It’s a week in which teams have been relying on their big name, 30-something batsmen. This isn’t a coincidence. That’s just the way Test cricket works.
Kumar Sangakkara has indulged in some average bolsteration by hitting 424 runs in the second Test against Bangladesh. For their part, Bangladesh managed two runs more than that in their first innings, which isn’t a bad effort.
In New Zealand, Brendon McCullum made 224 against India, who are now 130-4 in reply. India of course tour England in the summer and after seeing real fight from their batsmen in South Africa, we think they’ll provide stern opposition. Then again, you wonder who wouldn’t fancy their chances of steamrollering England at the minute. No-one even knows who plays for them any more. Cook, Bell, Broad, Anderson…
India’s pace bowling is still pretty wonky, but New Zealand’s is looking stronger these days. At the time of writing, Trent Boult had 74 Test wickets at 26.09 and rarely seems to let them down, home or away, while Tim Southee’s passed 100 wickets by the age of 25. Neil Wagner also bowls for New Zealand.19 Appeals
The story of the New Zealand v West Indies series seems to be West Indies’ batting collapses. This is odd, because they’re hardly a new phenomenon. It’s also harsh on Trent Boult, who’s a darn tidy bowler.
It’s perhaps even more unfair on Ross Taylor, who has countered everything thrown at him – or occasionally bowled at him – with disdain. He’s averaging almost 250 in the series after scoring two hundreds and an unbeaten double. Overall, his Test average now stands at 47.49. In New Zealand, where batting tends to be rather tricky, he averages over 60.
It also sounds like he’s a colossal cricket nerd, which isn’t a bad thing. This is how he got away from the pressure of his innings during the lunch break:
“Peter Fulton had the Almanack out and I was answering the questions and it was nice to just get away from it.”
In the evenings, he plays Brian Lara Cricket to unwind. Probably.14 Appeals
Brendon McCullum is a man whose batting achievements don’t exactly tally with his profile. He’s bolstered his reputation with captaincy and wicketkeeping and the peculiar nature of his one-day assaults, but he basically has a very middling record with the bat. However, he has just scored his eighth Test hundred and helped New Zealand to a first innings position of rare heft against the West Indies.
McCullum’s approach is spectacular but often sees him depart for 62, even when he’s playing well. His captaincy is innovative and exciting, but his team still loses more than it wins. Perhaps just a little of the freeform jazz could be shed in favour of a decent bassline.
A friend of ours has a cool scar by his eye which is very similar to McCullum’s. He did it by accidentally headbutting a newel post while removing a T-shirt.15 Appeals
South Africa are supposed to be playing the Windies today, then India play Pakistan before England play New Zealand. However, we’re away for the weekend with no plans to use the internet, so you’re going to have to fill in the gaps yourselves in the comments section.
We’re not really in the habit of predicting things because we always anticipate being wrong and if you don’t trust your own predictions, why should anyone else? However, if pushed to commit to some sort of opinion, we’d say South Africa’s bowling line-up appears to have been put together for Chris Gayle’s benefit, so maybe something will happen there should the rain relent.
As for the second match, we’ve been backing India in this tournament and so should probably stick with that. It’s a bizarre match though with a great batting line-up and mediocre bowling line-up pitted against a shoddy batting line-up and fantastic bowling line-up. Only one thing’s for certain: one team will reveal themselves as being better than the other one (unless the match is rained off).
England v New Zealand? We’re pretty confident that one will be a washout. It’s just the way these things work.39 Appeals
In other words, they didn’t get enough overs in for messrs Duckworth and Lewis to put their umbrella-holding hands up and come to the rain-affected party.
Aside from David Warner’s performance ferrying drinks, this match was perhaps most notable for Dan Vettori’s immobility. His Achilles tendon problems necessitate saline injections to inhibit the pain. Kyle Mills says he’s okay getting his toast and cereal for breakfast but struggles on the field. You can tell.
It’s most striking because of how much Vettori’s visibly changed since he first appeared in international cricket. Back then, he was a scrawny thing who stood out because he wore glasses. Now no-one notices the glasses and he’s a huge, lumbering bear of a man with walking difficulties.
Time, eh? It passes. Each day your body becomes incrementally more decrepit until you suddenly notice that one of the components no longer functions at all. At that point, you may regret not using it more. However, it’s important to remember that you didn’t do the things you didn’t do for a reason – you couldn’t be bothered.9 Appeals
But not by a huge amount. Chasing 139 to win, you’d hope to get there without losing nine wickets. Then again, they didn’t lose ten, so what’s the problem?
A really bad run chase is a wonderful thing. A big run chase is faintly absorbing, but for real tension you need the looming spectre of a right royal balls-up. We’re not sure as to the exact visual appearance of such a spectre, but we’re pretty sure it would make a spooky noise and exude a bad smell.
