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The James Anderson plan

James Anderson - slippery and slithery

England showed us Plan A today – James Anderson beheads the innings with the new ball and then returns to sweep away the ankles with the second new ball. But you’re aware how fragile it is.

Today it worked, but even after taking three wickets in 2.1 overs, Australia still mustered 245, despite a few mistakes. Down under, it is a hard slog even on the good days. It must be bloody murder on the bad days.

The good thing for England is that James Anderson is doing his bit and he’s doing it brilliantly. He’s being given the narrowest of windows to make some impact and in this Test he’s slithered through like a greased invertebrate weasel.


High scores at Adelaide Oval Cricket Ground

Adelaide Oval - no-one should attend this Test, according to reports

History’s a load of arse. It gives you a slightly better idea as to what might happen, but really all it tells you is what’s already happened. It’s a guide not gospel.

We were told that Brisbane would be pacy and this that and the other, but the pitch started slow and that was when it was most dangerous.

Flatly refusing to learn from this, many have not so much predicted a high-scoring draw at Adelaide as written and filed their reports already, mentally moving onto Perth. While the second Test may yet slow in pace and turn into a leaden draw, it doesn’t make sense to forecast that on the basis of what we’ve seen.

The whole joy of sport is that it’s a drama that unfolds in front of you. It’s not a repeat. You’ve not read the book already.

Media coverage doesn’t affect what happens on the pitch, but it is part of the experience for most of us. Let’s not talk like we own a copy of the 2015 edition of Gray’s Sports Almanac. Predictions are fine, but assumptions are not.


Due a big score, due a hundred

We’ve written about batsmen being ‘due’ a score before. The idea is that if a batsman isn’t scoring any runs, he’s actually stockpiling them for a future innings.

The idea seems to be that every batsman has a quota of runs that he can allocate as he chooses. A terrible run of scores is a sign of a sensible batsman investing runs for a later date and is therefore a good thing.

It’s balls, obviously – balls that have been in Michael Clarke’s mouth:

“Hopefully I have saved a few runs for Adelaide.”

Don’t use them yet, Michael. Save them for Sydney, or better yet, Christchurch or Kolkata.


Johnson Watch feature dropped

The right arm is CLEARLY the doing arm

We are sad to announce that the Johnson Watch feature is being dropped after just one instalment.

The main reason for this is that the protagonist failed to hold up his side of the bargain. He didn’t bowl badly while hinting that he could bowl brilliantly at some point soon. He just bowled badly.

Johnson says he needs to get his head straight. Not sure what means. Probably something about needing to bowl straight.

Johnson, like Steve Harmison, is a prime example of a bowler whose performance range is too large. He sometimes hits the heights, but he sometimes hits square leg.

We told you that the tattooed arm should be ‘the doing arm’.


WG Grace Ate My Pedalo | book review


You, King Cricket reader, will love WG Grace Ate My Pedalo. We are pretty much certain of that.

You may all be very different, but you all have one thing in common – this website. Alan Tyers’ book is not a million miles away from what you might expect to see here.

It is basically a spoof 1896 issue of The Wisden Cricketer, but better than that sounds. Imagine what the Victorians might think of modern cricket – that’s basically the vibe.

Favourite sections are many and include an advertisement for the ‘Indian Territories Pre-eminent League’; 24 hours in the life of the Reverend ML Hayden (“Pray to God for a bit, but this degenerates into a sledging contest”); and a delightfully demented work of sporting fiction about vampires at Lord’s – part bloodsucker drama, part Victorian cricket story.

WG Grace Ate My Pedalo also features our favourite ever use of the word ‘harlot’. Buy it from Amazon. It is, frankly, mint.


Johnson Watch – part one

We figure we’ll formalise the Mitchell Johnson victimisation this year. Might as well. So here it is: ‘Johnson Watch’.

Sounds a bit rude, but only really if you’re American – and as we all know, Americans don’t count.

What passes for Mitchell Johnson news today is the following quote from Australia coach, Tim Nielsen:

“There’s a couple of little things we can work on. We can make sure we jump around the bowling group and each other and make sure he’s in as good a place as he can be.”

No idea what that means. Probably something about Johnson being a cack-handed gifford whose arms are possessed by gremlins.

Please don’t drop Mitchell Johnson.


Australia v England, First Test, day three match report

Sorry for those of you still waiting for match reports to appear, but we thought we’d make an exception to our normal rules about leaving everything in the queue for months on end in order to maintain the Ashes theme.

Remember that this isn’t Sam’s fault when you start the dissing.

Sam writes:

Ahead of our attempt at an Ashes all-nighter on Friday we ate pizza, watched Peep Show and two of us headed to Sainsbury’s for supplies.

We purchased a bottle of Bell’s whiskey in honour of Ian Ronald, a four pack of Red Bull as a nod to KP’s hyperactivity, and some vodka and beer because – well, why not.

