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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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Jacques Kallis went big

Jacques Kallis puts his weight behind oneFor once, this isn’t about that period when Jacques Kallis lost sight of his genitals for a few months. It’s about him hitting a hundred.

Once upon a time, hitting a hundred was an achievement. Nowadays you hit 170 and the man of the match award goes to someone who hit 230. Jacques has never hit a double hundred and we like him because of this. His Test batting average (54.85) isn’t bumped up by a handful of freakish innings. He’s put the work in day-in, day-out.

This has been an old-fashioned Test. It’s not about how many a batsman can make. It’s about whether he can make any at all. Test cricket is much, much better this way.

By the way, despite the title of this update, the phrase ‘go big’ is not King Cricket approved. We favour ‘score more’. As in: “Jacques Kallis has scored his hundred. Now he needs to score more.”

We’re hoping that ‘score more’ catches on, but we’re not hopeful.

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Listen to Test Match Sofa

If you’ve just arrived at work and you were planning on listening to the cricket, you could do a lot worse than listen to Test Match Sofa.

It’s not too difficult to explain what it is. Imagine Test Match Special broadcast from someone’s house and with absolutely no pretence of impartiality. “Mark Boucher’s gone. Piss off. Get back to the pavilion.”

It’s not just jingoistic cheering though. They get rightly carried away when there’s a wicket, but they know their stuff and the whole commentary’s full of the conversational tangents which are so much a part of watching cricket.

Even bad light’s enjoyable. “Cricket is the worst game. What sport develops into a position of supreme interest where the players then say ‘let’s go off’?”

When it was pointed out that cricket being ‘the worst game’ was somewhat off-message, that stance became: “Cricket is a wonderful game. I’m so enjoying this bad light.”

They should be on-air now and it’s totally free.

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South Africa’s strongest batting line-up

Ashwell Prince looks forward to a long rest for the rest of the dayNot so long ago, this South Africa batting line-up looked stronger than Geoff Capes crossed with a grizzly bear. Now? Not so much.

Ashwell Prince isn’t an opener; Hashim Amla might as well paint a bullseye on his front leg; while if JP Duminy could ever get past his first ball, we might get a chance to watch him being found out by the short ball. Even AB De Villiers is looking a bit rocky.

Batting averages only tell you what’s already happened.

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Mohammad Sami – good bowling speed, like usual, but wickets too

Mohammad Sami in wicket-taking SHOCKERNever judge a pitch until both teams have batted, but if a side’s bowled out for 127 and they’ve chosen to bat, you can take a good long look at the captain and maybe laugh at him a bit.

Ricky Ponting should have been wary of Mohammad Asif, who’s probably the best bowler in the world at the minute, but he wouldn’t have worried about Mohammad Sami one bit.

Surely no frontline bowler in history has played so many Tests and yet had such a shit record. In his 33 Tests prior to this match, Sami had taken 81 wickets at 51.37. To put that in perspective, Ponting can consider himself the superior bowler with an average of 48.40.

That’s not the whole story though. Sami was the Next Big Thing once upon a time and has often hinted at being quite a bowler. He can bowl at 95mph and has both a Test and one-day international hat trick. Surely it’s some kind of sorcery to cram a hat trick into a Test bowling record that’s that gash?

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