Yes, football is kind of an arsehole, but we can’t really blame it for injuring our cricketers

Jonny Bairstow risking HIS WHOLE PRECIOUS GODDAMN LIFE by kicking a football (via YouTube)

Jonny Bairstow missed today’s England game because he twisted his ankle in training. So far, so unremarkable.

Jonny Bairstow missed today’s England game because he twisted his ankle playing football in training. BAN FOOTBALL!

Way back in 2009, Joe Denly knackered something-or-other while playing football with his England team-mates and  management did indeed decide to ban football.

At the time, it seemed like England’s cricketers were entirely unable to emerge from a half-arsed game of five-a-side without at least one person ending up on life support.

However, football was reintroduced for England’s cricketers in 2015 and since then there have been plenty of survivors. It could be that football isn’t actually monumentally dangerous. Maybe we just feel disproportionately outraged when injuries happen to cricketers during a game of football.

In one way, this is logical because football is an arsehole that annexes the majority of the sports pages for 12 months a year. In another way, it is illogical because if the players weren’t playing football they’d be bouncing around doing something else and someone or other would get injured somehow.

Injuries happen. Injuries are part of life.

Our friend Dan has a scar on his face. It is a very cool scar. If you had to guess what had caused it (and you didn’t know Dan at all well) there is about an 80 per cent chance you would go with ‘back alley knife fight’.

That would be incorrect, however. The true cause of the scar was in fact ‘careless removal of a T-shirt’.

Thinking it was a fine time to have a shower, Dan went to remove his T-shirt using a double-handed, bend-at-the-waist technique and he did so while standing on the landing of his home. He carried out his T-shirt-removal manoeuvre quite forcefully and in the process head-butted the newel post at the top of the bannister. It took him about 16 years to reveal the true cause of his injury to his brother and now that we think about it, it wasn’t even him that did so, it was us.

The point is that if you can near-enough knock yourself out disrobing, you can sustain an injury doing pretty much anything. Rob Key says playing football brings a cricket team together and that the good outweighs the bad and frankly that’s good enough for us.


The two very obvious highlights from Pakistan v Australia in Abu Dhabi

Marnus Labuschagne (via YouTube)

Pakistan are playing Australia at the minute and there is a scoreline and eventually there will be a result, but all that really matters is the catch and the run-out.

Let’s start with the run-out because that happened most recently.

Azhar Ali edged through gully and the ball ran towards the rope but not to the rope. Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq didn’t pick up on this subtlety and rather than running, they stood in the middle of the pitch doing a fist bump like a pair of unaware bell-ends.

The two men may have started to suspect that something was awry as they watched Tim Paine whip the bails off.

The catch happened earlier in the match. It was taken by Marnus Labuschagne, a human man whose first name is Marnus and whose second name is Labuschagne.

Labuschagne was fielding at short leg and Mohammad Hafeez middled the ball straight into what Cricinfo called his ‘inner thigh’, what Labuschagne himself called ‘sort of in my groin’ and what we’d call ‘his bollocks’ (we are 100 per cent confident he was wearing protective equipment because he was not hospitalised).

Labuschagne opted to fall over using a spiralling method, almost as if he were trying to corkscrew himself into the ground where he’d be safe. As he spun round, the ball ricocheted off his right thigh and rattled around between his legs before eventually coming to rest between his knees as he lay on his back.

“All of a sudden I saw it sit like a little diamond,” he recalled. (Who stores diamonds between their knees?)

It was a very fine catch.


Mohammad Abbas could get hold of your phone number (and so could Naseem Shah)

Mohammad Abbas (via Sky Sports)

Footage emerged this week of a player who could only ever have been from Pakistan. Supposedly 15 years old – but actually 17 – Naseem Shah took 6-59 in his second first-class match via a heady masala of hooping away-swingers, yorkers and helmet-rattlers.

Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, Shah’s countryman Mohammad Abbas was working his way to 54 Test wickets at an average of 15.94 via his increasingly familiar method of medium-pace line and length.

It’s like the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to discover the phone number of a drug dealer who appears to be making efforts to become a property developer.

In series three of The Wire, Detective McNulty goes to Stringer Bell’s community college, tells some lies and gets his phone number from the school records. Meanwhile, his colleague Detective Freamon gets the exact same information from property purchasing records. Both methods work.

Cricket is a rich and varied sport where it makes total sense to get overexcited about watching Shah crowbar holes in a team while simultaneously marvelling at the astonishing ability of Abbas to gently unravel a batting line-up by pulling on just one or two very specific threads. Cricket is ace.

And so is Abbas. In May he took 17 wickets across two Test matches – one against Ireland and one against England – and looked every bit the archetypal early season green pitch nibbler. Bowling in much the same way, he has now taken 12 wickets against Australia in the UAE in a Test and a half. He’s succeeded in the West Indies too.

According to CricViz, Abbas bowls at the stumps more than anyone and is “unburdened by excessive pace,” typically delivering the ball at just under 80mph. He doesn’t go for runs because he doesn’t do anything wrong.

If Naseem Shah appears to be in the business of trying to persuade a sufficiently large number of stars to line up to earn him his wickets, Abbas is more like Peter Siddle, operating within a very narrow performance range where facing him is like walking a tightrope.

Maybe one day they’ll work together.


Why don’t we just pretend that Sanath Jayasuriya the cricketer was a completely different human being?

Sanath Jayasuriya (CC licensed by Christopher Jansz via Wikimedia)

At some point way back in the mists of time, we started calling Sanath Jayasuriya ‘Benevolent Uncle Sanath’ – partly because he looks like a benevolent uncle and partly because he is called Sanath.

Sanath Jayasuriya was an excellent cricketer. His joyous ‘ha haaa’ scythe over the offside infield is one of the all-time great signature shots and the 323 wickets he picked up with his non-spinning whanged dobblage constitute one of the all-time great one-day international overachievements.

However, his batting tipped you off that appearances could be deceptive and a few years later, he revealed himself to be not at all benevolent but in fact an incurable wrong ‘un (not in the cricket sense) by turning to politics.

After a somewhat belated retirement from international cricket, he transmogrified into the archetypal Sri Lanka cricket bureaucrat, combining a role as chairman of selectors with being member of parliament. As a selector, he made a bunch of weird decisions because that’s what being a Sri Lanka selector is all about.

Now, like Frank Spencer, he’s in a little bit of trouble. Sanath says he’s always conducted himself with “integrity and transparency” while the ICC says he’s failed or refused to cooperate with an anti-corruption investigation and that he’s also obstructed or delayed it.

No matter how this plays out, we’re going to implement the wilful delusion strategy to insulate ourself from any possible future bad news. We now believe that despite the timeline above, Sanath Jayasuriya the cricketer was an entirely different human being from Sanath Jayasuriya the selector and politician and our memories therefore cannot be sullied.


Olly Stone will maybe be a fast bowler for England some of the time

Olly Stone (via Sky Sports)

It’s an absolute statement of fact that no-one remotely cares whether England win rain-reduced one-dayers against Sri Lanka. England fans care whether England have an England fast bowler playing for England though.

In Olly Stone, maybe they sort of do. And maybe he’ll play a quarter or a third of England’s major games in the next year or so.

Stone’s first international wicket was Niroshan Dickwella. He bounced the shit out of him with a ball that was clocked at… 82mph.

It looked quick though. It probably was quick. Other deliveries definitely were quick. On commentary, Mahela Jayawardene said Stone looked “absolutely brilliant” which is a pretty weighty compliment to attract within the first four overs of your international career.

Frankly, we’re delighted that England have access to someone who’s maybe a fast bowler. A maybe-fast bowler makes life better even when he doesn’t play because you can say “they should have picked Stone” whenever the other bowlers look a bit limp.

