Moeen Ali and “planning for the future”

Bowled on 28th March, 2014 at 12:15 by
Category: England cricket news

The concept of ‘planning for the future’ is often used to explain the inclusion of younger players in favour of perhaps superior older players. This preference is often presented as being ‘an investment’. That, on the face of it, is a perfectly valid modus operandi. It gives the sense that there is some overarching strategy.

The problem comes when investments aren’t given chance to mature or when other decisions indicate that selectors don’t put as much store in investment as they claim to. Our issue with Moeen Ali’s selection in England’s World T20 team isn’t that we think he’s a bad player; it’s that we think a player of potential is being treated badly.

As recently as January 2014, Moeen Ali wasn’t even in England’s Twenty20 squad. Come the World Cup – which doesn’t exactly arrive unexpectedly – he is batting at number three. We know that there has been an injury to Joe Root and an infamous sacking, but in the shortest format, the top three are disproportionately important. You’d think you’d have seen the batsmen occupying those slots at some point in the last couple of years.

England will frame this as being ‘a great opportunity’ for Moeen; a ‘chance to show what he can do’. But he’s basically been set up to fail. They haven’t invested in him. They’ve stuck a quid in the slot in the vague hope that he’ll pay out. If he doesn’t, they’ll shake him and kick him and be more reluctant to ‘invest’ a second time.

28 Appeals

Alex Hales gets England’s first T20 hundred – and a surprise win

Bowled on 27th March, 2014 at 17:38 by
Category: Alex Hales, Sri Lanka

“It’s all over baby, because this one’s headed to the moon!”

You can always rely on Danny Morrison to deliver fitting commentary on the denouement of a compelling match. A few minutes earlier, he’d used the word ‘whippage’. He was on form.

So was Alex Hales, who hit the first Twenty20 international hundred for England – partially making up for the disappointment of being dismissed for 99 against the West Indies in 2012. Eoin Morgan hit the middle overs sixes and then Ravi Bopara somehow hit boundaries off Lasith Malinga at the death to keep things manageable. Hales did the rest.

A large proportion of ‘the rest’ came in one Ajantha Mendis over, which went for 25, but there was more to the innings than that. Chasing down 190 is no mean feat.

Other than that, England were dreadful, dropping as many catches as they took and one more than the umpires thought they took – third umpire, Steve Davis, brushing the vodka bottles asides to mash the ‘not out’ button with his face in response to a Mahela Jayawardene golden duck.

England probably have to beat South Africa to qualify for the semi-finals. And the Netherlands.

25 Appeals

Moeen Ali v Lasith Malinga

Bowled on 27th March, 2014 at 09:14 by
Category: England cricket news, Sri Lanka

Lasith Malinga has got a rough idea what he's doing in Twenty20 cricket

In Cricinfo’s preview, it is suggested that England might target Ajantha Mendis. That is the best plan going: England batsmen targeting a weird spin bowler – England’s batsmen being famously good against weird spin bowlers. But it’s that or try and hit Lasith Malinga for six, so attacking Mendis it is.

It will take a marked change in fortunes for both teams if this is to end in an England win. The contrast is great. Sri Lanka settled on a way of playing quite some time ago and it works for them. For their part, England are trying things. ‘You never know’ seems to be their motto. Sri Lanka can afford to leave out wily old Rangana Herath who goes at less than a run a ball in domestic Twenty20 and not much more than that in the six internationals he’s played. England have Moeen Ali at three.

We’ve mentioned Ali before and we don’t want you to get the impression that we don’t rate him. He’s a good player, we expect to see more of him and we’ll be willing him to do well when he comes to the crease. We’re only being critical of the fact that England are entering a must-win World Cup game with a pivotal batsman for whom “the 36 against New Zealand revealed glimpses of his ability” according to that Cricinfo preview.

Ali’s international experience is genuinely measured in weeks. That’s not his fault, but we don’t really buy the argument that inexperienced players often play with greater freedom. That’s just rhetoric masking the fact that your planning was crap. In knock-out matches (which this basically is) you’re usually better off with players who are numb to the less important aspects of playing for your country.

A 32-ball Moeen Ali hundred will not disprove this. All that would mean is that England’s selectors and management got lucky. If they truly knew he was capable of such a thing, he should have been brought into the side months ago.

30 Appeals

England’s World T20 campaign so far

Bowled on 25th March, 2014 at 17:15 by
Category: England cricket news

There was lightning and then some of you made a decent fist of defining what a ‘ferret’ is. Wine was drunk, commetators were pilloried, Cricinfo scorecards were badmouthed. Business as usual. We feel we’re now right back up to speed in time for the remainder of the tournament.

We’re particularly looking forward to Wednesday’s match, which is no match at all. Who will win? Can anyone win? How will we know if someone wins and does it matter?

Then, on Thursday, England will lose to Sri Lanka. Will Lasith Malinga need to bowl four overs?

Or could England find ‘that spark’. Tim Bresnan defines this mystical thing thus:

“Stringing together everything at the same time is a problem for us. If we can find that spark and everything clicks, we can beat anyone in the world.”

So ‘that spark’ is basically batting, bowling and fielding better than whoever they happen to be playing. Becoming the best team in the world is the spark England need to get them going.

18 Appeals

What happened in the England v New Zealand match?

Bowled on 22nd March, 2014 at 12:00 by
Category: England cricket news, New Zealand

We’re going to miss this match, so you’re going to have take up the slack and deliver our usual insightful, in-depth reportage in the comments section yourselves.

If you divvy the work up between a few hundred of your pets, we’re sure you can produce something approaching our usual quality. Infinite monkeys and all that. You will probably get more accurate results if the pets are angry, tired, hungry, or all three. But don’t be cruel to them in the name of art. It is unacceptable to do anything in the name of art, except for the destruction of art.

