County cricket news
Not a cow or an ocelot or a langur monkey, but some sort of robotic beast specifically created to fire out intimidating back-of-a-length bowling.
Paul Horton’s hundred looks even better after Durham were bowled out for 90. James Anderson took most of the wickets, but according to Lancashire’s captain, Stuart Law, it was Flintoff who “put the shits up them bowling at 90 or 95 miles an hour.”
Nice to know that Flintoff can now direct the shits. Law didn’t specify whether these were the wild shits, however.
We’d like to see Andrew Flintoff play more county cricket to help remind him how to bat. However, we’re probably more keen on seeing him bowl for England. You can’t have everything, but at times Flintoff’s bowling feels like everything.7 Appeals
As it stands, that 293 looks out of place. What happened?
It was Paul Horton, Lancashire’s opener. No-one else in the match has passed 40. Horton made 108 before being run out.
For pace bowlers, all-rounders and depending on the overseas pro, spinners, Lancashire have been disgustingly rich for years, but their openers have been mediocre.
We like Mark Chilton and we like Iain Sutcliffe, even if we can’t bear to watch the latter bat, but neither is exceptional. Mark Chilton’s career average is 32. Sutcliffe’s is nearly 35. After 30 matches, Paul Horton averages 50.
Unsurprisingly, Horton was born in Sydney. He went to school in Liverpool though and yes, he’s aiming to play for England.
Cue comments from Australia about England not producing its own cricketers and retaliation from England about Australians not really doing so either, when you think about it – as well as something about dingos.
Who cares? The important thing is that we’re taking sides and arguing with each other and really, at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?9 Appeals
Everybody’s asking. We’ve already told you.
James Tomlinson was our mate at school. We played cricket using a fire grate as stumps. James spent a period carrying a small piece of fabric around in his pencil case. He said it was a dog. He said the dog was called ‘Turbo’.
Oh, you mean the James Tomlinson who took 8-46 for Hampshire against Somerset yesterday? We’ve no idea who he is.
We’re sure we’ve let his dad down in some way as well as our James Tomlinson’s dad. We feel we disappointed our James Tomlinson’s dad by never playing cricket for England. We’re not sure how we’ll have let Hampshire James Tomlinson’s dad down, but we will have done somehow. It’s very much odds-on.2 Appeals
We’ve always liked Mark Davies. He was like the invisible man that only we could see. If he wasn’t injured, he’d be there, chipping away for Durham, taking 2-30 or 3-45 – nondescript-yet-efficient bowling figures that kept his first-class average surprisingly low. It was 22.63 before this match.
But now Mark Davies isn’t the invisible man that only we can see, because he’s just ripped Lancashire a new one by taking 7-33.
Now the only invisible man that only we can see is Karl the Scary Skeleton who lives in the front bedroom. Hello Karl. What are you waving at us today? Why it’s a pair of human feet. Time to get back in the drawer, Karl. In you go.
Liam Plunkett is injured. Mark Davies is playing and it seems we should have been watching him in 2008 as well. Once again, some sort of message is being transmitted to us. It’s something about how we shouldn’t bother trying to do anything ever. We get similar messages remarkably frequently.13 Appeals
There were some low-scoring matches in the Friends Provident Trophy this weekend and not only where matches were shortened because of rain.
Scotland, who had won at Old Trafford in 2003 and 2007 managed a relatively feeble 155-9 from their 50 overs, but Lancashire completely ballsed up their chase and could only manage 153-9. At one stage they were 44-7.
Kyle Hogg made 66 at that point – comfortably the highest score of the match. He was batting at nine. Simon Marshall, who’s hit a championship hundred, came in at ten.
It would be nice if Lancashire’s young all-rounders got a chance to bat when it wasn’t a crisis, but Hogg and Marshall usually only get to play in one-dayers and if they’re always nine and ten, they’ll only reach the crease when things aren’t going well. It seems a waste, or unfair or something.
Maybe Lancashire’s batsmen should just draw batting positions out of a hat before each match. We recommend a fez for this purpose. The choice of hat is of vital importance.23 Appeals
We think Chris Read got a raw deal. The story is: best keeper, duff batsman – but everyone knows it’s not that clear cut.
We’re not going so far as to say Chris Read’s should be playing for England, but we do think he should have been given a proper chance. Or a proper second chance anyway.
Read was dropped during England’s tour of the West Indies in 2004, because his batting wasn’t up to much. It was controversial, in that he’d kept well, but we think at this point it was a fair decision. He’d had a go, he hadn’t made any runs and he didn’t look like he would either.
Knowing his batting was his weakness, Read set about rectifying this. He averaged 50 in first-class cricket in 2004 and 44 in 2005. In 2006 he came back into the England side during the series against Pakistan, making 38, 55 and 33.
Those runs weren’t match-changing, but returning to the side and with a good few people willing him to fail, they represent a pretty stout return. New players should get a bit of leeway.
Bizarrely, Read was then dropped for the first Ashes Test in Australia. Three Tests later he was back again, as Geraint Jones had had a ‘mare. He played in the last two Tests, scoring 3, 26 not out, 2 and 4 and that was that for him.
We think that those four Ashes innings should be stricken from the record when looking at Chris Read. Here was a cricketer whose coach had such little faith in him he dropped him despite reasonable performance in favour of someone in no form whatsoever. He’d returned to a side that had already lost a Test series as well as all vestiges of resilience. Plus he was playing against the best team in the world on their home grounds.
Anyone would buckle in that situation. Playing in a beaten team having already been dropped isn’t going to show you at your best. Some players get a good run of matches against mediocre opposition to prove their worth. Chris Read got good opportunities in his youth, but the later version of Chris Read got those four innings.
