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How costly will that dropped chance prove to be? Apparently only fate can decide

Last year, Pakistan managed first innings scores in Abu Dhabi of 570-6 and 566-3 against Australia and then New Zealand. It’s not like England did especially badly in conceding 523-8. Pakistan are just good.

Not that it’s impossible to take wickets there though. Those two teams’ responses were 261 and 262 respectively, with wickets evenly shared between the Pakistan bowlers on each occasion. You can certainly bowl teams out and if anything, this emphasises that the dropped catches and wickets taken off no-balls weren’t really any more costly than all of those chances England didn’t create in the first place.

We wonder how much the England team and British media have talked the players into a trap. When you take such great pains to emphasise that you can’t afford to drop a single chance in the UAE, how does a team feel when exactly that happens? Defeated? Like they’re losing already? And what impact does that have on their play from then on?

It’s similar to the ‘we’ll have to be at our absolute best to beat them’ line of thinking. Being positive is one thing, but setting unrealistically high standards that you can never hope to meet is rather different. Doing the latter only serves to elevate the task in front of you to something that’s seemingly impossible.

All of which isn’t to say that it would harm England’s cause any to take those cymbals back off Ian Bell and return his hands to him in their stead.

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Ben Stokes makes things happen

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

To which one can only say: who doesn’t make things happen?

We just made a typo happen, for example. Shortly afterwards, we made a correction happen. A littler earlier, we made a cup of coffee happen. Jade Dernbach makes wide long hops happen. Shaun Marsh makes hard-handed edges to the slips happen.

Everyone makes things happen. Having some sort of tangible impact on the world around us is what separates us from the ghosts.

But Stokes, he’s different. He makes things happen. The main thing he makes happen is that he makes commentators say: “Ben Stokes makes things happen.”

Today Stokes took one wicket and doubtless someone somewhere remarked on his thing-happen-making ability. The rest of the time he didn’t take wickets and you rather wish he would have.

He is however capable of making exceptional eye acting happen.

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Anyone For Real Tennis? – England v New Zealand match report

I Can't Get My Head Round These Rules

Ged writes:

Two days after my last-minute-dot-ticket-office, cocktail-avoiding day at the Lord’s Test with Charley the Gent Malloy, I returned for my long arranged Sunday visit with Daisy. The weather forecast had been dreadful, but we woke up and indeed arrived at the ground on a beautiful sunny Sunday.

Daisy and I had an event-free circuit walk during lunch, but when we attempted similar at tea, we ran into Mr Johnny Friendly, walking the other way.

“Hello you two,” said Mr Friendly, stopping to chat with us. “Are you enjoying the cricket?”

“Oh yes indeed, Mr Friendly, very much so,” said Daisy politely, before enquiring: “Have you been watching the cricket or playing your beloved real tennis?”

“Mostly the latter,” replied Mr Friendly. “I can’t get enough of it these days.”

“I saw a television broadcast about real tennis only yesterday,” said Daisy. “The rules sound fiendishly complicated.”

“Not at all, young Daisy,” said Mr Friendly with his kindly voice. “The rules can be set out on a couple of pages; indeed there is an MCC leaflet that explains it all. Would you like a copy?”

“Nothing in the world should give me quite so much pleasure,” blurted Daisy, slightly exaggerating her Jane Austen-style manners.

Unfortunately, you see, Daisy comes from almost the right kind of family, which, after making a modest fortune through trade, then packed Daisy and her sisters off to almost the right kind of school. You should not scorn or reproach such people, dear reader. Daisy is a very good sort of girl; you should wish her extremely well and be happy to see her respectably settled. No doubt, there are men who might not object to her.

“Then you shall have a copy of that MCC leaflet,” said Mr Friendly with his benevolent voice.

“Ey up, tha’s reet gradeley,” said Daisy, getting so excited and confused that she muddled Jane Austen, the great early 19th Century novelist of manners, with Jane Austin, sister of the mighty Ian Austin, the greatest all-round cricketer that Haslingden, nay, even the whole of Rossendale, has ever produced.

“Hello you three,” said Mr Friendly, turning away from us. He was greeting some friends or acquaintances, no doubt far more important folk than us. Soon Mr Friendly was in deep conversation with those people.

We wandered on, thinking that Daisy’s real tennis rule leaflet hopes had been thwarted. But two days later, by means of that magnificent institution, The Royal Mail, a personally autographed copy of the MCC Real Tennis Rules, together with warm wishes from the Friendly family, arrived at our humble little hovel on the western fringes of London. Now that’s class for you.

Send your match reports to 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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Aggressive cricket can be all about playing really defensively

We’ve written about ‘aggressive cricket’ about a billion times, but that’s largely because – like a snipped clothing label that hasn’t quite been fully removed – it continues to irritate us.

Different people mean different things by ‘aggression’ and also confuse cricketing aggression with actual aggression. The latest to say something stupid on the matter is, unsurprisingly, Shane Warne.

“All this about aggressive play – aggressive play can also be about wearing down your opposition and letting the ball go well, to keep them out in the field for long periods of time.”

No it can’t.

What’s happened is that ‘aggressive cricket’ has widely come to be seen as the best way of approaching the sport and now no-one dares say otherwise. This means that on those occasions when playing aggressively isn’t the best approach, rather than acknowledging this, people instead redefine what ‘aggressive’ means.

Sports people are really, really bad at words. It never fails to surprise us how they don’t merely misuse words, but misuse them in such a way that they warp meaning and undermine the English language for other people as well.

Here’s what Warne should have said:

“All this about aggressive play – good play can be about wearing down your opposition and letting the ball go well, to keep them out in the field for long periods of time.”

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Ali Asad explores new depths

There’s the shallow end, there’s the deep end and then there’s the Mariana Trench. Ali Asad didn’t just make a duck against England in the second warm-up match, he didn’t just make a pair – he made a pair in the same innings.

Pakistan A finished the day on 192-12. Baffling. So baffling in fact that even Cricinfo’s scorecard software started asking questions at the fall of the tenth wicket.

pakistan-12Only the scorecard isn’t even right because Mir Hamza wasn’t the tenth wicket. Nor was Ehsan Adil the ninth – Ali Asad was. That was when he was bowled by Plunkett – an event that apparently erased Steven Finn’s earlier dismissal of him (the footage of it no doubt fading away before someone’s eyes, like Dave McFly in that photo of Marty’s).

There are still records of Finn’s wicket though if you know where to look.

‘Where to look’ is the bowling figures, immediately beneath.


But far and away our favourite part of the scorecard comes even further down.

players-per-sideIt’s 15-a-side with 12 batting and 11 fielding and England are apparently an eleven.

Maybe that was because the were fielding. Tomorrow they’ll be England XII and at the end of the match, when the match officials have done the count and double-checked, they’ll presumably transform into England XV.

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