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Pakistan are slightly number one

If there is one great benefit to the ongoing turmoil at the top of the ICC’s Test rankings, it is that it is slowly starting to dawn on people that rankings are relative. Top can mean ‘out on your own, everyone else trailing in your wake’ or it can mean ‘hurray, it rained in Port of Spain’.

Pakistan being top does at least provide a better narrative than any of the alternatives. These itinerant cricketers have had more to conquer, so their narrow superiority seems less offensive to the somewhat unhinged types liable to get upset about the rankings.

Unusually for the current cricket world, Misbah ul Haq’s Pakistan also seem to possess the capacity to learn. After arriving in England early, because they were hugely inexperienced in these conditions, they got to grips with how to go about things and drew the series. Similarly, a year ago, they turned a second Sri Lanka tour into an opportunity to make amends when it could so easily have ended up as more of the same.

Their 2014 tour saw Rangana Herath doing the Rangana Herath thing, plodding his way to 23 wickets in two Tests to take Sri Lanka to victory. “We’re not having that,” said Pakistan and second time around they allowed him just two wickets and he was dropped for the third Test.

Compared to other modern sides, Pakistan are unusually disposed to fighting back. Let’s say it’s something to do with being forged in adversity. If nothing else, that at least allows us to characterise Australia, England and India as pampered prima donnas in comparison – and who wouldn’t want to do that?

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What are they feeding them in Northamptonshire?

It must be very calorifically dense. Earlier in the year, we pointed out that Rory Kleinveldt’s nickname could never be Kleinsvelte, but the South African doesn’t appear to be an outlier. He plays in a muscular-yet-flabby team that appears to be getting most its protein from pork belly and fried chicken.

But great weight is better able to carry that most vital of all cricket commodities – momentum. Despite the efforts of the frequently-mentioned-on-this-website-this-season Keaton Jennings, they swanned to the T20 Blast title with aplomb. Shit trophy though. Seeing Alex Wakely hold aloft a big metal Natwest logo seemed odd in the extreme.

We missed much of the final. Our abiding memory of Finals Day will therefore be the contribution of Durham’s Mark Wood in the semi-final against Yorkshire. Joe Root – a handy batsman – was beaten multiple times, while his England colleagues Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance were both comprehensively dismissed.

Northamptonshire aren’t afraid of Wood fire though. Anything but. All it did was encourage them to think of their victory pizzas.

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I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It

Welcome to ‘I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It,’ our innovative new feature in which we ask someone who hates cricket about cricket.

How do you feel about becoming King Cricket’s largely uninformed cricket correspondent?

Don’t care. I only did it because you said I definitely wouldn’t. Now I’m a bit annoyed because I thought it might be fun but have since realised it’s going to be a pain in the arse. Every time you send an email I’ll be thinking, ‘Oh God, I bet this is about cricket.’

So, ‘bit annoyed’ is the most accurate answer.

We’ve ended up being called King Cricket on the site. Do you want a pseudonym?

Yeah, I don’t want my real name used. You can name me if you can think of anything.

Prince something, Viscount something?

Prince Prefab.

Name a cricketer, Prince Prefab.

I will name all the cricketers I know the names of. No google cheating. Just so you know what you are dealing with.

Beefy, Gower, Atherton, Monty Panesar, Rob Key, Pietersen, Joe Root, Viv Richards, Flintoff, Rodney Redmond, Boris Johnson, Boycott. That’s it.

We’re going to call bullshit on Rodney Redmond. Do you have a favourite cricket memory?

I have two.

My dad trying to teach me to bowl every summer despite the fact I grew worse annually. I once bowled a tennis ball over the roof of the garage after following his detailed instructions on how to bowl overarm. He gave up at that point.

The other one is being taken to watch a local match. He went into the bar after a few overs and brought me out a coke and salt and vinegar French Fries [he means the crisps ]  which I ate on top of a pile of gravel to the side of the pitch (ground?).

My mum drove past after taking my gran home from Saturday tea, saw me and, disgusted with him, took me straight home, leaving him to think I’d been kidnapped.

Good of the local club to provide a pile of gravel to ensure a better vantage point. When did you last watch cricket and was there a gravel seating area?

I watched the winning moment on the news when we won the Ashes a few years ago and they all went to Downing Street the next day and pissed on the flowers in the back garden.

My running route takes me past a cricket pitch and I glance over there during the summer months but either they’re so slow or I’m so fast that by the time I’m past usually nowt has happened.

Should Alex Hales be dropped?

The song he would have playing when he comes out to bat is Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia.

Of course he should be dropped.

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A new recurring King Cricket feature!

Sometimes it’s good to introduce another voice. It’s not just about presenting alternative opinions, it’s also about changing the dynamic. Another viewpoint can make you see things in another way and that can bring a sense of freshness to proceedings.

The mainstream cricket media relies on a wide array of voices. Different players bring different areas of expertise or the perspective borne of having played in a different era. TV and radio commentary sees batsmen thrown together with bowlers and older players teamed up with those who have more recently retired. Most obviously, players from other Test playing nations are brought in to deliver greater insight into the touring team.

