24

We don’t hate Graeme Smith

Bowled on 5th August, 2008 at 12:15 by
Category: Graeme Smith, South Africa

Essentially just a chin perched atop an inverted pyramidWhile 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
7

We don’t hate Kevin Pietersen

Bowled on 4th August, 2008 at 19:56 by
Category: England cricket news, Kevin Pietersen

There you go. We’ve nailed our colours to the mast and those assorted greys and beiges that you can see fluttering in the breeze indicate our lack of hatred for Kevin Peter Pietersen (yes, that’s his real middle name).

Captain K manMore than that, we don’t quite get why so many people do hate him. He plays for England, averages 50, scores his runs with a clomping glee and is one of the few batsmen in the world who can explode from being smothered by the bowlers and instead make them run scared. He’s amazing.

Maybe it’s the caricature of him as an arrogant mercenary who’s only interested in personal glory. That’s a simplistic depiction.

The treachery of his switch of allegiance goes hand in hand with the iron-willed and successful pursuit of his ambitions; the arrogance is just his toeing the line of supreme, but largely justified, self confidence; and the attention-seeking switch hitting is just a pragmatic way of hitting gaps in the field. When the ball goes for four, the end justifies the means.

We’ve every reason to believe he’ll be a decent England captain. Maybe even a great one. He has little experience, but his track record of achieving what he sets out to do is staggering.

He was a number eight in South African domestic cricket. He came to England, averaged 50, hit four hundreds in four innings on an England A tour to India, then hit three hundreds in five one-day innings against the country of his birth almost immediately after being promoted to the one-day side. If he thinks he can make England successful, it’s worth giving him a go.

We thought that Pietersen should have been made captain when the one-day job was up for grabs. He’s a thinking batsman who comes up with some unconventional solutions. Hopefully he’ll adopt a similar approach with his captaincy.

7 Appeals
13

Don’t totally discard Michael Vaughan

Bowled on 4th August, 2008 at 00:46 by
Category: England cricket news, Michael Vaughan

Could be doing and should have been doing a good job as captain and opener“The best thing for me is to try and get back to being best batsmen I can be.”

Fair point. If they didn’t have to drop you, you wouldn’t be losing the captaincy and if you scored more runs, maybe the series would have gone better.

Michael Vaughan now knows that everything isn’t scripted especially for him.

He had to convince everyone he could successfully come back from injury a year ago. He made a hundred in his first innings back. That probably sent him over.

All the effort, all the hard work was instantly vindicated. Put that into the head of a captain who’d received one too many plaudits for an unexpected Ashes win and he maybe gets a bit ahead of himself.

Vaughan never makes runs in county cricket, but tells himself and us that he’s above that. He’s not.

An element of complacency seems to have set in – certainly in his own game. It was always a magic ball. A big score was always just round the corner. Maybe he didn’t really mean it when he said things like that, but it certainly seemed like he did.

Michael Vaughan was a great captain, but like most British sports people, he only really paid lip service to the philosophy of constant improvement that’s the hallmark of true success. Either that or he responded to pressure and criticism in an arrogant way that gave that impression.

If it’s the latter, he’s screwed. That basically just means that he’s not good enough and gets a bit defensive about his shortcomings.

If he did just get a bit lazy, then at least there’s something he can do about it – and he’s the kind of guy who would do something about it. His pride’s been clean bowled first ball and Vaughan’s a proud man.

Half-cut and half-asleep. We’ll come back to this another time.

13 Appeals
10

Paul Collingwood a gritty fighter full of character

Bowled on 2nd August, 2008 at 10:43 by
Category: England cricket news, Paul Collingwood, South Africa

Paul Collingwood is made entirely out of balls. It must be downright murder to walk, eat or do pretty much anything. To get a hundred in what seemed likely to be your last Test innings is one thing. To do it with a six is quite another.

Kevin Pietersen was caught by mid-on trying to reach his hundred with a six. Collingwood learnt from that mistake. The key is to middle it. Whoosh. 100. It was a similar shot to the one that took him to 200 against Australia.

He’s gritty, they say. He’s a fighter. He’s a scrapper. He’s got character. Normally the emphasis is on what’s not being said. He hasn’t got any real talent is the subtext. We’ve all come to hear only that subtext, but after an innings like that you remember that all those adjectives do actually apply.