Blame our Dad for ageing if you’ve got a problem with our absence. Sometimes it seems like not a year goes by without him having some kind of birthday or other. And not a decade goes by without there being a big song and dance about it (albeit with no actual singing or dancing, because he’s a real man).

Meet you back here in a few days. We will review the comments upon our return and take your words as gospel for the remainder of the tournament.

33 Appeals

India v Pakistan was actually quite, quite rubbish

Bowled on 21st March, 2014 at 18:14 by
Category: India cricket news, Pakistan

We can officially reveal that India v Pakistan in the World T20 wasn’t quite interesting enough to prevent keen cricket fans from going out to buy eggs and then out again, a second time, to post something.

To put this in context, we would rank posting letters right up there with opening letters on the list of things we will try and postpone indefinitely. The ideal scenario for us is when we postpone the posting of something for so long that it no longer needs posting and can instead be thrown away. During India v Pakistan, we thought: “Hmm, might as well as post that.” But not only that. We then actually did it, which is another step altogether.

It was Pakistan’s fault. Quite often they never really get round to starting their innings. You think, after about 10 or 12 overs, that they might begin soon, but then they don’t. Next thing you know, they’ve made 130 and the match is basically over.

5 Appeals

That Tom Cooper thing’s turning out to be a good move

Bowled on 21st March, 2014 at 13:51 by
Category: Netherlands

Nefariousness can be a virtue, it seems. Tim Gruijters and his bad-but-by-no-means-debilitating back probably wouldn’t have hit 45 off 15 balls, vaulting the Netherlands from third place in their group into the Super 10 stage of the World T20. However, his replacement, Tom Cooper, managed it – just like that.

Needing to chase 190 in 13.5 overs against Ireland in order to finish top of their group on net run-rate, the Netherlands only went and did it. Schuberb schtuff. The moral of the story is that if you have a choice between someone who’s a bit rubbish and someone who’s pretty good, you should tell the former that he’s injured in order to get the latter into your side. Maybe even deliberately injure the first guy, if need be.

13 Appeals

Six reasons why England will win the World T20

Bowled on 20th March, 2014 at 09:34 by
Category: England cricket news

Everyone likes a list. Unless it’s for the big shop. We never use a list when food shopping and last week, planning on doing a roast followed by cheese, we bought everything bar the chicken and the cheese.

So it goes.

But away from the fluorescent-illuminated stationary trolleys of dawdling fat people pawing at the fizzy pop, lists are fine. As such, here are our six reasons why England will win the World T20.

16 Appeals

The unpredictability of Twenty20 plays right into England’s buttery hands

Bowled on 19th March, 2014 at 10:22 by
Category: England cricket news

If there is to be any drama in England’s T20 World Cup campaign, it seems likely that it will come in the form of a very formulaic, second-rate sitcom. We’re expecting the most noteworthy performance in every match to be one of the batsmen making 40-odd off as many balls.

Fortunately, Twenty20 cricket is TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE – all the worst teams tell us that – so there’s hope for the nation’s intrepid band of sloggers and pie-chuckers yet. The unpredictability of the sport could allow them to write their names into short-to-medium term history.

“Stephen Parry?” they’ll say in public houses up and down the land. “Was he the bald one?”

“No, that was James Tredwell,” someone will reply, before questioning whether it was ‘Stephen’ or ‘Simon’.

24 Appeals

Start the Car: The World According to Bumble – book review

Bowled on 18th March, 2014 at 09:13 by
Category: Cricket books | reviews and recommendations, David Lloyd

We finally got round to reading this. Oddly, this hasn’t clarified whether it’s worth reading or not.

A friend who follows cricket fairly closely but who at the time hadn’t watched much of Sky’s coverage, once asked us about David Lloyd. He’d got the impression that Bumble was this self-consciously zany caricature – a distant cousin to the Fast Show’s Colin Hunt, perhaps. We said: “No, no no. You’ve got it all wrong. Lloyd’s a decent commentator who is capable of being genuinely, genuinely funny.”

And that’s the problem with this book. Put Lloyd in a staid setting, commentating on a quiet afternoon session, and he can be hilarious, but build a book around the quirkier parts of his character and you lose that contrast. Look at the cover. It’s clear how they’re trying to sell this.

Some sections are good. You get some decent insights into the players he coached when he was with England as well as a few nuggets about his fellow Sky commentators. These passages read more like a traditional autobiography and that probably would have been a better approach, the humour shining when set within that more traditional tone. As it is, humour’s the focus, but Lloyd is only really funny in the right context.

We’re not sure whether it’s that the book doesn’t know what it is or whether it’s a byproduct of the deliberately chatty tone, but some of the digressions are really awkward. He’ll be talking about something relatively serious and then it’s almost like a siren goes off to signal playtime for the next three paragraphs. That then leads to further anecdotes and that’s the way things go until the end of the chapter.

This sounds like we’re contradicting ourself, but there’s a big difference between a traditional autobiographical tone dotted with humour and a traditional tone which completely disappears in favour of a wholly humorous tone. The latter is unsettling for the reader.

It’s like reading two different books – a feeling that is only heightened by the subject matter. He talks earnestly about Test cricket in the middle and then devotes a chapter towards the end to his mates down the pub. They aren’t cricketers or anything. They’re just blokes he knows from the pub.

This comes across as being a worse review than it should because the last few chapters are the weakest ones and so that’s the taste that you’re left with. There is certainly some good stuff in here. It’s really just a matter of how tolerant you are to the rest of it.

Should you so desire, you can buy Start the Car here.

8 Appeals
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