Having a theoretical solution to the problems playing out in front of you is a much better way of watching your team lose a cricket match than having to go “well, there’s nothing anyone could have done differently, this defeat was simply unavoidable.”


Shane Warne says Jos Buttler is a Houdini-esque escapologist

The very great thing about Shane Warne having a book out (ghosted by Mark Nicholas, of all people) is that he appears here, there and everywhere and talks his nonsense and we all get to marvel at how swiftly the man can form opinions and stick to them.

Warne thinks England should make Jos Buttler Test captain. This is a very Warne-ish thing to think. Put the eye-catching player in charge.

Like most of Warne’s ideas, there’s something underpinning it but maybe not all that much.

Firstly, he knows Buttler from Rajasthan Royals. Warne pretty much always talks up people he personally knows, particularly if he’s met them fairly recently.

Secondly, he reckons England need to unshackle Joe Root.

“Maybe England could think about their best player having the shackles off, not having the responsibility of captaincy, and give it to someone like Jos Buttler,” he said.

There’s merit in this. Maybe Joe Root would bat better unshackled. But wouldn’t that transfer of power merely amount to the shackling of Buttler?

“Jos could play with his freedom and captain the side, and Joe could just concentrate on his cricket,” Warne reasoned.

Apparently Buttler is unaffected by shackles for reasons that aren’t exactly explained. We can only presume he is able to wriggle out of the captaincy shackles whenever he wants (and presumably wriggle back into them whenever England are fielding or it’s a press conference or whatever.)


Is an Australia player going to say ‘records are made to be broken’?

At the time of writing, Australia have made a solid start to chasing 400-and-plenty to win against Pakistan after losing ten wickets for 60 runs in their first innings.

We can’t at this point say what we expect the situation to be at the close of play, but it seems highly likely it will be a time for wide-eyed optimism. The very best form of wide-eyed optimism is when teams are chasing very big fourth innings targets and play ends for the day and everyone takes stock and loses all perspective.

At these times, the team that is highly likely to lose, pats itself on the back and says ‘maybe, maybe, maybe’ and they all say it to each other enough times that they get a little ahead of themselves.

The phrase ‘records are made to be broken’ is 50 per cent this and 50 per cent the professional obligation to try for a win (or at least a draw) no matter what the circumstances.

Records aren’t made to be broken. Records are made in the absence of a statistically superior event from the past.

Anyway, we’re very excited to see whether an Australia player says ‘records are made to be broken’. That’s the main thing that hangs in the balance in the final session – the possible saying of that phrase.


A Middlesex Second XI v Lancashire Second XI match report (from 2016)

Ged writes:

The best laid plans, eh?

My plan for the day was to have a real tennis lesson at 10am and stay to watch the finale of the Middlesex v Durham match. But Middlesex decided to bring an end to those proceedings the day before.

Plan B. Real tennis lesson at 10am, then scoot from Lord’s to Radlett to catch at least two sessions of dinky-doos play there (Editor: We have no idea what this means, but sometimes it’s just better to publish and hope that no-one uncovers your ignorance than actually ask for an explanation.) To my shame, I had still not been to Radlett, despite my constant intention to get round to it since my last aborted attempt, reported on King Cricket years ago.

After the lesson, I returned to Dumbo (Editor: Ged’s car) in Car Park No. 6 to find Paul Collingwood, in his Durham track suit, loading up an Enterprise van with Durham kit, much of which was piled up in front of Dumbo.

I threw my measly tennis kit in the back and turned on Dumbo’s engine. Colly gave me a look of exasperation and started moving the kit that was blocking Dumbo’s way.

“Smart move,” I said. “You don’t want any of your kit inadvertently run over, Colly.”

Colly didn’t smile. He looked in a thoroughly bad mood for some reason.

