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Durham “agree” to jump through latest hoop

england-v-australia-odi-at-the-riverside-cc-licensed-by-steve-parkinson-via-flickr

England v Australia ODI at the Riverside (CC licensed by Steve Parkinson via Flickr)

Given that this particular hoop is suspended directly over a barrel of excrement, one can only wonder what the alternative was.

We predicted that Durham wouldn’t be relegated or penalised more than 45 points for their ongoing financial troubles. We were correct, but only on the basis of the ‘or’. The county will start next season 48 points adrift in division two. If that weren’t enough, it is the third penalty – the withdrawal of Test cricket – which bears all the hallmarks of a piss-take.

For those that don’t know, Durham were instructed to develop a ground capable of hosting Test cricket to secure first-class status in 1992. This was despite the fact that at the time only 11 of the other 17 counties could boast such a thing.

Obviously, this cost them a bomb. The situation was then compounded when the rules surrounding allocation of international fixtures changed and they found themselves bidding for matches against counties in wealthier, more heavily populated areas.

This is why we deployed the word ‘piss-take’ a paragraph or so ago. It’s one thing to force someone to do something. It’s quite another to later punish them for doing it. At the very least, the punishment seems disproportionate. Elizabeth Ammon for one believes the decision relates to the T20 reforms. She’s said she’s doing a piece for tomorrow – although motives can be hard to prove.

So where does this leave the Durham cricket team? With other counties ransacking their squad for useable parts, they may have been relegated next season anyway, but the points penalty is tantamount to a two-year sentence.

It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for a player like Keaton Jennings. He spent most of the season persuading people he was too good for division one, but now finds himself in the tier below, struggling to convince himself that the team even has anything to play for.

Presumably he will have a release clause in his contract, as will several others. Life in the faeces barrel may not hold much appeal.

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Australia’s pace bowling has weakness in depth

Mitchell Starc is injured, James Faulkner is injured, Nathan Coulter-Nile is injured, Pat Cummins is injured, James Pattinson is injured and Josh Hazlewood is being rested in case he gets injured. The way things are going, he’ll probably end up missing the next Test with bedsores.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has said these absences provide an opportunity for someone else to make a name for themselves – a Mick Lewis kind of name, presumably.

In the second one-day international against South Africa, Australia opened the bowling with Chris “Who?” Tremain and Joe “No, Seriously – Who?” Mennie.

Tremain fared the better. Not only did he keep his economy rate down to 7.80 runs an over, he also took a wicket. Cricinfo commentary records it as “heaved hard and violently out to deep midwicket”.

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Is Virat Kohli really India’s best batsman?

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Were he to find himself playing in a format-spanning Super Series, it would seem highly likely that Virat Kohli could find himself named man-of-it. The guy averages over 50 in the two shorter formats with a perfectly healthy strike-rate in both.

His Test record’s very good too: 12 Test hundreds and an average of 43.76.

That’s not extraordinary though. If we’re not exactly in Aftab Habib territory, the numbers don’t quite match Kohli’s reputation – and what is cricket about if not building one’s reputation through numbers? Maybe that’s what he’s always so angry about when he’s batting.

We felt moved to check Kohli’s Test record while Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were batting together against New Zealand recently. While they’ve played fewer Test matches, both average about 47.5. The numbers don’t say much, but they tally with our feeling that these two are perhaps the team’s best batsmen in the longest format.

Captaincy combined with weight of runs across the formats gives Kohli a certain clout, but we still found it odd to hear him dissecting Pujara’s approach to Test cricket recently. There were complimentary words in amongst it all, but the general tone was a bit end-of-term school report.

It all had a kind of he’s-finally-started-listening-to-me hue.

“Pujara is someone who absorbs the pressure really well but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs runs. That’s where we felt that he has the ability to capitalise. It was just about conveying that to him.”

Or what about this?

“We want Pujara to bat to his potential. Once he starts scoring runs to go with the composure he already has, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to have control of the game.”

Kohli also said it was “a revelation” to see Pujara score quicker “because he used to bat that way initially.” The qualification criteria for revelations clearly aren’t as stringent as they once were. We suppose it’s down to modern attention spans.

Is it just us who finds this tone somewhat odd? We suppose Kohli, as captain, has responsibility for how the team performs as a whole (as a unit, if you will), but it seems to us that in Test cricket at least, Kohli arguably has as much to learn from Pujara as Pujara does from Kohli.

Flip it around. Imagine Pujara saying the following about Kohli and see how it sounds.

“Kohli is someone who always looks to score runs, but at certain stages in the innings, the team just needs him to absorb pressure. That’s where we felt that he could improve. It was just about conveying that to him.”

