3.4 The bowler is up to the wicket now and he bowls and that is clipped away nicely through midwicket for at least two, the fielder is chasing hard and HE’S OUT! The fielder is OUT! Bert is down in a crumpled heap on the floor clutching his hamstring. Well that was a suicidal chase at his age. His teammates are gathering round in concern, worried that they might have to do more running now they’re a man down. And one of them has told him to stop whining and get on with it. And I think, yes, I’m sure that was the captain. Bert gets gingerly to his feet, obviously in considerable pain. Any reasonable man can see quite clearly that Bert is in absolute agony here. Anyone with any sense of humanity whatsoever can quite plainly see that Bert is in no position to run, barely even walk, and therefore needs both sympathy and care if he is to continue in this match. And as expected, the captain has moved him to extra cover with nobody at all on the off-side boundary, told him to drop to three-quarter distance and press in to save the single.11 Appeals
We’ve already done ‘Chris Tremlett’s back‘ once before. We’d hate to repeat ourself.
England have dropped the grossly-overtall Steven Finn and have replaced him with a man of similar height but who also has arms the size of thighs hanging off the sides of some sort of oil-tanker-cum-torso. Then there’s the mouth. Tremlett could definitely have a damn good go at swallowing you whole.
When a snake gets really ambitious with a mouthful and gets an animal lodged halfway in, it coughs up its windpipe to use as a kind of built-in snorkel. We have no doubt whatsoever that Chris Tremlett also has this facility. He is only prevented from using it by his conscience and the ancient code of the giants, which specifies that their kind may only harm humans through seaming deliveries which lift sharply off a good length.
Monty Panesar and James Taylor are also in England’s squad, but eating humans whole isn’t even an option for them. Taylor isn’t even human-sized himself. Take a look at this picture and this picture if you don’t believe us.28 Appeals
Phil Hughes has been talking about how frustrating it has been to have batted at every position from one to six on this Ashes tour, seemingly oblivious to the fact that all six slots have basically meant being an opener.
He also said:
“I feel like I’m very comfortable at the crease at the moment.”
Which may be because he hasn’t had time to feel discomfort. Think of flights or long bus journeys. Sometimes it takes a while.
Hughes does exhibit some level of awareness, however.
“When you lose it is not a good thing.”
So at least that message is finally hitting home.
But standards are still low. He describes David Warner’s 193 against South Africa A as “a big 190″.
Now 197 or 199 – they’re big 190s. Considering the 10 different possibilities, 193 is actually pretty disappointing.15 Appeals
There’s no need to make comparisons or to try and find something even less interesting. Let’s just appreciate these words for their exquisite emptiness and leave it there.
There’s been a lot going on with Warner. He’s been in strife, he’s been punished, he’s claimed his behaviour contributed to Mickey Arthur’s dismissal, he’s just scored 193.
Tell us about it Dave:
“I decided here I’d just come in and be positive from the start and when the ball was there to hit, I hit it. That’s how I played and it came off.”
After that, he made a really big – probably suspiciously big – effort to underline just how well he gets on with Shane Watson, both on and off the field.
Anyone trying so hard to be this boring really is serious about getting back into the Test team.28 Appeals
Okay, brace yourselves for this. Something Australia have tried to do has kind of half-worked. David Warner was dispatched to Africa to become a non-rubbish number four batsman and has just scored 193 against South Africa A. They were 46-2 when he arrived at the crease as well, so it’s decent preparation should he get back into the Test team.
England might need to pick a number four batsman as well should Kevin Pietersen not recover from calf-knackage. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, because we can’t be bothered thinking or writing about who might replace him and whether or not they’re the right person.24 Appeals
Finally I gave in. There is only so much a man can take. First the bait. You used to play a bit, didn’t you Bert? You must have been a decent cricketer in your time, I’ll bet. Then the hook. There’s no real commitment, and you look like the sort of man who has the occasional Wednesday evening free. And finally the reeling in. We’re short this coming Wednesday, can you help? You can, that’s marvellous! Nets on Tuesday six o’clock prompt, don’t be late. You’re down to play the first ten matches, so you’d better get some practice in.
