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England are so good they even managed to beat Bangladesh

When England lost to Bangladesh at the World Cup, the British media stuck with the word ‘even’ – as in, ‘England are so bad, they even lost to Bangladesh’.

That line was a good fit for the narrative of the time, so it would have been counterproductive to investigate, let alone advertise, the merits of the winning team.

Since then, things have changed. The England one-day team has earned itself a heap of goodwill from the press and this means that there’s currently no real motive for talking down the opposition.

It’s nothing personal

Foreign readers, this is the truth of the matter. It’s not about you. The English are an increasingly insular people and so their apparent condescension is often just a vehicle for self-criticism. Arrogant, dismissive words about your cricket team are just a setup so that the England team can be made to look even worse.

This has been the attitude for so long that much of the media has been obliged to make a jarring leap of tone for the series just gone. “No, listen – Bangladesh are actually pretty good at home,” has been the recurrent message. “Who knew?”

They’ve presented that question as rhetorical because the answer “well apparently not you” doesn’t reflect well on them.

A lot of people did know, however, which has made their coverage seem a little odd.

All of which is just a bizarre excuse for our own slothfulness

You’ll notice that in contrast to this, we’ve hardly covered the series at all. This is not because we’re not interested – far from it. It’s just that our usual themes for one-day series – that there are too many matches and the outcome rarely seems to mean much – really didn’t apply.

Three matches was the perfect number, the teams were well-matched and the series as a whole was meaningful in that it has changed perceptions of both teams to some degree.

Quite simply, we had nothing to say.

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R Ashwin is India’s best player and we won’t hear otherwise

Thanks to India’s flat, lifeless pitches, R Ashwin averages 33.55 with the bat. Because of India’s rank turners, he averages 24.29 with the ball.

Or could it be that R Ashwin is India’s best cricketer?

We’ve covered this kind of thing before, but you reach our age and you no longer live in fear of repeating yourself. If we didn’t say things we’d already said, we’d hardly say anything at all.

Our recurring utterances don’t even have to be in the least bit insightful. The phrase we currently use most frequently is: “You’re a cat” – a statement which we (accurately) address to Monty. It’s not entirely clear for whose benefit we voice this reminder. Probably our own in a forlorn and paradoxical bid to slow our decline into fully unhinged Doctor Doolittledom.

Now for the repetition. As we’ve said before, we always find ourself disproportionately annoyed when some commentator or other (probably Michael Vaughan) refers to a batsman as being that team’s “best player”.

Best batsman, yes. Best player, no – never. Test cricket is not a game of run accumulation. It is a game of wicket-taking-while-limiting-the-opposition’s-run-scoring.

To win Tests, you need good bowlers. Ashwin is undeniably that. Bowlers are also obliged to bat and Ashwin is perfectly competent in that discipline too.

But more than anything, the best players elevate themselves by meeting high expectations. It is one thing to take five wickets in an innings. It is another to do it when people expect you to.

After ten wickets in the first Test, four in the second and six in the first innings of the third Test, R Ashwin was widely expected to take a few more. The fact that it was a wearing pitch and New Zealand were batting last certainly didn’t negate this. He took 7-59.

Surely by now India must realise there is no excuse for dropping this man for away Tests. It doesn’t matter what the conditions, this is a cricketer whose results brook no argument.

Sort it out, India. Don’t make us repeat ourself.

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Jos Buttler’s feud with Bangladesh – who started it?

Jos Buttler of England bats during the Royal London One-Day Series 2014 match at Lord's Cricket Ground, London Picture date Saturday 31st May, 2014. Picture by Sarah Ansell. Contact +447860 461617 cricpix@yahoo.co.uk

Jos Buttler is not an overtly angry man. Few batsmen better expose the fallacy that attacking cricket and on-field aggression are somehow symbiotically linked.

As a batsman, Buttler demolishes via controlled explosions. He delivers a series of well-timed detonations and more often than not, the opposition implodes. Yet as a bloke, he makes you recalibrate the entry criteria for ‘softly-spoken’. It seems almost too obvious to point out, but his demeanour is as placid and undemonstrative as the professionals from whom he illiterately takes his surname.

