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It rains more at night

This is the conclusion we drew from last week’s round of pink ball County Championship fixtures. Only one of four matches in the first division ended in a result – and even that one saw only 23 wickets fall.

Despite the experiment only resulting in the confounding situation where Essex are even more top, we’d like to see a lot more day-night cricket.

Clearly, that’s because of this kind of thing.

 

We believe this constitutes an unarguable case.

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BBC to show “some” live cricket from 2020 as highlights move from Channel 5

The England and Wales Cricket Board has recently accepted that it needs to get some live cricket onto free-to-air TV. The question most of us have been asking is what constitutes “some”.

From 2020 (appropriately enough) the BBC will be showing two men’s and one women’s T20 internationals each summer. They’ve also won the right to broadcast Test highlights from Channel 5. After Champions Trophy highlights were dumped at midnight, Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew made it clear that highlights will be shown at prime time, which is something of a relief.

The Beeb will also broadcast 10 men’s matches from the ECB’s new T20 competition, including the final, and up to eight matches from the women’s T20 tournament, again including the final.

What does this mean?

It means everyone will be able to watch some cricket and with the finals of the domestic T20 competitions secured, much of that will have some sort of context too. It won’t just be random T20 matches in a competition you can’t follow to the end.

Conversely, you can well imagine the T20 internationals might be the kinds of low priority fixtures we’ve just seen played out between England and South Africa. Or maybe the very fact that they’ll be broadcast live on the BBC might mean a proper turn-out from all the stars. That could prove an interesting development. If that proves to be the case, the next rights deal for 2025 onwards could be an interesting one.

Where’s the rest of the live cricket going to be broadcast?

On Sky Sports – which, considering they announced a channel called Sky Cricket earlier this week, should have been pretty bloody obvious. It was highly unlikely they’d have been keen to devote a whole channel to an insect.

There’s good news there though with talk that you might be able to subscribe to just that one channel, which would presumably work out a bit/lot cheaper.

What about Channel 5?

Nowt. We’re a bit sad for them really, because they’ve been holding the fort all this time and have been doing a super job. It’ll be interesting/irritating to see how quickly the BBC get up to speed highlights-wise.

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Chamari Atapattu can hit a cricket ball

Chamari Atapattu (via ICC)

Chamari Atapattu – full name, somewhat confusingly, Atapattumudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani, so that she appears on scorecards with the one name she doesn’t appear to use – has played an innings.

If anyone else had bothered to help her, Sri Lanka would have won. At the same time, if anyone else had bothered to help her, it would have undermined the sheer solo magnificence of her knock.

Context is a great deal. In scoring 60 runs and losing nine wickets, Atapattu’s team-mates embiggened her 178 not out enormously (there were also 19 extras). It was a God damned shame that Australia couldn’t have delivered something similar for even greater embiggenment. Instead, they chased down their target for the loss of two wickets, the spoilsports.

Having watched the highlights of her innings, Atapattu is not averse to a mow. You put the ball in front of her, she will mow it. She will mow it mightily. Cow corner didn’t know what had hit it. (It was a cricket ball. Many times.)

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Sky Sports Cricket is going to be cheaper and you won’t have to subscribe

We were bemoaning the out-of-date way in which broadcasters sell sport to consumers a month or so ago. We said it was too expensive and you had to sign up to too much that you didn’t want.

Maybe they listened.

Sky Sports has announced a series of changes which will (eventually) address all of these concerns. They didn’t announce a new deal that would see the company break away from Rupert Murdoch, unfortunately – but time will take care of that eventually. You can’t persuade time to call off its assault, Rupert. You can’t scare away the Grim Reaper with a load of bullshit headlines.

The Guardian reports that Sky Sports is going to do away with its policy of peppering cricket across multiple channels and is instead going to stick it all on Sky Cricket. You will then be able to subscribe to that channel alone at reduced cost, as you won’t also be signing up to a whole bunch of football you couldn’t give a toss about.

But that hasn’t been the only issue. TV sport subscriptions are merely the tip of an investment iceberg which also requires you to get a base TV package and probably your phone and broadband from the same provider. It looks like this too could change.

When we wrote about using Kodi to stream live cricket, we pointed out that the fragmented marketplace meant there were no guarantees that the TV channel you subscribe to would even be showing all of the matches you’re interested in. If the broadcasters can’t afford to provide everything you want, chances are you don’t want to commit to paying them for a year when they’re only doing half a job.

This is where Now TV comes in.

Now TV is a pay-as-you-go subscription-free TV service. At present, this flexibility means it is a pay-through-the-nose-as-you-go TV service where one day of Sky Sports will cost you eight quid, a week will cost you £11 and a month will cost you £34.

