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New Zealand have something atop their spine

Looks like we’re gonna need a bigger skull. A year ago we wrote about how New Zealand’s first few vertebrae – the batsmen at three, four, five and six – needed to be (metaphorically) full of brainy gloop to make up for shortcomings at the top. After a 148-run opening stand in the first Test against England, there no longer seems much of an issue.

It maybe wasn’t the toughest examination for Martin Guptill and Tom Latham – the pitch was true and the ball didn’t swing much – but a large part of being an international batsman is simply the avoidance of knobheadish shots. Knobheadery in decision-making was conspicuously absent for almost the entire day. That makes life tough for the bowlers.

England’s bowling was largely ineffectual, but it didn’t seem too bad to our eyes. First impressions of Mark Wood are that we rather like him. We like his imaginary horse and his imaginary starting blocks as he begins his run-up. We’re less enamoured with his imaginary wickets. What is it with Durham bowlers and no-balls? Do they play on 21 yard pitches up there or summat?

We’re also fond of his very real pace. Somewhere in our head there’s a definition of a fast bowler. We suspect it’s something like ‘over 90mph for at least a third of the time’. Whatever it is, Wood must be pretty close. He’s quick enough to be distinct from the usual fast-medium barrage at least, which’ll do for us. And for all you cricket hipsters who say pace isn’t everything, we’ll once again repeat: not, it isn’t – but it is something.

Joe Root hasn’t made a hundred in England for almost a year

Joe Root and a load of grass

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’re thinking about trying to get more into selective use of statistics. It seems to be a big thing in cricket, but we’re not off to a great start. Truth is it’s barely been nine months since Joe Root last made a hundred in England.

Actually, we didn’t specify Test cricket either, so it’s more like eight months. It seems that even when you’re really trying, it’s very hard to make Joe Root look bad at the minute.

What happened?

Matt Prior got the day about right.

England successfully navigated the first hour, losing only four of their ten wickets, and then Root and Ben Stokes almost immediately went mental, cashing in with the same gleeful enthusiasm with which characters in gambling adverts cash out.

Stokes, in particular, batted like some kind of hell ox – that is if hell oxen could hold cricket bats, timed the ball sweetly and had a taste for clip-driving every other ball through the legside for four. For his part, Root ensured he was top scorer and then did one.

After that, it was a play-off to bat at seven. Jos Buttler, the incumbent, has just gone up a spot – he made 67. Moeen Ali’s dropped down to eight from six but he’s 49 not out. If he makes 70, maybe he’ll push Buttler back down again and if he can make a ton, Stokes at six might also be in danger. Or they could just operate a rota system.

In summary

Twenty20 tends to either ebb or flow. In one day of Test cricket, we most definitely got both – and the match has barely even started.

A bit less County Championship?

No bad thing in our eyes. We’re a great believer in scarcity making something more attractive. Take northern hairy-nosed wombats, for example. Phwoar.

Similarly, four-day matches might become something other than sporting wallpaper if there are fewer of them. We had to follow the County Championship as part of our job last year and even we lost track half the time. There’s just too much of it. Fewer matches means greater focus on those that remain.

The big question is how this is achieved. We advocated three divisions only the other week. It’s surely a better option than the ‘play half the teams one-and-three-quarter times’ type solutions that are being put forward as alternatives. Better to keep things comprehensibly straightforward.

Done correctly, this could be an important step towards defeating the multi-coloured Excel monster that is the English domestic season.

England captain, coach and director – how are the roles defined?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Too many cooks? Too many Cooks? Who’s responsible for what in this new England team hierarchy?

We’ve just spent half an hour writing and rewriting a paragraph trying to explain how we think things are going to work. Clearly, we have no idea. We came up with some sort of division where Andrew Strauss was the strategist, the coach the tactician and the captain some sort of on-field mouthpiece, little more than a control mechanism for shuffling the players about.

But then there’s the bowling coach, who’ll be heavily involved in tactics. And surely the coach will have some say in strategy? Everything overlaps, and really, is it that complex a job that three people are required? For many years Dan Vettori seemed to perform all three roles and still found time for a bit of bowling and beard-growing.

As far as we can tell, the main distinction is in attire. The captain will wear whites or one-day pyjamas, the coach will wear a tracksuit and Andrew Strauss will wear smart trousers and a shirt with a tie for bad news and no tie for when things are going well. Hopefully the complex relationship between the three leadership roles won’t mean that he’s going to need to purchase additional neckwear.

Geoff Boycott to star in Triffids remake

Here’s a moment from the final scene when Geoff finds himself surrounded by a gang of maize.

Boycott in the maize

Okay, we’ll admit that’s a lie. Boycott’s Triffids film is being kept closely under wraps and they would never give away crucial plot information like this.

The photo is actually from a press release we received last July about York maze. We’ve only just got round to reporting on it because, well, you know, that’s just how we do things round here.

Obviously you’ve missed it now, but it seems that in 2014 they made a big old Geoff face maize maze.

Here it is.

Boycott aerial

And here’s a picture of Geoff with his two best friends shortly after tackling the maze. These are genuinely his best friends and it’s entirely coincidence that they both happen to be maize.

Geoff Boycott with Sweetie and Kernel

Join us tomorrow for something.

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