I added to the bad mood by then remembering that I needed to book Dumbo in for his MOT and service, so I got out of the car to get my diary, fiddled around for a few minutes making that call and then drove off.

Dumbo suggested that he or I might write up that Colly encounter for Cricket Badger (Editor: Now Wisden Cricket Weekly). Indeed, you might well have read about it in that esteemed organ before you read this.

Dumbo got very excited when we drove into the Radlett car park, as you could see the field of play just beyond a low hedge. Regular readers will know that Dumbo is constantly trying to repeat his first cricket experience, at Clontarf, Dublin, where he could actually see the field of play. That is hard to achieve at, e.g. Uxbridge and/or Lord’s.

Radlett is a lovely ground and that day was a beautiful day for being around cricket. Michael Atherton was putting his son Josh through his paces in the nets – a fairly regular school holiday sight at Radlett, I am told. As one of the Middlesex regulars put it to me: “You get a very good class of father and son playing in the nets here at Radlett.”

The afternoon passed remarkably quickly. I didn’t get as much reading done as I had intended but I did chat well with some of the Middlesex regulars, who are always good company.

On the way back into London, at the end of the M1, Dumbo started coughing and spluttering. He’s been doing that intermittently of late. Perhaps the excitement of seeing the cricket had been too much for him. Probably just as well I had booked him in for that service.


What we do and don’t know about Prithvi Shaw

Chippy tea (CC licensed by timdifford via Flickr)

You’re probably wondering why there’s a photo of a load of fried fish awaiting a greedy human receptacle up there. We’ll get to that. It won’t take too long, but you’ll have to be a little bit patient. Before we get to it, we want to talk about the nature of knowledge and also 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw’s hundred on debut for India.

The way we manage knowledge over the course of our lives is that we start out with none and we build a foundation. First of all we prod things and push things and shout at things and see what they do and through this process we start to work out some of the rules of our environment. We then begin to stack up little information Lego blocks on top of these foundations, building our own personal tower of knowledge.

Some people find themselves focusing a lot on one particular area – say music or physics – and they build a big high tower that everyone else finds really impressive. Most of us take a broader approach, slapping blocks on here there and everywhere and never hitting the same heights.

At a certain point in life, we reach a critical mass where we can’t really add more blocks without compromising the integrity of the structure. At this point our compulsion to add further blocks leads to other bits falling off and there’s nothing you can do about that. The orderly acquisition of information is over. You’ve reached peak knowledge and all that changes is what that body of knowledge comprises.

Sometimes a new Lego block of information means you lose a block from somewhere else. Sometimes it’s load-bearing and you lose a wall or a whole wing of the building. By the time you’re properly old, nothing really links together any more – you’re just mounds and mounds of random facts with nothing much linking it all together. This is when people generally become most interesting to talk to.

We found out a certain amount about Prithvi Shaw yesterday and we found out a bit more today. Lord knows what we’ve sacrificed for this, but it feels like there’ll be a whole Prithvi Shaw section of Lego architecture in coming years, so we might as well go with it.

Let’s start with today because what happened today is most relevant to his cricket career. Today Prithvi Shaw scored a debut Test hundred at a run a ball.

Today’s stories are mostly about how he’s only 18 and he’s already scoring Test hundreds and isn’t he the best thing ever. Either that or they’re getting stuck into the backlash nice and early and saying it was a flat pitch and a relatively toothless attack and this doesn’t prove anything.

Our take is that Shaw’s been talked up ever since he made 546 off 330 balls in a schools match, so this innings hints that he can handle ludicrous expectations fairly well and this is very important. For obvious reasons most people don’t get a chance to prove (or fail to prove) such a thing until they’ve played a great many Test matches.

Shaw also did some good batting and very little bad batting. We’d say today’s information leaves us with a broadly positive view of his prospects as a Test cricketer. The story is very much ‘to be continued’ though. (And honestly, that is the best part of any story. That’s when you’re still intrigued and your mind’s still trying to work things out.)

