If, as a cricketer, you’re going to be remembered for just one moment, you might as well make that moment the climax of the most exciting passage of sport many of us will ever see.
Even if it wasn’t the hardest catch, for safely taking it England fans will forever owe Geraint Jones a debt. We’re not saying he could get away with murder, but we could probably let burglary or hijacking a plane slide. Surely even Surrey fans wouldn’t begrudge his leaving cricket with a win in the domestic one-day final.
Not only did Jones top score for Gloucestershire on the day, he was also involved in the pivotal moment of Surrey’s innings. When Kumar Sangakkara slapped the ball to mid-on, Jones should have been there – but he was off the field having a slash. Will Tavare safely took the catch and Surrey promptly folded. With those utterly reliable hands of his, Jones probably didn’t even splash upon hearing the roar.10 Appeals
We know what you all think. You think we spend our Thursdays sitting around eating flapjacks and watching old episodes of Airwolf.
Well you’re wrong. We don’t renounce cricket on Thursdays. Far from it. We actually put in a double shift, writing all the stuff that comes out on a Friday.
First of all, Cricket Badger. It’s the 100th edition tomorrow, so we’ll gratefully accept your warm applause. We’ll also overlook the fact that cricket demands people clap for everything, devaluing the whole hand percussion appreciation noise immensely. You can and should sign up here. There is nothing to lose but a small amount of whoever provides your email account’s server space. Also time.
Secondly, the Cricinfo Twitter round-up. Yes, that still happens. It happens like heck, whatever that might mean. This week’s should appear in a prominent position on the homepage soon, but you can also find it on our author page. It’ll remain accessible there even when it’s been demoted and replaced by an Ed Smith think piece about why form is a myth.
And now we have to go somewhere and eat things. Possibly drink things too. Who knows? Life is unpredictable.17 Appeals
There is a law around these parts, that match reports must not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES mention the actual cricket. Normally, this presents few problems. Cricket is largely incidental, both to a day at the match and to this website. “About the cricket, but not ABOUT the cricket”, best sums it up.
Day one of the Nottingham Test does not fit this model very well. It’s a bit like doing a report on the aesthetics and structure of Parisian road tunnels on September 1, 1997. And that won’t be the last allusion to a car crash that this report will contain.
Right, down to work. The period of the day before 11 o’clock can’t mention the cricket, because there wasn’t any. This is, unlike the centre of Trent Bridge for the Aussies, safe ground. My day started at about 6:30. I got up, dressed, showered, possibly not in that order, opened the curtains, decided I would bowl, made a cup of tea and went out. At Stockport station a man checked my ticket, told me the platform I needed, and said he would bowl. The lady at the food stand supplied me with a coffee, a breakfast bagel and an unequivocal decision that she would bowl if she won the toss. The train arrived, I took my seat. The man next to me said he would bat. Why do I always end up sitting next to the nutter on trains?
I went to the toilet. There was a sign on the seat telling patrons what they couldn’t flush down the toilet. It was very amusing, but at 12:40 that day I couldn’t help thinking that the joke could be expanded somewhat.
At 11 o’clock a lady came onto the pitch to sing a song. At about five past, the lady stopped singing. She wasn’t fat. I was reminded of this event at 12:40.
We had seats at the very back of the topmost tier of the Radcliffe Road stand. It is an excellent viewpoint, both for the match in front of you and the city behind you. It was very soon after the match started that it all came crashing down. What a mess. What had been quite buoyant was now completely deflated, although I suspect it might have been considerably overblown to start with. Apparently it was blown away by a freak whirlwind. It required some people to pick up the pieces of what was now in absolute tatters. There is some talk that it could be repaired, but looking at it I would say it should be thrown away and replaced by a completely new one.
Lunch was very pleasant. Very pleasant indeed. We discussed the regimented rows of yellow-capped Australian fans in the Parr Stand, and decided that the English language needs a word for such precisely arranged misery. Quadrisplatteral was one suggestion, paralleloglum another. Wrecktangle probably had it, though.
In the afternoon we had a quiz. I can share it with you if you like:
Question 1 – What is the chemical symbol for gold?
Question 2 – What BASIC function converts a number into a string?
Question 3 – What word meaning “others” can follow “et” and “inter” to make common Latin phrases?
Question 4 – How many degrees are there in one sixth of a full turn?
Question 5 – What is the first name of the former Vice President of the USA, Mr. Gore?
Question 6 – What word rhyming with “shout” means a yob, a ruffian, a ne’er-do-well?
Question 7 – What is the name for a fence hidden in a ditch?
Question 8 – What is the name for a dozen more fences hidden in a ditch?
This was a lot of fun.
When I got home, it was halftime in the Wigan-Huddersfield SuperLeague match. Huddersfield were winning, but Wigan were able to turn it round and come out eventual winners. That’s the thing about sport – you’re never out of it (yes you are). There is always a chance (no there isn’t). A few words from the coach can transform a team (no they can’t), giving players that little extra they need (are you having a laugh) to find a way to win (there isn’t one). In the final analysis, it’s why we watch it (no it isn’t, we watch it to see Australians trampled into the dust).
