Talk of an England win has been unjustifiably common during this Test. You never know what’s likely to happen in a match, but you can tailor conversation according to likelihood and at no point has an England victory seemed probable. Even talking about how they could possibly engineer a winning situation from the difficult positions they’ve found themselves in has been to remain wilfully blind to reality. A draw was appearing a fairly lofty aim from quite early on.
We’re fond of saying that averages only tell you what has already happened and that certainly applies here. Brendon McCullum only averages 30-odd with the bat, but he’s made England miserable all series without reaching three figures. Peter Fulton’s average has only reached the thirties thanks to a hundred in each innings of this match, but that kind of a contribution is a great deal more meaningful in terms of the series than what Ian Bell did against Pakistan in 2006.
We’re increasingly feeling like Ian Bell is a kind of barometer of form for England. We often talk about a team winning when one particular player performs well, but when Ian Bell plays badly, England are terrible. Or is it the other way round? It’s almost as if he responds to the pervading air of underachievement and thinks: “Right, time for eight off 89 balls.”
Bell’s still in, of course, but his obduracy seems less like resilience and more like the foreshadowing of a collapse – a contributory factor, even, if it brings unwarranted nervousness to the young batsmen who follow him.
Good luck to Bell and good luck to England, because they’ll need it. Whatever their averages, New Zealand’s bowlers have threatened England’s batsmen almost all series.32 Appeals
He has one of our favourite nicknames in international cricket, so we’re secretly slightly pleased that Peter Fulton scored a hundred against England because it means he should get a few more matches. Set against that is the fact that he was averaging 23 before the first day’s play, so you can’t say it was a particularly good day for England after opting to bowl.
There have been worse insertions, but ‘insertion’ is a noun which covers some unsavoury concepts, so that’s not saying much. That said, wiser men than us have highlighted the fact that drop-in pitches such as this often get flatter as the match wears on, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the weekend’s entertainment. Or maybe England were just crap and wickets will tumble when they come to bat.
However things pan out, Peter Fulton didn’t put a foot wrong. And with seven of them at his disposal, that means he’s still got plenty of room for manoeuvre.10 Appeals
The tone of that title is meant to convey that this news is significant but that we don’t really have anything to say about it. We hope it has delivered in that regard.
Kevin Pietersen’s absence seems like the kind of thing people might be talking about, but sometimes conversation doesn’t flow with ease. Sometimes it’s halting and awkward and you walk away feeling like you haven’t given a good account of yourself. It’s worst when you’ve been speaking on a topic on which you feel you should have an informed opinion. The best way to tackle this is to never talk to anyone about anything you remotely comprehend.
Sometimes we find ourself in a situation where, against all odds, we’re talking to semi-strangers about cricket. If this happens, we make a conscious effort to shed knowledge. You don’t want to be the guy who knows about stuff; they pay you more attention then. This is why we don’t tell people that we write about cricket. We want to put them off the scent, so we carefully calibrate our comments accordingly.
This is actually pretty difficult because you have to remember what kind of information is likely to be common knowledge and what’s minutiae. A mistake we often make is to say something head-smackingly obvious about a cricketer who we then realise is far too obscure for everyday conversation.
Players who can safely be discussed:
Players who cannot safely be discussed:
- Jonny Bairstow
- Graham Onions
- Nick Compton
- Jos Buttler
- Mehrab Hossain junior
There’s a real art to successfully engineering an entirely unrewarding conversation which revolves around a topic on which you are actually very well informed. It’s one thing we pride ourself on.22 Appeals
We used to fear this kind of thing, but it’s all been put in perspective by this:
The holiday ends with you having a barbecue with the man himself. At least he’s a good cook.
“Yes, I could definitely eat a 14th steak if you’d be good enough to go back over to the barbecue yet again. There’s not enough heat left to cook with, you say? I’m sure there is. You’ll just have to cook it for longer. You’ll just have to cook it for much, much longer. That’s right. Stay over there, slightly further away from me for much, much longer.”
We found this via a link on Hayden’s Twitter feed, which read: “Come and play in my back yard.”
Not sure why we clicked it really. There was no possible good outcome.25 Appeals
Mitchell Starc’s been sent for an operation. Apparently, he’s been suffering with bone spurs for months. It’s very hard to keep track of injuries to Australian bowlers, but we think that he joins Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird on the sidelines. We presume Ryan Harris is injured as well, although he’s been in the grey land between injury and retirement for so long, he’s presumably built a house there.
As ever, the team’s injured bowling attack is probably better than the Test attack, although at least James Pattinson’s been allowed to play again. Plus Peter Siddle’s in form. Siddle strikes you as being a man who’s heard of being injured, but who doesn’t really believe in the concept.
