Category: England cricket news (page 1 of 131)

South Africa have already choked

chris-woakes

We were quite keen to be first off the mark in using the word “choked” to mean “lost a cricket match” in reference to South Africa this summer.

Hopefully we have achieved our aim. When you see the term deployed by others in the weeks to come, be sure to let them know that we were there first.

England’s victory again hinged on their conviction that they should be trying to take wickets throughout the innings.

Chris Woakes was the most wicket-takery bowler on the day, as he quite often is these days. He deserves it for his bowling action alone.

A lot of people coo over the aesthetics of a perfectly executed cover drive. These people have clearly never seen Chris Woakes bowl. He’s like one of those finely calibrated production line robots, only made out of honey.

South Africa choked on honey. It can happen.


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.


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.


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.


Zafar Ansari’s “other ambitions” and other tales of premature retirement from cricket

Cricket - Friends Life Twenty20 Finals Day - second semi final - Hampshire v Surrey

Each to his own and all that, but the “new chapter” in Zafar Ansari’s life sounds dull as shit to us. He’s retired from cricket at the age of 25 to pursue another career, “potentially in law”.

We’ve been here before. We’ve been here several times. There was James Bruce, who retired at 28 in favour of a career ‘in the City’ and there was Alex Loudon shortly before him.

We wrote about these bizarre decisions for The Wisden Cricketer in 2007 and looking back on that piece, it seems Loudon left cricket in favour of “a corporate advisory firm”. We’ve still no concrete grasp on what that might mean, but we do know that the words alone make us feel hollow and slightly tearful about the fundamental meaninglessness of existence.

To try and gain some insight into WHY IN HELL a man might make such a decision, we spoke to Paul Downton (yes, that one) who carved out a successful career in finance after he retired from cricket (in his thirties) and was at the time working as a director at a firm called Cazenove.

We can’t find our notes from that interview, but we remember him telling us that it would be tough for these players to turn down the opportunity to embark on what would surely prove to be highly lucrative careers. He had to tell us this several times because each time he said it, we responded with some uncomprehending version of “but… they were cricketers?”

Perhaps we’re a bit of a simpleton, but our view has always been that you only get one crappy body and it’s slowly dying from the moment you’re born. Using that body to play sport – and play it well – during the relatively short window when that’s an option has always seemed to us to be one of the absolute finest uses of one’s time.

But as we said at the top, each to his own. Loudon saw things differently. He admitted to us that he’d miss cricket at times, but added: “Mostly I’ll have my head firmly in front of a computer screen and thinking of exciting things in my future career.”


The format of the new ECB T20 competition

Surrey v Hampshire (CC licensed by Ungry Young Man via Flickr)

Surrey v Hampshire (CC licensed by Ungry Young Man via Flickr)

Here’s a coagulation of plans, proposals, assumptions and best-guesses for the format of the ECB’s new 20-over competition which is due to begin in 2020.

  • Eight sides
  • Eight group matches each
  • Home and away local derbies (to permit that eighth match)
  • IPL style play-offs
  • ECB-produced TV coverage with some matches free-to-air

The teams

There’s an assumption that the league will feature city teams, but the terminology being used is actually ‘city-based’ which isn’t precisely the same thing.

There’s an interesting breakdown of what the teams could be from Nick Hoult of The Telegraph.

Based on grounds likely to host matches, he has suggested (possibly with some prompting):

  • Red Rose
  • White Rose
  • Birmingham
  • Trent Bridge
  • The West Country
  • North London
  • South London
  • The South

This list has a ‘working title’ air about it, but it does give an idea how things might eventually pan out.

It’s also interesting to take those sides and see who’ll be playing each other twice. Presumably we’ll have an extra War of the Roses, Birmingham v Trent Bridge and North v South London. That leaves us with the famously bitter rivalry between the West Country and the South coast in a fixture we’d like to see branded Battle of the Leftovers.

Play-offs

This format is a tad tricksy, but actually kind of vital if the league phase is going to retain interest until the end.

The first-placed team plays the second-placed team with the winner going through to the final.

In contrast, the third and fourth-placed teams have to get through two matches to get to the final. First they play each other and then the winner plays the team that lost the first v second play-off.

So basically there’s something to be gained from finishing in the top two rather than scraping through in fourth place.

Subject to change

We honestly don’t know why we report on these things sometimes. This’ll doubtless all be out of date by the time we click ‘publish’.

Loads of people are really angry

There are a fair few people who absolutely loathe the very idea of this tournament; angry to the extent that it’s like the ECB have said: “Put down the bat, let’s use the stumps as goalposts and have a kickabout instead.”

We are slightly nonplussed by this reaction because we believe that Twenty20 really can serve as a gateway format and Test cricket can never die.

Where some people get angry about the transient nature of a T20 match, we tend to see this as precisely the reason why the format won’t steamroller its way to total dominance.

Even if it does take on greater prominence in coming years, it feels like there’s a ceiling to what T20 can offer with the longer format retaining almost all of its unique selling points when set alongside it.


Jason Roy wants England to be worse at one-day cricket

Still taken from Sky Sports

Still taken from Sky Sports

It’s happened again. Jason Roy wants to do things that will make England worse at cricket.

Ahead of the World T20, Roy appeared to lose sight of his role at the top of the order, which we likened to tinder. He said he wanted to give himself time, apparently unaware that any time he took would have to be stolen from his team-mates.

Similarly, talking about the 50-over game this week, he said: “I want to be that solid guy at the top of the order. Yes, quick 50s and 60s every now and then but big hundreds are at the forefront of my mind.”

That’s all well and good for Jason Roy, but if the best way of shaping his individual innings would be to exercise a degree of restraint early on, that’s not often going to be the best approach for the team innings.

