Hello and welcome to part two of our three-part feature, Cricket’s Greatest Dot Balls.
It was the fourth Test of the 1999 Test series between England and New Zealand, a match in which Ed Giddins was making his Test debut. England had yet to make a breakthrough in New Zealand’s first innings and so Nasser Hussain turned to a young man by the name of Ronnie Irani. No-one knew quite how signficant this cricketer was going to become. Matthew Bell was facing.
The dot ball
Irani ran in, ball in hand. He was doing everything right. The ball angled into the right-hander’s pads and Bell attempted to work it to leg, succeeding only in scuffing the ball towards square leg. For a split second, he thought about taking a run, but realistically there wasn’t one there, so he didn’t.
Sadly, this would prove to be Irani’s final Test match. He finished with a Test batting average of 17.20 and with three wickets at an average of 37.33. In contrast, Bell would go on to play another 12 Tests for New Zealand, hitting hundreds against both Pakistan and Bangladesh.12 Appeals
Welcome to our new, three-part series, Cricket’s Greatest Dot Balls. We hope you like it.
It was the fourth Test of the 1999 Test series between England and New Zealand. Ed Giddins was making his Test debut and no-one knew quite how significant that was going to prove. Early in his first spell of bowling, Matt Horne was at the crease. How would Giddins bowl to this competent right-hand batsman?
The dot ball
Giddins ran in, as he always did – he never walked, crawled or made use of any kind of vehicle. As he approached the crease, he was thinking about bowling the ball, which he then did. The delivery was straight and wide of off-stump. Horne judged that it posed no immediate threat and therefore opted not to play a shot. Dot ball.
Matt Horne would go on to play 35 Tests for New Zealand, averaging in excess of 28. Ed Giddins would go on to reveal that his full name was Edward Simon Hunter Giddins. Upon learning that he had two full names, England dropped him.
A one-day international (ODI) rule change is nothing new. They fiddle with the regulations more often than Sir Jimmy fiddled with… no, that’s not an acceptable analogy.
While rule changes are rarely in themselves interesting, they do just about become worthy of discussion when you think about the impact on a team’s tactics and strategy. The latest change is that at no point in the innings will the fielding side be allowed five fielders on the boundary, as was previously the case. This basically means that there’s always a boundary shot available, but singles are slightly harder to come by.
Clearly this is an attempt to bring more big shots to the middle overs, but will it work like that? So long as the captain isn’t a complete tool, the obvious boundary shot is always going to be the riskiest. Set against that is the fact that with more single-saving fielders, it becomes an even bigger focal point for the batsman.
A lot of the bigger-hitting one-day batsmen boast more brawn than finesse, but this might not help them when there’s only really one viable segment of boundary to aim for. Skill and timing should bring more fours than mindless heaves, in which case what kind of batsman do you want at the crease during these passages of play and what approach should they take?
Do you still try and work the ball around, accepting that there’ll be fewer singles available, or do you try and exploit the gap? Clearly tactics have to be flexible, but could this change have an impact on which approach is given greater emphasis? Does the extra inner ring fielder sound the death-knell for the nurdler or is it really just a matter of the same batsmen playing slightly differently?8 Appeals
The cricket news is still boring us, so here’s another way to improve a vastly inferior sport by making it slightly cricket-related.
To play Cricket Snooker, you will need:
- A snooker table and balls
- A snooker bat/stick
- The kind of haircut seen on footballers about six years ago
One of you ‘bats’ and pots colours. The other ‘bowls’ and pots reds.
Colours score the same as in snooker, so you can rather bizarrely hit fives and sevens, which is quite exciting. Reds equal wickets. When there are no more reds, the innings is over and you swap.
Full rules can be found here. It doesn’t say anything about playing wrong-handed when you’re down to the tail, but you should definitely adopt that rule. You should also play in full whites and the batsman should don every piece of protective cricket gear that can be found.30 Appeals
England lost again. According to Cricinfo, the weather was ‘smoke’ and then ‘fog’.
Now, onto the important stuff: encouraging cricket to invade other sports. We’ve just learnt about Twenty20 cricket darts and we heartily approve of it. If we had any kind of memory for this sort of stuff, we’d memorise the rules and play it the very next time we were in a pub with a dartboard which no-one was using and where no-one could see us.
Basically, one of you throws darts to score runs and the other goes for the bullseye in order to take wickets. Then you swap. The entertaining part is that lower order and tail-end batting are simulated by having to throw wrong-handed with one, two or all three darts.
Winning despite rank incompetence is cricket at its best.16 Appeals
What happens to Mike Hussey’s nickname now? Can you call someone Mr Cricket if their job is to inspect construction projects to confirm they comply with building regulations? We’re assuming that’s the kind of thing Mike Hussey will do after retiring – something dull that will allow him to be irritatingly officious.
He’s been a surprisingly good international cricketer though – he’ll always have that. People don’t generally remark on Hussey’s record that much because there’s always been a feeling that he was going to have a brief, statistically freakish Test career after only being capped at the age of 30. However, he’s actually hung about to the point where he’s played 78 Tests (it’ll be 79 if he doesn’t contract pleurisy or something before the New Year Test).
To put his career in perspective, only eight Englishmen have ever scored more than his 19 Test hundreds and he’s managed to average over 50 in a side that has frequently been utterly toss. He should probably get extra points for that. Unlike some of his predecessors, he’s actually had to do some bloody work rather than just mincing his way towards declarations.
