An occasional, regular feature of my summer these days is to spend a few evenings with friends in the nets at the Lord’s Indoor School. 29 July was our third net this year; me, Escamillo Escapillo and Charley “The Gent” Malloy. I was sporting my new “Thirst Extinguisher” water flask, a recent gift from my American business partner, Timothy Tiberelli.
I batted first and did rather well by my own (rather low) standards. Charley “The Gent” can usually manage a bit of gentle swing and at times can beat me when he gets his line and length right, but there are usually a few to hit. Escamillo Escapillo is a little more tricky; mostly left-arm orthodox spin but he can also bowl the Chinaman without changing his action enough for mere mortals like me to pick. The good news with his disguised Chinaman is that he rarely gets the length right, so you can usually avoid the worst and sometimes get a real pie from the buffet. Still, if he keeps practising, Escamillo Escapillo could be Rochdale’s answer to Simon Kerrigan.
Charley “The Gent” batted second. My slow right-arm dobblers were coming out nicely that evening, though I say so myself. It’s mostly overspin in my case, which can make the flight a bit tricky but it also means that I need to bowl a little too full if the ball is to go on and hit the stumps. I managed to send quite a few six inches over middle and off stump, which counts for nothing of course. Charley proved his “sandpaper man” credentials in the main; few risks, few big shots, few chances.
When Charley marched off to remove his pads, I took a long swig of water from my thirst extinguisher, taking care to put the flask down again on the other side – off-side to the left-hander, so that only a near-perfect off drive through long off might go anywhere near the flask. First ball to Escamillo Escapillo, round the wicket to the left-hander, overadjusted for the angle, just a little too full, CERR-RRUNCH, straight into my brand new thirst extinguisher. Escamillo Escapillo could not stop laughing. “You could send down another hundred deliveries just like that one and I swear I couldn’t hit that thing, even if my life depended on it”.
Charley “The Gent” then spent the rest of he net complaining bitterly that Escamillo Escapillo was batting left-handed. This seemed very odd to me, as we have played a few matches together and spent many sessions in the nets bowling at eachother and Escamillo Escapillo always bats left-handed. After that disastrous first ball, I managed to get my lengths right around the wicket to the left-hander, whereas Charley got himself into such a lather about this left-handedness business, he hardly landed any in the right place.
After a very pleasant dinner together, when I got home, a few clicks on the trusty gizmo and I had ordered three more Thirst Extinguisher flasks. Daisy had already taken a shine to Timothy’s gift and wanted one herself. And I clearly need to have at least one spare on standby at all times, especially the way I bowl.15 Appeals
People latch onto particular players for all sorts of odd reasons, developing long, intense, one-way relationships with them. Maybe you attended the one match where an otherwise poor player achieved momentary competence or perhaps they were the first player you saw responding to ‘give us a wave’.
It can be anything. It can even be that your name sounds a bit like a drunk person saying a team-mate’s name – a team-mate’s name which when mispronounced sounds like ‘animal’.
So thank you Anamul Haque. Your work is now perhaps done. You have drawn to our attention Mominul Haque; we have noticed that he has scored two hundreds and two fifties in his first nine Test innings; and we have consequently, probably, inadvertently adopted him.
Mominul is currently averaging 83.42 and will probably never average that much again. These two hundreds against New Zealand will probably come to be seen as aberrative; an odd and freakish flash of early form which committed us to years of imagining that every innings of 22 not out could have become 222 not out if only it hadn’t rained for four days.
In 2015, Bangladesh will finally drop him after a long run of low scores. The very next match will be a high-scoring draw and we’ll be livid because if Mominul had played, he would have recaptured form and confidence and gone on a run-scoring spree the like of which has never been seen before.
Why couldn’t they have held on for one more Test? Why couldn’t they have given Mominul Haque one more innings? Some people can’t see greatness even when it’s right in front of their eyes.28 Appeals
After losing the first Test to Pakistan, South Africa captain Graeme Smith said:
“It should hurt. But this team has too much ability to make this a habit.”
We immediately thought about the distinction between confidence and delusion and how the only real difference is what happens afterwards. These seemed hubristic words, but apparently this South Africa side isn’t ready to segue into cocky self-deception just yet.
Or maybe they’re just playing Pakistan. Believing you have any impact whatsoever on the outcome of a match against Pakistan could be considered delusional.
Pakistan coach, Dav Whatmore, said of his team’s 99 all out in the first innings of this second Test:
“We expected the opposition to come back strong, but I don’t think they did. We orchestrated most of our dismissals ourselves.”
It’s worth noting that last year, at the same venue, Pakistan were bowled out for 99 by England and won the Test by 71 runs. Pakistan never do the same thing twice, so they’ll definitely lose this one.12 Appeals
A secret source writes:
I thought this might interest you. It’s just like the 3am Girls in The Mirror, only with better grammar and more discussion about the state of County Championship wickets than they normally have.