Returning to the flat we noticed that the other two in our party seemed to have transformed the kitchen into a betting shop, the whiteboard filled with names and numbers that I didn’t understand.

You won't be seeing 'Johnson 6-1' anywhere else any time soon

For reasons I won’t go into here we had two televisions in the lounge, neither of which were in working order, so we all crowded round the laptop for the start of play.

After lunch just two of us remained. Several beers, some vodka and Red Bull in a mug and two packets of Pringles – inevitably referred to as Dereks – were consumed before we switched to cups of tea to keep us going.

At tea time we decided we couldn’t take another wicketless session and headed to bed.


A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket | book review


A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket is basically a book with which you’ll idly plan holidays. It’s full colour, looks amazing and makes you wish you were overseas even more than you already do.

It covers 55 cities, all of which feature an international cricket ground. You’ll basically leaf through the book, see a picture of somewhere amazing and then think about when you might visit. Unlike other travel books, you’ll also know that you’ll be able to watch cricket on this holiday, so that saves a bit of time.

For each city, there are facts about the ground, a bit of info about the place, average weather conditions and three suggestions of non-cricket things to do. It’s not a wealth of information, but it’s a book you browse, rather than one you use for in-depth planning.

It seems well researched. We checked what we knew and sized up the Manchester page. The caption “Manchester has a rich music history and attracts top bands such as Coldplay” worried us immensely, but the main text namechecks The Buzzcocks and Joy Division among other bands, which is pretty good for a book like this.

Irrelevant Joy Division fact: We were feeding a friend’s cat in Macclesfield the other day when a tourist asked us if we knew where Ian Curtis’s street was. We did, because we’d just been feeding a cat there. “Probably going there for the same reason, eh?” he guessed. Being as we’d been feeding a cat and he’d come to ghoulishly gawp at a house where a man killed himself, you’d have to say he couldn’t have got that more wrong.

Anyway, A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket is a book you’d be happy owning, although we’re not quite sure who’d be moved to go out and buy it.

It might be a good present though. You can buy it from Amazon if you’ve someone it’ll suit.


Alastair Cook creates a weird scorecard with help from Jonathan Trott

When have you ever seen an England scorecard that read 517-1? Against Australia as well.

We said that Alastair Cook would be okay and with 235 not out, you’d say we were probably right about that. We also predicted a whole host of series results though – none of which featured a draw.

Defending with an angled bat

Previous TV analysis of Alastair Cook has given the wrong impression. It makes you think that he’s destined to fail if he does anything even slightly wrong, but cricket doesn’t really work like that.

Batting in Australia is more about the batsman’s head than his technique, so the players who have made it to international cricket overcoming technical limitations are actually more likely to succeed. It’s counter-intuitive, but if you’re given a pool of international batsmen and asked to identify who’ll do well down under, pick the guys with the worst technique. They’ve got something about them that makes up for those flaws and those strengths will be of greater importance in Australia than elsewhere.

Cook and Trott on scorecards and in highlights

It has to be said that Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott is the perfect partnership for this tour. We Brits can wake to the fruits of their labours without enduring the detail. Put these two in a highlights package and they’re quite watchable. Or maybe we’re just watching the bowlers’ faces.


An Australian bowling attack unsuited to Australian conditions

'Please keep me away from that thing'

You’ve got to break partnerships in Australia. You’ve got to somehow take wickets when the ball ain’t doin’ a right lot.

This Australia bowling attack seems ill-suited to the task. Today one wicket fell – to Marcus North. No matter how flat the pitch, no Australian bowling attack should completely fail over the course of an entire day, but this one did. They even had a big first innings lead to help them apply pressure.

So what are they lacking? Basically, all of the qualities that England always look out for in their bowlers, having learnt from many days just like this one in previous Ashes series.

Height

Australia don’t have a ganglatron of metronomy like Glenn McGrath or Stuart Clark. Their pace bowlers are all over six foot, but elite sport rewards the freaks and there’s no-one you’d spot in a pub and think ‘Jesus!’ about. Their tallest bowler, Mitchell Johnson, entirely negates his height by delivering the ball from about mouth height

Pace

We get the impression that the speed guns at the Gabba are less generous than some others. They might even be accurate. Johnson is the quickest Aussie bowler and he’s hovering around the mid-eighties with the occasional ball hitting 90mph (144kph). It’s quick, but not terrifying. More pertinently, it’s not negate-the-pitch quick.

Mystery spin

The mystery is how a worthy but essentially mediocre finger spinner like Xavier Doherty ever ended up playing for Australia. To make a Matthew Hayden style statement: his presence is fading the fabric of the Baggy Green.

All are very good bowlers

But none is good enough to operate effectively on a batting track when the sun’s out. It’s probably Johnson’s job to break a partnership on those days, but the unpredictability that is his strength is a last resort for Australia in the absence of the above qualities elsewhere in the attack. Unpredictability is not the greatest strength.


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