Perhaps the most striking thing about Mitchell Johnson is his ridiculous cartoon character tufty hair. After that it’s his bowling.
We watched quite a bit of Johnson when Australia toured India. He was their best bowler. For all the talk about Brett Lee being the fast strike bowler, Johnson’s not really any slower than him. He’s left-handed, he swings the ball and he doesn’t just pitch it a foot outside the off stump all the time like he used to. He does it quite a lot, but not all the time.
He’s got quite a round-arm action as well and if he masters reverse swing, we could be seeing some left-arm, dipping, inswinging yorkers, like a mirror-Waqar.
Mostly though, we’re struck by his pace. He’s consistently fast, 90mph plus, yet no-one seems to consider him a fast bowler. He clearly is.
Mitchell Johnson arrived as a Test bowler today, taking 7-42 against South Africa. It’s the kind of performance that’ll convince him he can get anyone out.4 Appeals
A spokesperson said:
“He has disbanded the legends group, but at this stage no decision has been taken on the future of the Super Series.”
It is rumoured that the Stanford Legends have been replaced by the Stanford Journeymen – Viv Richards, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Everton Weekes et al. making way for Mervyn Dillon, Omari Banks and Tino Best.
Sir Allen Stanford can expect brand identity and recall to be severely compromised by this move.1 Appeal
Matthew Hayden 12, Ricky Ponting 0, Mike Hussey 0.
Bring ‘em down. Bring ‘em down to a sensible level.
Those three think they’re so good. They think they can bat in any conditions against any bowler. They think they’re ‘all that’, but they’re not ‘all that’. They are, at most, ‘part of that’.
If they’re so good, let’s see how they bat in a hole; a deep hole; one so deep that they’re effectively batting beneath the level of the stumps. How well would they bat then, eh?
We’d hazard that they wouldn’t bat at all well. Their cover driving would be substantially blunted by their unusually low stance and the lack of a bat with which to hit the ball. Did we mention that they wouldn’t be allowed a bat? Because they wouldn’t.
Let’s see how they’d bat then. In those conditions, with those stipulations being enforced, those three would hardly get any runs at all. We’re sure of it.12 Appeals
We’re not interested in sponsorship really. However, we do hate people with corporate titles and we outright loathe meaningless PR speak, so we did actually make the effort to read the news about Vodafone not sponsoring England any more.
We also hate Vodafone because they have ‘-fone’ in their name, as if wilfully misspelling the word ‘phone’ somehow makes them cutting edge.
Ian Shepherd, consumer director of Vodafone UK, said:
“We’ve enjoyed a successful relationship with the ECB and the England team over the last 12 years and the sponsorship has provided us with a platform to build the Vodafone brand and add value to our customers.”
How has having ‘Vodafone’ written in various places during cricket matches made their customers more valuable? It hasn’t added value to their customers. Vodafone have no influence over the worth of their customers.
People are employed to come up with these comments. They clearly want to use the word ‘value’ and the word ‘customer’ and have no idea how to link them together.
Ian Shepherd also used the phrases ‘brand ambassadors’ and ‘sponsorship portfolio’ in his comments on the subject.
If we were Ian Shepherd, we might be able to stop crying about ourself by about 2016. Then we’d consider what mum must think of us and start crying all over again.10 Appeals
India couldn’t have won the first Test without Sachin Tendulkar’s contribution, but we’re a great believer in sportsfolk affecting the opposition and influencing matches that way.
We wrote about how Virender Sehwag’s approach to batting turns bowlers into smeared-panted long-hop machines, but we reckon he transformed the whole England side into a defensive outfit who could then be conquered by other batsmen. We’d go so far as to say that if a different batsman had opened and scored the same number of runs as Sehwag, England would have won.
Most strikingly England’s opening bowlers are irreparably damaged, but the whole team’s been knocked down a few notches and we’d be surprised if they could muster the confidence and the will to attack that would be vital if they were to win the second Test.
People often mistake outward confidence for the real thing and think that positive talk actually helps, but in reality all that’s near worthless. If two opponents both believe that they’ll win, one will be proved wrong. If only one side believes that they’ll win, it’s no contest.
Speaking about Sehwag, Andrew Strauss said:
“He plays a game most people are unfamiliar with. He almost manipulates the field. You change it and it’s like he says: ‘Right, I’m going to hit it somewhere else now’.”
Do England believe that they can the better of Sehwag if they say that about him?
