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England v Pakistan at Old Trafford – match report

We went to the second Test between England and Pakistan. It was one of your ‘on and off’ type days where the line between raining and not raining becomes blurred.

Having greatly enjoyed the timeless rope dragging technique at Bristol earlier in the summer, we were interested to see whether Old Trafford’s ground staff would also resort to this old and ineffectual tactic for combating surface water.

They did. And being a Test match ground, they also took things up a level.

Not only was the rope dragged by two motorised vehicles, but the drivers also ensured that they went either side of the stewards positioned on the pitch, forcing each of them to jump over the rope. As they slowly approached each one, the crowd treated itself to the slow-build crescendo cheer usually reserved for hat-trick deliveries.

As with every other visit to Old Trafford, “The Device” got an airing. It occurs to us that we’ve never actually shown you “The Device,” so here’s a picture.

IMG_20160724_122518602_HDR

In this shot “The Device” is fulfilling its secondary ‘makeshift table’ function, but you can easily imagine it being deployed for a quadruple carry back from the bar.

“The Device” has been rigid and dependable for its entire 20-year career. It is the Misbah-ul-Haq of pint-carrying contraptions.

Midway through the afternoon, we noticed that there was a permanently non-illuminated square on the big screen. Not only was this distracting for replays when it was often a similar size to the ball, it also raised the distinct possibility of an accidental Hitler whenever there was a close-up.

You can see it looming threateningly in this shot.

stokes-stache

Your imagination can do the rest.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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Lancashire’s Tom Smith succumbs to chronic back knack

If we weren’t actually first off the mark in lauding Tom Smith, we were there or thereabouts. He elicited that laudery by taking 3-29 on the first day of the 2006 season. Fortunately for us, Smith actually made his debut a year before, so we’re still not yet at the point where this website has spanned a player’s entire career. Give it time.

Smith becomes the second Lancastrian 2014 county player to watch to be forced into premature retirement by chronic back knack after Kyle Hogg failed to even see out that season.

It is sad. Smith had an extremely good 2014 and people finally started to notice a man whose name had never really helped his cause. He played for England Lions. He did well. The following season: back knack – and he never really recovered.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s the wafer thin possibility that Glen Chapple might be forced into a 2017 cameo as a result of an unexpected injury crisis. Glen managed to evade injury to such an extent that he managed to take 985 first-class wickets – about half of which came on the same rock hard Old Trafford pitch which shuddered Hogg and Smith’s bodies to a standstill.

Do it, Glen. Just nip in for one match and take a cheeky 15-for. Round it up.

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Andre Russell might actually find out whether he’s going to be banned from cricket next week

If you’ve a decent memory, you might remember that Andre Russell had a possible two-year ban from cricket hanging over him after being unavailable for three doping tests during a 12-month period back in 2015.

‘Oh yeah,’ you may think. ‘What happened with that in the end?’

Well, the answer is that Andre Russell still has a possible two-year ban from cricket hanging over him. According to Cricinfo, the anti-doping panel will finally deliver its verdict next week.

We’ve read quite a bit about this case. As with pretty much anything that involves lawyers, the relentless arguing over every last little procedural detail only really leaves you pondering the brevity of life.

The gist is that Russell didn’t miss any tests in the literal sense, he just didn’t maintain his ‘whereabouts’ information. However, being as this information is what’s used to ensure that an athlete can be tested, as far as the doping agency’s concerned, it amounts to the same thing.

The whereabouts system is used in all sports. You can even update information on the day, an hour before your designated testing window. Russell said he didn’t know how to use the website. In fact he said he found the whole system a bit confusing and so asked his agent and travel agent to look after it for him.

Set against that, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission’s case is something like: ‘Tough shit, it’s your responsibility.’

And after that, it all got a bit…

‘You never showed me how to use the system properly.’

‘You never asked us to show you how to use it.’

Our take is that Russell’s approach to the system seems believably shambolic, but we’re not really sure that’s an acceptable excuse.

In any case, the more important point, surely, is that we are talking about 2015 filing failures in 2017 and there has still been no decision taken.

This isn’t fair on fans, who could in theory have spent the last couple of years watching someone who has had an unfair advantage over the men he has played against. Nor is it fair on Russell, who has had a potential two-year ban hanging over him that whole time for what may prove to be little more than a minor administrative failure.

Cricket really isn’t very good at this sort of thing.

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England will pray for nip or tail at the Champions Trophy

Still taken from Sky Sports

The early stages of England’s one-day cricket revolution saw the team transform from one that scored about 250 on average to one that score about 250 on average.

The difference was in the range. They went from making 240-260 and losing every game to making 100-400 and winning half the time.

In India, they made over 320 in all three matches, winning one and losing two. From purely a batting point of view, this seems to be further progress.

‘Consistency’ is a recurring press conference platitude. Another is that a team can bat well, bowl well and field well but needs to start delivering in all three areas at the same time.

Being as England’s win came in the match in which they made their lowest total, we can perhaps presume that their bowling on this occasion attended the shindig. Was there any reason why this match was different to the other two? Well, there was a bit of nip, wasn’t there?

After one match of this series, England dropped their best spinner and instead fielded four seamers. This slightly bizarre step left them a caricature of themselves with four of their five bowlers greatly more effective if the ball swung or seamed.

England don’t do extraordinary pace; they don’t bowl slower balls with a quicker one for a surprise; they don’t do weird knuckle balls and the like; and they chose not to do wrist spin.

