Everyone’s got a skill. Everyone’s got one thing that they’re inexplicably good at.
For many people it’s something useful, like having the ability to retain facts. Other people have more specific abilities, like being good at table tennis without every really having played before. Our skill is drinking litres and litres of water if we do anything remotely physical. We can’t actually carry enough if we’re climbing a hill or something.
Australia’s new fast bowler, Peter Siddle, has a skill. Peter Siddle’s skill is that he’s really, really good at chopping wood.
According to Cricinfo, he was so good at chopping wood that he did it competitively. “District under-age woodchopping titles came his way in his early teenage years.”
Under-age woodchopping titles, not ‘youth woodchopping titles’.
That’s quite apart from the most obvious question, which is: woodchopping titles?11 Appeals
On the one hand, he’s a spin bowler with a really mediocre record and people are lining up to, er… not know who he is – which is quite endearing. On the other hand, he’s Australian, which isn’t endearing. It’s a quandary and no mistake.
Former Aussie spinner, Ashley Mallett, is the latest to not really know who Jason Krejza is. He did have a go at talking him up anyway though:
“McGain had a terrific season and the other guy, well figures-wise he wasn’t that impressive but he does give it a bit of a rip so he has a real chance.”
It’s real call-to-arms stuff. It makes Krejza sound like exactly our kind of cricketer.10 Appeals
Jo Fitz writes:
Here’s the match report as seen from the perspective of an umpire.
Car Colston is a village just east of Nottingham that centres on its cricket pitch. Pavilion on one side, pub on the other. The pitch has the “Big House” end and the “cow” end. A big field full of cows. Not just a cow corner, a whole field. And the cows also wander around the village.
This afternoon they were as conspicuously indifferent to the cricket as they usually are. The only thing that seems to excite the cows is the sound of bagpipes. We know this from when the pub had a vintage car rally a few weeks ago. Midway through the first innings, the bagpipes started. The cows become animated and mooed along. Unfortunately this didn’t stop the piper.
If I had had a camera, and I hadn’t been umpiring at the cow end, I would have taken a photo to show how indifferent the cows were. They had wandered off by the end of the match.
The swallows were conspicuously indifferent to both the cricket and their own personal safety as they swooped across the square. A labrador sat with its back to the field of play for the whole of the second innings.
There were times when the scorers were conspicuously indifferent to my signals.
No-one was indifferent to the tea that Mary provided with lots of home made cakes. The chocolate cake went first, followed by a large Victoria sponge and a ginger loaf.
The weather was kind to us and we all went to the pub afterwards.6 Appeals
There’ll be a bit of Twenty20 next year, but basically this is it. This is as close to a definitive goodbye as he’ll give us.
The very reason why Darren Gough didn’t go out in a blaze of glory is the very reason why he deserved to do so. He could have retired years ago when, through injury and age, he slipped out of the Test team. He could have gone when they eased him out of the one-day side. The problem is, Darren Gough loves cricket.
We remember him being asked what he’d do if he wasn’t selected for one particular series. He said he’d be in the stands cheering England on with a pint in his hand. If some players said that, it’d smack of media-trained crowd-pleasing, but Gough’s not really one to listen to other people. If he says that, you tend to believe him.
You could never, EVER question Darren Gough’s effort. If things weren’t going well on the pitch, it wouldn’t be through lack of trying on Gough’s part. In England’s recent Twenty20 match against New Zealand, Luke Wright twice floored himself with the effort of trying to bowl quickly. That was Darren Gough style fast bowling.
All effort, but not solely effort. He was fantastically skilful and had the nous to know when to do what as well. We still think he should have bowled more reverse-swinging yorkers though – but we think he should have bowled six an over, so maybe we aren’t the best judge. The frequency with which they shattered stumps says otherwise.
When Darren Gough started playing for England, they were basically crap. They lost half their games because they weren’t good enough and they lost the other half because they were defeatist. Darren Gough was extremely good, he was an actual fast bowler and most of all, he really thought he could do anything. His confidence was your hope.
He even thought he could bat. His early days in the England side – before they talked him down from the ledge of constant cross-batted aggression – were a halcyon period where he’d play the most outrageously full-blooded, textbook-defying shots to almost every ball. Our favourite was the back-foot drive-cum-cut which would end with the bat helicoptering around his head, taking multiple revolutions to fully decelerate.
As recently as 2006, Gough batted at three for Essex in some Twenty20 and Pro40 matches. In hundreds and hundreds of one-day innings, he’d only once passed 50. An almost unbearable weight of evidence was nothing to him. He hit 53 not out off 49 balls to win a match.
This is why we love Darren Gough. Even in middle-age, he’ll be straining for pace on some field somewhere in some insignificant match. It’s not sad. It’s what made him great.9 Appeals
Matthew Hayden is the kind of man who looks in the mirror and smiles at what he sees.
“Having played over there and played well over there, I think I’m going to be the obvious target.”
Really he should look in the mirror and immediately burst into tears before punching his own reflection, shattering the glass and gouging his hand – like the rest of us do.
He then goes on to say:
“I think this series is tailor-made for guys like me.”
If this series doesn’t entail cricketers standing on a podium, motionless, while a crowd of people point and laugh uproariously, then this series isn’t tailor-made for Hayden.14 Appeals
Don’t think for one minute that we don’t like the wisened pile of freckles that is Glen Chapple.
We always moan about Lancashire’s ageing medium-pace all-rounders, but the truth is we’ve nothing against either Chapple or Dominic Cork. It’s just that having both of them clogs the side for younger players a bit – not that that’ll be a problem next season.
