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Mohammad Amir’s back!

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

It’s also worth pointing out that that’s a younger version of his back in the photo above. Younger head too. Same age as the back, in fact – 2010 vintage.

What are the odds on Mohammad Amir getting a wicket first ball? This feels like one of those occasions. We’re a great lover of damp squibs and anticlimaxes, but this doesn’t feel like it’s going to be one. Or maybe the world is toying with us and he’ll pull out of the Test with a minor groin strain.

Speaking of groins, whatever happened to Gary Ballance’s groin has unhappened and he will play. A batsman seemingly designed to fall to late swing from left armers, he’ll no doubt be delighted by Amir’s presence.

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What the hell is Stuart Broad talking about?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, Stuart Broad said one thing that made sense.

“The biggest test for the bowling unit will be trying to do what no other team has done this year, which is to win a game and take 20 wickets at Lord’s.”

Lord’s: Home of Rain-Affected Draws as well as Home of Corks. Engineering a result will indeed be a challenge.

But after that, Broad said the following about communicating with the other bowlers: “We always talk, not as an ego thing, but to try to get one over the opening batsman.”

“Not as an ego thing”? What in blazes does that mean? Why would verbal communication – the basic keystone supporting the whole of humankind’s development – ever be considered merely ‘an ego thing’?

Not a year goes by – not one single year – when we do not see two or more human beings engaged in conversation with one another. Not once have we ever thought to ourself: “Look at those raging egotists.”

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England v Australia at Edgbaston – day three match report

Ged Ladd’s smartphone, Ivan Meagreheart, writes:

It can be exhilarating, being Ged Ladd’s smartphone; even after the bland ending to our Day Two, we were full of excitement ahead of Day Three. Ged woke me up and I was feeling 100% full of energy, which is as it should be.

Our walk to the ground was mostly uneventful; my colleagues and their apps being the forgotten heroes of earlier treks, now that the humans well and truly knew the best route. However, towards the end of the walk, there was a comedic interlude, when Charley The Gent Malloy, deep in conversation with Harsha Ghoble, fell behind the pack and decided to use his app to find us and the entrance. Naturally, the app took him to the main entrance, as Charley omitted to tell the app that we gather near the Sir Harry’s Pub, using the Pershore Road entrance. So Charley blindly followed the app to the main entrance, where he felt lost again and phoned Nigel for help. Typical human, Charley then blamed his tool rather than his own lack of logic. “How many times have we been to this ground and used this entrance?” mumbled Nigel “Father Barry” White to Ged.

Still, we were soon in the ground well ahead of the start of play.  Ged was hoping/half-expecting that Bert would come and join our little group at some stage during the day, but he never showed up. Bert did, however, have the courtesy to explain why in his own match report.

When the match was over, the 10 Heavy Rollers gathered outside the ground at their traditional farewell point. (Outside the Sir Harry’s Pub, you didn’t need an app to help you guess that). Lemon Peel had kindly stored Ged’s luggage in the back of her motor, so that we could head off on foot to New Street without returning to the Hagley Road hotel. So after the warm goodbyes/farewells, Ged and I wandered off into Birmingham.

We were well early for our train and it was a beautiful afternoon. Sunny with some light cloud, maximum temperature 23 degrees Celsius, breeze less than 5mph. We found an Italian cafe/restaurant with an outdoor terrace, just off the main strip as we approached New Street. Ged killed some time there over a couple of Americano coffees. Then when it got a bit chillier, we went into the station and killed some more time in the Virgin lounge, where Ged drank cranberry juice.

Then onto the 19:30 train.  Months ago, Ged had booked a quiet carriage in first class at low cost, using my arch rival, Ged’s laptop, rather than my app. Spit. Ged continued reading; he even partook of some wine and nosh at this juncture. We were completely unaware of the rest of the train.

