Month: March 2008 (page 2 of 5)

Tim Southee suffers THE RAGE

Tim Southee channels THE RAGEFor some reason New Zealand demoted Tim Southee from number nine to number ten in their second innings. Southee was clearly irked by this and promptly hit New Zealand’s fastest-ever Test fifty in a magnificent display powered by THE RAGE.

England’s fielders thought they were being clever when Southee came to the crease, hinting that there were all sorts of problems with his batting and pointing out how little confidence his team mates had in him. Unfortunately, this only further bolstered THE RAGE.

England should have known better than to pay attention to New Zealand’s batting order. This is a Test side that sports openers who average 24 and 22 and a number eight who’s been averaging more than 40 over the last five years. In hitting 77 not out off 40 balls with nine sixes, Southee’s probably just booked himself the number ten slot for life. If it ain’t broke, say the Kiwi selectors.

Southee’s innings is only New Zealand’s fastest for the first 50, incidentally. When Nathan Astle went mental that time, he went from 100 to 150 in 22 balls and because he then had his eye in, from 150 to 200 in a further 17 balls.

Marcus Trescothick’s international retirement

There’s no point dwelling on it, because he’s never going to play for England again, but there’s a fair chance that Marcus Trescothick is still England’s best batsman. Kevin Pietersen’s record may look a little better, but he doesn’t have to face the new ball.

Marcus Trescothick was so good we invented a word for him. We called him a ‘beeftain‘. That reflects how important we feel he was. He scored huge amounts of runs in all forms of the game and he did it in a way that scares the opposition.

It’s unquantifiable, but that ability to impose himself on bowlers is what’s missing from the current England team. A fifty from Alastair Cook ends as soon as he loses his wicket, but a fifty from Marcus Trescothick sometimes reverberated for overs, sessions or even days afterwards. Arguably his most influential innings was his 90 in the dizzying Edgbaston Test of 2005.

We all know that England won that series, but it’s hard to express how unlikely that seemed after the Lord’s Test. There had been some encouraging signs from the bowlers, but England had been bowled out for 155 and 180. Australia were carrying on as they had been doing for years.

Ricky Ponting won the toss and put England in to bat. Glenn McGrath was missing and Marcus Trescothick went out of his way to point this out. By lunch he was 77 not out and it was clear that England’s batsmen needn’t be hell-bent on survival, they could dictate the terms themselves. Pietersen and Flintoff exemplified the reckless destruction best, but they were just carrying the baton that Trescothick had forged.

Trescothick could wheel out those ‘big hundreds‘ that England need so much right now as well. His two innings against Bangladesh prior to the 2005 Ashes had yielded 194 and 151, but he could do it against more formidable bowling too.

His Test best was 219 against South Africa after England had conceded 484. Normally you lose when you concede that many, but Trescothick helped England to 604 and even found time to thrash 69 not out off 66 balls on the final day to see England to a win.

The same opponents saw him compile 180 at Johannesburg in 2005 – in the second innings, no less. That innings is the forgotten prelude to Matthew Hoggard’s seven wickets on the final day that gave England a series victory.

And for a man who can no longer leave the country, his last Test tour wasn’t too shameful either. Two England batsmen passed fifty in Multan signalling a profound collective Ashes hangover. Ian Bell hit 71 as England countered Pakistan’s 274. Marcus Trescothick hit 193.

For his weight of runs, for how his aggression made opponents step back and for how he just stood still and popped balls to the boundary with his static, reinforced prod, we’ll miss Marcus Trescothick immensely.

Stephen Fleming finishes with a pair of fifties

Stephen Fleming playing like a dream for the first half of his net before losing interestEverybody else is saying it, so why shouldn’t we? How apt that Stephen Fleming should retire with a fifty in each innings. In total he hit 46 in Test cricket, but only nine hundreds. Statistics might not tell the whole story, but there’s only the odd semi-colon missing in this instance.

We did something about Stephen Fleming’s retirement a bit back. It’s probably a two or three out of ten update, if we’re honest. It features ‘facts’. We’re never very comfortable when we’ve got ‘facts’ at our disposal. We choke.

New Zealand v England, third Test at Napier – day four
England 253 (Kevin Pietersen 129, Tim Southee 5-55)
New Zealand 168 (Stephen Fleming 59, Ryan Sidebottom 7-47, Stuart Broad 3-54)
England 467-7 declared (Andrew Strauss 177 not out, Ian Bell 110, Daniel Vettori 4-158)
New Zealand 222-5 (Matthew Bell 69, Stephen Fleming 66, Monty Panesar 3-49)

Andrew Strauss gets the job done with BIG RUNS

Straaauuussss, he has waltzed you around... againThere are two sides to this, being as we’re English, we’re first going to concentrate on the negative, because that’s our knee-jerk response when our side have made a comprehensive fightback and put themselves in total control of a Test match.

Andrew Strauss shouldn’t have been playing. He shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to hit a hundred. There’s a very real chance that all this innings has done is blind people to Strauss’s poor batting and given him a stay of execution. These runs were made on a flat pitch against a weakened version of what would ordinarily be one of the weaker Test bowling attacks, even when it’s fully-staffed.

This summer, Strauss is likely to find himself near the top of England’s order facing Dale Steyn, currently one of the best fast bowlers in the world. If he’s still fundamentally the same player, playing the same way as he has been doing for the last year or so, he’ll get found out and we’ll be in exactly the same situation that we were at the same time the previous summer and a year of Test experience will have been denied to his replacement.

On the other hand, here is a batsman who’d had a host of last chances and had found himself on the last of those last chances needing a hundred. And he got one.

