England cricket news

17

A series of things for which it’s quite hard to come up with an appropriate headline

Bowled on 30th May, 2015 at 00:04 by
Category: England cricket news, New Zealand

Q: What do you call a donkey that was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, got a snorter first ball in his first Test but survived and went on to make 88 off 70 balls?

A: A Ronchi

It’s probably not the greatest joke, but that’s not what donkey jokes are about. Donkey jokes are about thinking of words that end in ‘-key’ and then setting that punchline up in painfully long-winded fashion.

What else?

Mark Wood bowled a ball to die for, cementing our love for him. He looks like a man who has spent his entire life perfecting his craft and as such he has been given the reward of six Test wickets.

James Anderson has taken 401 Test wickets.

What else on top of that?

We still have no idea what’s happening in this Test series and it’s a delightful sensation. Win or lose, New Zealand make matches worth watching. They never coast. The game always moves forwards.

We only hope some of this has rubbed off on England. It certainly feels infectious, but then England possess quite a hardy immune system, so who knows.

Is that it?

If you see the Cricinfo headline ‘Transformer blast near Gaddafi stadium,’ it isn’t worth clicking. It’s a massive disappointment being as it features neither Autobots nor Decepticons.

Nor is this the first time that a Transformer’s ruined a cricket match. Not even close.

17 Appeals
28

England are playing

Bowled on 28th May, 2015 at 18:50 by
Category: England cricket news

So are New Zealand. It’s a Test match. You’ll probably have something to say. Leave your comments on this post while we busy ourself desperately trying to come up with something insightful and pithy to say about the first day’s play.

If you’re interested in our thoughts while the match is in progress, we won’t really have any if England are batting. If they’re bowling, we’ll be thinking ‘get Ballance on’.

Cook never gets Ballance on. It’s a crime.

28 Appeals
17

England have a new coach!

Bowled on 26th May, 2015 at 20:25 by
Category: England cricket news

He’s called Nigel or something. We’re not sure. We haven’t really been paying attention. From what we can tell, he’s been coaching a club in South Wales and he once appeared in an episode of Knight Rider. He seems well qualified.

Jason Gillespie had of course been the favourite for the job, but was ruled out when Andrew Strauss realised he was the guy who took 7-37 against England back in 1997. Upon learning that his application had been unsuccessful, Gillespie was heard to spit the word “curses” in an evil voice.

To be honest, we wondered whether there might have been a case for having no coaches whatsoever. The players seem to have gone okay unsupervised this last week or so. ‘Old school’ is apparently the most sophisticated, advanced coaching approach there is these days. What could be more old school than just having players and no support staff?

17 Appeals
21

Like that dumpling from the Caribbean place last week, this match may well take a day or two to digest

Bowled on 25th May, 2015 at 21:19 by
Category: England cricket news, New Zealand

Imagine going back in time and trying to tell cynical, world-weary you from a week ago about this match.

“England were 30-4 inside the first hour of day one,” you’d say.

“Yeah, that seems about right,” Earlier You would reply.

“And they then conceded 523 in New Zealand’s first innings,” you’d continue.

“Nothing changes,” says Earlier You.

“And England won.”

At this point, Earlier You would presumably reach the conclusion that Current You was not really Future You (from their perspective). They’d assume you were actually an evil doppelganger, spreading insane lies for who knows what reason.

Only you know what you’d do in that situation.

But this is what actually happened. We may have jumped the gun in lauding the ebb and flow of day one because what do we say now? At no point did we ever really have much an idea how this match was going to end and even now it’s over, we’re still not entirely sure we’ve got it right.

It kind of feels like someone’s got the sums wrong; like one of New Zealand’s innings has accidentally been omitted and they actually won by 250.

21 Appeals
26

Ben Stokes: Brutal Deluxe

Bowled on 24th May, 2015 at 19:00 by
Category: Alastair Cook, Ben Stokes

There are times for thoughtful analysis and there are times for giddy enthusiasm. Today is clearly the latter.

At the peak of his powers, if you said the name ‘Flintoff’ to someone during a match with the right look in your eye, that person would immediately drop whatever they were doing and rush to the TV because no-one wanted to miss a moment of one of his innings. Already, Ben Stokes seems like Flintoff Deluxe – Brutal Deluxe, if you will.

In this Test, Stokes made 193 runs off 186 balls, hit 30 fours and four sixes. He emerged at 30-4 and at 232-4 and had a massive impact in both situations. He has achieved the impossible and made the arrival of Jos Buttler feel like something of an anticlimax.

A mechanical watch is full of all sorts of sprockets and cogs and springs and screws and when all those components are correctly positioned, everything works satisfyingly smoothly. But then there are other devices, like hammers, which do the job for which they are intended equally well without requiring all that complexity.

