Month: January 2008 (page 1 of 4)

England Lions: five for Panesar, Flintoff to appear at boundary edge

Five wickets for Monty Panesar – there’s a sentence that’s been conspicuous by its absence of late. He only did it for England Lions though, who we’re going to start calling England Second XI, because that’s much more accurate.

If you’re going to name one of your national teams after an animal, at least name it after a native one, like the badger or the weasel or the mole.

Andrew Flintoff’s going to ‘link-up’ with the England Hedgehogs, although it will be in a non-playing capacity, which should get everyone good and excited.

The crowds will surely turn out in force. Wow at Flintoff’s relaxed demeanour. Marvel as he has ‘a bit of banter’ with his on-pitch team mates. Gasp as he reveals that his recuperation is coming along ‘quite well’.

This England Second XI squad that’s competing in the Duleep Trophy in India is one of the least interesting in years. Adil Rashid’s involved, which is good and we’ll be interested to see how Liam Plunkett gets on, but the move away from youth and towards being a second XI has taken away a lot of intrigue. These players are fairly well known.

No bowling for Shaun Tait for a bit

Shaun Tait - sixth form poetry in motionThis is bad news. We’d already earmarked Shaun Tait as Matthew Hayden’s successor in the role of ‘most detestably arrogant Australian’. With his face, his face and also his face, he had all the attributes to make the position his own for years to come.

But he’s disappointingly fragile. He’s taking a break from the game – primarily due to the stress, reading between the lines. He’ll be back soon no doubt, but maybe he’s not ‘King Cricket enemy number one’ material.

While we feel moderately guilty about the whole Hayden thing, at least he’s got the bulletproof arrogance to only appear mildly affronted when he appears to us in dreams. Shaun Tait of dreams is going to be wrist-slashingly inconsolable and we have enough trouble sleeping at nights as it is.

We had two points to make about this, but Uncle J Rod’s already made them both with his 12 hour advantage and his despicable work ethic: Being a labouring drone like everyone else is rubbish and even if it weren’t you’ve got far too many years at it after you retire from cricket anyway.

Shaun Tait’ll be back bowling 95mph wides before you know it. Here’s a picture of him in happier days, standing astride a giant cannon.

Adam Gilchrist’s career

Adam Gilchrist did a bit of this as wellAustralia were the best side in the world before Adam Gilchrist was promoted to the Test side. Afterwards, they took on an air of invincibility.

How can a side take the fifth Australian wicket and be faced with a batsman who middles the ball with his first stroke, throws the kitchen sink at everything and averages 50? It was totally unfair and lifted Australia into a hitherto unimagined plane. Gilchrist was a great wicketkeeper, but it was quite frankly freakish that he could bat the way he did on top of that.

Of batsmen who’ve hit more than 1,000 Test runs, only you-know-who has a higher strike-rate per 100 balls than Adam Gilchrist’s 81.95 and essentially that means that nobody in their right mind has ever scored faster.

But consistently as well. The bowlers are tired. It’s been a slog. They do not want to see Adam Gilchrist gripping the very end of his bat handle with narrow-eyed, sadistic intent.

Essentially Adam Gilchrist innings came in two forms. There was the turn-it-around-in-an-hour rearguard on the rare occasions when things weren’t going totally Australia’s way, but more fearsome than that was the remove-any-hint-of-doubt, pile-on-the-misery, kick-’em-when-they’re-down, rapidfire hundred that made tired bowlers exhausted and exhausted bowlers suicidal.

The former would be exemplified by the Christchurch Test of 2005. Australia were 160-5 in their first innings after New Zealand had made 433. Gilchrist scorched his way to 121 off 126 balls, Australia got within a single run of New Zealand’s score and the frazzled Kiwis were bowled out for 131 in their second innings. It was a hundred measured in wickets as well as runs.

The second kind first came to our attention during his first innings against England – the first Test of the 2001 Ashes. England were bowled out for 294 and Australia sauntered to 336-5. It was bad, but the match and series suddenly became a lot longer and more miserable at that point, because Gilchrist did his thing.

Adam Gilchrist patiently plays himself in152 off 143 balls did more than just drive home Australia’s advantage. It totally dispirited a nation. The English were already prone to elevating the Australians to the status of demigods at this time, but now they had to find a higher pedestal. How could their number seven batsman do this to England’s finest?

‘Psychological hold’ is such a limp, hackneyed expression, but when a sportsman thinks even his best isn’t good enough then his performance drops further. But that’s the nature of competition: if you can impose yourself on your opponent to such an extent that their standards drop, then that’s worth even more than your own, personal contribution.

That’s what Adam Gilchrist did so well. His contribution goes beyond the statistics. And consider this: his statistics are phenomenal. 5,570 runs, 17 hundreds and an average of 47.6, as well as 379 catches and 37 stumpings.

Those statistics have deteriorated as well. Since the start of the 2005 Ashes, Gilchrist has averaged just 30.21. Prior to that he’d been averaging 55.65.

55.65! He’s a sodding wicketkeeper and he bats at seven! We’re all used to it now, but that really is outrageous.

Of course even that period of relative mediocrity contained the odd gem, like the second-fastest Test hundred of all time – the archetypal Gilchrist innings. Monty Panesar had been finding Test cricket rather easy up until then. That rather comprehensively put him straight and no mistake.

We haven’t even mentioned one-day cricket, where he won the World Cup with the grandest big occasion hundred imaginable and somehow convinced the selectors of the world that wicketkeepers had to open the batting without their even questioning why this might be the right thing to do or not.

It’s a big loss for everyone.

Australia fail on a flat pitch

Virender Sehwag conceals his balls from Brett LeeFor years most Australian Test wickets have been flatter than a pancake ironed by an anal retentive with the world’s most accurate spirit level. Aussie batsmen have filled their boots knowing they had the bowlers to win a match on any surface.

