After losing the first Test to Pakistan, South Africa captain Graeme Smith said:
“It should hurt. But this team has too much ability to make this a habit.”
We immediately thought about the distinction between confidence and delusion and how the only real difference is what happens afterwards. These seemed hubristic words, but apparently this South Africa side isn’t ready to segue into cocky self-deception just yet.
Or maybe they’re just playing Pakistan. Believing you have any impact whatsoever on the outcome of a match against Pakistan could be considered delusional.
Pakistan coach, Dav Whatmore, said of his team’s 99 all out in the first innings of this second Test:
“We expected the opposition to come back strong, but I don’t think they did. We orchestrated most of our dismissals ourselves.”
It’s worth noting that last year, at the same venue, Pakistan were bowled out for 99 by England and won the Test by 71 runs. Pakistan never do the same thing twice, so they’ll definitely lose this one.12 Appeals
A secret source writes:
I thought this might interest you. It’s just like the 3am Girls in The Mirror, only with better grammar and more discussion about the state of County Championship wickets than they normally have.
Overheard at the gym at the weekend – a regular first-team Lancashire player chatting to some bloke. He was saying that there is a debate at Lancs about whether they need to do something about the pitch at Old Trafford. The idea is that the 75 championship-free years were largely a consequence of a lack of results on a flat, true (albeit fast) wicket, and that it was no coincidence that when Lancs won the title they played all their home matches at Aigburth. The flip side of the debate was, according to the player in question, that Lancs’ batsmen are so rubbish they need a good wicket not to look like idiots.
There is something to this. As a Test match wicket, Old Trafford is superb, and a result pitch more often than not. But, and again from the lips of this mystery player, to get a result you need three or four Test quality bowlers. Ordinary county bowlers can’t extract enough wickets, and have a day fewer in which to do it.20 Appeals
We won’t do this regularly because that would be boring, but we thought we’d at least let you know how week one of Cricket Badger went.
We picked up a couple of hundred subscribers – most within the first day. More pleasingly, we will have about 20 per cent more than that for the next newsletter. This presumably means that people liked what they received and forwarded it.
In some senses, it doesn’t really matter how many people are reading. However, when you’re sending text into the ether it’s quite difficult to get a sense of how things are being received, so this amounts to good feedback. Thanks to all who have subscribed and double thanks to those who forwarded it.13 Appeals
Bailout made an unusually strong and comprehensive argument in favour of Stuart Matsikenyeri when we requested names of players whose continued selection seems inexplicable. However, Ishant Sharma was mentioned more frequently.
Sharma seems to be the subject of much scrutiny at the minute. A Cricinfo article about him last week was rendered all but redundant by a blunt and brutal subheading which told the whole story:
“Ishant Sharma has been a disappointment in ODIs, proving ineffective with new ball and old for the majority of his six-year career”
Yesterday, he was taken apart as if he were a national health service, with James Faulkner in the role of right-wing politician. With Australia needing 44 off three overs, Faulkner scored 30 off Sharma, who somewhat disappointingly didn’t bowl any wides or no-balls to extend the destruction.
MS Dhoni says that his bowlers don’t need to be spoon-fed. Presumably, Sharma is currently being fed through a straw.21 Appeals
No-one comes here for the clever headlines, right?
As most of you know, Pakistan did indeed win the first Test against South Africa, doing so in typically Pakistani style. Chasing 40 to win, they fell to 7-3. At this point, Misbah-ul-Haq, who continually strives to be the most dour batsmen in the world, hit 28 off 26 balls, finishing things with a six.
The question now is whether Pakistan can somehow engineer a series defeat after going one up with just one Test to play. We reckon they can – which means they won’t.
Asked to assess his side’s bowling performance, Misbah-ul-Haq said:
“With Pakistan, it’s a mental game.”
You can decide for yourself which meaning he intended there.25 Appeals
So, technically, one-day cricket isn’t ‘all about hitting sixes these days’ because India won.
Australia made 359-5 and India skittered to 362-1 in 43.3 overs in reply. Rohit Sharma hit a hundred and looked quite angry about it. Virat Kohli hit a 52-ball hundred and looked extraordinarily angry about it. Shikhar Dhawan failed shamefully, making only 95, and looked fairly nonplussed about it.