But again, you’re paying for six channels you aren’t even watching and so the changes to Sky Sports subscriptions should drip down to the cost of this service as well.

This is good news. You may however be concerned that much of this is irrelevant as BT Sport is buying up more and more cricket. Well, rest assured that anything Sky Sports does, BT Sport will also do, only slightly later. We fully expect their own subscription-free TV service to materialise before too long.

Immediately before this winter’s Ashes series would a very good time to launch.

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Liam Livingstone’s golden duck was one of the finest

Liam Livingstone’s England debut was pretty spectacular. He didn’t just fail to display his talent to a wider audience, he actively concealed it.

He dropped a catch; mishit everything, including the one boundary that he hit; bust his bat; and then got run out. He also found time to enrage Chris Morris beyond all human comprehension.

We were therefore rather excited to see what he’d deliver in  his second match.

Liam Livingstone didn’t disappoint.

Unless you wanted to see runs, in which case he fully disappointed.

Ducks don’t come much more golden than this one.

As you can see, Dane Paterson hasn’t even released the ball yet and Livingstone’s right foot is already making preparations for his dismissal.

All images via ECB

By this point, we start to get a feel for what’s happening. Could be aiming for an LBW. Could be looking to get caught at fine leg.

But now things start to crystallise. This is a very strong stance from which to be bowled for a golden duck.

Class.

Arguably, he came closer to hitting his airborne bails than the ball.

Then, after he realised what had happened, Livingstone briefly tried to style it out by pretending that someone had speared him in the chest with the handle of his own cricket bat.

If you’re going to get clean bowled, do it with a bit of panache.

We think you’ll agree this was a quite magnificent first-baller and we can’t wait for Livingstone’s next international outing.

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Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld to retire from TMS

Henry Blofeld (CC licensed by ramograph via Flickr)

Henry Blofeld, the long-serving Test Match Special commentator with the extraordinary accent and a strong proclivity for getting players’ names wrong, is calling it a day at the end of the season. It’s safe to say we’ve always had mixed feelings about the man.

If we were to try and sum up those feelings, we’d say that we like the idea of there being a commentator who works in a similar way to Blowers – we’d just maybe prefer it if that person wasn’t Blowers himself.

“A lot of our audience are people doing housework wanting a comfortable voice,” he said, announcing his decision to stand down. “I talk about pigeons, seagulls, policemen and the girl in the red dress in the grandstand. It’s all that, I think, which attracts people along with the cricket.”

You may think that. But not everyone will entirely agree.

If you’re trying to follow a match, this kind of thing is not always endearing. Sometimes it’s just irritating and maybe even a bit embarrassing – but then at times Blowers becomes such a self parody that it actually becomes endearing again.

It’s a tricky one and no mistake.

The issue, as we see it, is this. Test cricket ebbs and flows and commentary must ebb and flow with it. There are definitely times for talking about irrelevant bollocks, but there are also times where you need to focus on the action.

Blofeld isn’t bad at conveying excitement and he certainly understands cricket. He does however seem to have been taking less and less of an interest in touring players and what they might have achieved outside of the English summer.

Maybe you think that’s unfair, but we can’t really recall him saying anything about a player that we didn’t already know. Getting people’s names wrong can also derail things when listeners are trying to follow a crucial passage of play.

That said, we’re not delighted about Blowers’ departure, as we perhaps would have been a few years back. There was a period when the narrow array of TMS accents made us embarrassed to listen to cricket in the back garden as it sounded like coverage of some niche upper-class pursuit.

Nowt wrong with a plummy accent, but there was a lack of diversity in the commentary box for a while there. As someone who is essentially a cricket evangelist, this frustrated us enormously as it reinforced a widely held perception of the game that we have always thought unfair.

TMS accents are less of an issue these days and it’s pleasing to see that the programme’s commitment to diversity belatedly extends to gender too. Maybe at some point soon they’ll feel there’s a significant gap and find themselves actively seeking out a rambling Old Etonian to put in the occasional shift.

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AB de Villiers plays decisive innings to win first T20 for England

Photo by Sarah Ansell

A real man of the match performance from AB de Villiers won England the first T20 international against South Africa. The greatest sportsman who ever lived ate up 58 balls in making an unbeaten 65.

If the innings hinted at a two-paced pitch, England’s batsmen only noticed one of them and weren’t unduly troubled by the other.

For all the adulation, it’s worth remembering that de Villiers isn’t actually all that good at T20, one of the two formats he still deigns to play. Nor has he done a right lot else in recent times.

De Villiers’ last Test hundred (do we mean ‘most recent’ or ‘final’) came in January 2015. His most recent one-day international hundred came in January 2016.