Here at King Cricket, we also thought that it would be interesting to bring an alternative perspective to the site. While many of you contribute via match reports or in the comments, there is a certain degree of like-mindedness inherent in being a regular reader of this site. We therefore sought out someone rather different.

It struck us that the easiest way to get an unusual perspective – one not really seen in other cricket publications – would be to speak to someone who doesn’t particularly follow cricket; someone who perhaps even actively dislikes it.

Tomorrow morning (Friday), we will bring you the first instalment of our new recurring feature, ‘I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It.”

It’s basically just us asking someone who hates cricket about cricket. That, to us, seemed infinitely more interesting than hearing the opinions of someone quite well-informed on the subject.

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The Nottinghamshire Nosedives – another fairly half-arsed County Championship round-up

17th August table

Some really important stuff to come on this site later in the week, so let’s crack on with this. First things first – what the hell are Surrey doing in third?

They beat Warwickshire

It’s not really happened for Warwickshire so far this year – and this with Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott playing nearly every match as well. Against Surrey, they cobbled together 247 in their first innings, which was fine because Surrey had made much the same, but then their cobbling skills departed and they were bowled out for 169 in the second dig. Surrey had made 390 in the meantime so that was nowhere near enough.

Sam Curran took 5-42 in Warwickshire’s first innings and made 62 in Surrey’s second. It was all a bit ‘everyone chipping in’ other than that.

Middlesex beat Durham

At Lord’s as well, which is quite unusual this season. Durham were oddly piss-poor and lost by an innings. Ollie Rayner took nine wickets, which is more than handy. Nicks Gubbins and Compton made hundreds.

Yorkshire drew with Lancashire

And in all honesty were on the receiving end insofar as that’s possible in a draw. The alphabet-straddling AZ Lees made a hundred but was comprehensively outdone by his Lancastrian opposite number, Haseeb Hameed, who made two. The lad’s obviously going to play for England at some point, but when? He wouldn’t be the first batsman to follow up a cracking debut season with a shonky second one.

Hampshire beat Nottinghamshire

Bad news for Notts who are now somehow bottom. They seem to have a lot of very good players who aren’t playing particularly well. Brad Wheal took six wickets for Hampshire in the fourth innings. He’s one of them Saffers with a British passport, like everyone else in county cricket.

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Shaun Marsh and his duck tax

It’s common for people to ask: if Shaun Marsh is the answer, what is the question? As often as not, the question is “who’s the selectorial equivalent of a last desperate roll of the dice?”

Australia have not been making runs in Sri Lanka. In the first two Tests their scores were 203, 161, 106 and 183. Against that backdrop, a duck from a top order batsman doesn’t feel too costly – and if there’s a one in ten chance that the duck-scorer might instead make a hundred, you might as well take a punt. Enter Shaun Marsh.

Selecting Marsh is all about what might happen; very rarely about what probably will happen. In Tests, he makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. His first-class record meanwhile is not much better than reasonable, so there aren’t really grounds for optimism there either. You select Shaun Marsh in hope. It’s quite heart-warming in a way.

The problem for Australia is that Marsh inclusion also comes with a cost. For every “he’s finally cracked it!” there’s a long stretch of “oh no, he hasn’t” to bring the world back into order.

The selectors appear to be onto him however. In December, he made 182 against the West Indies. He was then dropped. This has seemingly allowed him to pay his duck tax in the nets because upon his return to the side, he’s made another hundred.

Or maybe this is all part of the Marsh masterplan. Two hundreds in two Test innings might earn him a long stretch in the side to disprove himself. It’s inadvisable to commit to dice-rolling in the long-term.

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Seven things we learned from England v Pakistan

 

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

We’ve been trying to provide some sort of pithy and insightful summary of the Test series for 24 hours now, but it’s not really happening. We’ll instead content ourself with a vague collage of observations. If these are our workings-out, maybe you can provide the conclusion yourself.

Specialists and all-rounders

If you need someone to bat at seven or bowl right-arm fast-medium, England are spoilt for choice. However, if you want a specialist batsman, a fast bowler or a spinner, you’d be better off looking to the tourists.

England had more batsmen, but fewer effective specialist run-scorers. Despite greater numbers, they also had less diversity in their bowling attack.

If Moeen Ali could avoid being clattered for six…

Moeen emerged from the series with a better strike-rate than almost all the specialist bowlers. Blind yourself to the rate at which he concedes runs and he’s a very effective spinner. His stellar batting is an excellent distraction, but not quite blinding.

James Anderson has lost a quarter of a yard of pace

We don’t normally take claims that bowlers have ‘lost their nip’ too seriously because pace often varies from one match to the next. The difference with Anderson is that he said himself that he was down on pace in the second Test and then didn’t really seem to recover it. If he can retain a viable bouncer, he’ll probably be okay. Pace isn’t everything – but it is something.

Beware the out-of-form old pro

Younus Khan’s had it. Look at him. Look at the state of him.

Oh.

Beware the conquered leg-spinner

Yasir Shah hasn’t posed a threat since Lord’s. He doesn’t spin it. England have worked him out.

Oh.