Hope he shovels a few more runs today.

England v South Africa, third Test at Edgbaston, day one
England 231 all out (Alastair Cook 76, Ian Bell 50, Jacques Kallis 3-31, Andre Nel 3-47)
South Africa 314 all out (Neil McKenzie 72, Jacques Kallis 64, Andrew Flintoff 4-89, James Anderson 3-72, Ryan Sidebottom 3-81)
England 297-6 (Paul Collingwood 101 not out, Kevin Pietersen 94)

10 Appeals
14

Virender Sehwag defies pretty much everyone and everything

Bowled on 1st August, 2008 at 10:45 by
Category: India cricket news, Sri Lanka, Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag pan batting some leg bowleringMurali. Vaas. Mendis. A pitch with one wet end and one cracked end. Rain. Reason. Virender Sehwag defied them all.

Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly mustered seven between them. Gautam Gambhir had a lot of luck to edge his way to 56. VVS Laxman hung around for a bit. The tail folded. Meanwhile Virender Sehwag careered along to 201 not out, like a giraffe on rollerskates going down a hell of a steep hill. He should fall, but he doesn’t. He just keeps on accelerating.

You’ve got to admire his reasoning: ‘Hmm. It’s doing a bit. Best keep panning the ball as hard as I can like usual.’

And he’s bald. There’s no way he’s related to Sanath Jayasuriya is there?

14 Appeals
8

Flintoff to Kallis

Bowled on 31st July, 2008 at 20:59 by
Category: Andrew Flintoff, Jacques Kallis

It was probably the least painful outcome, Jacques

We don’t know about you, but we’re glad Aleem Dar turned down that blatantly out lbw appeal against Kallis. What followed was as electric as that innocuous-looking, ankle-high, three-holed square of plastic in the corner there.

It was proper fast bowling; the kind you just don’t get in the shorter formats; the kind that only comes about when the bowler v batsman duel suddenly becomes personal and that bowler can do whatever he bloody well wants.

It actually wasn’t a supremely quick spell of bowling in the literal sense – high eighties maybe – but watch it: it was fast bowling. It was the kind of bowling that seems so much faster and more intimidating because the bowler’s so unbelievably pissed off.

This was no less a batsman than Jacques Kallis too – easily one of the best Test batsmen in the world and most definitely someone who doesn’t surrender his wicket easily. He’d actually got himself in as well. He’d just passed 50.

Even before the non-dismissal Flintoff was firing. Yorker, bouncer, bouncer, no run, yorker onto the boot… Not out.

At this point Andrew Flintoff summoned down the angel of pure bilious rage and punched his lights out, stole his bag of rage and put it to use.

For some reason, Jacques Kallis opted to take a single off the last ball of the next over, bowled by Monty Panesar. The idiot.

Bouncer, left alone, beaten outside off.

And then it ended the only way these things can ever satisfactorily end: with a stump being plucked from its earthy home and sent barrelling along towards the wicketkeeper.

8 Appeals
10

Surrey v Middlesex Twenty20 match report

Bowled on 31st July, 2008 at 13:00 by
Category: Match report

Long-serving King Cricket contributor, SimonC, writes:

Twenty20 being the all new whizzbang format that appeals to even the most curmudgeonly of non-cricket fans, we rounded up twelve grumbling malcontents to see this completely dead rubber at the Oval. Many were the piercing questions we were forced to field from our eager friends: “When is all this over?” “How much did you say this cost again?” and “So, who won?” were just some of the finer points of cricket that we covered.

Waiting for latecomers outside Hobbs Gate, I accosted a complete stranger and demanded of him: “Are you a left-arm chinaman?” since I could’ve sworn I had recognised the Atheist of viddy-blog fame. “No,” he said, but in a slightly shifty-looking manner. He then ran off casting glances back at me, presumably to make sure I wasn’t carrying a knife (I was, as it happens, but just a fruit knife so he was safe unless he has a particularly thin peel). I remain convinced that it was him and that he was just playing hard to get.

Later, in the middle of an animated discussion about zero-gravity coitus, two obliging pigeons decided to mate by the boundary in front of an embarrassed-looking steward, raising the loudest cheer of the evening. I won’t reveal what part of his anatomy the steward was then asked to “give us a wave” with; suffice to say he did not oblige.

