We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again using exactly the same words, because we aren’t going to improve on this:
For Steve Harmison, every innings is like a brief fairground ride with ghosts intermittently leaping out at you, only occasionally the ghosts give you sandwiches, but sometimes the sandwiches have horrifying fillings.
There, that’s pushed Laurence Elderbrook down a notch. You know what that means?
It means we’re one step closer to the NEXT Laurence Elderbook update. Woo hoo. All aboard the fun train.3 Appeals
My name is Laurence Elderbrook and I am a cricker. No. More than that. I am a damn fine cricketer.
I am a number three batsman, as adaptable as I am unflappable. I have all the shots and know when to use them. I am the rock on which our team is built.
I hear a roar outside. It means that Laurence Elderbrook is going to grace this match. I compose myself in front of the mirror. I am resplendent in my cream flannels. I look immaculate. It is time.
I stride to the crease. Not too slow, but not too fast. I’m calm. I’m composed. I know it, the fielders know it and God damn, the bowler knows it. I haven’t even reached the crease and already I’ve imposed my will. This drama will unfold according to my script.
I take my guard. I make sure I get it just right. Laurence Elderbrook maintains the highest standards in everything he does. Leave nothing to chance – that’s my motto.
The bowler stands at his mark and I survey the field. I quickly assess the various individuals. I work out which fielders I can put pressure on with my running between the wickets. I pinpoint the weak links.
The bowler runs in. I raise my bat. It’s all so well-drilled it’s almost automatic. As the bowler delivers the ball I can already predict its path.
It’s a full ball and wide. It’s asking to be driven, but as my bat comes down, I detect a movement in my peripheral vision – possibly someone closing a car door. Distracted at the vital moment, I make poor contact and the ball slices off the outside edge towards gully.
He takes the catch.
It’s a travesty. I look the umpire straight in the eye, but he still has the audacity to raise his finger. It is at this point that I do the only thing a man can do in this situation. I drop my bat, throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar.
It is huge. I have drawn air into my lungs from acres around and sustain it for a full 15 seconds. It reverberates around the ground, leaving no person untouched by its magnificence.
The crowd, the fielders, my team mates and the umpires are now silenced. They all look at me. They are in awe of me. I tuck my bat under my arm and make my way off the pitch with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.
The crowd applaud. They know what’s happened. They admire my restraint. They admire me.6 Appeals
Before this match Graeme Smith said that Kevin Pietersen might be successful in the short-term via the ‘balls to the wall approach’, so that’s what must have happened today.
But before half of you try and apply this colourful philosophy to your everyday lives, Graeme Smith also had a warning. He said the approach wasn’t sustainable. Big silent boo to Graeme Smith, everybody.
Wherever their balls were, it was nice to see England’s bowlers having a bit of fun.
England v South Africa, fourth Test at the Oval, day one
South Africa 194 all out (James Anderson 3-42)
Lemon Bella writes:
Indian Skimmer and I went to see all three days of the South African tour match against Somerset. We hate the ground at Taunton, it’s rubbish. It’s only picturesque if you look at it from a certain angle, and not once did we see anyone with a cream tea. Also, every time we’ve been to Taunton someone has had to be ejected for being a moron. In our heads, Taunton equals morons.
Day one started well because at Plymouth station we saw a man barred from travelling because he had a live lobster in a box. The woman behind the counter had to ring head office to check and apparently he’d have been fine if he’d had a rabbit or a cat, but not a lobster.
At the ground we ate several homemade pecan brownies for lunch, each one containing our recommended daily intake of saturated fat. Obligingly, Jacques Kallis then came out to bat so we could have a bit of a nap to work off the brownies. Later on, we saw Mark Boucher giving Neil McKenzie a head massage on the balcony. Either that or he was checking him for nits.
On day two we managed to finish three Kakuro puzzles before the train pulled into Taunton. This is a record. Then a man walked past our seats and stole the coffee stirrer we’d left on the table. This was a shame as we still had things to stir.
We spent the day attempting to take photos of Morne Morkel with our fancy new camera but he was too fast. We have a lot of high resolution pictures of his back foot and the bowling crease, though, so we know it’s a good camera.
On day three we got distracted from ordering food (pasty, cheese and onion, not too bad) at the kiosk because Dale Steyn walked past carrying a plate of sandwiches. The kiosk attendant had to shout to get our attention. She gave us a look that suggested this had happened a lot.
The drunken louts sitting behind us were as drunken and loutish on the third day as they had been on the others, but with the added attraction that they’d removed their shirts. They attempted to heckle the South Africans but Neil McKenzie heckled back. In our opinion, Neil McKenzie won that battle because not only was he fully clothed at the time, but also his heckle made grammatical sense.15 Appeals
Rejoice poverty-stricken victims of Sky. Cricket’s going to be free again. Top Welsh terrestrial station S4C have bought the rights to five Glamorgan matches. All the other stuff’s still on Sky, mind.
A spokeswoman for the BBC explained their decision not to bid for any of the 35 packages available:
“We have always said that any bid for live Test cricket is subject to value for money and ability to schedule. In our view neither of these criteria were met.”
We’re not entirely sure what the ECB could have done to help the BBC fit Test matches into their schedule. Tests are played in the daytime in summer and last for five days. If the BBC’s bid’s always going to be subject to that, then they’re out aren’t they?
We’re massively disappointed that none of the terrestrial channels made an effort to get the Friday night Twenty20 tournament. We really believe that having live Twenty20 on the telly on a Friday night could do wonders for the sport.32 Appeals
While 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
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).
More 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
“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
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)
Murali. 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