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Kane Williamson bats with the strength of many men

The sequence was completed: 292, 237, 133, 108. Descending scores as batting conditions became tougher and tougher.

Wait a minute. The first three of those are team scores. The last one isn’t. The sequence actually reads: 292, 237, 133, 189 – of which Kane Williamson alone contributed 108.

Fourth innings hundreds are rare. Fourth innings hundreds to win matches are rarer still. You might get a couple of declarations and then find yourself batting out time in the fourth innings and reach three figures in the process, but to achieve it when sides are being bowled out is another matter altogether.

Kane Williamson basically contributed an entire team’s performance as New Zealand won the second Test against Sri Lanka. Some would call this Herculean, but if you’re our age, it’s another man who’s synonymous with feats of strength. Kane Williamson’s performance was truly Capesian.

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More rehearsals before England face South Africa

A friend of ours once played the finest bum note we’ve ever heard while performing Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight at a wedding. It was the very last note and it only sounded so marvellously hideous because he’d played everything flawlessly up until that point. That’s how to get something wrong. Really build up to it. Lay the groundwork first.

South Africa have been in India, England have been in the UAE. Both sides will now do a light spot of shape-shifting ahead of what will almost certainly be a more seam-dominated series in Southafricaland.

If cricket is music – which it isn’t – this will be rather more than a key change. It’ll be more like the end of one track and the start of the next. The majority of the instruments will remain the same, but the tempo will change; there’ll be a bit more lead guitar and a little less emphasis on rhythm.

Dale Steyn has emerged from extensive groin-testing. Rumour has it he did upwards of nine star jumps. He will almost certainly be brilliant should he play and Steven Finn could also return for England. Finn being Finn that poses the perennial question as to whether he’ll do the thing that makes everyone fawn over him or simply lollop in and flop down 83mph disappointment.

The rumour is that England want to rescind first-class status for this week’s second warm-up match and make it another 13-a-side sham. What’s the first rule of training? Specificity. Try and ensure your preparation is as similar as possible to your target event. As close as you can get to a Test would be first-class cricket. The rules are one thing, but the threat to players’ batting and bowling averages also brings just the faintest whiff of the pressures they will subjected to during the grown-up stuff.

It’s easy to shrug off the odd bum note in rehearsals, but the stakes are higher when things are being recorded. It’s worth noting that we only know about the Not Quite So Wonderful Tonight aberration because it was caught on film.

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Neil Wagner isn’t perfect

There aren’t many media outlets where this would be headline news. It is here though. New Zealand’s fourth seamer isn’t flawless. Stop the press!

It may only have been the day before yesterday, but it already seems a long, long time since we suggested that Neil Wagner never lets you down. The ‘never’ was always an exaggeration; rhetoric, if you will. Now it’s hollow, empty rhetoric that doesn’t really seem to make much sense. The Wagnermeister, as no-one calls him, took 0-49 off seven overs on the first day of the second Test against Sri Lanka. That, ladies and gentlemen, is gash.

So not content with merely failing to back up our claims, it seems Wagner went out of his way to actively disprove them. He didn’t even manage to run in all day. Brendon McCullum didn’t let him, what with all the runs he was conceding.

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Alex Hales isn’t very warm

alex-hales

By all accounts, the door to Test selection has now been opened by Alex Hales. Barring injury he will take his place in the England side that will face South Africa on Boxing Day. He could do with warming up a bit though.

England’s first warm-up match, against a South African Invitational “XI”, saw him start lukewarm before cooling to tepid. Or maybe he started tepid and cooled to lukewarm. We’re not sure. He ended up at the cooler one though – eight off 42 balls (second innings) being limper than eight off 10 balls (first innings).

There are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, has Hales come down with a case of the Jos Buttlers even before making his Test debut?

The self-aware, ruminative part of Jos Buttler’s brain increasingly paralysed him in Test cricket over the last year, denying him the ability to play the natural game which apparently didn’t come quite as naturally to him as everyone seemed to believe. Is Hales suffering from something similar?