Batting in a big match isn’t the same as batting in a minor match, even if you face the same bowling. For Strauss personally, this was unquestionably a big match. We can’t know for certain, but his entire Test and therefore cricketing career seemed to hang on this one innings. That would put us on edge.

At this point, the man comes out and hits a hundred. Then, when he’s hit his hundred and (understandably) jumped around like a bit of a loon, he puts his helmet back on and continues, working his way to 173 not out by the close of play.

We’re far from convinced about Strauss for the reasons in the first half of today’s update, but we’re pretty delighted to start filling in the ‘pros’ column with such solid stuff.

New Zealand v England, third Test at Napier – day three
England 253 (Kevin Pietersen 129, Tim Southee 5-55)
New Zealand 168 (Stephen Fleming 59, Ryan Sidebottom 7-47, Stuart Broad 3-54)
England 416-5 (Andrew Strauss 173 not out, Ian Bell 110, Daniel Vettori 3-135)

Ryan Sidebottom takes 7-47

Faulty wiring just out of shotA week or so ago, we wondered whether Steve Harmison’s underlying lack of confidence was the result of not feeling like he’d earned his place in the England team. With six years and hundreds of first-class wickets between his first and second Test appearances, Ryan Sidebottom must feel the opposite.

Sidebottom’s got confidence that he’s doing the right thing, even when things aren’t going his way. He bowled well in Sri Lanka to no great effect, but in New Zealand he’s picked up huge armfuls of wickets every time he’s been given the ball. The difference?

“I’ve not really changed anything, just tried to put the ball in the areas as many times as possible and sometimes you get the nicks sometimes you don’t.”

New Zealand v England, third Test at Napier – day two
England 253 (Kevin Pietersen 129, Tim Southee 5-55)
New Zealand 168 (Stephen Fleming 59, Ryan Sidebottom 7-47, Stuart Broad 3-54)
England 91-2

England’s top six are going to make BIG RUNS

Another hundred banked for the futureWord is they’re all hitting it well in the nets. Confidence is rising. Big scores are due. With players of their class, hundreds are just around the corner. As soon as one batsman cashes in, the floodgates will open.

Because that’s the way it works. All batsmen have got a set number of runs at their disposal. If they haven’t used them, it means that they’re saving them up. Then, when the time comes, they’ve got hundreds and hundreds of runs tucked away and they’ll use them all in one go.

A veritable flood of runs lies waiting behind the dam of repeated early dismissals and it’s just waiting to be unleashed. If England’s top six make ‘big runs’ on this flat pitch, under blue skies, against a bowling attack shorn of Shane Bond, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram it’s PROOF that they were brilliant all along and the last dozen Test matches were just low-scoring aberrations.

We can’t wait to have all our doubts washed away by the run flood.

A Matthew Hayden quote shorn of context to make it sound weird

This picture again? Doing an image search for 'Matthew Hayden' is too much to bearWe’re not in the habit of being even-handed when it comes to Hayden. Why should we extend the courtesy of context to him when he never once apologises for being Matthew Hayden.

“At the end of the day, two alpha dogs are never going to sit in a cage and not look at each other. It is what it is. The way I see my cricket, if you’re the other alpha dog, you better not blink. I feel I’d be letting down my country if I was to blink.”

Bet you’ve blinked at some point, Matthew. You know what that makes you? It makes you a traitor.

Less tweediness from Strauss’s team mates

Remember how Andrew Strauss was going to GET THE JOB DONE? Ceci sent more pictures, saying:

“Squire Hoggard and the chav Vaughan. KP however will always be an alien life form to me. I’d like to say the rough edges are there as an ironic statement, but of course I would be a big fat liar.”


This one we can take, even if the dog on the left is a bit… visible.

It's just so... smooth...

This is harder to take. Don’t look at the weirdly taut groin, whatever you do.

Would stand up to scrutiny in a court of law
And this one – we don’t know what to say about this one.

You people know that graphic designers read this site, don’t you? Imagine how they feel being so comprehensively outshone.

Miracle Hair restoral

Darrell Hair spreads his message of love and toleranceMaybe it’s not a miracle, but you don’t spurn headlines like that, even if they are more obvious than the correlation between mobile phone advertising and incidences of depression.

Darrell Hair has been restored to the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires. It sounds like he’s just going to see out his contract which ends in 2009. It still seems a bit weird though. Despite the ‘unanimous decision’ he’s clearly not wanted by the ICC – or anyone else really.

Even Mrs Hair doesn’t want him hanging round the house all day with his hangdog expression. It’s thought that Mrs Hair may in fact have brokered this unlikely deal. A source close to the Hairs said yesterday: “Mrs Hair’s sick of his moping. One of their koi carp hanged itself last week, it got so affected by his tangible aura of despair.”

We’re in The Wisden Cricketer!

The Wisden Cricketer’s a proper, grown-up publication.

Look, it’s actually tangible!

Probably costs more than 'free' to manufacture

Here’s the bit where it says that it’s “the world’s no.1 cricket magazine”.

They were number three last month when we didn't feature

And here’s us!

Half a page more than Matthew Hayden got this month

No, really. Look!

They use the word 'best' near something we wrote - that's a first

And here’s Monty being conspicuously indifferent to it.

Doesn't look like food. Doesn't smell like food. Not interested.

Turning away OR closing your eyes would have been sufficient, young man. There was no need to do both.

So there you go. Proof, if it were needed, that The Wisden Cricketer is the best thing made out of paper with writing on it. They’ve even got a piece about fat cricketers this month, which we’re pretty annoyed we didn’t write.

So go out and buy a copy. Don’t let the cat talk you out of it. He’s just bitter because he hasn’t got thumbs to turn the pages with.

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