This isn’t to talk him down. He’s been an extraordinary batsman, but we’re starting to wonder whether he ever will be again. He’s supposedly fully focused on the 2019 World Cup, but in the Champions Trophy he looked like a man short of cricket. You wonder whether he might want to broaden out his tunnel vision a tad.

In this match he looked like a man playing with a hollow bat.

Jason Roy isn’t in great form either. His body is – as one stout over of straight-batted thonking proved – but his brain is not.

Refusing to stick to the methodology that had started to reap rich dividends, Roy for some reason backed himself to play someone else’s natural game and unfurled a suicidal reverse sweep.

Clearly Roy feels he has something to prove. That proof will probably only come once he feels differently.

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England play South Africa in a pretty meaningless T20 international and Bob isn’t playing

Bob from Twin Peaks (via YouTube)

We said you were going to start noticing everyone going mental about Mason Crane. Today marks an obvious step-up in mentalgoing as it seems highly likely the leg-spinner will make his international debut.

Indirectly referring to him, AB de Villiers grappled with the meaning of the word ‘unknown’.

“A few of our guys have played with the unknown guys in the English side. There’s really good information shared over those meetings and there’s also video footage and analysis of all of those players so it’s not completely foreign to us – we know more or less what to expect.”

There was also good news regarding more familiar players. Speaking about Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan observed: “He is still the same fella.”

Here at King Cricket we are glad that an assessment has been carried out as we were starting to fear that Roy had been possessed by Bob from Twin Peaks. This view was based on nothing more than our current habit of morphing everything we see on TV into one impossible-to-follow storyline featuring sportsmen and David Lynch characters – but it was still a concern.

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The Cricket Kingdom Champions Trophy fantasy league result

The King Cricket Champions Trophy fantasy league eventually attracted 74 teams – so many, in fact, that after a couple of games we started to think we might look bad if we didn’t get in amongst it and actually try and do well.

We eventually secured a top ten position, which seems respectable enough that we should be allowed to continue writing this website.

However, the winner of all the respect/resentment from their peers was Sesha, whose INDIAN XI positively walked it – unlike the Indian XI, which famously got battered in the final.

Maybe if it had been a fantasy knock-out, things would have panned out differently. But it wasn’t. It was a league and Sesha won.

Just as importantly, here’s the arse-end of the table – a full bottom ten, no less – where Deep Cower secured an almost equally impressive losing margin over (under?) Hippity, who is a green bunny.

Well played these people, particularly Alphamonkey who secured negative points from the final and so secured the highest step within the sunken podium trench.

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Peak Pakistan

Virat Kohli makes the least of his reprieve off Mohammad Amir (via ICC)

Scrape into a tournament through being ranked eighth in the world, throw in a few debutants, win the thing.

Quite often you get to play Pakistan. Occasionally you have to play Pakistan. India suffered the latter.

How in blazes?

If we were to imagine that winning a cricket tournament involved repeatedly writing the word WIN on a piece of paper, then Pakistan do not issue their players with pens.

The Pakistan approach is to take a whole bunch of magnifying glasses and then throw them into the air hoping to hell that the sun’s rays strike them at such an angle and at such a moment that the refracted beams scorch the letters into the page without incinerating it. This normally results in a lot of broken glass, but not always.

Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman who made a devilishly effective hundred in the final, made his one-day international debut last week. Shadab Khan has played five first-class matches. Pakistan also managed to shrug off dropping the finest one-day batsman in the world in the time it took Mohammad Amir to walk back to his mark. Somehow it all worked out and India were not just beaten but positively monstered.

How do you win a one-day tournament in 2017?

The narrative ahead of this competition, at least in the UK media, was that modern one-day cricket is all about hitting sixes and making 400 on flat pitches. This storyline coloured perceptions to such an extent that the national team felt hard done by when they were asked to play a semi-final on a used pitch.

‘That’s not the way one-day cricket is supposed to be,’ they seemed to say, as if there were an official diktat about such things from the governing body. ‘Make the version of the game that we’re good at the only permissible version,’ they added.

But it turns out modern one-day cricket can be many different things.

In the end, the team that won the Champions Trophy was the one that cobbled together the most effective bowling attack, as is so often the case.

Pakistan may well have aspired to build their game around heavy run-scoring, but that never really became an option. A friend of ours maintains that using moisturiser makes your skin “lazy”. Similarly, we wonder whether Pakistan’s bowlers have actually benefited from knowing the value of a run.

Which isn’t to say the Pakistan batsmen didn’t switch it on in the knockout stages, despite suspicions that they lacked the switch, let alone a power source. The truth is that the team – the unit, if you will – did a lot of things well. This was a three dimensional win.

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