Sometimes it might be, but by and large we’d suggest that England’s cause would be best served by Jason Roy hammering it from the off. When he does that, he not only intimidates the opposition, he also buys time for his team-mates down the order.

That gift is often vital. If everything goes smoothly and the team manages to employ the long handle throughout the innings, Roy’s initial pongo can be the difference between their total and the opposition’s. If there are hiccups along the way and there’s a need to stabilise the innings, quick early runs from Roy mean the middle-order has room for manoeuvre.

It’s not like Roy has a poor individual record anyway. Three hundreds in 36 innings is perfectly acceptable when combined with an average of over 40 and a scoring rate of over a run a ball. Why strive for solidity if it’ll round off the very edge that makes you so useful to the team?


A new source of images – so obviously we just went and found a load of Rob Key photos

Getty has got a thing that allows us to embed images. They say it’s free to use and entirely legal – although with Getty being famously litigious when it comes to unauthorised use of their photographs, we still feel a little nervous, like they’re luring is into a trap or something.

Nevertheless, we wanted to take a look at what kind of thing might be available, so needless to say the first thing we did was carry out a search for ‘Rob Key’.

The results feature a surprisingly heavy emphasis on this kind of thing.

However, don’t think for one minute that there’s nothing but Rob in whites looking a bit sad after losing his wicket against Essex.

Because sometimes he’s wearing coloured clothing while in the very process of losing his wicket against Essex.

And at other times he’s wearing coloured clothing, in the process of losing his wicket against Essex, but photographed from the opposite side.

But there are some truly spectacular moments too.

Take this photo of him in profile, for example.

And finally, here’s the Queen getting to shake him by the hand – the lucky bitch.

Can’t wait to see none of these photos show up in the daily email and for this post to make precisely zero sense to all our subscribers as a consequence.


How much does Rahkeem Cornwall weigh?

All across the UK, people are waking up and asking: ‘Who is Rahkeem Cornwall?‘ after the majestic blob of cricket damn near beat England in a tour match.

It is for precisely this reason that we always try and stay abreast of the world’s fat cricketers long before they rise to prominence. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a situation where you’ve fallen behind and the world’s fat cricketers are getting on top of you.

We’d like to leave that last joke hanging there without drawing attention to it, but the thought that someone might leave a comment below making exactly the same joke overtly because they think our wording was just an accident is just too much to bear – which is why we’ve written this long, unwieldy sentence as well.

Exact figures for Rahkeem Cornwall’s weight are hard to come by. We’d guess it waxes and wanes considerably, according to the vagaries of his lifestyle. We’ve seen “20-plus stone” mentioned, which would be over 125kg. He’s 6ft5in though, so this isn’t quite as spectacular as we’d hoped.

Does 40 stone count as 20-plus stone or does 20-plus mean 20-odd? These are questions that demand answers. We’d also like clarification as to whether Cornwall was so-named due to his excessive consumption of Cornish pasties.

We’ll leave you with the latest photo of the great (big) man. There isn’t quite as much mouth-breathing going on as in the pic on his Cricinfo profile page, but the inclusion of another human within shot does give us a sense of scale, so that’s a welcome new development.

For further reading, we recommend the tale of Mark Cosgrove, a man who was given the green light to let his weight get ridiculous, failed to realise that 800 was less than a thousand and then flobbed back into county cricket in 2009.

You may say that’s not a tale; that it’s just three links to posts about the same fat cricketer with no narrative structure and that furthermore there have been loads of other far more interesting Mark Cosgrove developments in the meantime.

To that we say, is it not a tale? Is there not a moral in there somewhere? We then back away from you with an earnest, knowing look on our face, fading into the background as you restate your belief that no, there really isn’t any kind of story there.


Why did Tymal Mills go for so much at the IPL auction? Because he’s fit for purpose

Tymal Mills

Tymal Mills has been signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for £1.4m. In response, many have felt inclined to ask what Ian Botham, Viv Richards or Ian Austin might have gone for. This seems to us to be somewhat missing the point.

In the UK, the phrase ‘Twenty20 specialist’ still has a faintly pejorative hue. Some do indeed come to focus on the shortest format as a result of shortcomings in the longer ones while Mills himself had the decision made for him by his own spine. But no matter how you arrive there, as far as the IPL sides are concerned, a player who is 100 per cent focused on the finer points of T20 can only be a good thing. A desirable thing. A thing they’d pay money for.

It’s not just that Mills is likely to be available for the entire tournament, it’s more that T20 is his whole professional life. Last season he described how he and his Sussex team-mates would practise yorkers with a white ball for a period. Then, when everyone else moved on to bowling four-day lines and lengths with a red ball, Mills would just carry on bowling yorkers.

To ask why Mills should sell for over a million when he hasn’t even played Test cricket is to overlook why that’s a good thing. Ben Stokes sold for £1.7m  and while he is unarguably a better cricketer (if nothing else, he can bat) then Mills will surely prove the better investment. If Stokes’ adaptability is a key strength, then he is nevertheless pulled in many different directions. Mills doesn’t need to be especially adaptable. He can just focus.

Like Stokes, Mills has also profited by being two players in one. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he does possess two qualities that are always in demand in the IPL auction. Firstly, he is a left-armer and secondly, he can bowl at 90-odd mph. Combine those two qualities with his unwavering focus on Twenty20 cricket matches and then subtract Mitchell Starc from the auction and see the bids roll in.

For the record, had he been around today then Ian Austin would have sold for six weeks’ supply of meat-and-tatty pies and a year’s subscription to the Racing Post – but it would have been a hell of a bargain for whoever saw fit to splash out on him.


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