When the top scorer for the winning team was batting at number eight, you know it was a good match. Furthermore, New Zealand scored eight in leg byes while Sri Lanka scored one. The significance of that should also be considered a badge of quality.16 Appeals
Probably should have exercised a little editorial restraint with that last post and gone straight to this one instead. Then again, what’s the internet for if not for failing to exercise editorial restraint?
Here are some awards.
The ploddiest bastard award recognises the batsman who played the most bar-filling innings. There were a few contenders with England’s entire first innings at Lord’s worthy of a team award, while Neil Wagner’s unbeaten nought not out off 37 balls in the second Test was an unfinished masterpiece. However, this award goes to Nick Compton for his unspectacular seven off 45 balls in the second Test. This case study in self-imposed mental paralysis was made all the more striking for being played while the famously uninhibited Alastair Cook was making a 63-ball 50 against the same bowling.
This award recognises profound antisocial behaviour on the cricket field and it goes to Jonathan Trott for his batting on the fourth evening of the second Test. His 11 not out off 69 balls while England were looking to increase the run-rate ahead of an inevitable declaration showed quite staggering disregard for the feelings of his captain, coach, team-mates, fans and indeed pretty much everyone on earth. It was marvellous stuff.
We’d probably go with Nick Compton’s deranged slog in the first innings of the first Test. Block, block, leave, block, HEAVE LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO SLAUGHTER A DEMON FROM HELL WITH ONE CRUSHING BLOW, walk off the pitch looking a little bit ashamed.
Thanks for coming
Martin Guptill. Followed one off five balls with three off 22 balls. No wonder they gave him a bowl in between. Those five overs went for 41.
Living the cliché
Recognising the player who made it most difficult to avoid using tired, overused phrases to describe them. Neil Wagner gets this award for his bustling fast-medium bowling. He just kept on running in.9 Appeals
Work expands to fill the time allotted. We remember one particularly undemanding week where we made a plan to buy a toothbrush on one day and toothpaste the following day. Good times. Credit to England’s bowlers then for not performing as if they’ve got 468 runs to play with.
These kinds of ultra-conservative declarations can sap the sense of urgency from an attack. Maybe the weather helped their cause. The threat of bad light and then rain today added a frisson to a fairly moribund scenario and perhaps helped England take six wickets on day four when they might otherwise have rationed them more carefully.
The key with this declaration was the prioritisation of a Test series win over a Test match win. A draw is enough for England to secure the series, so if that’s your primary goal, it makes sense to remove an unlikely defeat from the equation. Were Test wins the primary goal, more would be risked in pursuit of one. The rights and wrongs of that perhaps merit discussion. However, we simply cannot be bothered venturing an opinion.17 Appeals
It’s a strange and wonderful sport where two members of the opposition who aren’t even on the pitch can aid your cause, but Graeme Swann can thank Trent Boult and Neil Wagner for three of his four wickets.
The two left-armers created some beautifully scruffy turf for him to aim at and the added purchase meant the ball did plenty more than you would ordinarily expect. People talk like it’s surprising when the ball turns so early in the match, but pitches don’t wear uniformly. Even after just one innings, the footmarks from two left-armers probably provide Swann with more rough than on the fifth day of any other Test match.
Unless you’re Sri Lanka in the Murali era (“Hey, you’re left handed and have quite big feet. I don’t suppose you’re free for a bit of seam bowling between Thursday and Monday, are you?”) you don’t pick your bowlers for the by-products of their endeavours. Yet footmarks can lead to crucial wickets and can therefore decide a match.
What a wonderfully complex sport. Imagine explaining this to someone new to cricket. Imagine having to explain spin bowling and the impact of the rough. Now imagine the person saying in a loud, booming, almost certainly American voice: “You know what they should do. They should bowl from the other side of the stumps so the rough patches aren’t in the right place for him.”
Actually, don’t imagine that. It’s too irritating.23 Appeals
Tomorrow England meet New Zealand in the second Test at Headingley. The home team will be looking to take a 2-0 series win, while the tourists will be looking to tie the series 1-1. England will settle for a draw and a 1-0 series result, but would prefer to win.
Despite winning the first Test, England did several things badly and will be looking to do those things better while simultenously maintaining standards or improving when it comes to the things they did well.
The same applies to New Zealand, only they will be looking to make far greater improvements. When you consider the outcome of the last Test, they could conceivably play significantly better and yet still lose if England can improve to the same degree.
Set against that is the fact that New Zealand could play exactly the same as in the first Test and England could play worse, in which case we might get a different result. However, the Kiwis won’t want to have to rely on that.
Players who are injured will be replaced by different players, but there may also be other changes. Some players are more likely to be dropped than others and that likelihood is often dependent on the quality and form of the players who would most likely replace them.
Both teams will look to play well early on and will also be keen to continue playing well should they achieve that. If either side makes a poor start, they will hope that they can come back from that and will endeavour to do so.
It might rain a bit.26 Appeals