The RAAAGE

In the second one-day international against Bangladesh, Buttler misplaced his rag. It’s usually as ever-present as that tatty red one Steve Waugh used to keep in his pocket, but when the Bangladesh players celebrated his wicket at him, he moved towards them and gobbed off rather than exiting the stage in silence.

At the post-match press conference, Buttler apparently suggested there was ‘history’ between himself and Bangladesh, but didn’t elaborate on that. This is the smartest thing to do because that way fans of both teams can conclude that the other side is in the wrong and everything can escalate until it no longer matters what precipitated the hatred, it only matters what happened most recently.

If you’re wondering what did happen most recently, it’s either Tamim Iqbal spurning Buttler’s handshake or Ben Stokes’ reaction to that, depending on which side of the argument you want to position yourself. The person who uploaded the YouTube video entitled Shame on Stokes: Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler Have Dishonest Behaviour With Tamim Iqbal is, we’ll assume, a Bangladesh fan.

There is a cricket angle to this too, by the way

Buttler also said, “Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” when asked whether this was the first time he’d lost his temper playing for England. That may be so, but it’s also fairly obvious that up until now he’s done a grand job of maintaining an unflustered exterior.

Whatever the cause, this was a plain old loss of control and anyone who thinks Combative Jos will be more effective than Glacial Jos clearly hasn’t been paying attention.

 

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Why Edgbaston day-night Test will be a success (and another attendance-related experiment the ECB should run)

Day Night Cricket at Edgbaston (CC licensed by John Garghan via Flickr)

Day Night Cricket at Edgbaston (CC licensed by John Garghan via Flickr)

Novelty.

That’s enough for the first match, isn’t it? We’d happily pop along to Edgbaston to see what a day-night Test in England is like. The true test (lower-case T) is whether people will keep on going, year after year.

So far, day-night Test cricket has been, in the broadest sense, a success. However, as we’ve said before, Britain and the British climate really don’t have all that much in common with the rest of the cricket-playing world. Sometimes you have treat different things as if they’re different.

How are things different?

In summer, Britain is somewhat confusingly both colder and lighter than other countries where cricket is played.

We can probably put the cold in the ‘cons’ category when debating the merits of day-night Test cricket. If it’s cool at midday, it’s unlikely to be a great deal warmer at 9pm. Fans attending Test matches in the UK are usually keen for more warmth than less.

Set against that, British summer evenings are just about the finest thing in the world. On August 17, 2017 – the first day of Edgbaston’s day-night Test – the sun will set at 8.28pm. This ain’t your gone-in-the-blink-of-an-eye tropical sunset either. All it means is the sun’s technically out of view – it won’t go fully dark until the end of ‘astronomical twilight’ at 10.54pm, which is after the day’s play has finished.

On a warm, sunny day, Britain’s drawn-out evenings are better than receiving a large shipment of Belgian beer just in time for the weekend. On a cool, damp day, they’re neither here nor there.

From this, we conclude that day-night Test cricket will be great when the weather’s good but a bit more rubbish than a day match when it’s not. How this manifests in attendance figures is anyone’s guess, particularly as it’ll take a few years for people to get a feel for things.

Or how about this?

We have another idea for an attendance-related experiment the ECB could run.

They could guarantee Edgbaston the first match of the main Test series of each summer. They could guarantee this for every single year from now on and they could guarantee that the match would always start on a Thursday.

According to the ECB’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, the day-night experiment is being conducted in Birmingham because the London grounds are already easy to fill.

“In London we put a Test match on and it sells out,” he said. “Outside London it’s not as simple as that.”

With that in mind, it makes sense to give Edgbaston every possible advantage – namely, a predictable fixture on a predictable start day.

With their greater ability to draw fans, the two London grounds will be able to take Wednesday, Friday and Saturday starts in their stride.

We feel pretty sure that after a couple of years, this sort of annual appointment-to-view would result in greatly improved attendances in Birmingham. If so, something similar could be rolled out at Old Trafford, Trent Bridge, Headingley etc.