After the match I lost my friends in the Fentiman Arms and ended up discussing Maltese rugby with a civil servant who had just returned from Afghanistan. Then I went home and had two cups of tea and a bit of shisha (apple flavour). I pondered bringing the shisha to the cricket next time, but realised that our draconian anti-smoking laws forbid it. I briefly considered writing to my MP, but instead went to bed. I dreamt of Lego batsmen and (alarmingly) Boris Johnson, who bowled a bit of off-spin but went wicketless.

10 Appeals
7

Come in number six – your time is up

Bowled on 30th July, 2008 at 22:33 by
Category: England cricket news, Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood, South Africa

We're getting full value for money from the 'dejected Paul Collingwood' picShove Michael Vaughan down to number six – that’s where England keep their worst batsman.

Paul Collingwood seems likely to lose his place. He has another innings, but does he honestly look like a man who’ll make use of it? It’s the latest chapter in England’s number six saga and after Tim Ambrose’s brief appearance in the slot, the chapters are getting shorter.

Where other nations value their number six batsman, England use it as a dumping ground for the newest arrival to the team, the most likely departure from it, or, in the case of Ambrose, whoever’s left over.

South Africa have vehement letter C denier, AB de Villiers, batting at six. India have VVS Laxman. India’s number sixes have averaged 13 runs more than England’s since 2000. Even Bangladesh’s average more and you’re not even supposed to include Bangladesh when you talk about Test cricket, because it’s an unwritten rule that they don’t count.

Vaughan won’t move to six, because he’ll see it as a demotion, but that’s because of the way England treat the slot. If number six weren’t such a tainted limbo, maybe the fall of the fourth wicket wouldn’t send such shockwaves through the side and maybe the earlier batsmen wouldn’t live in constant fear of that.

England v South Africa, third Test at Edgbaston, day one
England 231 all out (Alastair Cook 76, Ian Bell 50, Jacques Kallis 3-31, Andre Nel 3-47)
South Africa 38-1

7 Appeals
7

Back to the important stuff

Bowled on 30th July, 2008 at 10:41 by
Category: England cricket news, South Africa

White clothing is THE BALLSWe’re generally in favour of Twenty20, but one downside is that it seems to necessitate the reading of one too many articles about cricket politics.

Cricket politics is dull and it eats into time that could better be spent keeping abreast of developments in the monkey kingdom. Hopefully someone’s on top of that. The last we heard, they’d developed a barter system and had been experimenting with various alloys. Have they developed the wheel yet?

In other news, a Test match starts and despite the format’s long history, two previous Tests between the sides and years of watching experience, pretty much nobody’s got any idea how it’s actually going to go.

Brilliant. You couldn’t artificially manufacture a better sporting contest.

7 Appeals
17

Cricket’s Champions Leagues

Bowled on 30th July, 2008 at 08:29 by
Category: County cricket news, England cricket news, India cricket news, IPL

Feeble and irrelevant attempt to make this update less boring

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, the BCCI, wishes to run a Champions League featuring Twenty20 sides from around the world. The BCCI backs the IPL Twenty20 league and says sides featuring players from the rival ICL can’t appear in its Champions League.

Various county cricketers have played in the ICL, so the England and Wales Cricket Board, the ECB, is unhappy. They’re also unhappy because the BCCI want half the money from this Champions League.

The BCCI are sick of the ECB now and have told them to piss off. The ECB have said, ‘fine, we’ll go – but we’re starting our own Champions League and it’s going to be better than yours’. The BCCI said: ‘Do it. We’ll see whose is best,’ and then they’ve each taken it in turns to say ‘fine’ as the ECB have stormed out of the building in a huff.

The question is, have the ECB irritated the BCCI so much that the BCCI will crush the ECB’s Champions League or have the ECB pissed off the BCCI so royally that the BCCI will crush the ECB’s Champions League and the EPL and whatever else takes their fancy.

Because they can. India brings in three quarters of the money in the game and that fact wins pretty much every argument.

In a way it’d be best if there were two Champions Leagues, because then they’d both fit the Champions League template, which of course dictates that there should be as few champion teams as possible.

Champions leagues should really be stocked with ‘big’ teams who owe their status to repeated appearances in the Champions League, not sides who’ve ever actually won anything.

17 Appeals

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