We always maintain that there is no pressure quite so intense as that which is self-applied. If Alex Hales considers Test cricket to be the real deal and his major ambition, maybe he’s already feeling the weight of his own expectations. Perhaps this pair of fat ladies foreshadows Test subsidence to come.

The second way of looking at things is of course that warm-up matches are a meaningless load of balls and so performances within them are also a meaningless load of balls. This does of course beg the question why they are played at all, but who’s to say that isn’t a perfectly valid question to ask?

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Neil Wagner never lets you down

He’s like an old pair of walking socks, a sturdy side table or a functioning fridge. He doesn’t set your world alight, but at least your feet are warm, your brew is well supported and your veg hasn’t gone off.

Last week, against Sri Lanka, Neil Wagner took 3-87 and 2-56. This is pretty much the archetypal Wagnerian performance: plenty of legwork, a handful of wickets, but nothing too headline grabbing. At one point he was clocked at 160km/h but it turned out to be interference from a seagull. No, really.

We once gave Neil Wagner an award for his commitment to bustling fast-medium bowling in the face of being stereotyped as a bustling fast-medium bowler. He’d run through a wall for you would Neil. He just keeps on running in.

Sometimes, in his boisterousness, he bowls himself off his feet and onto the floor, seemingly unaware that in doing so he’s flirting with self parody. Good on him. Who cares if people think you’re Angus Fraser with a surfeit of enthusiasm. Being Angus Fraser with a surfeit of enthusiasm is a good thing.

He’s not in the first XI, but Wagner never really seems to let New Zealand down. He comes in when someone’s injured and he does a job. It’s not necessarily an eye-catching job, but it’s a job. It’s putting petrol in the car. It’s taking the recycling out. It’s scouring that oven tray with all the burnt-on crud. You may only have middling expectations, but Neil Wagner reliably meets them.

Neil Wagner.

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The names and numbers of a modern cricket tour match

Back in the day, amateurs were given full initials, professionals surname only.

Either would be preferable to what we get nowadays:

Most Twitter names are similar to the player’s name, but some are only just about recognisable, while a select few are basically random selections of letters and numbers. Don’t forces us to deduce players’ identities. Use their actual names. People haven’t got time for deduction in this fast-paced modern world.

People clearly haven’t got time for addition either. The above tweet comes from a match between an England XI and a South African Invitational XI.

Both teams will field 13 players.

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Is Darren Sammy running away from this streaker?

Or is he running towards him?

Darren-Sammy

Is it even Darren Sammy?

Who knows? Not us – although we’ve named the image file Darren-Sammy.jpg, so that’s quite a big commitment. Never let it be said that we aren’t a risk-taker.

The photo’s from 2007. If you’re wondering why we’re publishing eight year old photos of West Indies players confronting or fleeing from streakers, it’s because all the coverage of the current West Indies tour is depressing and we eventually concluded that we didn’t have anything we wanted to say.

This post feels a bit flimsy. Maybe we could make a joke referring to that ‘Changing energy?’ advert; something about the guy running out of energy halfway through getting changed.

No, with hindsight, we should have just left things where they were. That last paragraph’s only made things worse.

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Middlesex v Worcestershire at Uxbridge – match report

celebratory-ice-cream

Dumbo, Ged’s Suzuki Jimny writes:

Not all that long after taking Ged and Daisy to Ireland, where I got to watch my first snippet of a cricket match at Clontarf CC, Ged asked me to take him to Uxbridge to see day two of Middlesex v Worcestershire. I was very excited about this prospect, as it was proper first class cricket and I hoped I’d get to see a lot more cricket than I ended up seeing at Clontarf.

We set off ridiculously late for the game. Ged insisted on doing work in the morning and then doing some exercise at the gym at lunchtime before setting off, so by the time we got to Uxbridge it was gone 3pm and more than half the day’s cricket was done. We listened to the commentary on the internet radio on the way out to the ground. Ged said that it sounded quite tedious, but that anyway his main purpose that afternoon was to finish reading a book, The Utopia of Rules. I asked Ged what the book was about. He said it was a socialist perspective on the anthropology of bureaucracy, so I was none the wiser and wished I hadn’t asked.