Overheard at the gym at the weekend – a regular first-team Lancashire player chatting to some bloke. He was saying that there is a debate at Lancs about whether they need to do something about the pitch at Old Trafford. The idea is that the 75 championship-free years were largely a consequence of a lack of results on a flat, true (albeit fast) wicket, and that it was no coincidence that when Lancs won the title they played all their home matches at Aigburth. The flip side of the debate was, according to the player in question, that Lancs’ batsmen are so rubbish they need a good wicket not to look like idiots.
There is something to this. As a Test match wicket, Old Trafford is superb, and a result pitch more often than not. But, and again from the lips of this mystery player, to get a result you need three or four Test quality bowlers. Ordinary county bowlers can’t extract enough wickets, and have a day fewer in which to do it.20 Appeals
We won’t do this regularly because that would be boring, but we thought we’d at least let you know how week one of Cricket Badger went.
We picked up a couple of hundred subscribers – most within the first day. More pleasingly, we will have about 20 per cent more than that for the next newsletter. This presumably means that people liked what they received and forwarded it.
In some senses, it doesn’t really matter how many people are reading. However, when you’re sending text into the ether it’s quite difficult to get a sense of how things are being received, so this amounts to good feedback. Thanks to all who have subscribed and double thanks to those who forwarded it.13 Appeals
Bailout made an unusually strong and comprehensive argument in favour of Stuart Matsikenyeri when we requested names of players whose continued selection seems inexplicable. However, Ishant Sharma was mentioned more frequently.
Sharma seems to be the subject of much scrutiny at the minute. A Cricinfo article about him last week was rendered all but redundant by a blunt and brutal subheading which told the whole story:
“Ishant Sharma has been a disappointment in ODIs, proving ineffective with new ball and old for the majority of his six-year career”
Yesterday, he was taken apart as if he were a national health service, with James Faulkner in the role of right-wing politician. With Australia needing 44 off three overs, Faulkner scored 30 off Sharma, who somewhat disappointingly didn’t bowl any wides or no-balls to extend the destruction.
MS Dhoni says that his bowlers don’t need to be spoon-fed. Presumably, Sharma is currently being fed through a straw.21 Appeals
No-one comes here for the clever headlines, right?
As most of you know, Pakistan did indeed win the first Test against South Africa, doing so in typically Pakistani style. Chasing 40 to win, they fell to 7-3. At this point, Misbah-ul-Haq, who continually strives to be the most dour batsmen in the world, hit 28 off 26 balls, finishing things with a six.
The question now is whether Pakistan can somehow engineer a series defeat after going one up with just one Test to play. We reckon they can – which means they won’t.
Asked to assess his side’s bowling performance, Misbah-ul-Haq said:
“With Pakistan, it’s a mental game.”
You can decide for yourself which meaning he intended there.25 Appeals
So, technically, one-day cricket isn’t ‘all about hitting sixes these days’ because India won.
Australia made 359-5 and India skittered to 362-1 in 43.3 overs in reply. Rohit Sharma hit a hundred and looked quite angry about it. Virat Kohli hit a 52-ball hundred and looked extraordinarily angry about it. Shikhar Dhawan failed shamefully, making only 95, and looked fairly nonplussed about it.
James Faulkner took the wicket, but on this occasion successfully resisted the temptation to try and poke Brad Haddin’s eye out during the celebrations.19 Appeals
Frank Skinner often talks about there being different ‘seats’ for public figures. The premise is that there are certain timeless jokes which require a well-known figure with certain characteristics for the punchline and there always has to be someone to fulfil that role. The person may change, but the joke does not. There is a thick seat, a fat seat and a load of others we can’t remember off the top of our head.
The same applies in cricket. You want a cricketer who loves his food – you’ll probably still go for Mike Gatting. You want to say something about innocuous Kiwi all-rounders – Chris Harris.
We sometimes find need to call upon the person sitting in a seat which could be labelled: ‘Terrible cricketer who somehow keeps getting recalled to play for his country even though he is almost entirely without ability and there are plenty of better options available’.
Up until this week, that seat was occupied by Ajit Agarkar. But alas, no longer, for he has retired from cricket many years too late.
Which occasional international cricketer could possibly replace him?48 Appeals
This is the conclusion we’ve reached. Far from being a see-saw on a roundabout in an earthquake, Pakistan cricket is actually very stable. It’s just that different branches of it have to compensate when there’s upheaval elsewhere so that the whole remains perfectly balanced.
Last month, Pakistan lost a Test to Zimbabwe. At the time, Zimbabwe weren’t even ranked bottom of the Test teams. In fact, they weren’t listed because they hadn’t played enough matches in recent years. Some people said it was an encouraging performance, but really we all know that it was just Pakistan.
Most teams would have had their confidence dented by something like that. Pakistan barely noticed. Instead, they moved onto a Test series against the best team in the world with complete conviction that they would win and are currently building a large first innings lead.
Meanwhile, their cricket board has been dissolved.
This is the way it works. It’s like air trapped under wallpaper. You squash down the chaos bubble in the Test arena and it pops up in administration. We can only assume that during the Zimbabwe defeat, the board was operating smoothly, pausing only to light joss sticks and meditate.10 Appeals