Stokes is very much a hammer. Not many of his shots go behind square and each makes a clean percussive sound you rarely hear even in this era of power hitting. This is a batsman who hits the ball with the middle of the bat and propels it forwards. That’s his method and may he never complicate it.

Kudos to Alastair Cook as well. He was there before Stokes and he was there afterwards. It was his day too.

If Stokes enjoyed himself in the afternoon, the morning was no time for fun. There was work to be done. The lawn needed mowing, the dishes needed doing, the laundry needed hanging out. It was only once all those jobs had been ticked off that England could relax and start enjoying themselves. Suppose that’s teamwork or summat.

26 Appeals
24

New Zealand have something atop their spine

Bowled on 22nd May, 2015 at 19:42 by
Category: Mark Wood, New Zealand

Looks like we’re gonna need a bigger skull. A year ago we wrote about how New Zealand’s first few vertebrae – the batsmen at three, four, five and six – needed to be (metaphorically) full of brainy gloop to make up for shortcomings at the top. After a 148-run opening stand in the first Test against England, there no longer seems much of an issue.

It maybe wasn’t the toughest examination for Martin Guptill and Tom Latham – the pitch was true and the ball didn’t swing much – but a large part of being an international batsman is simply the avoidance of knobheadish shots. Knobheadery in decision-making was conspicuously absent for almost the entire day. That makes life tough for the bowlers.

England’s bowling was largely ineffectual, but it didn’t seem too bad to our eyes. First impressions of Mark Wood are that we rather like him. We like his imaginary horse and his imaginary starting blocks as he begins his run-up. We’re less enamoured with his imaginary wickets. What is it with Durham bowlers and no-balls? Do they play on 21 yard pitches up there or summat?

We’re also fond of his very real pace. Somewhere in our head there’s a definition of a fast bowler. We suspect it’s something like ‘over 90mph for at least a third of the time’. Whatever it is, Wood must be pretty close. He’s quick enough to be distinct from the usual fast-medium barrage at least, which’ll do for us. And for all you cricket hipsters who say pace isn’t everything, we’ll once again repeat: not, it isn’t – but it is something.

24 Appeals
12

Joe Root hasn’t made a hundred in England for almost a year

Bowled on 21st May, 2015 at 22:36 by
Category: Joe Root, New Zealand

Joe Root and a load of grass

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’re thinking about trying to get more into selective use of statistics. It seems to be a big thing in cricket, but we’re not off to a great start. Truth is it’s barely been nine months since Joe Root last made a hundred in England.

Actually, we didn’t specify Test cricket either, so it’s more like eight months. It seems that even when you’re really trying, it’s very hard to make Joe Root look bad at the minute.

What happened?

Matt Prior got the day about right.

England successfully navigated the first hour, losing only four of their ten wickets, and then Root and Ben Stokes almost immediately went mental, cashing in with the same gleeful enthusiasm with which characters in gambling adverts cash out.

Stokes, in particular, batted like some kind of hell ox – that is if hell oxen could hold cricket bats, timed the ball sweetly and had a taste for clip-driving every other ball through the legside for four. For his part, Root ensured he was top scorer and then did one.

After that, it was a play-off to bat at seven. Jos Buttler, the incumbent, has just gone up a spot – he made 67. Moeen Ali’s dropped down to eight from six but he’s 49 not out. If he makes 70, maybe he’ll push Buttler back down again and if he can make a ton, Stokes at six might also be in danger. Or they could just operate a rota system.

In summary

Twenty20 tends to either ebb or flow. In one day of Test cricket, we most definitely got both – and the match has barely even started.

12 Appeals
14

England captain, coach and director – how are the roles defined?

Bowled on 19th May, 2015 at 12:18 by
Category: England cricket news

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Too many cooks? Too many Cooks? Who’s responsible for what in this new England team hierarchy?

We’ve just spent half an hour writing and rewriting a paragraph trying to explain how we think things are going to work. Clearly, we have no idea. We came up with some sort of division where Andrew Strauss was the strategist, the coach the tactician and the captain some sort of on-field mouthpiece, little more than a control mechanism for shuffling the players about.

But then there’s the bowling coach, who’ll be heavily involved in tactics. And surely the coach will have some say in strategy? Everything overlaps, and really, is it that complex a job that three people are required? For many years Dan Vettori seemed to perform all three roles and still found time for a bit of bowling and beard-growing.

As far as we can tell, the main distinction is in attire. The captain will wear whites or one-day pyjamas, the coach will wear a tracksuit and Andrew Strauss will wear smart trousers and a shirt with a tie for bad news and no tie for when things are going well. Hopefully the complex relationship between the three leadership roles won’t mean that he’s going to need to purchase additional neckwear.

14 Appeals
38

The week in politics

Bowled on 15th May, 2015 at 10:40 by
Category: Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Like a tired bear in winter, let’s try and put this to bed for a few days. Maybe it’ll have to get up again at some point next week to go for a wee, but we’re kind of hoping that we can concentrate on the New Zealand series from now on.

