Well this is news. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal has been banned from bowling.
Ajmal was tested once before and had his action cleared. But not this time. This time he has been found guilty of the greatest crime in cricket.
People will whisper the word whenever he is near and he will have to use the special toilets reserved for his kind whenever he is at a cricket ground. Whenever his name appears in on-screen statistics, it will always be accompanied by an asterisk. This is not to indicate that he was captain. That asterisk says just one thing. People will hiss the words, rather than say them: “Saeed Ajmal was a straightener.”
A thousand parallel Ajmal-less universes have opened up to bitter fans of other nations. In ours, an entirely different Pakistan spinner keeps taking five-for-spit against England in the UAE in 2011. Probably a far less likeable one.15 Appeals
England finally found a modicum of limited overs success. They’ve analysed the stats and apparently scoring hundreds and making big totals will give them a better chance of success in the World Cup. Common sense might also tell you such a thing.
The fifth one-day international
Joe Root became the first England batsman to survive spin bowling in the middle overs. He made a hundred, allowing the the lower order to do what they’ve always been perfectly capable of.
The Twenty20 international
Eoin Morgan remembered that he wasn’t terrible at cricket while the selectors remembered that Ravi Bopara played cricket. Even more strikingly, Virat Kohli finally passed 50 and totally vindicated being retained in our All Out Cricket fantasy team for the entire summer.
And here are the final standings for the King Cricket one-day mini league. Bailout won. We apparently didn’t come second, but sixth.26 Appeals
We’ll come to England’s latest one-day exploits later. For now…
The upskilling of one-day skillsets
This was the other Cricinfo article of ours to be published yesterday. Apparently we were to be found at both ends of the cricket writing spectrum on the 4th of September, 2014. This particular article’s that old staple, the fictional meeting between captain and coach. The bit we’re most proud of is the final sentence.
Living for the city
Our latest Shire Horse column for All Out Cricket is quite Bears-centric, which will satisfy as many as one of this website’s readers. Yorkshire get a mention too. Plus there’s some other stuff.
Kyle Hogg’s had to retire
Let’s end how things always end – with some bad news. At the start of the season, we suggested that you watch out for Lancashire’s Kyle Hogg. Unfortunately, this has meant watching him retire from cricket early due to chronic back knack. For one reason or another, he’s never seemed to manage a long run in Lancashire’s first team and we thought this was about to change but sadly his body felt otherwise.32 Appeals
We’ve written a rather hefty piece for Cricinfo about overtraining in cricket. We think it’s a big deal, but we get the distinct impression that no-one else really does.
It’s partly that people don’t really understand the concept. Understandably, they think it just means training too much, but overtraining is actually a label for a physiological condition that tends to come about as a result of a whole range of factors of which physical training stress is just one.
It hinges on whether or not an athlete is ever fully recovering and so it also involves all those little things which have an impact on that.
Most people don’t understand recovery
And this is simply because they don’t live a lifestyle where it’s any kind of an issue. Even if you play a lot of sport in your spare time, chances are you’re still in overall credit when it comes to recovery. You might struggle in one particular week, but it’s not something that persists for a month or a year.
An alternative title for the Cricinfo article could have been ‘a plea for an off season’ because it strikes us that international cricket seems to be actively courting overtraining. The way the sport is run seems specifically geared towards hampering recovery, enhancing mental stress and most importantly of all, engineering a situation where players define themselves by their performance. When you reach that point, things really get out of hand.
While speaking to Dr Richard Winsley for the article, we pointed out what happened to Jonathan Trott. Thinking about what Trott had said at the start of the summer, about how he’d basically lost the ability to switch off, it struck us that this might be an example of overtraining. Winsley agreed to the extent that he is now going to use Trott as a case study.
If the Trott example tells us anything, it is that such an implosion has no single cause. Rather, it is a perfect storm of multiple, related factors. It is also pretty clear that the environment inhabited by international cricketers is one where such an outcome is increasingly likely.
An extraordinary proportion of a modern international cricketer’s time is spent with colleagues. Have you ever been on a work night out and been struck by how much you talk about the job? Imagine that all day every day. It’s not healthy. People need balance. Now imagine that this environment is all you’ve known for your entire adult life and then suddenly, in your early thirties, it’s gone. How would you adapt to that?
Fred bowled more overs
Measuring bowlers’ workloads in terms of overs is reductive. There’s far more to overtraining than that. England are playing at least one match a month from November of this year until September 2017, so anyone playing multiple formats is rarely going to be more than a week away from another flight and another hotel.
There’s an awful lot appended to a modern international over, whereas a 1950s county over is delightfully unencumbered. They’re not equal.
They’re well paid
This is the most infuriating argument of all – that players should stop moaning because it’s their job and most people would love to be in their position.
Firstly, most people would love to be in their position simply because most people are idiots and only imagine themselves raising their bat or holding aloft a trophy. Nobody plays a game for a living, because as soon you do, it ceases to be a game.