James Faulkner took the wicket, but on this occasion successfully resisted the temptation to try and poke Brad Haddin’s eye out during the celebrations.19 Appeals
Frank Skinner often talks about there being different ‘seats’ for public figures. The premise is that there are certain timeless jokes which require a well-known figure with certain characteristics for the punchline and there always has to be someone to fulfil that role. The person may change, but the joke does not. There is a thick seat, a fat seat and a load of others we can’t remember off the top of our head.
The same applies in cricket. You want a cricketer who loves his food – you’ll probably still go for Mike Gatting. You want to say something about innocuous Kiwi all-rounders – Chris Harris.
We sometimes find need to call upon the person sitting in a seat which could be labelled: ‘Terrible cricketer who somehow keeps getting recalled to play for his country even though he is almost entirely without ability and there are plenty of better options available’.
Up until this week, that seat was occupied by Ajit Agarkar. But alas, no longer, for he has retired from cricket many years too late.
Which occasional international cricketer could possibly replace him?48 Appeals
This is the conclusion we’ve reached. Far from being a see-saw on a roundabout in an earthquake, Pakistan cricket is actually very stable. It’s just that different branches of it have to compensate when there’s upheaval elsewhere so that the whole remains perfectly balanced.
Last month, Pakistan lost a Test to Zimbabwe. At the time, Zimbabwe weren’t even ranked bottom of the Test teams. In fact, they weren’t listed because they hadn’t played enough matches in recent years. Some people said it was an encouraging performance, but really we all know that it was just Pakistan.
Most teams would have had their confidence dented by something like that. Pakistan barely noticed. Instead, they moved onto a Test series against the best team in the world with complete conviction that they would win and are currently building a large first innings lead.
Meanwhile, their cricket board has been dissolved.
This is the way it works. It’s like air trapped under wallpaper. You squash down the chaos bubble in the Test arena and it pops up in administration. We can only assume that during the Zimbabwe defeat, the board was operating smoothly, pausing only to light joss sticks and meditate.10 Appeals
It was a weekly email we wrote to promote a cricket magazine. Some people said it was funny. Other people didn’t say anything about it, but still subscribed anyway. A few people didn’t subscribe at all – but not many.
Like many things which are almost entirely about seeing Bob Willis on the train, it eventually had to end and we were quite sad when that happened. So sad, in fact, that we thought we’d bring it back and do it independently!
Like an idiot!
The newsletter is now called Cricket Badger. You probably know that’s another term for what the Aussies call a ‘cricket tragic,’ but we didn’t when the name was suggested to us. We just thought it was a great sport and a great mammal and went with it.
We’ve not done any ‘marketing’ yet. This is the official announcement. We thought we owed it to you lot to give you the opportunity to be in there from day one (which will hopefully be Friday).
You can sign up at the website. There’s a bit of an explanation over there as to how it’s not spam and a promise that we won’t sell your email to the mob, if you’re worried about that.
If you’re worried about the quality of the email, check out these completely genuine testimonials which have somehow appeared even though the first issue hasn’t been sent yet.
“The Cricket Badger email is better than finding some supermarket sandwiches which have been ridiculously discounted because it’s getting towards the end of the day.” – André Spéléologie
“I saw Tim Munton getting frustrated with a parking meter and didn’t have anyone to tell. Now I can tell Cricket Badger and they can publish my story, giving me renewed enthusiasm for life.” – Tangerine Chanderpork
“At least it’s short and only once a week.” – Jean-Pierre de Knackers
So what are you waiting for? Sign up, sign up, sign up.33 Appeals
We assume this was why he was just dismissed for 15 in the first Test against Pakistan.
Last week, in the only warm-up match for this series, Smith made two against Pakistan A. The innings before that was for Surrey in May. You might think he’d have wanted a bit more time in the middle before this Test, but no, he sat out the second innings of that warm-up match.
Questioned about this decision, he went all Matthew Hayden on us:
“Not batting today was just a management process.”
This hasn’t been the only example of recent guff-talking from Smith. Before the tour, he gave advance warning that match practice wasn’t a major concern:
“I’ve upped my cricket skills in the last two weeks or so and it will be about getting mentally ready.”
The good news is that he now has plenty of time to ‘fine-tune his mental skillset’ back in the shed.15 Appeals