As far as we can tell, this is how it’s gone…

Colin Graves told Kevin Pietersen that if he came back and played county cricket and maybe made a triple hundred, he couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team. He said this because he genuinely couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team.

Then, while Graves was in the Caribbean, he discovered that England’s captain, Alastair Cook, was adopting a ‘him or me’ position on the issue. Not mad keen on having Joe Root as Test captain just yet, the ECB opted for ‘me’ in favour of ‘him’ and tried to ham-fistedly make the best of that.

Kevin Pietersen came back, played county cricket, made a triple hundred and requested his place in the side. Andrew Strauss broke the news to him.

This is perhaps why, at the press conference the following day, Strauss said that Pietersen wouldn’t play for England ‘this summer’, while adding that he couldn’t offer guarantees beyond that. He was basically just acknowledging that there are two possible scenarios.

  1. England win the Ashes, Cook stays, Pietersen remains excluded
  2. They lose, Cook goes and Joe Root – who has just been named vice captain – takes over

Cook presumably feels the presence of uppity Pietersen with his inability to keep his trap shut makes captaining the side impossible. If the public comes to accept the version of events outlined above, he may come to reclassify that particular ‘impossible’ as merely ‘very, very difficult’ in comparison to what he is likely to experience should England start losing this summer.

Strauss said of Peter Moores that every game had become a referendum on whether he should continue to do the job or not. It would be like that, only a hundred times as vitriolic and a thousand times less dignified.

Here’s the real nub of the problem

The main problem, as we see it, is that some people seem to think that being England captain is a big deal; like it somehow elevates you above all other England cricketers. If Alastair Cook didn’t see captaincy as something to aspire to, he could have acknowledged that it wasn’t especially his thing at the very outset and instead busied himself with the greatly more important job of scoring Test runs. Pretty much everyone would have liked him more for it.

You’d never get this kind of thing with Pakistan. Pakistan would have had about nine different captains by now and everything would have been much less chaotic as a consequence.

38 Appeals
60

The ECB takes aim at its prosthetic foot

Bowled on 12th May, 2015 at 12:05 by
Category: Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen

Strauss is also rumoured to have used the word 'rapscallion'

What may eventually prove to be Kevin Pietersen’s final six scoring strokes in first-class cricket were, in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. At that point, there was nowhere left to go.

A friend of ours was referred to a heart specialist once. As he sat in the waiting room alongside lots of sad looking folk, Unbreak My Heart started playing on the radio. Point is, plenty of things that you’d roll your eyes at if they happened in a sitcom actually do happen in real life.

Witness the ECB’s public relations efforts. A script editor would rip such a story apart for being too contrived, too convenient, too obvious to pass as comedy. Kevin Pietersen is allowed to believe that if he returns to England and makes runs in the county championship, he may be considered for selection. He makes 326 not out and that night – that very same night – he is told that actually, no, he will not be considered for selection.

The news is leaked, obviously. It always is. It is leaked at the exact same moment that the ECB Twitter feed publishes a link to highlights of Pietersen’s innings. The next day, the ECB officially unveil their new director of England cricket, the man who has made the decision to continue to omit Pietersen. It is Andrew Strauss, a man who once called him a cunt on TV; a man who, for all his qualities, is considered the embodiment of the establishment by those feeling disenfranchised and alienated by that very establishment.

Strauss says that Pietersen is not going to be selected any time soon because of trust issues. He later adds that he offered him a consultancy job with the one-day side, which Pietersen declined. Apparently trust is not required for that sort of a role.

If you can, temporarily suppress your feelings about Kevin Pietersen. Find a way of pretending that you’re a dispassionate observer tasked with repairing the ECB’s tattered image. They are, after all, considered a toxic brand even by themselves.

If the notion that the ECB is a cosy old gentleman’s club, a sort of pseudo-masonic quasi-incestuous backslapping coven, then that notion had to some degree been confined to certain individuals. Whether they were truly the guilty parties or not, people like Paul Downton and Peter Moores had been infected with this cancer, but they had recently been excised. Giles Clarke is about to depart as chairman and while he will retain influence, the arrival of Colin Graves had at least felt progressive.

Now, somehow, against the odds, the cancer of negative public perception has been allowed to spread. And not just subtly and by stealth, but like something from an unusually gory B-movie. People are being eaten alive. A three-time Ashes-winning captain has become public enemy number one among a large swathe of England fans. The new coach is tainted by the new-old regime even before being sounded out about whether he might maybe like to think about possibly perhaps applying.

Rights or wrongs of the selection or non-selection of one player aside, how in the hell does an organisation find a way to shoot itself in the foot like this; a prosthetic foot it only received following an identical shooting incident just last year?

60 Appeals
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