So I’m in, after a gruelling selection process (Can you drive to the away matches?). Old Filchonians O40s midweek 20/20 evening cricket. Now I have no experience of vets’ cricket, but vets’ rugby I do know. That’s a game for ex-players who’ve lost their speed, lost their stamina, lost their sharpness, but who still retain their love of drunkenness and starting fights. I’m assuming that O40s cricket is in much the same vein.
A trip to the loft was the first thing, to see which of my cricket equipment has survived the Stalinist Purges of Things from My Past. Gloves – check. Pads – check. Yellows – check, so clearly a trip to the outfitters needed. Box – check, but its time as a home for the family hamster has taken its toll on the padding, so a new one needed. Collection of old porn mags hidden in the base of the cricket bag where she definitely won’t look – GONE! I guess they must have fallen out at some match once.
Bat – check. Ah, the old DF Attack. A present many years ago from the wife, girlfriend as was back then. 2lb 6oz of finely crafted craftsmanship (owing to a slight misunderstanding when buying it, she’d asked the man for a 26lb bat). Having watched Gower play, I’ve always preferred a lighter bat – much easier to tuck insouciantly under the arm when walking off for 7. But still, a magnificent item, in pristine condition. The middle, I noticed, was particularly well-kept – none of those ugly red stains you see on some bats.
The grip disintegrated while I was taking guard in front of the mirror. I mentioned this at the club. I say mentioned, but the Club President, who keeps all the kit for that sort of thing, was on the other side of the ground. A tip for you all – when trying to communicate to the Club President that you need a new grip putting on your bat handle, sign language is NOT an acceptable method.
And so, here we are, all ready to go. First match tomorrow, away at Posh North Cheshire Poncey Overpaid Footballers Bentleys Everywhere La-di-dah Edge CC. Now this might give some people here a bit of a reminder, for this isn’t the first article to appear on this website concerning North Cheshire O40s cricket. No, it turns out that among the many luminaries of the cricket world who have previously been asked to play in this league is one King Cricket’s Dad. And Neil Fairbrother and Wasim Akram as well. I once played rugby against a team containing a recently retired Kurt Sorensen, and decided early on that the only difference in outcome between trying to tackle him and just letting him score was the level of pain in my face. A guard three feet outside leg stump is my similar, carefully thought-out plan to facing Wasim, should it happen.
So there it is. I could be skipping out to bat (I always do this to unsettle the bowlers) while unknowingly under the watchful match-report-writing sloe-berry-seeking eye of King Cricket’s Mum, maybe even King Cricket himself, maybe (if he succumbed to the pressure to play) to face King Cricket’s Dad’s devastatingly gentle non-spinning off-breaks, known by all to be the most successful wicket-taking delivery in all of club cricket (any ball from Wasim Akram excepted). Who knows? However, so as to keep a low profile and maintain my anonymity, I’ve decided to play all the matches wearing a Darth Vader novelty helmet. That should work.
A full match report will follow…6 Appeals
No matter how wobbly the opposition appears to be, you shouldn’t gloat too enthusiastically two matches into a five-match series – you need to pace yourself, if nothing else.
We’re finding ourself a little bit overwhelmed by the ferocity of the post-Lord’s vivisection. Aussies are tearing strips off their team, which is fine – that’s their prerogative. What’s more unsettling is the enthusiasm with which the Brits are then marinating those strips in urine. What happened to deep-rooted pessimism and superstitious caution?
The feeling has just come to a head upon visiting the cricket section of the Guardian website. The most recent article is entitled ‘Joe Root – salvation of English cricket’.
Quite what English cricket needed saving from is left unsaid and it’s not an entirely serious headline, but even so, this kind of premature hero worship makes us uncomfortable.
Below that, Mike Selvey has written a piece telling Australia what they have done wrong as a cricketing nation. Firstly, when did we get into a position where we felt we could hand out advice with three Tests still to play? Secondly, why are we handing out advice?