And…

“We want Kohli to bat to his potential. Once he starts showing composure to go with the run-scoring ability he already has, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to have control of the game.”

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Mop-up of the day – Sweet, sour, bitter, savoury

A bitter-sweet mop-up of the day today, like someone’s spilt a honey-and-lemon sore throat remedy.

Actually, maybe that’s sweet and sour.

A sour-sweet mop-up of the day today.

Sour

James Anderson is out of England’s tour of Bangladesh and probably won’t be back until halfway through the India tour. No non-international fixtures are scheduled for that trip, so it’s not easy to see how the management will be able to convince themselves he’s fit to play a Test. Squinting at him and crossing your fingers isn’t really acceptable these days.

They’ll probably find a match for him somewhere or other, but a greater concern is the frequency with which he’s missing matches at the minute.

Anderson’s never been an injury-prone Mark Wood type (Wood will also miss the Bangladesh tour), he’s always been pretty resilient.

It’s quite obviously the beginning of the end, but hopefully, like in the Lord of the Rings, the end will go on for bloody ages.

Sweet

Nabi! Love Nabi.

Mohammad Nabi took 2-16 off ten after opening the bowling against Bangladesh and he then made 49 as Afghanistan bobbled to the win. England can probably learn from this ahead of their tour. The main thing they should learn is that Nabi’s ace, although they should really have known this already.

We feel like the cricketers we particularly like need to be branded in some way. It’s awkward to say ‘cricketer who we’ve written about a handful of times and hold in high regard’. We thought we might instead start referring to them as ‘Cricketers of the Realm’.

We could call them knights, but cricketers are better than knights.

Savoury

The latest Cricket Badger’s out on Friday morning. It’s got Shoaib Akhtar in it.

Sign up here: sportsbadger.com

You’re really missing out if you don’t. Honestly. Even from an unbiased point of view.

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A cricket bat in a real tennis place

crickers-meets-realers

Ged writes:

I know what you are thinking, dear reader: “That real tennis workshop must be at Lord’s; how can Lord’s be an unusual place to see a cricket bat?”

Well I’m here to tell you that the real tennis area at Lord’s is a relentlessly cricket equipment free zone. Indeed, I had a great deal of trouble getting the tennis professionals even to admit that the object in question was a cricket bat. “Oh, that’s what it is, is it? Never seen one before. Don’t know how on earth that got in here. Perhaps we should call security…”

Send your pictures of cricket bats and other cricket stuff in unusual places to king@kingcricket.co.uk

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Why Durham probably won’t be relegated following a points deduction

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Winsford Rock Salt Mine (CC licensed by Rhodian via Wikimedia)

Cricinfo are reporting that Durham face relegation if the ECB decides to impose a points deduction for their financial troubles. We can’t see it happening.

It’s not that we don’t expect them to be docked points. It’s just that they finished 45 points ahead of Hampshire in the top half of the table. We’re not sure what the going rate is for points deductions, but 45 would seem a lot in a sport that’s generally wedded to minimising ripples through compromise.

It would seem strange to do this retrospectively as well. Surely it’s more likely they’ll impose a fine for next season. In that eventuality, Durham might well have issues what with most of their top order having caught a train to Surrey at the end of the season.

Then again, giving everyone a whopping great head start while shorn of two of his best batsmen should elicit maximum grit from captain Paul Collingwood. If that’s how things pan out, the wiches of Cheshire should be able to slow production ahead of next winter.

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Why Indian pitches offer an excellent exchange rate

Remember when India’s batsmen used to make double hundreds all the time? Captains routinely doubled up as doctors in the first innings, declaring the innings closed and the pitches dead (even if a certain zombie joie de vivre often manifested itself in the form of turn on day five.)

It’s not like that nowadays. Indian fans no longer find themselves spending four days explaining to irate foreigners that a match isn’t destined to be a draw; that things might move on swiftly when the pitch starts to crumble. Nowadays they have to defend their pitches for doing too much, too soon.

Someone, somewhere apparently imposed some standard where only Australian-style pitches were considered acceptable for Test cricket. Everything else was wrong, evil and ‘doctored’. It seems this game that is defined by variety could only properly be showcased on one particular type of pitch. Diversity painted from the narrowest of palettes.

Is a turning pitch a bad pitch? Of course not. It is good to see batsmen having to work for their runs – and if more were available in the recent Test between India and New Zealand than some others on those shores in recent times, then a least no-one reached three figures.

That, to us, can often be a sign of a good match. Runs retained their value against the more meaningful currency of wickets. Everything mattered.