Send your match reports to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.10 Appeals
We’ve always had a theory that Surrey England players are, in general, worse than those provided by other counties. The thinking is that you don’t have to do quite as much to get noticed if you play for Surrey.
Surrey is a big club and the ground seems to be a regular haunt of many cricket journos. If you play well, there’s usually someone there to see it. Equally, if you’re the one going down to report on a game, there’ll always be someone to write about.
It’s basically the flipside of that timeless philosophical question: ‘If a wicket falls at the County Ground in Derby and there’s no-one there to live blog it, does it really count?’
So that’s our preamble to Zafar Ansari’s England Test selection and our entirely reflexive, not-at-all-based-in-fact sense that he maybe isn’t ‘all that’.
That’s a tough and entirely unfair thing to say about a young player. As with most 23-year-olds, there’s more to come than’s been with Ansari. It’s just that in previous years we’ve read reams and reams about how great and fantastic and exciting the likes of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker were and then when it actually came down to it, they weren’t particularly good. They often became newsworthy simply because someone had spent the day in front of a laptop at The Oval and didn’t feel they could file a blank page.
So column inches are not directly proportional to quality, which is why we reserve the right to be cautious now that Ansari is getting more and more of them.
Our views on the second division of the County Championship are fairly straightforward. This season, playing at that level, Ansari has averaged 36 with the bat and 31 with the ball. That’s okay, but it only makes him six runs better than fellow Surrey spinner Gareth Batty for the former and six runs worse for the latter.
But maybe this already pointless umming and ahhing is redundant anyway. We’ve just noticed that Ansari’s gone to hospital with some sort of thumb knack. “Fingers crossed for him,” said Alec Stewart – which seems an unnecessarily cruel turn of phrase to use in reference to someone who’s just bust a digit.
We hope he’s okay and we hope he turns into an excellent cricketer. Cynicism and hope cohabit within us like Patrick Stewart and Brian Blessed in the gay domestic sitcom a friend of ours once envisioned.29 Appeals
We’re not really old enough to know Brian Close the cricketer, but we know the legend. He was the youngest man to play for England and he will also be remembered as the bravest.
In light of what’s happened to other cricketers since Close, it isn’t really right to glorify his lack of regard for his own physical wellbeing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t appropriate to marvel at it though.
Quite how a man trains himself not to flinch is beyond us. To flinch in the face of impending physical pain is a basic impulse, but Close played his cricket without this entirely natural reaction. Whether batting or fielding at short leg, he simply took the impact.
The third evening of the Old Trafford Test of 1976 is for what he will always be remembered. He was 45 years old and the West Indies bowling was as quick, brutal and unforgiving as has ever been seen. With no law at the time preventing it, every ball was a bouncer. A fair proportion of them hit him.
When you see the footage, what’s striking – other than his age and the fact that he wasn’t wearing a helmet – is that quite often he simply didn’t bother with evasive action. The relentlessly short-pitched bowling meant that in an hour of cricket, he scored just one run. But he wasn’t dismissed.
“How can the ball hurt you?” he is supposed to have once said. “It’s only on you for a second.”
This steadfast refusal to accept a clear and obvious fact would sound even more ridiculous if the man hadn’t also spent 20-odd years walking the talk.29 Appeals
We’re proud to say that we were at the worst international match of the summer yesterday. We sensed it wasn’t going to be a rip-snorter from the moment when Jason Roy was given out for the second time in the first over. At least it was sunny. We’ll do a match report at some point, but it’s way down the queue and will probably appear in about February.
One of the most striking moments of the day was when Eoin Morgan was pinged on the side of the head. Sometimes players get a glancing blow and you don’t really worry, but this was really square on and the most horrifying thing was probably how far the ball bounced back after hitting him. We were also there when Stuart Broad took one in the face, so maybe our presence is some sort of distraction.
Morgan has often looked a candidate for this sort of thing. Once he’s up and running, he can cope with anything, but when he’s playing himself in, he really doesn’t seem to deal with short, fast deliveries at all well. Trevor Bayliss says they’ll work on it. Hopefully they can minimise the likelihood of sustaining brain injuries and if in so doing they improve his batting, so much the better.5 Appeals
Here’s a freakish stat via Cricinfo’s S Rajesh: Since 2006, matches hosted in England have seen the third-highest run-rates in one-day internationals (ODIs).
It doesn’t seem right, does it? Granted there are only a handful of countries hosting ODIs, so it’s not third out of a big bunch, but England always seems to be the home of low-scoring. To learn that actually teams tend to score quite quickly here is strangely unsettling.
We have two ways of explaining this:
- It rains a lot. Shortened matches will tend to see faster scoring.
- Someone has to play against England. These teams have scored a lot of runs, even if the home team hasn’t.
