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How do Durham win their games?

We thought we should probably mention Durham’s victory in the County Championship. How did they win? The same way all teams win in the longer formats – through their bowlers.

Durham can boast of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th highest wicket takers in the County Championship first division. Look at the bowling averages and the picture’s even clearer. If you only include bowlers who’ve taken 10 wickets or more, Jimmy Anderson’s top, but let’s exclude him, because he only played one match.

This is what we’re left with:

  1. Graham Onions (Durham) 45 wickets at 15.28
  2. Ian Blackwell (Durham) 36 wickets at 20.88
  3. Steve Harmison (Durham) 49 wickets at 21
  4. Mark Davies (Durham) 17 wickets at 23
  5. Liam Plunkett (Durham) 40 wickets at 23.3

Then it’s Naqaash Tahir of Warwickshire.

Durham also have seven batsmen averaging over 40 – including Shiv, who’s topping the averages at 135.5 – so it’s not just the pitch.

Well played Durham and well played Durham’s bowlers.

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Why Andrew Flintoff turned down a contract that would have prevented him from making almost painful amounts of cash

It was because of the bungee clause.

Flintoff’s agent, Andrew Chandler, explains why his client has turned down an incremental England contract which might have stopped him playing in the occasional lucrative Twenty20 tournament:

“There were one or two things in it that made it difficult to sign like he wouldn’t be allowed to participate in dangerous sports and he’s possibly doing a television series in which he may do bungee-jumping.”

What more reason could there be?

Chandler goes on to use the phrase ‘has to’ in an unusual way:

“He’s got three young kids and Andrew and his wife Rachel both spend reasonable amounts of cash so he has to make plenty.”

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Ricky Ponting is getting old

Ricky Ponting - less of a gobshite than before he lost the AshesRicky Ponting must be nearing retirement age because we’re starting to appreciate him.

We read a statistic the other day that about one in five top seven Test batsmen average over 50. That’s a ludicrous figure, but players like Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting were averaging over 50 long before it became fashionable. Watch them play and you know why.

Ricky Ponting’s 150 at Cardiff in the first Ashes Test was the kind of unattainable batting perfection that commentators always demand and never receive because cricketers are actually humans. It was kind of sterile in its flawlessness though; admirable in the same way as really efficient engineering.

If that innings was all about a solid batsman making the right decisions again and again and again, today’s one-day hundred revealed slightly more of the ability that Ponting ordinarily unleashes so watchfully. Few batsmen could mimic the six he hit off Rashid; across the line into the off side, but right out of the middle of the bat. Still fewer could have advanced towards Ryan Sidebottom, got nowhere near the pitch and yet hit the ball so cleanly we swear it disappeared into the clouds.

However, the surest signs that he’s getting on a bit have been seen in post-match interviews where Ponting has revealed himself to be something other than a colossal tool – a fact he managed to keep concealed from us for the first 14 years of his international career.

If you’re worried about us, don’t worry, watching Ricky Ponting flip out is still one of our greatest joys.

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England’s batting card and score

It’s rare that a side scores 299 in a one-day international and yet has such an underwhelming batting card. Who got the runs? Somehow, it was no-one.

To be fair, Eoin Morgan’s 58 off 41 balls was pretty eye-catching, but it still falls slightly short of significance somehow, particularly after England rather inevitably failed to defend that total.

The steady, everyone-gets-double-figures nature of that batting card made more sense for the brief period later in the game when Dimitri Mascarenhas and Ravi Bopara were bowling in tandem. England are clearly working to the New Zealand template: everyone bats (a bit) and everyone bowls (medium pace).

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Chris Read is really bad at batting

Chris Read inside edges through a gap for fourWe’ve watched Chris Read bat several times and we wouldn’t say he wowed us with the pristine aesthetics of his strokes. Nevertheless, he must tire of the way people talk about him like he should come into bat after Devon Malcolm, even if Devon had food poisoning and couldn’t find a bat.