The sheer inevitability of Australian fast bowling injuries is highlighted best by the case of Shane Watson. Half batsman, half bowler, half tearful bovine – this man-and-a-half is apparently fit to bat, but not to bowl.
This really does beg the question as to why the state of Australia’s spin bowling is so dire. Surely all the youngsters are turning to tweak in a bid for self-preservation.34 Appeals
You see what happens? You see what happens? This is what happens. This is what happens when you goad Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god who loves Test cricket.
Tlaloc has really been looking forward to the series between New Zealand and England, but then he found out about the schedule and flipped out.
“Four days between Tests?” said Tlaloc. “We’ll see about that.”
He’d been planning on holding out just a few more days before ending the drought that has bedevilled North Island but when he found out that the gap between the second and third Tests was again just four days, the same as between the first and second Tests, he moved things forwards.
Tlaloc likes to have time to dissect one Test match and then some more time to anticipate the next.12 Appeals
Our facial hair says ‘couldn’t be bothered shaving’. Shikhar Dhawan’s says ‘I take enormous pride in my moustache’.
Hair can build up like limescale or mould or it can be something you cultivate and tend to like a flower. Dhawan’s moustache reminds us of a possibly apocryphal story we heard while in Rajasthan once. This guy told us he’d sat behind someone on a bus who he’d suspected of having the grandest, widest moustache, only to discover that the chap in question had actually waxed his extensive ear hair into long, regal points. Whether that’s true or not, that’s taking pride in your hair.
Dhawan’s moustache is fantastic, but somehow he overshadowed it with his batting. We’ve said before that India rarely struggle for batsmen. Let’s not devalue Dhawan’s innings by dwelling on the bowling he faced, the truth is that he tracked down Australia’s open wounds and then excavated them using some sort of threshing machine made entirely out of salt. It was astonishingly cruel, frighteningly brutal and quite, quite brilliant.15 Appeals
Expectations are a funny thing. A great film trailer guarantees a disappointing film. Far better to keep expectations low. That’s our philosophy. Promise nothing and then deliver half of something to semi-grateful murmurs of: “Oh, it’s not as bad as I expected.”
After several years of promise and a number of highs and lows, we’re all starting to get to grips with what we should expect from Stuart Broad.
For a while, Broad promised to become a fast bowler. He isn’t a fast bowler. He also promised to become an all-rounder. He isn’t an all-rounder. In fact, he probably isn’t even an opening bowler.
Stuart Broad bowls at 80-odd miles an hour and he does a decent job. Every now and again, he’ll find the right length on a pitch which suits him reasonably well and he’ll take a five-for. Sometimes you’ll get some lower order runs from him. Sometimes his heel will flare up and he’ll miss a couple of matches.
That sounds a bit dismissive of his ability, but is that offering really so bad? A tall, reliable fast-medium bowler is something every team hankers for. If we don’t expect the bastard offspring of Michael Holding and Brian Lara we can be quite happy with that.9 Appeals
A quick update on how Phil Hughes is doing against India’s spinners. He really kicked on today, scoring two whole runs.
This means that Hughes has now been dismissed five times in his last 70 balls against spin, scoring two runs in that time.
That’s 0.4 runs per dismissal at a strike rate of 2.86.
It’s rare that statistics speak for themselves when you’re trying to deliver humour.23 Appeals
A great result for Australia today with the first day’s play being a complete washout. It didn’t stop them making the one decision needed for them to commit to a playing eleven though.
“We went with what we perceive to be our two specialist spinners.”
Does that mean that they aren’t specialist spinners? Is Mickey Arthur saying that they’re actually zookeepers, but that he and Michael Clarke are choosing to perceive them as spinners?
Surely you trust your own perception? To use the phrase ‘what we perceive to be’ indicates an odd tinge of self doubt. If we said that we were currently drinking ‘what we perceive to be a cup of tea’ you’d stop us and say: “Hang on a minute. What are you really saying here, King Cricket? What are you really drinking?”
If we then looked down into our mug and answered: “We perceive it to be tea,” you’d probably look at us weirdly for using the first-person plural, but it would also pique your interest still further. You’d want answers. If there’s an element of doubt as to whether this substance is tea or not, then what are the other possibilities?
But it’s more than that. What triggered this uncertainty? How on earth does someone come to question the accuracy of their own perception of the world around them? What has to happen before a person looks at something perfectly commonplace and suspects it might not be quite what it appears. Furthermore, what are the ramifications with regards to the nature of everything else that surrounds them?
If you can’t identify tea with complete confidence, how can you be sure that you can correctly identify coffee? How can you be sure of anything?9 Appeals