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Ricky Ponting: It’s possible to inflict self-inflicted problems on your opponents

Is there no limit to Ricky Ponting’s powers?

Pakistan are currently in some disarray. Ponting says:

“I guess a lot of the stuff that is happening around their side at the moment was probably stuff they brought on themselves.”

He then adds:

“If you play really well, you can create that stuff happening around teams.”

Ponting made Pakistan bring things on themselves.

You’re probably thinking: ‘Ricky Ponting is a complete tool belt.’

You haven’t thought that yourself. Ponting’s made you think that.

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Ball tampering: England must try harder

We really hope that England weren’t tampering with the ball last week, because if they were, they’re rubbish at it.

Our stance on ball tampering is that players should do whatever they can get away with. To us, that’s the divide: if you’re caught, you’ve crossed the line.

There’s a similar situation in rugby, where someone like Richie McCaw regularly acquires the ball from within a melee of people when you would expect his opponents to still be in possession. He may achieve this solely through fair means, but it seems unlikely. Part of McCaw’s skill is in adapting the way he plays to each match situation. He makes allowances for who is refereeing and what can be seen at any particular moment.

We see ball tampering in the same way. Everyone knows why players are such avid fans of confectionery. Sun cream and lip balm have more than one use. Getting the ball into the right condition without being hauled in front of the match referee is a skill.

But it’s only the first step. Whatever a player does to the condition of the ball, they’ve still got to use it. First you get the ball right, then you have to swing it, then you have to direct it. Achieve all that and have a bit of luck as well and you might get an edge. Even if it’s caught, the batsman won’t walk.

Now that’s cheating.

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Why Test cricket can never die

If you watched the final overs of England’s feat of escapology against South Africa, you already know why Test cricket can never die.

We’ve said it before and we’ll happily say it again. Test cricket can offer something that no other sport can. It offers more than any other form of cricket offers too. You can’t have a tense hour in a Twenty20 match because it’s more than a third of the match. You’ve barely set the scene.

In Test cricket, everyone’s got more vested in it. The players have been working their arses off for nearly five days and they want all that effort and all those emotions to come to something.

If you saw Dale Steyn’s celebration when he dismissed Kevin Pietersen on day four, that was quite something; that was a fast bowler on the verge of combustion, so full of adrenaline-fuelled power that he could have towed the continents back into place to reform Pangaea.

Miraculously, that wasn’t the most emotional wicket celebration in this match. Morne Morkel went one better when he dismissed Ian Bell. His wasn’t a celebration borne of a surfeit of bowling hostility, like Steyn’s. It was joy. Joy and maybe quite a bit of relief as well.

The effect was magnified by Morkel’s swarming team mates. This was emotion that you literally cannot buy. This wasn’t about winning a prize, because it was only the ninth wicket. It was about 11 men putting everything into a five-day cricket match and finally getting something to show for it.

A little later, Graham Onions survived the final ball of the match and 11 different men had something to show for putting everything into a five-day cricket match.

This is why we watch cricket. We watch it so that we can see two groups of people, who really give a shit, going at it with all their might.

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Ian Ronald Bell is an actual hero

In the words of Alan Partridge: “Jurassic Park!”

How can we explain what has happened today? Ignore the dismissal near the end, Ian Bell did the job. This was not expected by anyone.

Imagine you’ve got a wooden spoon. This wooden spoon can somehow create dazzling pyrotechnic displays that light up the night sky. Some of your friends say: ‘Wow, that’s one hell of a wooden spoon you’ve got there.’

‘Yeah, great,’ you think (in a sarcastic tone of voice, because that’s how you think). You know the wooden spoon better than your friends. Whenever you’re trying to cook some methi gosht, the spoon does a quick burst of strobe lighting before going all bendy.

That’s no good. It may be impressive, but it’s useless as a wooden spoon and that’s what you want it for: to carry out the wooden spoon work – stirring and suchlike.

One day, you’re cooking murgh makhani and it starts to stick, but you can’t find a good spoon. In desperation, you grab the wooden spoon and jab it into the pan. To your surprise, it retains its rigidity and doesn’t set off a catherine wheel or anything like that. It just does the job for which it was intended.

When you taste the murgh makhani, it has benefited from the browning flavours bequeathed to it by the short period where it stuck to the pan and it tastes better than anything you’ve ever cooked.

