We’re always suspicious of ‘natural talent’. Kevin Pietersen always seems to attract this commendation – usually from Mark Nicholas. Nicholas closes his eyes and purrs every time KP hoicks one to leg and it’s surely only a matter of time before he affixes himself to the captain’s leg like a dog during the end of day interview.
Anyway, we’re getting off track with all this cat/dog confusion. The point is ‘natural talent’ (which we’re going to persist in putting in inverted commas). There’s a nice quote in a Guardian article about KP by Jon Henderson. It’s the sports coach at Maritzburg College where Pietersen played in his teens:
“No, he wasn’t a special player at all at that stage, but he was a hell of a determined guy with a good work ethic.”
Apparently he didn’t even get in the first team until another spinner emigrated. So Pietersen’s ‘natural talent’ only really manifested itself in adulthood after he’d put in loads and loads of effort.
We don’t know the ins and outs of how children develop hand-eye coordination, but we’d hazard that any cricketer who is deemed to have ‘natural talent’ has in fact overwhelmingly acquired his hand-eye coordination through some form of practice.
Don Bradman famously spent hours and hours hitting a golf ball against a water tank with a stump. It’s a fiendishly difficult thing to pull off and we’d like to know just how shit he was at it when he started.
So what’s our point? Er, it’s probably just that we’d prefer it if commentators would stop talking about ‘natural talent’ like it was a plain fact. Sometimes they use it to explain things and that’s a questionable line of thinking.18 Appeals
We can’t believe none of you have got anything to say about Andrew Strauss’s slow transformation into a slightly defective Blockatron 9000. We were sure you’d have strong feelings about that.
How about Sri Lanka beating India? Have you got thoughts about that?
We’re rather hoping that you do, because we’re a bit Mendissed-out and aren’t going to bother. Unless we do something about India deserving it because they don’t much care about Tests…
No. It would end up too dull. We can see it already.15 Appeals
When Andrew Strauss hit his career-saving hundred against New Zealand we were a bit worried. It’d be best if you read that article, but if you really can’t be bothered we’ll try and bluntly summarise.
New Zealand aren’t one of the better Test sides and Andrew Strauss’s performances might have been misleading. Same for Tim Ambrose (with the bat).
Before the New Zealand tour Strauss had been averaging in the 20s for about a year. Unless he has a great innings today, he’ll have averaged in the 20s again in this series. Did anything change in the meantime? We’re not damning him, but we are wondering.
Same with Tim Ambrose. It seems like England wicketkeepers’ Test lifespans just depend on who they play against.
We’d like to think that England’s selectors have some great insight and identify players accordingly, but it all seems a bit ‘suck it and see’. That approach wastes Test experience. Test experience is a valuable commodity.1 Appeal
Neil has been earnestly telling Test Match Special listeners how sandwiches are 99p after 7pm in the shop near where he’s staying.
TMS make a grave, grave error every time they don’t use this man for a match.4 Appeals
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again using exactly the same words, because we aren’t going to improve on this:
For Steve Harmison, every innings is like a brief fairground ride with ghosts intermittently leaping out at you, only occasionally the ghosts give you sandwiches, but sometimes the sandwiches have horrifying fillings.
There, that’s pushed Laurence Elderbrook down a notch. You know what that means?
It means we’re one step closer to the NEXT Laurence Elderbook update. Woo hoo. All aboard the fun train.3 Appeals
My name is Laurence Elderbrook and I am a cricker. No. More than that. I am a damn fine cricketer.
I am a number three batsman, as adaptable as I am unflappable. I have all the shots and know when to use them. I am the rock on which our team is built.
I hear a roar outside. It means that Laurence Elderbrook is going to grace this match. I compose myself in front of the mirror. I am resplendent in my cream flannels. I look immaculate. It is time.
I stride to the crease. Not too slow, but not too fast. I’m calm. I’m composed. I know it, the fielders know it and God damn, the bowler knows it. I haven’t even reached the crease and already I’ve imposed my will. This drama will unfold according to my script.
I take my guard. I make sure I get it just right. Laurence Elderbrook maintains the highest standards in everything he does. Leave nothing to chance – that’s my motto.
The bowler stands at his mark and I survey the field. I quickly assess the various individuals. I work out which fielders I can put pressure on with my running between the wickets. I pinpoint the weak links.
The bowler runs in. I raise my bat. It’s all so well-drilled it’s almost automatic. As the bowler delivers the ball I can already predict its path.
It’s a full ball and wide. It’s asking to be driven, but as my bat comes down, I detect a movement in my peripheral vision – possibly someone closing a car door. Distracted at the vital moment, I make poor contact and the ball slices off the outside edge towards gully.
He takes the catch.
It’s a travesty. I look the umpire straight in the eye, but he still has the audacity to raise his finger. It is at this point that I do the only thing a man can do in this situation. I drop my bat, throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar.