India dropped Virender Sehwag once. Mental.7 Appeals
Watching Sachin Tendulkar bat is always a disappointment for us. It’s not his fault. He’s had the decency to be a batting genius and we can’t really ask much more of the man. The fault lies with our own expectations.
When you watch Sachin Tendulkar at work, you expect to be smashed round the head with the frying pan of his brilliance, but it’s not like that. Being an exceptional batsman largely relies on doing the exact same things that ordinary batsmen do, only doing them more often while avoiding doing a few other things.
It is not spectacular to watch someone not doing something, no matter how crucial that something may be.
Sachin Tendulkar hit a hundred on a fifth day pitch to help chase down 387. The real achievement was in eschewing risk and negating danger for such a long period. The frying pan of Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliance merely simmered unobtrusively on the hob of good decision-making until the omelette of unlikely victory was done to perfection.19 Appeals
What a match. A victory for cricket being about hitting a ball with a bat as well, not it being about some middle-aged men in suits planning what car to buy next – which is what the game can often feel like these days.
Nobody cares about your status symbols, grey men, because your status is immeasurably lower than the guys in white who make your money for you. The cricketers made this a match to remember and our only disappointment is that it didn’t come down to tail-enders to make the winning runs. There’s nothing better than a lengthy, hard-fought professional sports match being decided by a couple of blokes who are shit. It’s cricket’s great spectacle.
No matter. It was a great match all the same. People tried to hit the stumps with the ball and other people stopped them using bats. At the end, everyone said ‘hurray, that was fun’ whether they’d won or lost. Well, maybe the England players thought it was fun except for the last bit, but they’d probably concede that it was fun overall.
More of this kind of thing.Appeal
When Virender Sehwag bats, bowlers go to pieces. It’s a good approach.
Viv Richards used to do something similar. He’d blaze away when he first came in and then when the field went back, he’d change his approach. The fielding side were on the back foot, he’d got his eye in, danger was minimised, now he could accumulate.
Virender Sehwag does the same, only he rarely changes his approach when the fielders go back. He just blazes on and on. He has a stomach-churning ability to sustain an assault which is unparalleled in the history of cricket. Sehwag can hit 300 at quicker than a run a ball. Sehwag can hit a double hundred at the same pace when only two team mates can get into double figures. It’s unbelievable.
It’s partly because he’s supremely talented. It’s also because Sehwag makes most bowlers crap their pants and it’s difficult to ‘hit the right areas’ when you’re aware that you’ve smeared.
The question is, does Sehwag know that this is what he’s doing? Does he know that he’s inflicting his will on the bowler and making life easier for himself?
At one point this morning (on his way to a 68-ball 83 out of the 117 runs that had been scored when he was out), he carved yet another short ball backward of square. He played it in the air, even though there was an ever-increasing number of fielders in that area. It went over third-man’s head for six.
Was that the shot of a man who knows that such a stroke will earn him a load of bad balls from bowlers who will lose their composure? Was it a calculated risk to make life easier for himself?
Our thoughts are no. We reckon he just thinks ‘I can hit this for six’.5 Appeals
Jerome Taylor had a Test average of 13.66 before this match, a first-class average of 12.61 and a top score of 40. Somehow he hit 106 against New Zealand.
After his hundred, Taylor said:
“It was the sort of pitch that, once you got in, it got easier.”
How did he know? Has he ever got in before? As far as he’s concerned all pitches could be like this.
He also revealed the advice that he’d received from Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Shiv said: ‘bat and bat and bat’.
Taylor interpreted this as advice, but it might just as well have been Shiv on autopilot. Some people – like ourself – stare into space and stop thinking as our default mental state. Lord Megachief of Gold merely repeats his mantra and pops the ball about for singles.2 Appeals
It doesn’t make the heart race, but it is brilliant.
Andrew Strauss now averages 61.85 in Tests in India. Paul Collingwood averages 68.20. Kevin Pietersen averages 27.62. Sometimes you need to clog your way to success and Strauss and Collingwood can bunt singles with the best of them.
Strauss has been spectacularly impressive in this match. England’s selectors get a fair bit of stick for their conservatism when selecting batsmen, but Strauss hit a hundred in his last Test on Indian soil, hit 123 in the first innings and is now 73 not out.
Paul Collingwood’s 134 not out in Nagpur on England’s last tour was a real masterpiece, where he scored an extraordinary number of runs with the tail. Collingwood is another who some would do away with, but he hit 195 Test runs in India before anyone got him out. He’s worth his place.4 Appeals