Five! A full five!
This would appear to be the upside to the fact that Test cricket is pretty much only played by England, Australia and India these days. We finally get a full length series that isn’t the Ashes. When did that last happen?
No, really – when? We can’t be bothered doing the research.
There will be three Tests in the South-East and two in the rest of the UK. Feel free to have an argument about that in the comments.
We propose that all future Tests be played near the birthplaces of British-born Test cricketers who would be in the first XI at the time the fixtures were agreed. That currently gives us a surprisingly broad choice of Gloucester, Sheffield, Coventry, Bradford, Nottingham, Northampton, Burnley and either Pontefract or Watford, depending on whether Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn gets the nod.
These places have earned the right to host Tests. Everywhere else clearly doesn’t love cricket enough to be considered.
Update: With six days the longest gap between Tests, fans attending the later matches will be delighted at the prospect of seeing several of each nation’s best cricketers.37 Appeals
Aaron Finch and sixes. That’s the story of the first Twenty20 international between England and Australia. Finch hit the first ball he faced over the ropes and pretty much stuck with that approach, hitting 14 sixes in all. He even managed to push one over point while falling onto his knees.
Finch looks like a Twenty20 batsman and we don’t mean in terms of the way he plays. We mean physically. He’s a short-arse with a huge upper body. They’re like fleshy barrels with legs, these guys.
Bats may be more powerful these days, but so are the batsmen. It’s about being fit for purpose. Once upon a time, sixes were barely a consideration, but nowadays a whole career can be built around them. Even if you don’t go quite that far, you still need to bear sixes in mind when training, so that means lifting weights as well as spending time in the nets.
If you want to know how much of a difference strength can make, take a look at Joe Root’s innings. He scored 90 off 49 balls. He played an absolute blinder, but he couldn’t exploit great conditions and great form to the same extent that Finch could. He hit just one six, but 13 fours, many of which were lofted shots.
We can expect Root to increase in size in coming years. That’s just the way it is, these days. He’ll never be Shane Watson (in any sense) but he’ll have some sort of strength programme to stick to. Look at the relatively slow twitch Alastair Cook as an example of this. Even he’s straining his shirt sleeves these days.
Are there any downsides to this?
In cycling, some guys have more fast twitch muscle, which means they are heavier and can’t climb as quickly. Other riders are lighter as they have a greater proportion of slow twitch muscle, but the pay-off is that they can’t win sprint finishes. Everyone has a strength. Everyone has a weakness.
Cricket doesn’t revolve around physiology to quite the same extent as cycling, but we are increasingly seeing a split between endurance batsmen and power hitters simply because of the way the game is going. A lot of the difference is mental, but as we can see, it’s physical too. For those batsmen who appear in all formats, it’s worth asking whether increased physical size might compromise their performance in the longer formats.
Arguably, having to heave a few extra kilograms up and down the wicket might lead to greater fatigue at the end of a long day, but for the most part few batsmen are going to gain a huge amount of weight through weight training. Root, for example, isn’t predisposed to developing fast twitch muscles, so he’s not likely to be greatly affected by this.
It’s an interesting question though
At least it is to us. A lot is written about the impact of Twenty20 on techniques and attitudes and most of us are now familiar with both positive and negative effects. But what of the impact on physiology? A tired body tends to equal a tired mind, so Test performances could be compromised in more ways than one.
When England do the bleep test, Alastair Cook is the last to drop and it is not a coincidence that he’s one of the very best at playing long innings. Every time he or his partner takes a run, he must accelerate and then stop his entire body weight. When he spends an entire day in the field, he’s frequently doing something similar.
Aerobic fitness matters in Test cricket. It is an endurance sport. Do some Test batsmen pay a price for carrying muscle they rarely use?21 Appeals
There’s always an Ashes cash-in game. The latest is somewhat unsurprisingly titled Ashes Cricket 2013.
Only it’s not out yet.
As far as we can tell, they decided they’d make the game from scratch, rather than doing the usual thing of updating the database and recording three more lines of commentary for the previous version. As a consequence, it isn’t finished. They’ve basically said that they could have released it, but after giving it a quick go, it turned out to be rubbish. That’s unusually considerate of them and fortunately the 2013/14 Ashes provides a second deadline, so maybe something will appear then.