When we got off the train at Euston, we suddenly were hit by a wall of sound behind us; thousands of drunken fans singing. The Mitchell Johnson Song. The Joe Root to the tune of Hey Jude song. In the hanger-like acoustic of Euston, the noise was almost deafening. Ged said it reminded him of the We Are the Mods scene from Quadrophenia. Ged’s wrong. There was no Phil Daniels, no Lesley Ash, we were at Euston, not Brighton, there were no mods, no rockers and (be realistic, this was a train full of cricket fans) no ultra-violence. There weren’t even any Australian antagonists; at least none that you could see or hear.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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Ballancing on Toblerone – something about that England squad you’ve already forgotten about

The content rehashing practices at an old job of ours gave rise to an unofficial company slogan of, “Yesterday’s news – today!” Old habits apparently die hard, because this week we have consistently been one step off the pace. Just like in life.

Today we bring you the news about England’s next Test squad that you’ve already finished talking about. Gary Ballance is somewhat inexplicably in, while Toby Roland-Jones pulls up to the pace bowling taxi rank to wait his turn.

The threads that bind the Test and one-day squads together seem to grow thinner by the day. Test squad bowlers Jake Ball and Roland-Jones don’t seem to get mentioned for short format stuff and yet have been chosen ahead of Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett and David Willey (who can barely even get a first-class game for Yorkshire).

Similarly, gallons of one-day runs for Jason Roy and Jos Buttler weren’t enough for them to edge ahead of Ballance, who was averaging the square root of ball-all in the County Championship before a couple of solid knocks in the last couple of matches.

It seems they do things differently today. Find out more about this, here at this website, tomorrow.

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Only half of this week’s Division One County Championship matches were draws!

Does this make it the most resultsive week yet? Is this as much winnery and lossery as we’ve had? Has the staggering impact on the County Championship table bespoilt our internal dictionary?

Middlesex beat Yorkshire

This was the big result. Middlesex’s wise decision to finally play a match outside the South-East led to only their second non-draw of the season. Even better for them, they were the non-losers.

A Gary Ballance hundred for Yorkshire was matched by one from South African vessel, the SS Eskinazi, while James Franklin made 99. You rather suspect that Franklin got out deliberately because he still clings to the belief that he’s primarily a bowler.

After that came the important stuff as Yorkshire were bowled out for just 167 in their second innings. Who did the damage? Everyone. Tim Murtagh, Steven Finn, Toblerone Jones and Ollie Rayner shared the ten wickets out as evenly as could be expected considering there were four of them.

Middlesex are now top of the table, having won one game more than Hampshire, who are bottom.

Warwickshire beat Surrey

After Surrey’s bizarre and unprecedented decision to win a match last week, this was infinitely more reassuring. In fact it was such a normal result that Warwickshire’s success was built on a Jonathan Trott hundred, ten wickets for Jeetan Patel and a fifty for Ian Bell which had promised much more.

Lancashire drew with Nottinghamshire

Which means they’re second. Haseeb Hameed – who is just desperate for people to get his name wrong somehow – made another hundred, while pretty much every single Nottinghamshire player made between 40 and 70 runs.

The Great Neil Wagner put a proper shift in.

Durham drew with Hampshire

Another Keaton Jennings hundred, plus some other stuff.

Why haven’t you put the table in?

Quite honestly? We couldn’t be bothered.

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Pakistan’s pretty impressive attack

“They are a pretty impressive attack,” said Marcus Trescothick after Somerset played Pakistan. He had plenty of time to assess the bowlers’ worth because he scored a hundred.

The fact that he is 40 and now bats in glasses due to his deteriorating vision shouldn’t in any way be held against the tourists, because age and eyesight really haven’t made much of a dent. Marcus Trescothick still warrants the description ‘pretty impressive’ himself. He’ll still be able to make hundreds against international opposition when his hearing’s gone and he can’t hear his partner’s calls, while his lack of footwork means that he’ll still be able to punch out that odd, motionless drive after knee replacements.

Can we still call him Banger? It seems a strange name for a middle-aged man. But then it seems ever-so-slightly strange that age should afflict his body without any apparent impact on his ability. Maybe somewhere there’s a painting of a skinny, surprisingly youthful-looking 40-year-old Trescothick whose skills have completely deserted him.

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Angelo Mathews’ super durability sorely tested by Super Series

Ill-applied and irrelevant (ironic given that it’s meant to make the individual fixtures more relevant) the Super Series score does at least give us a numerical overview of Sri Lanka’s tour of England. We know that it was an unsuccessful one for the tourists – but how unsuccessful? Well, it finished 20-4 to England, which even when you’ve never seen a points result before is quite obviously a shellacking.