The knowledge we gained yesterday was different. Yesterday Prithvi Shaw hadn’t played Test cricket so the main things we learned related to his dietary preferences.

Back when he was 12 or 13, Shaw spent a term at Cheadle Hulme School, which is two or three miles away from where we used to live. According to the Mail on Sunday, he had a decent time but didn’t much like the food. The exception was fish and chips. (This is interesting to us because when we first went to India, we thought how mushy peas with salt and vinegar could pass as an Indian dish. Criminally, the Mail on Sunday neglects to report whether ‘fish and chips’ was in fact ‘fish, chips and mushy peas’ or even ‘fish chips, mushy peas and gravy’. )

After we finished reading that article, we were very much left with the impression that fish and chips is 100 per cent Prithvi Shaw’s favourite UK meal. We were therefore utterly taken aback when cricket writer Vithushan Ehantharajah retweeted a comment from a Ben Milligan earlier today, saying: “Lived with my family for two summers about 5 years ago. Big, big fan of salt and pepper chicken wings. Decent bat too.”

So suddenly we have two Lego blocks of Prithvi Shaw dietary information to apply to our knowledge tower. This is gravely concerning because as established above, knowledge is power – and that power is the power to destroy great swathes of wholly unrelated knowledge.

The addition of two basically worthless nuggets of information (and let’s be honest here, this is the exact kind of knowledge we do actually retain) therefore presents a significant threat to our person.

Our solution is that we are going to try and consolidate the two seemingly contradictory facts “Prithvi Shaw’s favourite thing to eat in the UK is fish and chips” and “Prithvi Shaw’s favourite thing to eat in the UK is salt and pepper chicken” into “Prithvi Shaw really likes deep fried beige food.”


TalkSPORT and Test Match Special | I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It

I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It is a semi-regular feature where we ask a fella called Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

England tour Sri Lanka and the West Indies this winter and the big news for cricket’s (in)visibility in the media is that talkSPORT have got the radio broadcast rights, so there’s no Test Match Special.

Well I don’t listen to Test Match Special but even I’m livid. One of my favourite things is talking on the radio that goes on for hours. I think it might be time to riot.

Well there’s always the talkSPORT talking on the radio that goes on for hours. They’re so committed to it that they even put ‘talk’ in their name. Have you ever listened to talkSPORT? Can you imagine what cricket on talkSPORT would be like? (And what, exactly, do you imagine that cricket on Test Match Special is like?)

Well I should have been clearer. I like long talking on the radio that is not on talkSPORT.

I heard talkSPORT once in my friend’s car about ten years ago. It was angry men shouting about football and I did not care for it. I think I can imagine what cricket would be like on talkSPORT and I do not think I would care for that either.

What do I think TMS would be like? Sort of like posh old chaps talking about the breeds of birds on the pavilion roof, the slant of the sun over the south-facing stand, their sandwich filling of the day, their favourite type of cake, a bit of poetry they remembered from school, making a note of a wicket or a six. That type of thing. Close?

Well it’s evolved a bit in recent years – most of what you describe was basically Henry Blofeld’s exact contribution – but stereotypes are generally rooted in fact aren’t they? There’s still an undercurrent of all that.

We suppose TMS has moved towards the middle ground of late and the very fact that it’s cricket will probably drag talkSPORT more towards the middle ground too. There’s also Guerilla Cricket, which is the irreverent option. Those guys commentate on the TV coverage and broadcast online.

I might give TMS a go. I fall asleep at night listening to podcasts of things I’m not very interested in. I find it soothing.

Well, like we said, they haven’t got the rights, so you’ll have to wait until summer. They are however going to… [checks announcement] “… give fans a chance to hear their favourite TMS broadcasters, like Aggers and Michael Vaughan, give their expert view on England’s tour of Sri Lanka and take part in discussions around all the big issues in the sport.”

Yeah, that sounds suitably uninteresting. That should do it.


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