Last year, at Adelaide, there were two innings of over 500, but then some fat-wristed, blonde warlock did something typically outlandish and Australia emerged with a spectacular win.

This year, at Adelaide, there were two innings of over 500, but this time the Aussies only had some middle-aged guy whose only sign of magic is a tongue with a mind of its own and a desire to escape the confines of its mouthy prison cell. Weirdly, this didn’t do much good and India made 269-7 and the match was drawn.

Australia have rarely drawn matches without weather interference in their stint at the top of the tree. With that in mind, it also notable that India kept them down to just 3.11 runs an over in their first and only innings.

Matthew Hayden: the gift that keeps on giving

Matthew Hayden - making life miserable since 1993Only the gift is a poo in a box and it keeps jumping up and punching you in the face, leaving you bruised and faecal.

Eventually the poo knocks you out, whereupon it steals all your money and forces you to dance naked in the car park at work in order to win back your clothes and cash – though not your dignity. You will never get that back. Never.

Matthew Hayden hit 103 on a pitch where tailenders are hitting fifties and India’s best bowler’s injured. You have to admire the way he takes advantage. No, not admire – respect. No, not respect – acknowledge. No, not acknowledge – resent.

Stuart Clark’s bowling average enters the realms of the credible

'I was better than Malcolm Marshall until today'There’s no problem picking five bowlers when one hits 87 and another hits 63.

There were some pretty expensive bowling figures knocking about after India finished their innings. Perhaps the nicest was Stuart Clark’s 0-92. Now we’ve nothing against Clark, but he shouldn’t be averaging under 20 with the ball. And now he doesn’t. And probably never will again.

A duck for Mike Hussey would help the part of our brain that gets ENRAGED about aberrant statistics to settle down again. We’ve barely slept in the last two years, worrying about it all.

Funny how English players have averages that make people go: ‘He’s better than that implies’ and Australian players have averages that make them go: ‘Now that’s misleading. He’s not quite that good.’

Nasir Jamshed – official stance pending

Our toast is dry and the larder is empty. To the jam shed!

This is tricky. Nasir Jamshed’s made a fine start to his career, walloping a 48 ball 61 and now a 64 ball 74. The problem is that both innings have been against Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe aren’t actually a recognised cricket team.

We don’t recognise them, that is. Put the Zimbabwe cricket team in front of us and we could mistake them for a loganberry or a Dyson Airblade. We’d never have them down as a cricket team though. Never.

Even so, you can’t ignore Nasir Jamshed. Pakistan may vomit short-trousered debutants with clockwork regularity, but for every Mohammad Sami, there’s a Waqar Younis and for every Salman Butt, there’s a Saeed Anwar. You just can’t turn a blind eye, or even two myopic ones.

Consider Nasir Jamshed acknowledged, but not yet embraced.

Brad Hogg bowling to Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar batting the ball away in a special run-scoring move“He hit my best ball for six,” Hogg said. Yes – and you get the impression that Sachin Tendulkar could quite easily hit any delivery he chooses for a boundary. He’s only holding back so that Hogg doesn’t get taken off.

He and VVS Laxman got a bit carried away at one point though and carted Hogg for 18 off an over. Too greedy. They forced Ponting to bring, er, Michael Clarke back into the attack.

We’re full of admiration for Sachin Tendulkar. If we were in his position we’d go foetal and weep. That would be at the point of exiting the bed first thing as well. If we made it to the crease in a Test match, we’d adopt the same position only we’d try to dig a huge hole to hide in using only our face.

Cricketers are often at risk of dehydration, but not normally as a direct result of copious tears of surrender.

Cricket Revolution screenshots

New cricket game! It’s not out yet though, so we’ve no idea how good it is.

It doesn’t matter really. If our short-lived, poorly-paid career as a videogame ‘journalist’ taught us anything, it’s that previews of games only need pictures.


Mervyn Athrapatta’s going along nicely.

There can be no racism if everybody's white

We’ve rather unhelpfully shrunk this screenshot down so much that you can’t make anything out. If we hadn’t done that, you’d have been able to see that Kumar Sangappora’s vital statistics are as follows:

  • Face: short
  • Weight: feather
  • Height: type one

He’s also Caucasian, unlike many Sri Lankans.

Massive hands required

It’s Dad’s old ‘bowling several balls simultaneously’ trick – only this time it’s TO THE MAX!

Here’s the official website from where you can glean actually-not-very-much-more information.

Matthew Hayden back for Australia

'Look at me, I'm confident and successful' - dickThis is good news, because when he’s not playing he can’t fail and humiliate himself. We don’t think it’s any coincidence that he skived the match where India’s bowlers remembered how to swing the ball.

Surprisingly, this is the first time our twin obsessions have appeared on the same day. Hopefully Rob will feature more prominently than Hayden in the coming months. We’ve been having a rough time with Hayden recently.

Last week we revealed that we’d had a dream about meeting Matthew Hayden and how we were all embarrassed and sheepish. Strangely, this isn’t even the first dream we’ve had like that.

Well this week matters are out of hand. We’re having versions of the Hayden dream just about every night. We’re always trying to be his mate and finding out lots of stuff about what it’s like being a professional cricketer. At the same time, we’re always aware that he knows what we say about him and feel guilty as a consequence.

Perhaps our subconscious is telling us to ease off. Well tough luck, subconscious. We’re not backing down, even if you start making it difficult for us to breathe in public places again. We’re going to counter this issue HEAD ON, even if it means a metaphorical train wreck in our mind.

Metaphors can’t hurt you. Nor can self-inflicted serious mental illness.

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