You look at the wooden spoon and you apologise for all those occasions where you called it a knobhead and told it to go back to Warwickshire and stop testing everyone’s patience. For the time being, all is forgiven.

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England’s close Test matches in the last 12 months

Each of those matches has taken at least a year off your life, you know – probably more when you factor in all the heavy drinking.

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Samit Patel looks to Darren Lehmann for help

Everyone needs a role model and with Samit Patel’s weight issues, who better to turn to than Mark Cosgrove‘s mentor. Samit Patel is heading to Darren Lehmann’s cricket academy in a bid to get in shape for next season.

Other places Samit considered suitable:

  • Bed
  • The settee
  • A bakery
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Mike Hussey is a man you can’t give a fourth chance to

Mike Hussey runs a couple to Kamran Akmal When the best players are given a chance, they take it. For example, Mike Hussey didn’t need to be given a fifth chance when compiling 134 not out in Australia’s stunning win against Pakistan.

Dropped by Kamran Akmal off Danesh Kaneria on 23, Hussey merely narrowed his eyes and said: ‘You’ll pay for that.’

Pakistan did, to the tune of a further 22 runs, at which point Akmal again dropped him off Kaneria.

‘Now you’re for it,’ said Hussey, before punishing Pakistan with another seven runs. Akmal then completed a hat trick of incompetence off poor Kaneria.

The Australians are merciless. You quite simply can’t give one a fourth life and not expect to pay the price. They’re cold and ruthless like that.

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Alastair Cook – treat us to an innings of rare beauty

It’s hard to pay attention on days like yesterday. You drift off, but every time you look up, you think: ‘Jesus, how did that happen?’

Look on the bright side though. It’s only very occasionally that a match situation calls for one of cricket’s finest sights: the innings of no intent.

The situation

Every once in a while, a number of factors coincide to create a situation so deliciously appealing it’s hard to avoid bursting a kidney with excitement. You need both sides’ first innings out of the way quite quickly, but you then need batting to get easier. You need the side batting last to be miles behind and you need plenty of time.

It was in South Africa that Mike Atherton played his classic 643-minute 185 not out, during which four South Africans in the crowd were hospitalised with acute despair. This is the template.

In this Test, South Africa are already 330 ahead and with two days to go, the stage is almost set. But who will step forward? Who in the England batting line-up could play an innings of no intent?

Step forward Alastair Cook

NO! What in blazes do you think you're doing?Andrew Strauss can be pretty dour. Jonathan Trott can eschew attacking shots for lengthy periods of time, but no-one matches Alastair Cook for his disinclination to lay bat on ball.

During his hundred in the last Test, Cook flatly refused to score on the off-side. He’s halfway there. All he needs to do now is spend nine or ten hours avoiding leg-side scoring shots as well.

This could be beautiful. We can see him unfurling leave after leave and treating us to the occasional insipid prod when he absolutely has to.

Come on, Alastair. Do it for Boycott. Do it for Tavaré.

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Is it funny that Shane Watson keeps getting out in the nineties?

Of course it is. Just take a look at his teary-eyed, albino automaton face when he’s been dismissed.

Shane Watson’s 120 not out (dropped on 99) really ballses up a cracking record that’s seen him hit 96, 89, 93 and 97 in his last eight innings.

Even if he doesn’t get nervous in the nineties, he soon will do with double-digit-tastic performances like this.

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Ian Bell’s ball-hitfulness

Ian Bell shows us his ball-hitfulness deviceWe’re not interested in how Ian Bell’s faring in Test cricket any more. All we’re hoping is that the soap opera continues.

The Ian Bell situation has gone way beyond cricket now. We’re interested for sociological and psychological reasons. Will it finish with a lynch mob? Will it ever finish at all? It doesn’t feel like it will.

Recently, Bell has been testing the extremes of human emotion through his ball-hitfulness. In the first Test, he had a ball-hitfulness critical fault. In the second Test, his ball-hitfulness was exquisite.

But Bell’s always innovating. Methodical in the way he toys with England supporters, he’s now moved on to where-to-hit-the-ballery and he’s taunting the fans with his ability and inability in this facet of the game.

Keep it up Ian. Prove nothing and disprove nothing. We’re neither with you nor against you.

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