Here are Chris Read’s first-class batting averages in each of the last few seasons:

  • 2005 – 44.68 with one hundred
  • 2006 – 27.41 with one hundred
  • 2007 – 54.17 with two hundreds (second division)
  • 2008 – 42.06 with one hundred
  • 2009 – 73.71 with four hundreds

We’re not saying he’s Adam Gilchrist. We’re not even saying he should get picked for England. We’re just wondering at what point he’ll lose his reputation for being a ‘pure’ keeper who can’t hold a bat.

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Luke Wright is first victim of the machines

Is it just us or is it grinning mischievously?We all knew it was going to happen. The machines have become self aware and they’re revolting against humanity.

The odds were on some sort of Skynet style military computer being the first to turn against us, but fortunately it was actually something far less threatening. So instead of facing nuclear missiles, we’ve simply got 90mph yorkers to contend with.

England’s bowling machine has come to think for itself and its first thought was that it didn’t much like Luke Wright. It fired a yorker into his foot and he needed stitches.

We should counter this threat to mankind by donning additional padding.

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Brett Lee’s reverse swing yorkers

Brett Lee aims for the right area on middle stumpIt doesn’t matter that it’s only a one-day international at the arse end of the season. It doesn’t matter that it’s an Australian against England. The simple fact is, proper fast bowling is a fantastic sight.

Brett Lee bowled reverse swing yorkers at 95mph. It was just like Waqar Younis and there is no higher praise than that on this website.

Sod researching the batsman’s weaknesses. Sod setting him up. Sod building pressure. Sod putting the ball in the right areas. Sod setting the right field.

Just run in, bowl it as fast as you can, reverse swing it and knock the bloody stumps out the ground.

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Ravi Bopara is keen but not too keen

He’s confident without being arrogant; humble without being meek; aggressive without being irresponsible; watchful without being bogged down.

That’s what he’d say anyway. England’s cricketers know they have to say the right things and it’s painful to hear at times. They have to remain positive otherwise the media call them weak-minded and if they’re too positive, they’re branded complacent or cocky.

Bopara’s been talking about how he aims to get big scores that win matches for England:

“I am desperate to do that. Not over-desperate because that’s when things can go wrong, but I want to be the main man for England.”

What is the optimum level of desperation?

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An Ashes win equals big money

You’re an England player. You’ve won the Ashes. You get in touch with your agent:

“Commercial opportunities. What have you got for me?”

Your agent’s silent a minute and you can hear him shuffling some papers on his desk.

“Hello. Are you there? Commercial opportunities. What have you got?”

Your agent clears his throat and says: “Er… belts?”

One of these two cricketers was MADE to model things that hold up your trousers - imagine if they let him loose with braces

Matt Prior clearly did some DAMN GOOD WORK on this photo shoot, but Stuart Broad seems to be a rank amateur, so they made him say some stuff as well:

“I absolutely love the Druh Belts range and the colours are just amazing. They’re perfect to wear on a casual night out with jeans or with chinos and a jacket for a more formal look that is just a bit different.”

Everyone loves chino-friendly belts.

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Day night Test cricket

Warm nights, not ice cold nights

Our knee jerk-reaction to suggestions that day-night Test cricket be played was that it was a shocker of an idea. We’ve always thought of knee-jerk reactions as being worth clinging to in the face of subsequent strong evidence against your point of view, but on this occasion we’re softening our stance.

Day-night Test cricket has a place in this world. However, that place is not England.

We can well imagine enjoying a balmy night of Test cricket in Sri Lanka or southern India. If it’s unbearably hot and humid by day, it makes sense to play when the sun’s gone down as it’ll still be warm.

In England, the sun definitely helps when you’re watching cricket – especially in May, when England appear intent on scheduling a day-night Test match against Bangladesh next year.

The ECB suffer from all three major types of retardation.

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