We watched a bunch of sixes today. Well, we say ‘watched’. What we actually mean is that we heard commentators overreacting to sixes while writing something. We didn’t look up once.
We live in a different world, nowadays. We’ve tried to take you back to the old one in our All Out Cricket piece about Shahid Afridi, but like the £5 base layer we use for winter cycling, it’s not an easy thing to pull off.
Either way, it’s received some positive feedback. One commenter claimed: “You actually wrote my mind out.”Appeal
We’re struggling with the build-up to the World Cup. We fundamentally believe that a World Cup is a big deal, but at the same time we’re aware of the need to ration our enthusiasm. It might be another month before one of the major teams has to play a match where there’s something riding on it, after all.
So warm-up matches featuring more than 11 players per side? It’s hard to pay too much attention, but yet the World Cup starts this weekend and this is actual cricket involving the main protagonists. Perhaps the best thing to do for now is to write that we don’t really know what to make of this particular game and hope that we find something to latch onto in time for tomorrow’s post. Maybe we can cover Michael Clarke’s race for fitness, same as everybloodybody else.
New Zealand thrashed South Africa as well today. That seems newsworthy, even if the Saffers were Steyn-free. Hopefully we won’t be looking back on this match as being one of the great upsets of this World Cup in a couple of months’ time.17 Appeals
The answer is because Pakistan aren’t playing. Also, he retired seven years ago.
Fortunately, our Kings of Cricket feature over at All Out Cricket helps us overcome these minor hurdles as we’re allowed to write about pretty much anyone we like. Last week, we chose Inzy for his ‘souplesse’ as well as for his majestic ability to run out either himself or his batting partner, seemingly from nowhere.
What a man! What a shot! What panache! What a shambolic end to a promising innings!14 Appeals
It has to be. Unable to fly and never allowed to play more than three Tests in a series, it has to adapt quickly if it isn’t to be devoured by cats or beaten by Pakistan.
Captains and coaches always talk about learning from a defeat, but you rarely see any evidence of this. It’s just a thing you say – yet New Zealand appear to have actually improved as their tour of not-Pakistan has progressed.
First Test: Beaten so soundly you might have mistaken them for second-rate tourists, such as Australia or England
Second Test: A very creditable draw
Third Test: Almost certainly a win – and by a huge, huge margin
They even got Younus Khan out for a golden duck. Just think about that.
It’s almost as if it would be worth everyone’s while to have New Zealand play more than six Tests a year; as if having more than three teams in the world might somehow enrich the sport.
Thankfully, this will never happen. New Zealand will play two Tests against England this summer AND THEN IT’S THE ASHES AGAIN. You can’t argue with the law of supply and demand – the more of something you have, the more valuable it becomes.6 Appeals
A lot of people were going for the ‘we can land a robot on a comet but we can’t get the trains to arrive on time’ line of reasoning yesterday. Just to let you know, it’s not the same people. Different people are responsible for space missions and rail travel.
Also, to be fair to the rail networks, the European Space Agency were only focused on one journey. There are loads of trains. Ask Zulfiqar Babar about it. He found public transport so overwhelming he was reduced to carving himself a second career as a Pakistan international cricketer.
We have no idea how desperate you’d have to be to willingly embrace the tensions and unpredictability of that side, but Zulfiqar’s been rewarded with three massive Test wins in little over a fortnight. You’d think the odds of that would be even slimmer than the likelihood of successfully landing a robot toolbox on a rubber duck-shaped lump of something following a 10-year, 6.4 billion kilometre trip.
Tell you what wouldn’t pick up the 46P/Wirtanen comet – the radar being used ahead of the World Cup. 4km across and 180 million kilometres away even at its closest, the comet’s more than safe because there’s a school of thought that says even England could creep in under the World Cup radar.
England who brought cricket to the world, at an event where at most only eight teams have even the slimmest hope of winning – and they think they might arrive undetected. More on this over at Cricinfo.14 Appeals
Is MS Dhoni’s arm made out of just one super fast-growing bone? We’re imagining an ever-extending protuberance that requires regular pruning based on the following from Cricinfo:
“On the eve of the meeting, a BCCI insider revealed that Dhoni was recovering from a “right forearm” injury. By the time the selectors finished the meeting, an aide close to Dhoni said it was a “wrist” injury. Two hours later, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told reporters that Dhoni had been advised rest after hurting his “right thumb”.”
Dhoni was apparently carrying the injury during the aborted series against the West Indies when it was presumably some sort of shoulder problem.
In Chittagong, something very unusual is happening. Bangladesh are making a dominant start to a Test match. They’ve already won the first two Tests against Zimbabwe and appear to have drawn some confidence from this. At the time of writing, they were 213-0 and both Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes had made hundreds.
We were going to bring you some exciting statistics about Bangladesh partnerships like a proper media outlet, but Statsguru isn’t working so we’ve quickly lost interest. Someone put something in the comments. Make it up if you want.
Pakistan are still battering New Zealand. It’s odd how each of their recent Tests appear to have taken place on two different pitches. You’d think the opposition would object to having to bat on a pitted minefield when Pakistan do all their run-scoring on a complete featherbed.11 Appeals
Rahul Bhattacharya’s piece about Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the November issue of The Cricket Monthly is full of highlights, not least because a man who is himself one of our favourite cricketers also seems to revere exactly the same players we do.
He describes how Brian Lara would sometimes put spin on the ball with his shots to evade fielders and then at other times wouldn’t, depending on where they were positioned.
There’s also a fantasic quote about the challenge of facing Wasim Akram:
“After looking for swing-swing-swing all of a sudden I saw a ball on my face.”