The good news is that the next major competition, The Champions Trophy, is being played in the United Kingdom. British pitches – even the relatively tame ones produced for one-day cricket – tend to provide a bit of nip, while the climate tends to provide that unspectacular level of swing that is generally referred to as ‘tail’.

We’re going to stick our neck out here. If their batting really has achieved some level of reliability, nip and tail should allow the host nation to win more than half its matches at that tournament.

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EXCLUSIVE! Rob Key’s position on snow revealed!

Rob Key

And by ‘exclusive’ we mean that we reported information that was already publicly available for a third party before pointing you towards it from here.

This week’s Twitter round-up has just gone up on Cricinfo. Critics are calling it ‘recently published and currently without comments’.

Needless to say, we’ve led with Rob Key and later on it also features something called ‘The Big Wedge’ which is surely deserving of your time.

If today’s King Cricket update and the somewhat ‘less is more’ nature of our entire output this week has left you wanting more, you might also think about signing up for Cricket Badger.

You’ve missed this week’s, but there should be another instalment around 10am next Friday. Critics are calling it ‘weekly’.

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Why waste your best bowler in the final over?

The idea that England might try and bounce out Virat Kohli proved as wide of the mark as a Devon Malcolm loosener. They decided to pepper him with half-volleys instead. And it worked.

They adopted a similar method against Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, occasionally mixing things up with a surprise full toss. That didn’t work.

Eoin Morgan also gave Chris Woakes the final over and we’ve no idea why. After nine overs, Woakes had 4-46 and had looked England’s only halfway effective bowler. Bowling the final over, what influence could he have?

Even if Woakes taken four wickets in four balls in that over, he’d only have restricted India to 367. Had he bowled his final over a little earlier in the innings, even a single wicket might have resulted in a score less than that.

Teams routinely put their most effective bowlers on for the 50th over of an innings. Why? Unless it is the second innings and the chase is tight, the final over is the one in which you can least affect the outcome of the game.

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AB de Villiers slowly coming to terms with Test retirement

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Very slowly. He’s not yet at a point where he’ll accept that his final Test was in January last year.

Earlier this week, de Villiers made himself unavailable for selection for the upcoming Test series in New Zealand in March. Today he ruled himself out of the Test series against England in July-August.

Future withdrawals and unavailability for five-day cricket will be announced as and when series are scheduled.

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Your team’s late barrage of sixes is bad news for them

Jos Buttler

A run doesn’t have a set value. That is a recurring theme of this website. The value of a run derives from the game in which it is scored and in all honesty can only accurately be gauged with hindsight. Up until the moment a match is finally decided, all we are doing is gathering evidence and sharpening the picture.

Yesterday, in the first one-day international against India, England whopped a load of sixes at the end. They hit one in the 22nd over and then three more before the 43rd over, before flapping, blamming and punting seven more from then on.

This seems pretty normal. For all that one-day cricket has changed, it’s still not the worst strategy to build some sort of a base before taking more and more risks as the innings wears on. However, the more sixes they hit in this late period, the more we became utterly convinced that India would win the game.

It was almost as if every six was worth minus six. As mishits and flat skimmers cleared the ropes, the value of a ‘maximum’ – and therefore the value of a run – became clearer. Each six seemed to bring with it the shadow of two others that hadn’t been hit earlier on.

In contrast, India had hit 10 sixes by the end of the 38th over. They knew they were there to be had.

Even at its farthest extreme, cricket is never exactly ‘most sixes wins’ – but it is still an indicator; a signal as to how easy it might be to score runs on any given day.

The brilliance of Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav was obvious and flaws in the touring side’s defence can also be found. But given their chance again, maybe the England batsmen would – in more ways than one – have aimed higher.

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Shakib al Hasan’s Test double hundred and its perfect ending

Sometimes we forget that you haven’t all been reading this website since day dot. It’s been over a decade since we tipped Shakib al Hasan for greatness so chances are a great many of you won’t know what a big deal it is that he made a Test double hundred against New Zealand this week.

If Shakib’s still not exactly a household name, he was all but unknown back when we tipped him. We’re talking Cricinfo-didn’t-even-know-his name obscure. Was he Sakib al Hasan, Shakib al Hasan or Saqibul Hasan? Having already used up our full allocation of precognition, we initially went with Sakib al Hasan before switching to Saqibul Hasan when it seemed more likely that was the one that would stick.

Cricinfo also had him down as a medium-pacer back then. We did at least work out that that one was wrong.

After 217 off 276 balls, Shakib’s Test batting average is now 41.39. That’s unspectacular in isolation, but combine it with a bowling average of 32.37 and it’s actually really rather special.

Shakib also saw fit to draw his innings to a close by succumbing to another Cricketer of the Realm, The Great Neil Wagner. Test innings don’t come much better than that.

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Video: Mitchell Johnson playing tennis right-handed

Well, looks like we’ve got to the bottom of that whole ‘bowl to the left, bowl to the right’ thing. Turns out Mitchell Johnson is right-handed.

Here’s some expert coaching advice, Mitch: bowl with your other hand.

Better late than never with these kinds of tips.

You may already have been aware of Johnson’s ambidextrousness/confusion. We weren’t. Responding to yesterday’s post – in which we reminded people that when only one arm is tattooed, it should the ‘doing arm’ – Top shelf tweeted us to point out that Johnson signs autographs right-handed.

There we were mistakenly thinking that Johnson had the wrong arm tattooed. Turns out the correct one had been tattoed all along and he’d simply been using the other one to bowl by mistake.

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