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Middlesex County Championship-winning hat-trick video – what a way to snatch a MacGuffin

alphabet-straddling-az-lees-dobs-one

At one point today, Middlesex and Yorkshire ceased slithering against each other and began to slither together. Working independently, neither would reach the MacGuffin. Working together, they could get close – at which point it would become ‘every man for himself’ in a bid to wrest the prize from Somerset’s less-than-vicelike grip.

The joint slither manifested itself as Yorkshire’s two opening batsmen dobbing the ball up in the expectation that each ball would be clubbed to the fence. The fact that Middlesex lost three wickets during this heap of bollocks passage of play did at least mean the crowd had something to laugh about while they waited for a declaration and the recommencement of hostilities.

When that moment came, Yorkshire managed to produce little more than a light slapping. With nothing to lose, they persevered with this approach long after it made sense. Middlesex dispatched them with a Toblerone Jones hat-trick which allowed them to saunter over to Somerset and snatch the MacGuffin.

Here’s the hat-trick ball.

At the bum end of the table…

Hampshire utterly failed to bowl out Durham, lost the match and got relegated. Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwich were the run-chase heroes, which is great news for Surrey, who have flashed the cash and signed them both.

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Yorkshire don the special MacGuffin gloves

spot-the-bail

We can’t help but feel that our coverage of the denouement of the County Championship is getting a little niche.

In the previous instalment of our four-day mud-slithering analogy, Yorkshire had lost ground to Middlesex and Somerset because they for some reason needed to go and pick something up before making their way towards the MacGuffin. We hypothesised that the something might be a pair of gloves with a special MacGuffin grip on the palms. What else could it possibly be?

In real life, it was the bonus point earned from reaching 350 inside 110 overs. Against the odds, they made it, thanks largely to a quite majestic innings of sturdy clomping from Tim Bresnan. Having been 32-3 and with a man who normally bats at seven or eight up at five, it was quite the performance.

Even better than that, the moments leading up to that 350th run were cricket in its purest form. Middlesex appeared to be bowling to deny Yorkshire the bonus point, even though it had precisely zero bearing on their own Championship hopes. If anything, it was in their interests for Yorkshire to get it as it would effectively prevent their opponents from ever settling for a draw.

A tense stalemate saw a number of overs eaten from the game with neither side benefiting.

And then they went off for bad light.

Marvellous stuff.

Come the restart, Yorkshire got their run and then added plenty more. After a couple of Middlesex wickets, it was hard to avoid the impression that they were, if not ahead, then at least slithering at greater speed than either of their rivals.

Somerset won their match in the end, so they basically have their hands on the MacGuffin already. The only question is whether they should have stopped to pick up a pair of gloves like Yorkshire did. They can’t go back now though. Their journey is over.

All of which means…

  • A Yorkshire win gives them the County Championship
  • A Middlesex win gives them the County Championship
  • A draw gives Somerset the County Championship

There’s a little more slithering in this season yet.

Meanwhile, at the bum end of the table

Warwickshire look likely to beat Lancashire barring a prolonged rearguard. However, both sides will be hoping that Hampshire fail to beat Durham.

The day started well in that regard. First of all it pissed it down, after which Durham scored more and more runs and took more and more time out of the game. A draw seemed increasingly likely – but that was to reckon without Hampshire’s desire for ‘quick runs’.

While quick runs also brought quick wickets, the likelihood of a draw has receded markedly.

The situation for these three times is something like…

  • Anyone who wins is safe
  • Hampshire almost certainly need to win to be safe
  • A Hampshire win would mean Lancashire go down if they lose and Warwickshire go down if the match is a draw
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County Championship Permutation Watch: Everyone needs to win

a-textbook-stroke-from-yorkshires-andrew-hodd

Pretty much. That’s the gist anyway.

  • If Middlesex beat Yorkshire, they will win the County Championship
  • If Yorkshire make 350 in their first innings and also beat Middlesex, they will win the County Championship
  • Somerset need to win as a bare minimum. They then need neither of the above scenarios to eventuate. In those circumstances, they would win the County Championship

A Somerset draw would open things up a bit, but that doesn’t seem too likely at present.

If we’re to update yesterday’s mud-slithering analogy, we’re not entirely sure who’s closest to the MacGuffin, but we’ve a fair idea who’s furthest away.

Yorkshire can still see it and they’re still moving, but having to pick up that extra item is a bit of a bugger for them. The extra item is bonus points in real life; in Mudland it would maybe be a pair of gloves with a special MacGuffin grip on the palms or something like that.

Whatever it is, if they’re to acquire it, they are almost wholly reliant on Tim Bresnan, a man who has only now, at the age of 31, finally reached the age that everyone always assumed him to be.

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