Sri Lanka got half their points when it pissed it down at Lord’s, another for the one-day tie at Trent Bridge and then the clouds gifted them a fourth at Bristol. In effect, they earned one point and meteorology earned three.

They’re not a bad team. They just seem to be lacking the freakishly talented or freakishly unusual players they’ve often had in the past. It’s all been a bit of a slog. We don’t mean slog in a last-over-of-a-Twenty20 sense. We mean it in a long drive to London with ever-increasing volumes of traffic and you’re only going for some sort of pointless business meeting anyway sense – a wearying obligation from which you derive no pleasure and which is highly likely to prove unproductive too.

The captain, Angelo Mathews, has often seemed on the cusp of folding. He could carry on batting, bowling, fielding, captaining and occasionally popping off the field for hamstring treatment, but you’d also forgive him if he concluded life would be easier if he just climbed into a small drawer and pulled it closed.

England meet Pakistan all buoyant and chatty. Sri Lanka head home wishing they had more than a fortnight before the first Test against Australia.

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Two Pakistan players to watch this summer

We know you all come here for our singular insight. As such, we’re going to name a couple of Pakistan players you might want to keep an eye on in coming weeks. These are players you might not know so well, but we think they might have something of an impact during the Test series to come.

Going off their performances in the warm-up match against Somerset, it’ll be worth watching a batsman called Younus Khan and a bowler called Mohammad Amir.

Despite making his debut in 2009, Amir has somehow only played 14 Tests. He looks handy though. Here he is doing that Pakistan left-arm swing bowler thing.

Now the other guy – this Younus Khan fella – he’s been about for a bit. He made his debut in 2000, at which point he looked like a weathered old gnarl-dog. And despite playing almost 400 games for his country since then, he doesn’t look a day older.

Don’t let that gnarl-dog face fool you, though. He’s as fit as a husky that’s been doing high intensity interval training. In fact (and this is true, it’s not some piece of made-up bullshit like we usually feed you), he recently said that he feels so full of vim and vigour that he’d like to play for Pakistan for another four or five years.

Okay, he didn’t say ‘vim and vigour’ – we’re paraphrasing. But it’s true that he doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon – even though he’s done so on at least nine occasions already.

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England to have a couple of hours off one afternoon at some as yet unscheduled point during 2017 summer

Remember when September 29 was autumn? It’s summer now. England are playing the West Indies at the Rose Bowl on that day in 2017.

The 2017 fixture list is a triumph of “Two into one doesn’t go? We’ll see about that,” thinking. A bunch of one-day internationals (ODIs) is followed by the Champions Trophy. There are then seven Tests in just over two months before the season comes to a close with a T20 international and a load more ODIs.

September ODIs immediately after a major tournament and quite some time before the next one? We’re salivating already.

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Lancashire are a bit more top in the County Championship

We’ve missed a couple of rounds of the County Championship because (a) the matches took place after a big slab of shorter format stuff, (b) pretty much all the matches were draws so there wasn’t much to say, and (c) we’re feckless and unreliable.

Last time around, Lancashire had gone slightly top; equal on points with Yorkshire, but ahead on either wins or because of the alphabet – we’re not sure which.

Lancashire are now a bit more top. They thrashed Warwickshire 11 bonus points to 10 with Steven Croft, Haseeb Hameed and Liam Livingstone all making hundreds and then went down to Lord’s for that ground’s increasingly traditional rain delays. The marvellously-named Nick Gubbins made a double hundred for Middlesex and The Great Neil Wagner played both matches.

Yorkshire only played once (and drew) which means the table now looks like this.

County Championship - June 30, 2016

The only match to end in anything other than a draw in the last fortnight was Surrey v Nottinghamshire. Utterly bizarrely, Surrey won. Their two spinners, Gareth Batty and Zanzibar Fan Arsey shared 12 wickets in the match, which is quite a nice thing to happen in this day and age and seems a perfectly reasonable return for a team that’s willing to pick two spinners in the first place.

As for Nottinghamshire, they seem to have turned into one of those teams that’s good on paper but not on grass. This weekend they host Lancashire while Yorkshire will play Middlesex (and at Headingley, so they might actually get a game in).

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