The second Test? That Australian performance? That result? That’s just fine thank you. More of that please. No advice. Leave them to it. Whatever they’re doing is working perfectly.30 Appeals
It’s probably not quite right to say that Australia again fought to the final wicket. It’s more that they fought for the final wicket, which isn’t quite so impressive. We’ve also got a suspicion that England are deliberately manufacturing embarrassing 10th wicket partnership statistics with which the Aussie batsmen can be beaten. A kind of: “See – batting should be easy.”
The failures are most damning for their predictability.
Shane Watson twice got past 20, didn’t get past 30 and was dismissed LBW in both innings. In all, 24 of Watson’s 77 Test dismissals have been LBW and if anything, he seems keen to add to his tally.
Phil Hughes scored one and one.
Steve Smith scored two and one.
You would bet on each of those things happening more often than not and that is half the Australian batting order accounted for. It really is quite disgraceful. And also magic.14 Appeals
We’re never sure what to say about declaration batting. It can be hard to watch as the tension is minimal. Even so, it serves important purposes.
Bat for a long time and you get a good view of the opposition bowling. You also sap it of strength. Even if there is a decent rest before the third Test, there’s still the mental impact of bowling ineffectually for a great length of time – that can’t help but have an impact on a bowler’s confidence. Patient declaration batting also allows the pitch to get full knackered-up, which can only be good when you’re bowling last.
Joe Root has, by any estimation, done a cracking job. Until his innings – and even since – Ian Bell is pretty much the only batsman on either side to have made runs. It will be interesting to see how the pitch plays should England ever get round to declaring.
If there’s a downside to Joe Root’s early performances for England, it’s that they encourage the notion that top players are somehow ‘made’ for Test cricket; that they’ll take to it like a late-night drunk takes to the mystery liqueur brought back from a long-forgotten holiday that’s been languishing in the back of the cupboard for as long as anyone cares to remember.
Sometimes it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes a young player has to quaff home brew for a while before they’re ready to even look at mystery liqueur. We hope England fans can remember that sometimes they might need to hand over a pewter tankard and show a little patience.18 Appeals
Trying to assess the quality of the bowling or the helpfulness of the conditions in this Test is like trying to gauge the contribution of the skinny guy in a tug o’ war team. There may well be something remarkable going on, but the impact’s entirely dwarfed by the efforts of the various fatties who are pulling in the same direction.
Those fatties are the Australian batsmen. They are contributing far more to their low totals than anyone or anything else. Maybe the conditions are tough; maybe England did bowl well; but how can you tell with the slashtastic approach currently being adopted?
But it’s not just the shots
The decision review system has also given the Aussie batsmen an additional means of showcasing their stupidity. Chris Rogers deferred to Shane Watson’s exceptional decision making and meekly acquiesced to a pointless review of the latter’s plumb LBW. Rogers then equally-meekly saved the second review for some unknown team-mate upon his own dismissal, even though he should have used it and clearly wanted to use it.
His cause wasn’t helped by Usman Khawaja, who offered precisely sod all of value when the pair met to discuss whether or not to review. Khawaja then gave a good justification for no-one ever asking his opinion on anything ever by taking the decision to sky a catch with the score reading 69-3.
Between these events, Phil Hughes used up Australia’s second review and even if he didn’t think he’d hit it, this was a bad move because it meant multiple replays of one of the stupidest shots you are ever likely to see: an uppish back-foot drive with an open face with the ball being angled across him and a full complement of fielders covering every inch of catching space for just such a brain dead waft. He, like Khawaja, somehow managed to settle on the one shot that would absolutely maximise the chances of his own dismissal.
The plus side for Australia
Is that they could improve their scores dramatcially simply by avoiding decisions that are manifestly wrong in every conceivable way. Can England bowl out a batting line-up that doesn’t purchase, load and hand over the gun for its own execution? Probably not on the evidence of the last wicket partnerships in the first Test, but what does that matter when they’re playing Australia?31 Appeals