Looking good and being effective are different things

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have told you that, but James Vince has been trying to prove it from the opposite direction. We feared for Vince’s chances before he played and we haven’t seen a huge amount to reassure us since then. Nor has anyone else. County cricket’s who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition will have to forget about this and move on. Do yourselves a favour though – don’t claim that a player ‘looks good’.

Misbah-ul-Haq

The last time Pakistan toured, cricket fans were left feeling sick and unenthusiastic about the game. Pakistan themselves were left a fractured mess. This time they leave with fans more enthused about the game and with a level of solidity to their cricket that it is hard to remember their ever having had before.

Misbah-ul-Haq is an alchemist who can turn middle-age into youth and chaos into order.

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Yasir Shah the best bowler in the world again – shortly after being worthless

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord's (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

It’s hard to say whether memories are fading faster these days – because who can honestly remember how things were previously? This was nevertheless a thought that has crossed our mind a few times of late – generally when some commentator or other has claimed that England have ‘worked Yasir out’ or something along those lines.

We’re pretty sure England themselves never felt like that about Pakistan’s leg-spinner (or why would they have elected to bat first in this match?) Commentators though, they’re a different breed. They don’t need to accurately gauge the dangers knowing they’ll have to confront the player in question again some time soon. They can content themselves with saying whatever they’re thinking at that exact moment and if the statement seems to hold up when measured against what’s happened in the last 10 days, then it can be presented as The Truth.

The thinking was that Yasir took England by surprise at Lord’s. Apparently you can deliver 10 surprises before a team will react. After that, England realised that he didn’t spin it all that much and DOMINATED HIM WITH EASE.

But now that particular piece of fiction needs a rewrite.

There is never one solitary solution that turns failure to success when it comes to countering a good bowler. Different batsmen will have different issues and no spin bowler will be successful in internationals without being able to pose at least a decent handful of questions.

Yasir had less success at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, but a guy who takes 10 wickets in a Test match ususally has something about him that won’t fade away inside a fortnight. Sure enough, bowling at the Oval with runs in the bank, he dismissed half of England’s batting line-up.

Maybe with another match and another five-for, everyone would be calling him flawless.

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Younus Khan knows what he’s doing – even if it doesn’t look like it

Younus Khan (via YouTube)

We really wanted Younus Khan to get runs in this Test. A lot of commentators who have at no point in their lives been able to bat even half as well as him have not just been criticising his batting during this series, but actually making fun of it. We’ve found that a bit unsavoury.

Younus has his own way of doing things and if it looks fairly stupid then so much the better as far as we’re concerned. The fact that he can quite literally make runs batting on one leg – or occasionally while airborne – is a large part of his appeal. It adds to his brilliance that he should be able to shepherd so many moving parts and compel them to deliver perfect timing. A number of England players couldn’t even coordinate two hands to wrap around a ball when it came in their direction.

When a Pakistan player drops to his hands and knees in the wake of some sort of achievement, you can never be quite sure which way it’s going to go nowadays. Younus spurned the press-ups in favour of a turf kiss. So did Asad Shafiq a little earlier in the day. Their demeanours were different, but three figures seemed to mean a lot to both of them.

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The beard that smeared – Moeen Ali enjoys the evening session

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

Smeared with exquisite timing and grace, we should say. It was poetic smearage. Smearage without breaking sweat. Smearage that involved all moving parts working in perfect harmony to pan the ball to the fence.

Morning session

It’ll be interesting to read the reports about this morning’s play. Was Alex Hales unlucky after hitting the ball in the air towards a fielder? Was Alastair Cook unlucky to completely mishit the ball, propelling it into his own stumps?

What happened after that was easier to interpret. Joe Root did a James Vince impression and James Vince was sufficiently unimpressed by it that he immediately felt compelled to demonstrate how edging behind should be done.

Perhaps England felt threatened by the looming presence of the mace. No-one seems to want the damned thing.

Afternoon session

Gary Ballance’s dismissal clearly belonged in the morning session, both thematically and because it came in only the 28th over.

Pakistan were now so dominant that mace-spurning duties switched to them, allowing England to counter. Jonny Bairstow did his usual hunched biffing and Moeen Ali did nothing of the sort, nonchalantly flicking the ball to and over the ropes as if long hours in the gym were the most pointless activity in which any wannabe big-hitting batsman could ever indulge. He loves to feel bat on ball.

Evening session

Jonny Bairstow got a bit ahead of himself and thought it was Pakistan’s turn to be on top. This meant England’s two finest batsmen were now at the crease. Chris Woakes joined Moeen in their favoured pastime of batting sumptuously until it was time for the famously feckless momentum to yet again shift.

Woakes was out, just when it seemed he was entirely without failings and then Broad departed two balls later. Moeen Ali didn’t care. He just carried on whopping the ball wherever he chose. He just loves these evening sessions for which Pakistan’s bowlers seemingly don their heaviest shoes.

Moeen was last man out, which meant England got to bowl in what we’re now going to name the night session on the grounds that it only began after the scheduled close of play.

Night session

With England having scored a somewhat ambiguous 328, no-one was quite sure which team was most at risk of being a mace recipient. Probably India, so Stuart Broad took a wicket.

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