Sadly, there is further bad news in that the game will feature official licensed Australian and English cricket teams, so there won’t be any amusing near-miss names. No Shaun Whiston. No Bert Jackson. No Jenny Bristow. No Kelvin Pieterswoggle.16 Appeals
Everyone’s reviewing the Ashes. It’s a bit tiresome, so we thought we’d instead review our preview. It amounts to much the same thing, but don’t tell anyone. The subheadings link to the original previews should you wish to do what pretty much no-one does and read more than one page of this website in a single sitting.
We implied that Shane Watson could be a dangerous batsman as well as a figure of fun. He was both. We expected Chris Rogers to do well. he did. We thought Ed Cowan would ‘do a job’. He did. He carried the drinks.
We didn’t really feel it necessary to say much about Michael Clarke. Using logic, we deduced that Phil Hughes would pretty much do nowt. He pretty much did nowt. We were fairly non-committal about David Warner and Steven Smith and actually, we stand by that. While Steve Smith played a couple of decent innings, he still looks a bit of a mess at times and overall 345 runs at 38 shouldn’t be much cause for celebration. We don’t even remember Usman Khawaja playing now, so can’t comment on what we said about him, which mostly seemed to revolve around aeroplanes anyway.
Brad Haddin averaged 22, but his child-minding was excellent.
We said that even though Nathan Lyon wasn’t the best bowler in history, he was the best option for Australia and if they could stop fantasising for five minutes, they would realise that he would do a better job than any of the alternatives. But it was easy for us to spot that, what with having access to all these resources which are unavailable to Australia’s coach, selectors and media. If they’d had access to a bike pump; dense, carpet-like head hair; unopened post; and a smoke alarm with a flat battery; maybe they too could have spotted this not-at-all-blindingly-obvious fact. Lyon performed competently and Australia need to acknowledge that this is the absolute best possible outcome as far as their spin bowling is concerned.
We reserved judgement on Ryan Harris, but he was actually very good. We thought Peter Siddle would do a good, solid job. He did. Unlike the world, we suspected that the younger seam bowlers wouldn’t do a right lot. They didn’t do a right lot. James Pattinson, the saviour of Australian cricket, took seven wickets at 44. Mitchell Starc was a real mixed bag but somehow emerged with 11 wickets at 32. Jackson Bird looked steady in his one Test, which Australia lost.
A decent series for Michael Clarke (age 32 – spinal age, 71), Chris Rogers (36 this week) and Ryan Harris (33). There were contributions from other people, but the foundations for progress might start showing signs of subsiding before too long.22 Appeals
It’s one-day squad announcement day! It’s when we get to find out some of the players that England are sort of maybe half-interested in for proper cricket at some indeterminate point in the future!
But actually, it’s not as clear-cut as that. A one-day squad is actually a blend of potential future Test players and also those who have already been tarred by the coarse and unforgiving bristles of the ‘short format specialist’ brush.
A bit of labelling
Take the stand-in captain, for example. Originally a short format specialist, Eoin Morgan became someone considered for Tests for a period and now no-one’s quite sure where he stands. Michael “Mike” Carberry arrives at the same place from a different direction. He’s easing his way back into England squads, but how far will he ease?
We’re not exactly sure where Ben Stokes stands either and there’s unexpected uncertainty surrounding James Tredwell’s status what with all the pish bowling and pish spraying that has afflicted back-up Test spinners in the last week or so.
We get the vibe that they have Boyd Rankin in mind primarily as a Test bowler, but we could be wrong.
Luke Wright is a one-day specialist.
Then there are players whose selection smacks of general fact-finding. Jamie Overton has 19 one-day wickets, but has attracted a bit of excitement. Chris Jordan has 47 one-day wickets, although we seemed to find ourself mentioning him quite a lot earlier in the season, back when we were on top of county cricket.
On that subject, we’ll catch up with the County Championship at some point, we promise. But not today. By the flaxen locks of Mullally, not today. Have mercy on us, people.18 Appeals
The moment, when it came, was hugely exciting. Connoisseurs of booing had spent quite some time nervously anticipating it. A full series build-up and then a full day’s play where the prospect of a home win grew ever more likely. Just what would it sound like when Megatron finally turned up to spoil the party?
Before the sunset
After four days sitting in a comfortable armchair, sipping tea and watching repeats of Morse, England finally flung off their cardigan, kicked off their slippers and played some cricket on day five of the Oval Test. It was infuriating for the implication of what might have been.
Kevin Pietersen in particular showed that he is a better player when he moves quite some way towards the foolish end of the responsibility spectrum. Dead-batting his way to 100-and-odd ball fifties is no good to anyone. In contrast, when he calls on his full range of strokes, playing them only according to the field and bowling, you see why he’s so good and you also remember how he hands over a malleable bowling attack to the batsmen who follow him.