The reality is that you spend years building towards something that might be taken away from you in an instant by a slight divot or a dodgy call. You then get to spend endless hours ruminating on it. The cricket in the middle’s the tiniest fraction of your time and the majority is spent trying to address all your myriad flaws.
Whose problem is it?
The second rebuttal to the ‘they should just bloody well get on with it’ argument is that this is precisely what they are doing. It’s not generally the players who are suffering the most – it’s us, the fans. Most people who read this website – obsessive cricket people, for the most part – would be more than happy to see far fewer games being played. They’d love to see more fast bowling and fewer meaningless fixtures.
Players and coaches are just getting on with it, but that isn’t to say that everything’s fine. Rotation’s pitched as being a cure-all, but that assumes there is someone in charge who can enforce it. Is that the head coach, who needs his best players, the player fighting for his spot, or some sort of head medical officer keen to become a lightning rod for disappointed fans’ hatred?
Fatigue accumulates over time, but as often as not a decent period of rest sees it dissipate. A defined off season would be no bad thing.36 Appeals
Aside from batting all day at one run an over to save Test matches, Faf du Plessis’s other thing is getting hit in the balls. You might say that he’s a specialist.
In the video below, he talks you through the countermeasures he has been forced to take. Here’s a link to the video as well because we’re 95 per cent certain that it won’t show up for email subscribers.
Moeen Ali made 44, 10 and 55 in his first three one-day internationals (ODIs). He was opening the batting. Then they dropped him. Today he made 67 batting at seven.
Chris Woakes opened the bowling at Cardiff and took 4-52. He also opened the bowling in Nottingham. Today he was the fourth bowler used.
Harry Gurney took nine wickets at 22.55 in the series against Sri Lanka. He was dropped for the first match of this series.
Gary Ballance was England’s number three for that Sri Lanka series. He was clearly in form after the Tests. He too was dropped for the first match of this series.
James Tredwell has been the team’s most reliable bowler. He also made his highest ODI score in the last match. Today he was dropped.
It’s hard to avoid changing the team when they’re this bad
But it’s hard to avoid being this bad when the team is changed this much. We know ODIs demand a certain amount of squad rotation, but the players being rotated aren’t ready for it. They’re new to the side. They’re insecure. You rest stalwarts because they can cope with it, but England don’t have any of those because everyone’s tweaked out of the first XI long before they’ve had chance to settle.
Even Steven Finn, who’s played 40 times, said that he was nervous coming back into the side. Well why not prolong that nervousness by dropping him for the next game? Or why not change his role in the side so that he still feels new, even when he’s played several matches on the trot.
There are plenty of things wrong with England’s one-day side. This is another.25 Appeals
The main criticism of England’s one-day batting approach recently has been that they lack the dynamic hitting which is supposed to characterise the modern game. While that’s true up to a point, we actually don’t think that it’s the worst of their problems. There’s something else going on during the non-Powerplay overs – that sizeable chunk of a 50-over game when no-one’s really paying much attention.
Alex Hales is a hefty biffer once he gets up and running, while Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are more than capable of clearing the ropes later on. What the team often lacks is the subtly different ability to find anything other than singles in the middle overs. This is especially true when steady spinners are bowling. Even Xavier Doherty managed to get away with 10 overs for 28 against them back in January.
Good middle over batting might mean fours or it might just mean twos – it could even involve the odd six. Yesterday England found themselves having apparently negotiated some sort of singles-only pact with India. The tourists were happy with this because at worst they conceded four or five an over and any wickets were a bonus on top of this.
And wickets did ensue – generally when the batsman made some sort of effort to escape from binary purgatory.
English batsmen really seem to struggle with the boring overs. A few singles an over are always available because they’re basically being handed to them by the fielding side. However, as soon as an English batsman becomes more ambitious than that, he seems to get out. It’s like it’s an aspect of cricket with which they’re wholly unfamiliar.
Perhaps it’s something spawned by all those years of 40-over domestic cricket. This low key consolidatory period of a one-day game is the one that’s curtailed in a 40-over match so arguably English batsmen have less experience of this part of the game. There also aren’t as many relentlessly accurate bowlers in county teams. When there is one, a batsman can simply settle for the freebie singles and then score off the more frequent bad balls at the other end.
Boring for whom?
What’s supposed to happen between overs 15 and 35 is for the batting side to make over five an over and lose one or maybe two wickets. What actually happened against India is that England lost all five of their specialist batsmen during this period.
Never mind hitting more sixes in the powerplays. How about some canny twos and fours during the boring overs?30 Appeals
First up, our fortnightly Twitter round-up for Cricinfo where Grobbelaar has correctly identified that we bring nothing but negativity to the world. We’re pretty sure Shaun Pollock would have a groansome quote about judging people to deliver as a riposte to that, but he’d probably also have one about bitter, petty revenge not being so glorious either.