When we arrived at Uxbridge, I expected to drive up to the boundary and watch the match, just as I had at Clontarf, but an official pointed me to another field, some distance from the first-class pitch with no view at all. Ged said he was powerless to intervene on my behalf. Ged should know; he’s reading the book on bureaucracy.

Ged also said that he wanted to have a photo of himself taken eating an ice cream, as a celebratory joke to send to the advertising people who, bizarrely, contacted Ged while we were in Ireland wanting to license some clips from the old Ladd family home movies. Ged’s Dad is slapping on the tanning oil in this advert. That’s Ged and his Mum looking daft on a Fredalo in this vine. Some of us actually have to earn our living.

It was a glorious afternoon when we arrived, but it soon clouded over and there was a really cold wind. Ged said afterwards that he enjoyed his ice-cream, especially as his friend, Frank Poole, had insisted on buying Ged the treat as well as taking the celebratory photograph. Ged and Frank had a nice chat while walking around eating their ice creams in the sunshine. Ged started the afternoon in shirtsleeves, but soon had to layer up with a jumper and thick jacket, yet still felt cold sitting reading his book, which was, apparently, a chilling enough read even without the cold wind. So we stopped off at Harry Morgan’s, near Lord’s, on the way home, as Ged said he needed some hot chicken soup to warm and cheer himself up. Bless.

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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T20s, ODIs and Tests – it’s all cricket, so why not treat them as one?

In an interview with George Dobell for Cricinfo, the outgoing chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Angus Porter, suggests that men’s cricket could adopt the points method used in women’s cricket where success in T20Is, ODIs and Tests is combined to decide the best side.

Not the worst idea of all time.

One of the major issues in the sport is that we frequently have tours where one nation overwhelmingly cares about one-dayers while the opposition only really cares about Tests. They’re not different. It’s all cricket. Why not draw the formats together, rather than pitting them against each other?

For all the talk about how we can revive the ailing longer format with day-night cricket and some form of Test championship, the truth is that cricket, in a broader sense, is in relatively rude health – so why not exploit that?

Cricket is all about diversity: different pitches, different weather, different approaches to batting, different types of bowler – and yes, even different durations of match. It makes perfect sense to treat it all as one.

You want every match to have context? How about if all those meaningless one-dayers and dead-rubber Tests contributed to establishing which is the best team at cricket?

A World Test Championship? So limiting. Why not have a World Cricket Championship? Everyone could get behind that.

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Mop-up of the day – runs down south

After day-night Tests, the latest innovation in the ongoing Australia v New Zealand Test series has been additional opponents. Sri Lanka and the West Indies have been drafted in to keep things fresh, but they couldn’t tip the balance. Australia still had marginally the better day.

New Zealand would have felt confident of finishing the first day in the ascendancy after making 409-8. That is a lot of runs to make on any day of a Test match, let alone the first. However, Australia struck back with 438-3 and it’s hard to see how the Kiwis can haul things back from there.

AB de Villiers’ new hobby

Cricinfo reports that vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers, will ‘keep wickets’ for the first two Tests against England – although they do not specify how many. It is a little-known fact, but keeping and raising wickets is de Villiers’ new pastime. He says it helps him get away from the game and relax and he’s looking to become a professional breeder when he retires. De Villiers was of course a schoolboy wicket-breeding champion.

There are also rumours that as well as becoming a wicketskeeper, he might fill-in as wicketkeeper. This may seem a strange decision, but it could be a quota thing. Clearly, you always want at least one AB de Villiers in your side – that’s not the issue. It’s more that de Villiers’ selection as keeper may be a means of allowing other players to be picked.

It strikes us that Imran Tahir has been dropped and if Tahir is out, maybe someone else has to come in. Assuming the first-choice seam attack for the first two Tests will comprise Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott, South Africa presumably need to bring in a batsman to ‘balance the side’.

Vernon Philander’s due to return for the third Test, incidentally.

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