Because the fourth one-day international was only the fourth time England have ever chased down a 300-plus total. All this talk of 890 being the new par rather distracts from the fact that England never really got to grips with 300.
They appear quite happy to have bypassed reasonably attacking batting and moved straight to very attacking batting though. You’d think they’d need to progress more gradually, but somehow they seem to be getting away with putting a stationary car into fifth gear and flooring it.
We suppose if you pick 10 batsmen, each of them can be that little bit more irresponsible. One-day cricket remains a strange old game.6 Appeals
It’s oddly reassuring that Yorkshire should win the title again. It provides the kind of clarity that is rarely seen in English domestic cricket. We can state with some conviction that they are the strongest county at the minute – stronger even than Herefordshire.
When a team does well one year before falling flat on its arse the following year, it makes you think the County Championship is more influenced by weather and blind luck than anything else. Back-to-back titles are therefore welcome. Being as no-one’s won three in a row since the Sixties, it probably even counts as an ‘era’.
Yorkshire have won in fine style as well. Unbeaten, they currently have nine wins and four draws to their name, which means they’ve beaten the climate as well as most teams. They’ve also achieved this with roughly half their team having been co-opted by England at any one team – the better half too.
Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow constitute the bulk of Yorkshire’s first-choice batting line-up and they’ve also been without their leg-spinner (Adil Rashid) and fast bowler (Liam Plunkett) for quite a lot of the time. That should really be debilitating, but not a bit of it.
Is it admirable that they’ve coped with these losses or does it reflect badly on county cricket in general? If the Yorkshire second XI is the second best county side, who’s providing the competition? Who’s testing the players out?
Jonny Bairstow for one could do with playing some level of cricket better than the County Championship. He’s hit five centuries and averaged a hundred, but England still don’t seem convinced of his worth.
Other statistics also hint at an uncomfortable story. Tim Bresnan’s averaging 50 with the bat this year. James Middlebrook’s averaging less than 20 with the ball. Ryan Sidebottom, five years after he faded from Test cricket, is averaging even less – just 15 rus per wicket.
Sidebottom, Brooks and Patterson
Yorkshire’s pace attack is not just good, it’s almost a template for how to succeed in county cricket – three hard-working, reliable fast-medium bowlers who almost certainly won’t get called up for England. This is the gold standard. This is what teams are striving to put together.
Maybe we’re wrong about Brooks and Patterson. Maybe they will play for the national side, but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they’re the kinds of players more likely to be on the cusp of doing so than actually taking that final step.
This has all descended into angst
Which wasn’t our intention. We really did intend on lauding Yorkshire. The county that’s given England Joe Root and Adil Rashid deserves its success and no-one can deny they’re the best. Then again, perhaps it’s only fitting that their success should be celebrated with a big old moan.
To Yorkshire! [Grumbles dismissively and wanders off to make a cup of tea.]21 Appeals
Many things happened in the third one-dayer between England and Australia. James Taylor made a hundred. Alex Hales put a fake walrus head on. Good shots were hit, good balls were bowled. There may even have been a six at one point. We don’t know. Sixes are passé. We don’t even look up from what we’re reading for them any more.
But all of these things pale into insignificance when compared to one stellar moment. In years to come, this match will be remembered for one thing and one thing alone. That thing was Steven Finn leaping like a crested salmon to catch Steve Smith.
At a conservative estimate, the ball was travelling at one billion miles per hour and was set to pass Finn by upwards of 36 metres. There was only one way in which it could be stopped. Finn closed his eyes, paused the world, summoned the spirit of Dwayne Leverock and then leapt like a crested salmon.
As he soared through the air majestically, it was immediately clear that nothing could go wrong. The timing, power and trajectory of the leap were perfect. Finn’s hand homed in on the ball and Smith was on his way. What a way for a batsman to go. It was like being stabbed in the neck by an angel.22 Appeals
David Cameron has not ruled out bombing raids against Australia in response to Ben Stokes being given out obstructing the field in the first one-day international. However, the UK Prime Minister says that a large-scale deployment of ground troops is unlikely. “Maybe if it had been a mankad and they hadn’t warned him,” he explained.
Tensions have been rising between the two nations ever since it became apparent that there was a fundamental difference of opinion about whether Stokes was out or not. The issue has now become a major stumbling block in ongoing peace talks.
In response to Cameron’s threat, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is quoted as saying: “Bring it on. I think I speak for all Australians when I say we’d love an opportunity to wage war against the UK.”
Abbott said that one of the great motivations for conflict would be an opportunity to ‘win the Queen’.
“You can keep Sam Robson, but that woman is a hallowed symbol of mateship, the Baggy Green culture, kangaroos and all the other stuff that makes Australia Australian. Just as soon as we’ve all finished sitting around sipping our flat whites and shaving off our body hair, we’re going to hit you. Hard.”
David Cameron has not been available to give a response, because he’s been too busy doing something barbarically posh – suffocating fox cubs with his special tweed smothering rag before throwing their corpses at poor people or summat.17 Appeals