team’s chances.

Narine doesn’t hang about and this is handy because – odd though it sounds – the first six overs of a T20 innings do typically feature a surprising amount of about-hanging. Even those openers who are big-hitting by reputation will often play themselves in and this is something of a wasted opportunity considering the number of boundary fielders during the first Powerplay.

In conclusion

In a T20 game, a couple of extra boundaries in the first Powerplay could easily prove the difference between victory and defeat. At the same time, a whirlwind innings from one of the world’s greatest players could be the fat man bombing your lilo, trampolining you out of the water.

Who knows which kind of match the next one is going to be. Teams kind of have to bear both in mind.

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