Time was, your ‘finisher’ batted at six in one-dayers. Then it was seven. Today, Australia had a man who now averages 53 in 50-over internationals batting at nine. It worked out okay for them.
The last wicket partnership
At 244-9, Australia were some way from victory, but James Faulkner engineered a win by hitting 69 off 47 balls. For four balls of the over, he blocked or hit sixes and then he looked for a single off one of the next two. He found that single four overs in a row, allowing him to monopolise the strike such that his batting partner, Clint McKay, faced just nine balls out of 33 – even though he was blocking everything.
Credit where it’s due or was it England’s fault?
Well, it was a bit of a masterclass from Faulkner in how to chase down a steep total accompanied by the tail, but it was also a bit of a noviceclass in how to prevent someone from doing that.
The singles were arguably more damning than the sixes, but after Ben Stokes had been lifted over the ropes three times in two overs, it also seemed odd to keep him on for the penultimate over. He promptly went for two more. There’s much to be said for backing your players and giving them a chance to fight back, but in hindsight this was wrong.
It was also wrong that Ravi Bopara only bowled five overs. Whatever you might presume about how Faulkner might have waded into his medium-pace, the evidence disagreed. Ravi only conceded 19 runs and Faulkner scored just seven off the 10 Ravi deliveries he faced.
England are deeply mistrustful of dibbly-dobbly medium-pace, but dibbly-dobbly often works. What rarely works at the death is the most generic form of fast-medium, as purveyed by Stokes and Bresnan. This is what professional cricketers spend most of their life facing. The timing’s ingrained.18 Appeals
Dandy Dan writes:
As rain was forecast for most of the day, Becky and I decided not rush to Manchester. We both arrived at our salubrious Ibis hotel at lunchtime and headed immediately to the ground. Soon the rain returned so we spent the afternoon waiting to see this sign.
We cheered. Praying for rain gave me a nostalgic feeling for the 90s.
Leaving the ground we headed back to the hotel, showered and changed, and headed into the glittering Manchester evening. After dinner we went into a slightly wanky bar, but I couldn’t be arsed traipsing around. We ordered a very nice bottle of Beaujolais and propped up the bar.
After a while, I needed the toilet. Whilst I was in the gentlemen’s, Becky sent me a text that read ‘Keep your shit together’. Puzzled by this as that’s not normally the reason why you go to the toilet, I returned to the bar to be presented with the scene of KP, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott sitting at the bar. I calmly returned to my seat.
Obviously, I texted everyone I knew.
Price responded telling me I should tell Trott he needed to pull his finger out and score some runs. After a couple of minutes I caught Trott and Bell’s eye, nodded and raised a glass. They returned the gesture.
Fed up with playing it cool, Becky decided to go and chat to them. I duly followed suit. We were having a polite chat until Becky relayed Price’s message. Jonathan seemed less than impressed. A few moments later, Ali Cook, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Jimmy walked in and joined us. The evening was going well. We ordered another bottle of Beaujolais.
From then on, things start to go a little bit hazy. I had a discussion with Graeme about Led Zeppelin (he thinks they’re over rated. I corrected him. We agreed that Pink Floyd are very good). I’m sad to report that none of them had heard of/read King Cricket. Ian Bell was completely unaware of the Lord Megachief of Gold title that was bestowed upon him a couple of years ago. This saddened me. I didn’t get a chance to speak to Alastair. He didn’t stay very long but we did share a nod when we were stood next to the urinals. Tim was as cheery as you’d expect him to be.
I asked Jimmy if he remembered a man dressed as a vagina screaming at him at Headingley. He did and found it most amusing when I told him it was me. He immediately turned to Graeme and said: “You remember that vagina I told you I saw at Headingley? That was him.”
Graeme laughed and I felt somewhat proud that my antics had entered the England dressing room. Jimmy apologised to me for not coming over and signing my flaps and he bought me a drink to say sorry. I accepted his apology. Embarrassingly, I asked him for a photo. One of the bar staff did an excellent photobomb.
I told them that I had their names as table names at my wedding a couple weeks earlier. Graeme was pleased when I told him I had moved him up the order to number four (I lied). I didn’t tell Jimmy that I had put love hearts next to his name. I didn’t want him to think I was strange.
They decided to leave and Jimmy and Graeme invited us to join them in another bar. Not having any other plans, we accepted this offer.
I don’t remember getting back to the hotel.13 Appeals
Steven Finn’s flying home. A couple of months aping James Anderson’s years of one-stump, solitary bowling seems to have been enough for him. Ashley Giles describes him as ‘not selectable’. It’s all gone to rat shit.
