Month: November 2007 (page 1 of 4)

Zimbabwe not quite so bad, West Indies still really rather bad indeed

It's THE Elton - Elton ChigumburaZimbabwe have beaten the West Indies. As the result loomed, we were asked whether we were going to paint it as a Zimbabwean improvement or ‘the usual’. ‘The usual’ is of course when we say that if you so much as lose a wicket against Zimbabwe, you’re the worst cricketers to represent your nation.

Well, we’ve had a little look back over Zimbabwe’s recent record and we’re going to revise our stance ever-so-slightly. Zimbabwe are still more embarrassing than that home video of you trying to look cool at a classmate’s tenth birthday party, but they have improved. Slightly.

They beat Australia in the Twenty20 World Cup and you can’t really fluke a victory against Australia in any form of the game, no matter what Twenty20-haters might say. Also, in a recent series against South Africa, they consistently passed 200, even though they lost every match.

Passing 200 doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, but you forget who we’re talking about. This is Zimbabwe, the team that conceded 418-5 in a one-day match against South Africa; the team that against today’s opponents this time last year, were bowled out for 85; this is the team that were dismissed for 69 of the most redundant runs in cricket history against the towering might of Kenya.

As for the West Indies, it’ll come as no surprise to hear that the bowlers sprayed it every which way and that Shivnarine Chanderpaul hit an unbeaten hundred in defeat. People said that the Windies lost a lot when Lara retired, but what the hell are they going to do when Shiv goes? Shivnarine Chanderpaul is The Balls.

Good links in this post. Saying Zimbabwe are toss brings out the best in us.

Wasim Jaffer gets a big hundred

Here is my bat and helmet - nice, yes?Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were fairly predictable thorns in Sohail Tanvir’s side, but Wasim Jaffer was a thorn the size of a pickaxe handle.

Jaffer actually made his Test debut back in 2000, when he was looked on as the latest great batsman from Mumbai, the town that brought you Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Merchant and far too many more. It hasn’t really turned out like that, but he’s becoming more secure in his Test place.

He hit a double hundred, away from home, against the West Indies last year and in the recent series in England, Jaffer showed a great ability to see out new ball swing, although he undid this good work with a couple of needless dismissals. He can bat for long periods and he can bat when it’s tough. He just needs to combine the two now.

Today might not have been an example of that, but in hitting 192 not out off 255 balls, he’s done all you could ask of an opener. Not bad for a man who’s very name is synonymous for an unplayable delivery.

We vaguely remembered writing a post about how Indians seem to score big hundreds more often than England’s batsmen. It took us ages to find, until we hit upon the ingenious idea of perusing the ‘big hundreds’ category on our old site.

Wasim Jaffer has hit 192 not out. That is a big hundred.

Sohail Tanvir is Pakistan’s ‘go to’ bowler

Got the face onBecause if you go to anyone else, you have to enter an isolation unit and get decontaminated afterwards.

We don’t know for definite, but we imagine that Sohail Tanvir’s in a bad mood. Sohail’s one quarter of a four-man attack and one of the other quarters, Shoaib Akhtar, has got flu and a second, Mohammad Sami, is also rumoured to be under the weather.

This has meant that Sohail Tanvir has had to bowl 24 overs and in Kolkata, that’s no easy work. He’s probably done well to only go for 118 runs. We read one report that described him as looking ‘ragged’. We’re not surprised.

There’s something very satisfying about Sohail Tanvir’s beard. It’s short yet heavy. It almost looks like some enthusiastic marker pen work.

Sourav Ganguly looking really quite pissed off

While wearing a stupid hat.

[This post used to contain a picture of Sourav wearing an East 17 hat while signing autographs at this point. Annoyingly, we can’t find it now.]

No joke. We just really like this picture.

Don’t make eye contact, Sourav. Write something dismissive as well. That’ll show him. Bloody kids with their unquestioning devotion.

Open verdict on Bob Woolmer’s death

Bob WoolmerYou could have guessed, couldn’t you? Bob Woolmer’s death has veered from sad to sickening and back to merely sad again. It was to be expected that no real conclusions would be drawn.

We’re going to put most weight by the part where they say that there was ‘insufficient evidence of a criminal act’. We’re going to take that bit in isolation and interpret it as meaning it wasn’t murder. Sometimes you have to reach your own decisions about these things.

Bob Woolmer’s obituary.

No Holds Barred Cricket

No Holds Barred Cricket is a form rarely played these days. It was introduced in the mid-Nineties as a means of injecting a little bit more excitement into the one-day game. Rather frighteningly and contradictorily, the rules are ‘there are no rules’.