A 3-0 Ashes win is an excellent result, but England have been a reactive side. Australia have been proactive. It is wrong to cite the result as being justification for England’s approach, because a proactive England is not the same as a proactive Australia. Combine Australia’s approach with England’s ability to actually win and you’d have a decent cricket team.21 Appeals
Over rates and now run rates. England are in no hurry. Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t make for much of a spectacle.
A team batting for a draw can make for riveting entertainment, but it’s tension that makes the cricket so compelling. When a team is batting for a draw in their first innings, there is no tension. Quite frankly, if this is an actual policy from England, they deserve to lose.
The generous assessment is that they’re responding to circumstance; that they truly feel this is the best way to play on a slow pitch, chasing a big Australian total, with a 3-0 series lead. However, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that justifiable caution has spread like a virus inside the minds of the batsmen, cannibalising all other thoughts.
Stuart Broad spoke of throwing punches and ‘damaging players’ before this Test. Perhaps the second part of that was meant literally and England are hoping Australia’s bowlers develop stress fractures. The psychological damage inflicted could only possibly result from sensory deprivation.32 Appeals
We’ve been struggling with this for months and we’ve still not reached any firm conclusions. We asked an Australian friend for his view and he just said: “He’ll be fine,” which didn’t really help clarify things.
We’re probably verging towards this: In good conditions in the first innings, Smith’s head’s good enough to score runs; but in poor conditions or in the second innings, his method makes him a bit of a liability. But this view is by no means set in stone.
Appearances can be deceptive
We feel like we’re being misled by his hideous technique. Steve Smith appears to have a bat with a handle significantly longer than is the norm. It’s probably just that he wafts it around eight feet outside off stump when the bowler runs in like it’s a magic wand and he’s trying to make the point fielder disappear.
When the ball arrives, things pretty much sort themselves out, unless he’s pulling, in which case he for some reason does it with a high left elbow. It’s all a little odd, but odd’s not necessarily bad.
General physical weirdness
Maybe it’s just Smith in general. His double-elbow chicken dance bowling action is weird enough, but actually pretty much everything he does is weird. Even when he was whocking a six to reach his hundred, he sort of half fell over afterwards. Everything’s kind of clumsy and with there being no clear distinction between chin and neck, he really doesn’t look like an athlete.
Have you seen him run? Does he have a bad hip or something? He moves like an elderly woman. Watch him setting off for a quick single or trying to skip up the steps back to the pavilion. There’s an enormous discrepancy between the amount of effort he puts in and the return he gets on it. A huge, full body convulsion seems to result in him getting his foot about half an inch off the floor, like all the energy has dissipated somewhere along the way.
He scored some runs though and that’s happened a few times now. At some point we’ll come to terms with that.15 Appeals
One of the reasons why it’s been so enjoyable to watch Shane Watson’s hapless summer is because he generally looks like the kind of batsman who can rifle a long series of chanceless fours. Yesterday, he actually did this. His drives were crisper than neglected bacon blackening under the grill and his pulls were as percussive as Stomp.
There were a couple of wobbles. He was given not out LBW early on. If he had been given out and it had been reviewed, it would have been ‘umpire’s call’ and he would have been on his way. It’s odd to think that moment could just as easily have further contributed to his general air of front-legged uselessness. Instead, things turned out rather differently.
Later on, Broad hit him with a bouncer.
“I got lucky, because it hit me on the muscle, not on the skull.”
Those were the only two options.4 Appeals
How much does the ability to handle debut nerves have an impact on whether or not a player might one day thrive in Test cricket? Answer that question and you go a long way towards deciding how much attention to pay to the performances of Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.
We’d say that in general a debut shouldn’t be considered representative of a player’s ability. That said, it is something that needs to be overcome. Concede ten an over and you won’t be getting a second Test without first making a very compelling case in some other form of cricket.
Every player is different. Some arrive in Test cricket fully formed, secure in their abilities; others build confidence over time. The former are preferable in many respects, but frequently the latter surpass them once they’ve found their feet. You invest in players and with the potential for poor returns in the short-term, it’s important to be certain you’re investing correctly for the long-term.
One thing we’d say is that Shane Watson was struggling up until he came up against the debutants and afterwards, he wasn’t struggling any longer. That’s quite important when you look at what’s going on in this Test. Woakes and Kerrigan have a debt. Will they get a chance to work it off.14 Appeals