There are some activities you really shouldn’t overthink. Fast bowling’s probably one of them. You can make tweaks and hone what you’re doing, but when it reaches a point where you’re running in concentrating on doing that particular thing or not doing that particular other thing, it’s time to disengage the mind.
If you’re a professional cricketer, thinking like that swiftly translates into acute awareness that everything in your entire life hinges on whether or not you can do this particular thing. This is not the right frame of mind for doing the thing. Thing-doing needs to be automatic. It needs to be brainless.
We recommend that Finn turns to some of the traditional remedies for overthinking. He should make IPA or Cabernet Sauvignon part of his warm-up. Not too much – overdo it and you’ll suffer an entirely different brand of poor performance – but just enough to deaden the part of the brain that cares about consequences. A bit of gung-ho lairiness and far fewer inhibitions might be all he really needs to get back up and running again.20 Appeals
ICC to highlight Test cricket’s low standing by making near-meaningless change to financial incentives
The Test Championship that never really existed anyway is to be officially given the arse by the end of the month. It’s said that the ICC will instead look to enhance the standing and significance of Test cricket by increasing the financial incentives on offer for topping the rankings.
They did the same thing last year. South Africa got somewhere around £275,000 for topping the rankings in April and will get summat similar for staying there for a year. Maybe they’ll get £300,000 if they’re still top in April 2015.
These are trivial sums in a world in which Glenn Maxwell gets more than that to polish his arse on the Mumbai Indians bench for just over a month. Increasing the incentive is like a company trying to retain a member of staff by offering them free tea and coffee when a rival firm’s already promised to double their salary. All you’re really doing is advertising the vast discrepancy.6 Appeals
Jonny Bairstow got to play a couple of Tests against a dominant team, having not kept wicket for about half a year. Strangely, he didn’t hugely impress. That, combined with Matt Prior having been cut by the thunder, means there is now a significant Jos Buttler subplot to these one-day internationals. How’s it going so far?
Well, he’s batting at eight. ‘Finishing’ is Buttler’s job and he only really needs to be in for about 10 overs in order to impress, but even so, this smacks of giving your most exciting batsman little chance to make a stronger case for himself. Prior will hopefully score some first-class runs early next season, rendering all of this irrelevant, but there needs to be a Plan B and if it’s not Jonny Bairstow and it doesn’t turn out to be Jos Buttler, what is it? It’s probably flailing around, picking whoever happens to have played okay in May before going back to Bairstow for a bit, just cycling through options until one sticks.
These matches will also see bowlers auditioning for the role of third seamer in the Test team. Chris Jordan probably won round one. One for 50 is a win these days.36 Appeals
That’s a quote from Chris Rogers which appeared in this week’s Cricket Badger. We’re hereby forewarning you that this phrase is to become an official part of the King Cricket vernacular.
It comes about from Rogers being deemed surplus to requirements by The Sydney Thunder, a Big Bash team. He was therefore ‘cut’ from the squad. At the time of writing, the Thunder had lost 18 matches on the bounce, so if you’re cut by the Thunder, your performances must have really tailed off.
There’s your meaning. You want an example?
“The England cricket team was really cut by the thunder during the Ashes.”
It’s about time we gave the world an idiom.9 Appeals
Same as 2010. In fact, it’s probably worth reading that article again because much of it still applies. We don’t try and overthink the Lord Megachief of Gold award. We don’t get too fancy with it. It was business as usual for Dale Steyn in 2013 and business brought him 51 Test wickets at 17.66.
Start as you mean to go on
When you’ve racked up 525-8, as South Africa did against New Zealand back in January of last year, you brace yourself for a long, tough stint in the field. Only in your wildest dreams do you imagine that your opening bowler will take 5-17 in that sort of scenario.
For most bowlers, that would be the standout performance of the year – perhaps even in their entire career. However, as we know, Dale Steyn ain’t most bowlers. He’s a vicious threshing machine into which helpless Test batsmen are fed. He spits out husks. Against Pakistan in February, he conceded six runs and spat out six husks.
It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, or where: 6-8 is just stupid.
Worse figures, better bowling
What really swayed it for us, however, was Steyn’s performance against India towards the end of the year. That highlighted the quality that separates him from those who are merely pretenders. Dale Steyn is simply unremitting. It’s tempting to list synonyms to drive this point home, but you’re smart people – you can read that one word and appreciate how much we mean it.
Even good bowlers can find themselves cowed from time to time. It might not be the opposition that cause this to happen – it might just be conditions – but at some point or other, pretty much every bowler finds themself ever so slightly disheartened. It’s entirely natural. It’s entirely logical. It would be freakish and delusional to feel any different.
In the first Test between South Africa and India, Dale Steyn took 1-61 and 0-104. In the second Test, India reached 198-1 and Steyn had conceded 62 runs without taking a wicket.