Hussey also carved himself a highly unlikely short format career as a ‘finisher’. It’s quite a CV. Hopefully that will count for something when he’s job hunting next month. Bet he’s picked out his interview tie already.12 Appeals
Take a look at this face. Tell us you don’t instantly hate that face. You could pretty accurately track the progress of Ricky Ponting’s career by our opinion of his face at various points in time.
It started badly. He made his first Test hundred in his first Ashes innings after Australia had been 50-4, so basically there was a strong desire for smug smile removal from the outset. However, it wasn’t until around 2005 or 2006 that we wanted to plant our fist in his face with the most force.
Was the 2005 Ashes the turning point?
We can’t quite work it out. He’d hit six hundreds in 18 innings in 2003, en route to a higher plane of obnoxiousness and he arrived in England in 2005 with us feeling much the same about him. Looking back, we’re aware that the more Ponting’s Australia lost, the more we warmed to him, but we’re not entirely convinced this phenomenon was really all that noticeable following this series.
Maybe the first intimations of likeable qualities had been identified, but it can’t have meant much as it was only a year later that England were mullered in Australia. This was also when Ponting’s batting average reached its peak of 59.99 after scoring 142 in that bloody Adelaide Test.
Ricky Ponting’s batting average
Let’s try and forget just how fantastically irritating Ricky Ponting could be for a minute and instead consider that average. He retires with an average of 52.21, which is amazing, but leaves him immediately behind Mohammad Yousuf and with a fair few others above him. Had he retired in 2006, he would have been fifth. Crucially, he would also have played 53 Tests more than the most capped player above him.
That speaks of astonishingly prolonged consistency. That Adelaide hundred was his seventh of 2006 in eight Tests up until that point. Make no mistake, Ricky Ponting is a driven and extremely talented man.
Then he went downhill a bit. Like many great batsmen, he probably had more confidence in himself than was actually warranted. That protective delusion is what gets them through the tough times, but it’s also what can keep them hanging around, oblivious to the fact that everyone’s enthusiastically clouding the vicinity with liberal quantities of Febreze.
This is when he won us over a bit though. He was a captain and a player who’d never really encountered tough times before, cricket-wise, and it was admirable to see that he wasn’t a shirker.
His limitations as a captain were being exposed and his batting was deteriorating, but in a way this highlighted other qualities. The man is resilient and he feels a sense of duty. He’s also fairly plain-speaking and honest and he loves cricket.
So, it turns out Ricky Ponting isn’t a complete tool. It’s just that he managed to keep this fact concealed from us for the first 14 years of his career.
Some more stuff about Ricky Ponting
Here are some links that we can’t be bothered working into the main text. Don’t feel you have to read them, but they might be welcome if you’re avoiding doing work.
- Something about him whinging at umpires
- Something about his stint as captain
- More about why we admire his batting
Someone stated this as fact during commentary on one of the World Twenty20 games. Can’t remember who. Some idiot.
He said that fans didn’t want to see wickets, they wanted to see loads of fours and sixes. He spoke about ‘fans’ as if they were an entirely different species, rather than being the very same people who were actually listening to him speak.
The thing is, when the answer is: “Yes, more boundaries please,” you have to examine the question. The fact is that you can’t have more boundaries with all other things remaining equal, just like you can’t live off salt and pepper chicken wings and real ale without developing a fondness for elasticated waistbands. There are consequences.
Would you like to see more boundaries, but fewer exciting finishes or fewer boundaries and more tight finishes? No-one asks that, but bigger scores tend to mean a wider spread of scores as well.
However, people just identify something ostensibly appealing and consider it in isolation, as if life is just a randomly selected collection of delightful ingredients. It isn’t – the relationships between the ingredients matter as well. Haddock and caramel simply do not go together.
It’s pretty clear that the excitement of a four or six in large part derives from the match situation. In low-scoring games, they have more impact and they mean a great deal more when the match is in the balance.
Anyway, none of this news to sentient beings. We’re not here to explain things that don’t need explaining. We’re here to express profound irritation that someone we can’t identify presented something that wasn’t true as if it were a fact.23 Appeals
Or so they say, yet in the World Twenty20 tickets were bought by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe and none won so much as a tenner.
Twenty20 isn’t a lottery. The margins are smaller because it’s a shorter game and therefore luck can perhaps play a larger part than in other formats, but it is wrong to call it a lottery.
The better teams have a better chance of winning, but nothing is guaranteed. That’s true of all sports, although the degree to which it is true varies. To enjoy Twenty20, you have to accept that luck plays a part without focusing on that to the exclusion of all else. The bigger the gap in quality between two teams, the less luck matters.
May the best team win. (But maybe it won’t.)10 Appeals
They are on a separate page from the crossword itself. That way, if you happen to meet someone who’s into both cricket and cryptic crosswords (at your next AA meeting, for example) you can send them a link and they can attempt the crossword without having the answers staring them in the face.
Bert has also rather kindly provided explanations for each of the answers, so those of you who haven’t completely severed your connection with the real world can now do so, safe in the knowledge that you now have cryptic crosswords to keep you company. You have a new time-consuming solitary activity to pass the time until the final sip of Night Nurse signals that it’s time for the cats to start eating you.
The explanations are in Word format because we couldn’t be bothered reformatting Bert’s original document.
Round of applause for Bert’s efforts, everybody. Cracking work.
Answers and explanations can be found here.6 Appeals