No Holds Barred Cricket featured large amounts of injuries from the outset, so players are rarely asked to partake these days. Nevertheless, occasional exhibition matches are still played.

In this shot, we see Mahendra Singh Dhoni struggling to catch Shoaib Malik. Shoaib Malik’s batting partner, Shahid Afridi, just out of shot, has hold of Dhoni’s leg and is attempting to sabotage the catch.

Rules bring order - rules are good

Afridi succeeded in spoiling Dhoni’s catch but was run out as he was well out of his ground. Then Sachin Tendulkar gave him a wedgie.

Dale Steyn’s bowling speed

We remember Dale Steyn’s Test debut. For his first wicket, he arced a yorker into Marcus Trescothick‘s middle stump. Not bad.

While he touched 90mph during that Test, it was rare and we sort of put him to the back of our mind in our mental draw marked ‘South African fast-medium’. It’s not a drawer we often feel like opening. As the series progressed, this seemed increasingly wise as Steyn failed to pick up more than two wickets in any of the six innings in which he bowled.

However, we’re taking Dale out of that boring drawer at the back now and moving him to one of the prime drawers – ‘fast bowlers who are good’ – it’s actually the top drawer. He’s on probation for the moment, but we want to give him a taste of this drawer in the hope that it’ll encourage him. Fast bowlers need encouragement right now.

While New Zealand’s batting line-up is currently a bit puny, Dale Steyn nevertheless managed to have consecutive ten wicket matches. Ten wicket matches are rare and even more so for fast bowlers. It was the culmination of some fairly steady improvement from Steyn.

We still had a slight concern though – is Dale Steyn actually a fast bowler or just fast-medium? We love fast bowlers, whereas fast-medium bowlers can sit in their drawer enduring Shaun Pollock‘s boring stories about when he used to be filed more sympathetically for all we care.

We watched some of the highlights of Dale Steyn’s recent wicket-taking exploits and praise be, he topped 90mph. In the King Cricket book of guidelines, if you bowl over 90mph, you’re fast. 89mph and we hate you for ruining the sport; 90mph and we’ll try and steal your sweatband for a keepsake. It’s a harsh and relatively meaningless distinction, but we abide by it.

Matthew Hoggard will be in the Test team then

Line 'em up and Hoggy'll knock 'em downIf 240 Test wickets weren’t enough, there’s the fact that Stephen Harmison and James Anderson are both a bit injured to help Hoggy along. And if his 6-57 against India at Nagpur last year – a herculean bowling performance hewn from pure nous – wasn’t proof that he could bowl in subcontinental conditions, he’s taken 5-25 today, reducing the Sri Lanka Cricket Board President’s XI to 75-5 at one point.

What possible reason could you have for not picking Matthew Hoggard though? It’s ridiculous. Even after a period away from Test cricket, he’s surely first pick. He’s England’s most experienced Test bowler and rather surprisingly, he’s also their strike bowler, though no-one’ll admit it.

India get home

Sachin has his own private victory discoIt may have got to 93-3 chasing 200, but with Sachin Tendulkar there, it never really felt in doubt. The man’s a pro.

Shoaib Akhtar did his best, taking 4-58, but this was the right result. If India’s tailenders had managed to stick around for even a moment in their first innings, it could have been so much more straightforward.

So now the players get three whole days off before the second Test in Kolkata. Remember kids – if there’s more than two days in between, they’re not back-to-back Tests. That extra day should at least allow Misbah-ul-Haq plenty of time to come up with some even more ingenious ways of getting dismissed.

Misbah-ul-Haq ready and positioned

Misbah batting away some cricketingsWell, here we are again. The first Test between India and Pakistan is still poised, it could still go either way and again so much depends on Misbah-ul-Haq, who’s one of the not out batsmen.

Man of the match awards hardly ever take account of context. You’ve got one batsman who hit a blinding 110 when the match was in the balance and you’ve got another batsman who coasted to 160 when his team were already miles ahead – it goes to the guy who got 160.

In this match, the man of the match is likely to be a bowler, due to the low scores. While Anil Kumble’s a fantastic candidate with 4-38 and 3-55 so far in the second innings, surely any batsman who scores runs in a low-scoring game is playing as big a part? But when was the last time someone was man of the match for a pair of fifties? Batsmen have to score hundreds to get the award, but we’ll see.

Pakistan lead by 167 with five wickets in hand. Test cricket’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it? It’s been three days now and we’ve still no clue as to who’s going to win. It’s gone one way and then the other in a manner fundamentally impossible in the shorter formats.

At times like this, you can stick those shorter formats. Test cricket is THE BALLS.

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