Did he relent? Did he bollocks.
His next 10 deliveries saw the departure of Cheteshwar Pujara for 70, Murali Vijay for 97 and Rohit Sharma first ball. Match and series suddenly veered down an unmarked side road. Then, at 316-5, he was at it again, dismissing MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma within the space of eight deliveries.
Steyn finished that innings with 6-100 and this is why he’ll finish his career with a better average than Vernon Philander. Even when going for runs and with nothing to show for it, he was still hell-bent on dismissing batsmen. That, after all, is what Test cricket is all about.
Congratulations, Dale Steyn. You are 2013′s Lord Megachief of Gold.29 Appeals
No, not like that. There’s been enough of that. We’re talking about liquidation. The England cricket team isn’t currently making the repayments owed to its supporters, so rather than making the effort to come up with solutions, why don’t we just bin it?
That’s what we do when something proves awkward for us, isn’t it? We just throw it away in the hope that something better will materialise before us.
That’s a synopsis of our latest piece for Cricinfo. Happy Thursday. Cricket Badger will be back tomorrow, by the way – complete with quiz answers, once we’ve found where we put them and then copied and pasted them in.8 Appeals
‘He goes or I go’ – this is supposedly the stance being taken by Andy Flower, according to Mike Selvey in the Guardian. We almost wish there were a sixth Test so that we could continue talking about cricket – but of course that would merely postpone this sort of stuff. It wouldn’t prevent it.
Let’s naively take the story at face value, ignoring the mechanisms and motives of the press. We’re doing this for no reason other than it gives us an excuse to write about our bathroom.
Kevin Pietersen may well be a pain in the arse; he may well disrupt the rest of the squad to some extent; but if a ‘him or me’ ultimatum is the best method you can come up with for resolving such things, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of your strategising.
In our house, the bathroom is downstairs, next to the kitchen. It’s a stupid layout, we don’t want it there and there have been many suggestions as to how to move it upstairs. No plan is perfect, but we’ll eventually go with the one that is most satisfactory. What we won’t do is dynamite the existing bathroom and just leave it at that.
You need a bathroom. If you’re in charge, your job is to find a way of having one in the house.27 Appeals
Did they eventually find themselves wedded to one style of play to the exclusion of all else? You could call it the ‘batting time and bowling dry’ philosophy. It was Plan A and it really did work. But perhaps the more it was successful, the less relevant Plans B, C and D seemed to become. Was flexibility sacrificed one almost-imperceptible step at a time?
Arguably, you could see it in the repeated selection of Tim Bresnan instead of more dynamic alternatives. He’s generally a more consistent bowler than any of his rivals, but as his pace has dropped, accuracy and reliability have increasingly become his only real advantages. Picking him over a taller, quicker, less predictable bowler has basically meant putting more and more eggs into the dry bowling basket, removing them from elsewhere.
Perhaps Bresnan could also be seen as being the personification of the narrowing of England’s perspective. There was a time when he famously bowled a ‘heavy ball’ and also delivered reverse swing (which tends to require a bit more pace). However, over time, those qualities have ebbed, leaving someone who basically just bowls to block up an end. Where once he controlled and then attacked when conditions allowed, now he pretty much just delivers the former at all times.
But it’s not just Bresnan…
It’s the whole approach – and maybe this is where Alastair Cook bears some responsibility. Everyone remembers India’s 2011 tour as being some sort of high water mark for emotionless English efficiency, but was this really the way they won series, even back then?
England’s intended declaration batting in the first Test of that series was so dire that it seemed likely they were going to leave a tempting target. Five wickets down and 250 ahead, Matt Prior arrived and played a skittering innings full of dicey running. He made a hundred off 120 balls and it contained just five fours and a six. The situation was far from grave, but it was still a knock that was all about simply willing something to happen.
We can’t imagine the second Test of that series was meticulously planned to pan out as it did either. England were 124-8 in their first innings, whereupon Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann engaged the long handle. They still conceded a first innings deficit, but a Broad hat-trick got them going and then an Ian Bell hundred in the second innings (batting at three, incidentally) finally allowed Plan A to become relevant.
Up until that point, England were basically winging it and they just don’t seem able to do that any more. Even Kevin Pietersen’s been blunted through a desire to be seen to be playing responsibly and when that happens, you know summat’s up.
At their best, once England got on top of the opposition, they could become machine-like. However, that wasn’t generally how they gained their advantage in the first place. In trying to play controlled cricket even when they’re under the cosh, they now seem constrained where they need to be inspired. The kind of cricket you play when you’re ahead doesn’t always work when you’re behind.38 Appeals