It is huge. I have drawn air into my lungs from acres around and sustain it for a full 15 seconds. It reverberates around the ground, leaving no person untouched by its magnificence.
The crowd, the fielders, my team mates and the umpires are now silenced. They all look at me. They are in awe of me. I tuck my bat under my arm and make my way off the pitch with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.
The crowd applaud. They know what’s happened. They admire my restraint. They admire me.6 Appeals
Before this match Graeme Smith said that Kevin Pietersen might be successful in the short-term via the ‘balls to the wall approach’, so that’s what must have happened today.
But before half of you try and apply this colourful philosophy to your everyday lives, Graeme Smith also had a warning. He said the approach wasn’t sustainable. Big silent boo to Graeme Smith, everybody.
Wherever their balls were, it was nice to see England’s bowlers having a bit of fun.
England v South Africa, fourth Test at the Oval, day one
South Africa 194 all out (James Anderson 3-42)
Lemon Bella writes:
Indian Skimmer and I went to see all three days of the South African tour match against Somerset. We hate the ground at Taunton, it’s rubbish. It’s only picturesque if you look at it from a certain angle, and not once did we see anyone with a cream tea. Also, every time we’ve been to Taunton someone has had to be ejected for being a moron. In our heads, Taunton equals morons.
Day one started well because at Plymouth station we saw a man barred from travelling because he had a live lobster in a box. The woman behind the counter had to ring head office to check and apparently he’d have been fine if he’d had a rabbit or a cat, but not a lobster.
At the ground we ate several homemade pecan brownies for lunch, each one containing our recommended daily intake of saturated fat. Obligingly, Jacques Kallis then came out to bat so we could have a bit of a nap to work off the brownies. Later on, we saw Mark Boucher giving Neil McKenzie a head massage on the balcony. Either that or he was checking him for nits.
On day two we managed to finish three Kakuro puzzles before the train pulled into Taunton. This is a record. Then a man walked past our seats and stole the coffee stirrer we’d left on the table. This was a shame as we still had things to stir.
We spent the day attempting to take photos of Morne Morkel with our fancy new camera but he was too fast. We have a lot of high resolution pictures of his back foot and the bowling crease, though, so we know it’s a good camera.
On day three we got distracted from ordering food (pasty, cheese and onion, not too bad) at the kiosk because Dale Steyn walked past carrying a plate of sandwiches. The kiosk attendant had to shout to get our attention. She gave us a look that suggested this had happened a lot.
The drunken louts sitting behind us were as drunken and loutish on the third day as they had been on the others, but with the added attraction that they’d removed their shirts. They attempted to heckle the South Africans but Neil McKenzie heckled back. In our opinion, Neil McKenzie won that battle because not only was he fully clothed at the time, but also his heckle made grammatical sense.15 Appeals
Rejoice poverty-stricken victims of Sky. Cricket’s going to be free again. Top Welsh terrestrial station S4C have bought the rights to five Glamorgan matches. All the other stuff’s still on Sky, mind.
A spokeswoman for the BBC explained their decision not to bid for any of the 35 packages available:
“We have always said that any bid for live Test cricket is subject to value for money and ability to schedule. In our view neither of these criteria were met.”
We’re not entirely sure what the ECB could have done to help the BBC fit Test matches into their schedule. Tests are played in the daytime in summer and last for five days. If the BBC’s bid’s always going to be subject to that, then they’re out aren’t they?
We’re massively disappointed that none of the terrestrial channels made an effort to get the Friday night Twenty20 tournament. We really believe that having live Twenty20 on the telly on a Friday night could do wonders for the sport.32 Appeals
While we’re coming clean about these things, we might as well ‘fess up on this one as well.
South Africa are probably the least popular Test team other than England (sorry people, but we have a richly questionable history as a nation, largely at the expense of other cricketing countries). Graeme Smith is arguably South Africa’s least popular player. We quite like him.
We like that he was made South Africa captain at just 22 having not been part of the first team, yet felt that he could immediately slag Lance Klusener off upon taking the job. We’ve nothing against Lance Klusener, but he was a major part of the team and Smith’s approach was the equivalent of punching out the huge guy on your first day in prison.
Then he came to England and made 277, 85 and 259 in his first three Test innings over here. Some cricketers can’t attain that level of merciless thuggery after a lifetime in the game. We hated it of course, but we didn’t hate Smith for doing it.
We also like the unbelievable stupidity of the man when he tried to put himself forward as a kind of lightning rod for Antipodean ridicule when South Africa toured Australia. The Australians were only too happy to oblige, but at least he was trying to be noble.
This week he did for another England captain with the most sublimely cussed fourth innings batting imaginable. It was elevated yet further by several of his batting partners virtually bursting into tears at several points. Graeme Smith didn’t concern himself with any of that rubbish. He just carried on hitting runs until South Africa had won the series.24 Appeals