However, our favourite moment is the way he tells another Wasim Akram story and more specifically how he punctuates it.
“Wasim bowl a few that went across him. Hooper normally play bat-and-pad, but he left a little gap just enough for the ball to pass through. Wasim had a look at him. Then Wasim had one go back through that little gap and hit them stumps. That is how good this guy is. Wasim is an unbelievable bowler. Wasim Akram.”
That’s how you end a cricket anecdote. You say the name of the player as if you’re ending a prayer.
That Shivnarine Chanderpaul, he’s one hell of a guy. Shivnarine Chanderpaul.10 Appeals
Poor New Zealand. In recent times, they have slowly been putting together a solid side. Since losing to England last year, they have drawn one Test series and won three. They have one of the more promising seam attacks around and have even found a few batsmen. Now they find themselves up against a happy, determined, organised, well prepared, in-form Pakistan.
What are the chances?
Do stars align? We’ve never really understood that saying and not solely because we fail to see the link between the relative positions of celestial bodies and events on Earth. Does it literally mean some stars appearing in a straight line? Why is that a good thing?
However rare an event star alignment is, Pakistan’s current status is rarer still. It’s like all the planets and stars – every last one of them – getting into a giant, intergalactic queue. It’ll never happen again and nor can it last.
At the time of writing, Pakistan are 347-1 and Brendon McCullum’s already had a bowl. New Zealand are really up against it and they haven’t even caught sight of Younus Khan yet.16 Appeals
It may feel like Australia lost the series against Pakistan 4-0, but actually it was only two. No matter how you play, you can’t lose more than two matches when you only play two.
This has allowed Michael Clarke to somewhat disingenuously plead that his captaincy shouldn’t be judged on the basis of two Tests. People will be quick to draw his attention to last year’s 4-0 defeat to India, which is perhaps what he wants as such talk distracts from his batting form.
The truth is that Clarke’s got away with a 2-0 defeat. He can pretend that Australia might have bounced back were they playing a third Test, but history tends to suggest that learning is more than outweighed by the negative effects of reacting whenever Australia start losing.
“We’re learning,” they say. “Look!”
But changing isn’t the same as improving.
The captain’s view
Ricky Ponting’s main redeeming feature as a captain was that he was plain-speaking. He always erred on the side of blunt honesty and had an unusual predilection for answering the questions asked of him.
But there is quite some distance between being open and honest as an international cricket captain and being open and honest as a columnist. The former is like being the least annoying daytime Radio 1 DJ. You’re the least bad of a group that’s pretty much defined by one negative characteristic.
It is therefore no surprise to see that Ponting’s first column for Cricinfo is fairly banal. He still knows those involved, so his criticism is qualified and weak. You have to read between the lines a bit and magnify some of what he’s saying to interpret his true meaning.
When Ponting says that “a lot of what I saw was a bit frenetic, a bit fast,” then maybe – just maybe – he’s talking about Australia’s number three reverse sweeping his way to 37 off 28 balls in a match in which the opposition’s just posted 570-6 with one guy making a double hundred.
Glenn Maxwell at three – but what would have been next?
The selection of Glenn Maxwell to bat at number three might rank as one of the greatest cricketing decisions of all time. In this context, we’re using ‘greatest’ to mean ‘inexplicable and hilarious’.
But all we can think about is what might have happened next.
If this series had run on, who knows where Australia might have ended up. If you’re picking Maxwell at three by the second Test, what do you do when you’ve lost four on the bounce? The team physio, Alex Kontouris, must have harboured serious hopes of opening the bowling if there had been such a match.
Playing a five Test series when all you can do is lose is like being asked to build an elaborate timber framed home when the only tools you’ve got are a spoon and a spatula. It’s a painful, humiliating farce, but every day you have to turn up for work and do your best and then explain your progress to the client afterwards.
If you ever have to go through this, the after-effects are huge. There’s no hiding place. You had ample opportunities to do a good job so if all you managed was abject failure, you have to answer for that. By slinking off after two Tests, the Australian team has minimised the damage.
The moral of the story
Your averages, captain, coaches and players can probably survive incompetence over a relatively short series, so if you’re going to be rubbish against someone, make sure it’s Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or someone.21 Appeals
It’s a difficult gear change from second to 14th, but today Misbah-ul-Haq managed it. Doctor Deadbat transformed into Professor Pulverise and equalled Viv Richards’ record for the fastest-ever Test hundred off 56 balls.
For some batsmen, quick scoring is a numbers game. They play aggressively all the time and a handful of their innings come off. What’s far more impressive is when it’s a one-off. Misbah’s innings is pretty much the only fast-scoring attempt he’s ever attempted. Likewise the fifth-fastest Test hundred, Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 69-ball effort also against Australia. That was another cracker. En route to his hundred, Misbah also took the record for the fastest Test fifty after going three better than Jacques Kallis’s 24-ball effort against Zimbabwe.
As much as we love Shahid Afridi, you can keep your Gilchrists and your Gayles. These are the innings we value. The inexplicable ones.
A major contributor to this innings was Steve Smith. As a bowler, Smith certainly has a golden arm (he dismissed Younus Khan in this innings). However, quite often that golden arm appears to be part of a golden robot who is employed as a waiter in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s not buffet bowling. It’s more accommodating than that. Fours and sixes are presented on a silver salver.
Misbah took 38 off 11 Smith deliveries today, but that isn’t intended to diminish his achievement. It’s just an observation. He still had to play the shots and those shots are certainly worth watching. Cricket Australia have thoughtfully uploaded a video of all the boundaries. Watch out for the straight sixes. They’re eerily similar to each other.17 Appeals