There was another strong performance from the representatives within our All Out Cricket fantasy league mini league. The Kingdom’s poppie84 topped the overall table after the Cardiff one-dayer. Not sure whose team that is. Make yourself known in the comments so that everyone can congratulate/badmouth you.
We are second in the mini league and fifth overall. It’s almost as if we have half an idea about one-day cricket. Who knew?
Zimbabwe are chasing 232 against South Africa in a match no-one will pay attention to because (1) it involves Zimbabwe and (2) it’s low-scoring.
People only remember the high-scoring matches and therefore mistakenly conclude that the one-day game’s all about making huge totals these days. Even if the general trend is for higher scores, the truth is that there are still more totals of under 200 than there are of over 300.15 Appeals
Before today, Suresh Raina had made three ODI hundreds in 193 matches. He made them against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong.
But Raina bats in the middle order, so that doesn’t tell us a lot. Let’s look at fifties instead.
Against New Zealand, he has one in 11 innings; against Pakistan, one in 14; against South Africa, one in 11; against West Indies, one in 26 and against England 12 in 26, including six of his top ten one-day scores.
At this point we have to ask ourselves whether there’s something he particularly likes about a tired white ball delivered at fast-medium pace.
Let’s look at his strike rates against each of today’s bowlers.
- Anderson: 25 off 12 balls – 208.33
- Woakes: 23 off 11 – 209.09
- Jordan: 13 off 15 – 86.66
- Stokes: 20 off 10 – 200
- Tredwell: 19 off 27 – 70.37
Oddly, Jordan’s efforts to become the world’s foremost ‘angling down the leg side’ bowler probably saved him.
Extrapolation’s what you need
One-day cricket in England is a bit different because you get more movement early on. However, the passages of play later on – once the ball stops doing owt – aren’t so dissimilar from what might be expected in Australia come the World Cup. If anything, Australian conditions merely mean a greater proportion of those sorts of overs.
In today’s match, England did the early, irrelevant bit well and then the later, relevant bit shitly. Their bowling simply isn’t tall enough, fast enough, slow enough or weird enough to keep batsmen guessing on a flat pitch. It’s samey. Four fast-medium right-armers is two – if not three – too many.
Is this the end of the world (cup campaign)?
Steven Finn’s taller and often quicker; Stuart Broad will be back to offer the same qualities; Harry Gurney’s a left-armer, should he prove reliable; and Ravi Bopara’s neither-one-thing-nor-the-other wobblery does offer something different. There are always options that would desameyise a bowling attack.
As for the batting, England remain poor chasers of anything over 250, which is all the more reason to get the bowling right.41 Appeals
It seemed like an excellent plan when the idea was hatched. In the absence of first class cricket between Middlesex and Essex for the foreseeable future, Charley “The Gent” Malloy and I would take in a day of second XI cricket between our two teams. As luck would have it, the day that suited me and Charley for this cricketing purpose also suited Daisy and Mrs Malloy for an evening meal at the Daisy House. Charley and Mrs Malloy had still not seen the house, although Daisy has now been in situ there for nearly three years. The Malloys were especially keen to see the garden.
The only problem with that superb plan was, of course, the English weather. As the appointed day approached, the forecast got worse and worse. Indeed, the night before the event, I wrote to Charley saying, “not even my relentless cricket-watching optimism imagines that we’ll get to see any cricket tomorrow. Let’s take stock in the morning just in case, but I’m going to spend the rest of this evening building an ark and guess that I’ll see you tomorrow evening at the house!”
It was pouring down when I woke up on the day and the forecast suggested that it would pretty much rain all day. I did a bit of work and sorted out some of those domestic things I never normally quite get around to sorting out unless/until they are emergencies. Naturally, just before I set off for the house in the early evening, the rain stopped and the sun even started to peep through.
At least the better evening weather enabled us to show Charley and Mrs Malloy the garden in the sunshine. In preparation for the day at Radlett, Charley had bought a cricketing gingerbread man, which we admired for its aesthetic but all decided not to eat.
Instead, we enjoyed Daisy’s superb Alaskan salmon baked in a banana leaf, with new potatoes, home-made tartare sauce and leaf salad.
After dinner, I played my baritone ukulele. Charley and Mrs Malloy listened like aficionados at a music concert – a little unnerving given the novelty of my hobby and my general lack of dexterity. “You don’t move your fingers quite as much as, for example, Albert Lee did at the concert we went to the other week”, said Charley. “Shhh, Charley”, said Mrs Malloy, who then joined in when I sang I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More. Charley stifled his coughing a couple of times and I saw tears welling up in his eyes at the sound of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne and Neil Young’s Out On The Weekend.
Then Charley said: “I read a review of the latest Neil Young album the other day; it said that Young now sounds like an old man in a retirement home singing to himself before medication time.” I took that comparative comment as a great compliment.
Send your match reports to email@example.com and on no account mention the cricket itself.8 Appeals