Glen Chapple made up for Lancashire’s shocking batting this week, by taking 6-40 to bowl out Kent for 92. He’d just hit 45 as well. When a man’s played his whole career for Lancashire and he can do that, how could we not like him?
When Chapple first appeared (with a ‘bing’ sound and a faint puff of smoke), everyone at Lancashire was adamant he’d play for England. It was accepted as a fact. Back then he was a fast bowler and was considered an exciting prospect.
Like most quick bowlers, he slowed but got more skilful while his batting improved a huge amount. He’s managed to maintain the exact level of performance required to warrant an A-tour for his entire career, first as a fast-bowler, then as a reliable line and length bowler and now as an all-rounder. But he’s never quite gone further than that. He played a single one-day international against Ireland in 2006.
This season he averages 25 with the bat, which puts him RIGHT UP THERE for Lancashire. He’s taken 37 wickets at 21 with the ball. This is pretty much your standard Glen Chapple season.4 Appeals
For some reason I am being asked to bat at nine. I don’t know why.
I sit and watch our innings with the haunted air of the disenchanted. After what seems like weeks, it is my turn to bat. The time has come for Laurence Elderbrook to take his stage.
Before I walk out, I take a moment to compose myself in front of the mirror. In my creased, off-white flannels, I look dishevelled. But still, it is time.
I don’t bother to take a guard. I just blink slowly and await the bowler. My captain is at the other end. I fix him with a languid, surly gaze before returning my attention to the ball. It pitches on middle and straightens. I leave it.
The pitch is hard and the ball whistles over the top of the stumps. It is at this point that I take the only option available to me. With a huge backswing, I knock middle stump clean out of the ground.
I watch it cartwheel away and then discard my bat. I pull out the two remaining stumps. With one in each hand, I drop to my knees and hit them against the floor in unison. I do this repeatedly. I do it maybe 20 times until they’ve made dents in the pitch. As everyone looks on in admiration, I toss the two stumps away, throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar.
Pausing only to lower my trousers and moon my captain, I depart with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.
Everyone admires the stand I have taken. They admire me.7 Appeals
Lancashire’s bowling has been acceptable, if little more than that. Lancashire’s batting has been as embarrassing as the thought of Henry Blofeld calling someone a ‘dude’.
We’ve done the statistics about Lancashire’s batsmen already, but here are some updates. Mal Loye had previously scored 103 runs from 12 innings – now he has 103 runs from 13 innings. Also, to be fair, Mark Chilton has now hit a hundred.
We’re going to use Mark Chilton as an example though, along with Stuart Law. They’re emblematic of Lancashire’s batting woes. Chilton is an okay batsman, but with a first-class average of 32, he should find it harder to get into the side. Stuart Law is ageing and deteriorating year after year and would fit in well at Surrey. This is Lancashire’s batting line-up in a nutshell.
Many years ago, Lancashire used to spew out batsman without pausing for breath or to wipe their mouths. They didn’t even clean their teeth between the heaves. Neil Fairbrother, Graham Lloyd, Mike Atherton, John Crawley – it was all so easy.
The thing is, once Lancashire had retched themsleves dry, there was a period where no-one noticed. Most of those players were still in the team and it wasn’t until they retired that everyone suddenly panicked.
At that point, they did the only thing they could do. They signed Mal Loye and, er, Iain Sutcliffe and bolstered the middle order with a series of overseas pros. They’ve been doing this ever since.
Stuart Law’s 39. Mal Loye’s 35. Brad Hodge has no reason to be loyal. It’s not like this season’s batting abominations were unforseeable and it’s all the worse for the fact that it had happened before.
In Paul Horton and, surprisingly but increasingly impressively, Steven Croft, Lancashire have a top opener and an all-rounder who can actually bat rather than just chip in. Under no circumstances should these two be separated by ageing, deteriorating ‘stars’ in division two. There shouldn’t be any need for it and it would be a continuation of the short-term view that’s been taken.
There’s been some robust paper over these cracks, but paper’s still paper.8 Appeals
We’ve made an unbelievable discovery. The F5 key on our keyboard is a shortcut that leads to the fall of a Lancashire wicket.
Go and look at the scorecard for their current match and give it a go yourselves. See if you too have the power.
We have honestly just done it four times in a row.11 Appeals
Lemon Bella writes:
Indian Skimmer and I went to see South Africa against the England Lions at Grace Road. Upon arriving at the ground, we spent twenty minutes trying to find a cup of coffee. Eventually we had to ask someone else who had a cup. In retrospect, we should have also questioned the quality of the coffee, as we could have saved ourselves the bother of walking three quarters of the way around the ground for a cup of lukewarm brown water with milk.
Garnett Kruger sat in the same stand as us. We found it quite disappointing that an international cricketer didn’t have anything better than us to do in his spare time. He did pay four eleven-year-old boys to go and buy him a Twister ice lolly though, so there was a hint of the glamorous life we would expect.
During the interval, Kruger played cricket with the four eleven-year-olds. He got the shortest one out for a duck with a spectacular caught and bowled but the chubby one hit him for three Flintoff-esque straight sixes.
During South Africa’s innings, we mostly watched Graeme Smith do paperwork on the balcony. There were white envelopes and brown envelopes and three different piles to put the envelopes in. At one point, Micky Arthur had to be consulted. We never realised that being an international cricket captain involved so much paperwork. From now on, when we’re in our respective offices we’re going to pretend we’re actually international cricket captains.14 Appeals