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England – select patient

This would be the slogan of England under Trevor Bayliss if they went to a crappy marketing company and paid them a billion pounds for branding.

That’s how you do slogans these days. You make them grammatically jarring. That’s the old rope you get for your stacks of cash.

Here’s just a few recent examples we’ve spotted.

  • Live colourful – Bulmers
  • Drive confident – VW Polo
  • Breathe happy – Febreze
  • Play beautiful – Fifa 16
  • Find your happy – Rightmove

Great system, guys. Worth every penny.

In England’s case, the meaning behind the wrong words is Bayliss’s stated belief that you should always give a player one too many matches rather than one too few.

Just as well really. The fourth Test against South Africa has thus far been characterised by all the more marginal selections doing just about nothing to secure their places.

One wicket for Chris Woakes, 15 runs for Alex Hales, 19 runs for Nick Compton, 14 runs for James Taylor and a bunch of dropped catches by Jonny Bairstow. Just as well for their sakes that England select patient – although it would be nice if at least one of them did a bit of something in the second innings.

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Shivnarine Chanderpaul – the last great West Indies cricketer

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

The world’s coaching manuals can breathe a sigh of relief because the greatest dissident of modern times has officially called it a day. No-one who remains will question them quite so persuasively. Cricket’s lost a lot.

The start and end

When Shivnarine Chanderpaul made his Test debut, he did so in a team containing Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. When he played his final Test, he came in after Marlon Samuels, a man who continues to be selected despite averaging just 33.

We’ve worked in a company like that. At the start, it was a vibrant place full of expertise. By the end, a guy who was found to have sold company data was retained because he cried when he was caught and seemed like he was sorry about it. The IT manager discovered a dead bird in the server and thought the best way of disposing of it would be to try and flush it down the toilet. The company was dying and these were by no means the least-qualified people remaining. The guy who spent the morning reclining on his office chair with his foot in the bin almost certainly was.

Imagine finding yourself in that situation. Imagine the impact on your motivation and professionalism of being surrounded by a confederacy of dunces. Do something well and most wouldn’t even be qualified to recognise it. We get a sense that was the world in which Shivnarine Chanderpaul eventually found himself. But yet where most of us would rush to the exit, Shiv ploughed on – the last great West Indies cricketer.

The last?

Hopefully that won’t prove to be the case, hopefully there will be a resurgence, but it seems unlikely at present. At best, Shiv’s retirement snaps the last thin thread to what is now undeniably a previous era.

Excuse us if we resort to a series of links to mark his departure, but we’ve already invested a lot of time in writing about him. Even if he himself rarely got any kind of payback for the long hours he invested at the crease, we’re not keen to pay tribute by doing likewise.

He deserves better than the written equivalent of a frenzied T20 knock, so here are some of our long form innings about him.

The man who wrote his own textbook in illegible handwriting

Rickets, Chomsky, Shane Watson talking bollocks and the art of persisting for long enough that eventually the world changes shape to accommodate you. Shiv was our final King of Cricket for All Out Cricket.

The eternal watchfulness of Chanderpaul

A tribute in the wake of his 10,000th Test run, written for Cricinfo. It’s basically just 11 different ways of describing that magnificent technique of his. Also includes a Sopranos quote.

Lord Megachief of Gold 2007

The highest honour in international cricket.

Grand Lord Megachief of Gold 2008

The only man to win the highest honour in cricket two years in a row.

How to mark this occasion

How should we should pay tribute to this most magnificent of cricketers? Perhaps we should adopt one aspect of his technique and employ it in our daily life. Today, in honour of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, try and do something – anything – unexpected with your elbows. Let us know how you get on.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

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Stephen Cook takes care of the present

There was a classic Bob Willis moment during the third Test when Charles Colvile asked the lugubrious pundit about South Africa’s then opening batsman.

“Well you know my opinion on Stiaan Van Zyl, Charles,” responded Bob – because having repeatedly voiced that opinion throughout the series, he no longer needed to state it explicitly. After a pause to let the implied criticism sink in with the audience, he followed up with: “He can’t bat.”

So blunt, so needless, so perfectly, wonderfully Bob Willis. And as ever, the effect was magnified by his unhurried delivery and a general demeanour that gave the impression  he was personally insulted Van Zyl had had the temerity to accept an offer to play Test cricket.

Bob Willis.

We commented earlier today that middle-order batsmen are ten a penny. Good openers are not, as England have been proving for the last couple of years.

With the Van Zyl experiment a failure, South Africa have now been reduced to picking the man widely accepted to be the best opening batsman in the country. It’s a strange thing to be reduced to, but it’s largely an age thing. At 33, Stephen Cook isn’t a long-term solution, However, on this evidence he will at least buy them some time.

Stephen Cook is of course the son of Stephen Cook, who thoughtfully planned ahead and ensured he made use of the name Jimmy from an early age to avoid confusion. Those of a certain age will remember Jimmy Cook as being a guy who was generally at the top of the county batting averages each season.

Stephen isn’t that good, but he didn’t make a duck on Test debut, like his dad did. He’s also better than Stiaan Van Zyl, which is the main thing.

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James Taylor at short leg

Sky just broadcast a slow-mo of James Taylor plucking the ball out of his arse. That’s what it looked like anyway. Kneeling down, he reached behind him and lo, there it was.

South Africa were doubtless already wary of Taylor’s short leg fielding after a couple of shots ended up in his hands off the face of the bat in the previous Test. Apparently it’s not just his hands you need to worry about though.

On this occasion, Taylor saw Dean Elgar shaping to clip the ball to leg and, predicting the path of the ball, scuttled across to cover it in the style of Doctor Zoidberg. Presenting his disproportionately massive cojones as some sort of target, he then took the catch via thigh, midriff and possibly even ankle as his legs clamped around the ball. He then retrieved it from its fleshy prison between his legs as a final flourish.

Taylor may be small, but as we all know, things seem much larger when they’re up close. He’s hard to ignore at short leg and as an opposition batsman, it must be tempting to simply rule out the quarter of the field that lies beyond him.

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Happy birthday to King Cricket

One of our old logos.

One of our old logos.

Our first reader got in touch with us this week – a man who once went by the name of The Scientician. Some of you may remember him from his shocking exposé of Jaffa Cakes as a sports snack.

The Scientician pointed out to us that we’re 10. We don’t mean in the ‘your mental age is 10′ kind of way – although people do say that kind of thing to us as well.

No, he meant that this website is ten. We started it in January 2006 (albeit at a different web address). That’s ten years ago. The site’s so old that people actually arrived at it via Ask Jeeves.

As The Scientician said in a follow-up email, which we’ll reproduce in full.

“Time…”

He’s got a point. On this domain alone, there’s been over 3,000 posts, over 40,000 comments and well over a million deleted spam comments (genuinely). We also knocked out over a thousand posts on the old Blogspot site in little more than a year. Them were the days.

So how did it all begin?

Er, we’re not entirely sure actually.

We’ve a vague notion that we’d sent The Scientician an email, or quite possibly even an actual letter, and that this had led him to utter the immortal words: “You should write.”

We’ve no real memory of what that particular missive was about. We’re pretty sure it included curlews, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. The important thing is that he told us to write and we listened to him.

We asked what we should write and where. He told us to start a website because that was what someone semi-famous had done and they’d got a job out of it.

So we started a website and soon enough we got a job and arguably even what passes for a career out of it.

The end.

Except it isn’t, because we’re just going to carry on the same as always.

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