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Middlesex v Warwickshire match report

Balladeer writes:

One of the few things I knew was vital was preparation. One doesn’t just take any old food to The Home of Cricket. So I pondered my options. Waitrose? M&S? Selfridges, for the extra touch of privately educated class?

Alas, I also had to pick up some washing tablets, so Sainsbury’s it was. But I did at least go for the Taste The Difference range. I was particularly proud of my tomato and red pepper ciabatta, containing, as it did, a cricket pun in its very name.

So did I “rock up” – as the young folks say when they’re not busy trading STIs like they’re Pokémon cards (so I hear) – to Lord’s in good time to get lost and wander aimlessly around, trying to find (a) where one buys tickets and (b) where one sits.

I chose the bottom of the Mound Stand, the coldest bit of the entire stadium. Eventually my cricketing friends, Troubadour and Minstrel, arrived to chip me out and move me into the sun. Which happened to be another part of the bottom of the Mound Stand, twenty feet to my right.

As I was slowly partaking of my rosé and Troubadour of her white, we discussed the nonsense that were ICC alcohol regulations.

“The MCC outright ignores them,” Troubadour informed me. “As for the Oval, nobody checked when I decanted an entire bottle of red into an orange squash carton.”

I made a note on my iPhone, in between checking whether I’d won a “star comment” award on the Cricinfo liveblog. (I had.)

The rest of the day mostly revolved around staring at the back of Oliver Hannon-Dalby’s head (OHD being, incidentally, a ganglotron of the highest order), so I shall cut straight to the three most distressing parts of it.

(3) Two crows gathering on one of the scoreboards, three woodpigeons on the awning, and one seagull on the pitch, making me worry for a cricket-themed remake of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”;

(2) Troubadour, being of the female persuasion, being mistaken for a lazy member of the cleaning staff, and being chased into the one open ladies’ lavatory by a man under that belief. Oddly enough, sometimes women come to watch the cricket as well;

(1) My ciabatta turning out to be focaccia, removing any punning potential; and having gruyere on top. Thus making it completely inedible, because gruyere is disgusting.

“Don’t throw it away!” said Troubadour. “We’ll eat it.”

One focaccia out of four later, they were duly thrown away.

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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Durham turn to Superbeefy

There are certainly occasions when Ian Botham is the answer.

If we were to ask, ‘which Eighties cricketer frequently showcased the now historic phenomenon of ‘brown armpits’?’ then his name might well come to mind.

If we were to ask you to name someone whose ability to shape cricket matches on the field was inversely proportional to his ability to speak logically about them off it, you could again tick the Beefy box with confidence.

However, if the questions were: “Who should be chairman of our board of directors as we seek to chart a course out of the financial dire straits in which we find ourselves?” then ‘Ian Botham’ seems a truly odd response.

Good on him though. Say what you like about the pig-headed blunderbuss of bombastic assertions, but he cares. As a commentator, he often cares too much. If he can bring somewhere around half the passion he shows when ranting about why the captain hasn’t got the opening bowlers on at the start of a session then that would be proportional for a role attempting to resuscitate a cricket club that is clearly held in the highest esteem by cricket supporters up and down the land.

No saying it’ll happen – but it might. More details in Ali Martin’s piece for The Guardian which we link to instead of the original source solely on the grounds that Ali shoe-horned in an excellent appraisal of Sir Beef’s approach to his day job somewhere in the middle of it.

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Some cricket that was scheduled to happen really is going to happen

India are to play New Zealand in the third Test in Indore despite someone somewhere reporting that they wouldn’t.

The Indian Express spoke to “a senior board official” who said the BCCI’s bank accounts had been frozen at the recommendation of a court-appointed panel set up to look into its operations.

The panel in question, the Lodha Committee, has since said that this is – and we’re paraphrasing here – a great big heap of bollocks. It has in fact ordered that just two specific payments be halted; payments that are nothing to do with hosting international cricket matches.

If you’re a senior board official at the BCCI who’s prone to talking outright cobblers, why not get in touch with us here at King Cricket? We’ll publish owt, we will.

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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?

virat_kohli

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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