As we said, we’ve no idea if he’s worth a place in the England side and that’s very much our point – we think the jury’s still out. He hit 142 against Yorkshire this week and last year he averaged over 50.
It’s all irrelevant though, because he played in the naughty Twenty20 league, the ICL, which is frowned upon by England’s selectors, so he’s effectively banned from international cricket.
This update’s a little dry, so we suggest focusing your comments on our use of the phrase ‘raw deal’ by making reference to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of that name.17 Appeals
Channel M is a local TV channel here in Manchester. Every week they broadcast The Lancashire Cricket Show, which is also available online.
In this week’s episode, Brad Hodge is interviewed about how he’s leaving for a few weeks in order to go and earn seven boatloads of cash in the IPL.
For some reason, he sounds utterly, utterly miserable about this. If you’re at work and can’t watch or you’re borderline suicidal and worried this might tip you over the edge, we’ll summarise for you:
[Low octave mumble, mumble, mumble, rising intonation... Low octave mumble, mumble, mumble, rising intonation... Low octave mumble, mumble, mumble, rising intonation...]9 Appeals
Jonathan Agnew will be astounded to hear that Tim Ambrose hit a hundred yesterday, despite not having grown an inch over the winter. He hit 156 not out against Leicestershire.
One of England’s multitude of wicketkeepers needs to make a definitive case for the Test spot. As the current England wicketkeeper, Ambrose is well placed to do that and a hundred like this won’t exactly harm his chances.
But what strikes us is that while they all know that batting is half their job, all of them seem content to bat a fair way down the order. Ambrose bats at six, so does Matt Prior, so does Geraint Jones, so does Chris Read, so does Steven Davies, so does Phil Mustard in first-class cricket, while James Foster bats at seven.
A couple of years back, Paul Collingwood was being dismissed as a bits and pieces cricketer. He saw that he wasn’t going to prove anyone wrong batting in the middle order and asked if he could move up to three. Everyone thought he was mental, but he hit six hundreds that season, which proved he was adept against a newish ball, but also that he was a gosh-darned determined little blighter.
Jon Batty usually opens the batting for Surrey. Good for him. He’s made two huge errors during his career, however. Earlier in his career, he made the mistake of becoming Surrey’s wicketkeeper straight after Alec Stewart. More recently he’s made the mistake of being 34.4 Appeals
What is the EPL?
There’s going to be an English version of the IPL. We’re calling it the EPL, because we’re pretty sure that’s what it’ll be.
England already has a Twenty20 tournament of course. There are three leagues and the best teams go through to quarter finals. For some reason, if this was changed into just a league with no knock-out phase, it becomes massively appealing to sponsors. This is because you get to use the word ‘premier’ and any kind of ‘premier league’ is like an overfruiting money tree. That and the fact that a Texan billionaire’s behind the idea. That helps with the money too.
Counties, regions or franchises?
One question that remains unresolved is who will compete in an EPL. Will it be the current counties or a smaller number of franchises or city teams?
Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association points to the apparent success of the IPL’s franchises and says this is the way forward.
ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, points to those very same teams, only he sees them as state teams and therefore believes this backs up the county format.
No-one seems to question whether a fortnight is a sufficiently long period in which to gauge IPL success nor whether what’s successful in India might translate to the UK or not.
Too many counties for one league
Whether they go down the county or the region route, we’re sure of one thing. 18 first-class counties is too darn many to have in one league. We spend more time than most reading about cricket and we’re having trouble getting to grips with the teams in the IPL – and there are only eight of them.
If you want to get huge TV coverage and the accompanying sponsorship money, you have to appeal to more people. This means appealing to new people and you aren’t going to achieve this by giving them 18 teams to remember. People need an easy way in.
This would seem to favour the regional idea. Counties could merge and share the profits. Alternatively, the counties could be split into three leagues of six, but we have reservations about that.
Hampshire finished bottom of their Twenty20 group last year. If Hampshire were in the third of three Twenty20 leagues, then Kevin Pietersen would be in the bottom of three Twenty20 leagues and TV and advertisers wouldn’t be happy about that.
But would he be in division three? Would market forces come into play? Perhaps the more successful Twenty20 sides with their extra income could afford to sign the best players from the weaker counties. There are huge ramifications here. If Twenty20 becomes the driving force for counties, it means the richest counties are geared towards that form of the game and players will be produced accordingly. Is this good for Test cricket? Almost certainly not.
The regional concept guards against this. All counties are effectively involved in the top flight and money can be equally distributed. It should also mean a higher standard of cricket. A regional team would use only the very best players from its three contributing counties and foreign signings – who are central to this whole idea – would be spread less thinly as well.
Whichever way they choose to go, the important thing is that the counties start to pay for themselves. England’s counties are not financially self-sufficient, taking millions of pounds that come in from England games. If an EPL in any format overcomes this, the resultant savings could go on a number of things.
Least appealingly for the fans, the money could go on salaries for England players. Cricketers’ priorities seem to be following the cash, so ensuring Test players earn more than domestic Twenty20 cricketers might solidify Test cricket’s position as the number one format.
Or the money could be used to reduce ticket prices at England games or to ensure free-to-air TV coverage of the national team. William Buckland, writing in The Wisden Cricketer, said that the current situation for cricket supporters in England is leading to a game that’s becoming an expensive indulgence for the upper middle classes in London and the shires, like the opera. It would be nice if this trend could be reversed, but would the ECB willingly refuse Sky money for a greater audience?
Or the money could go to grass roots cricket. That’s never a bad idea.20 Appeals
“This bugged me last season and it seems it’s going to continue to bug me this season too.
“Can I suggest a whip round to buy him a new hat? That’s what, a tenner? So £2 per King Cricket reader.”9 Appeals