Month: March 2008 (page 3 of 5)

Chris Lewis signs for Surrey

Chris Lewis - still foolishly spurning headwear at the age of 40Chris ‘shaved head, no hat’ Lewis has signed for Surrey for this season’s Twenty20 matches. He’s 40.

Younger readers might like to think of Lewis as being a sort of role model for the current West Indian team. He was born in Guyana, but it’s not that.

With the ball, he was as promising and ineffectual as Tino Best. With the bat he was as promising and ineffectual as – well – let’s say Dwayne Smith. We’re so spoilt for choice though.

The fact that Lewis is 40 and was rubbish for England has led us to officially make ourself available for selection again. We could be rubbish for England for years to come, it seems. We’ve got ample time to do justice to our talent after all.


Ryan Sidebottom does the necessary

Do you want to try this home brew, Andrew?We said after the last Test that you need spectacular performances to win Tests and you also need them to give you some breathing room in case of a bad day. England got away with one day of buttery fingers thanks to Tim Ambrose’s hundred and James Anderson’s five wickets.

Ryan Sidebottom got England across the line however, because he’s the very picture of reliability right now. Not literally – if you look at his picture, you think: ‘Get away from me, hippy. How about getting a hair cut and buying some shoes? No, I don’t want to smoke some moss near that weird bit of rock on top of the hill.’

We hope Ryan Sidebottom and Andrew Strauss are getting on well. They should make a really poor-standard sitcom about them.

He’s an uptight businessman with a classical education while he’s a laid-back drop out. For some hugely-contrived reason, they have to share a house together. Andrew can’t understand why Ryan doesn’t open his post as soon as it’s come through the door. Ryan can’t understand why Andrew gets so worked up when the chickens go upstairs and sleep on his bed. All the neighbours think they’re gay.

What japes.

New Zealand v England, second Test at Wellington – day five
England 342 (Tim Ambrose 102, Paul Collingwood 65, Mark Gillespie 4-79, Jacob Oram 3-46)
New Zealand 198 (Ross Taylor 53, Daniel Vettori 50 not out, James Anderson 5-73, Paul Collingwood 3-23)
England 293 (Alastair Cook 60, Paul Collingwood 59, Jacob Oram 3-44)
New Zealand 311 (Brendon McCullum 85, Ross Taylor 55, Ryan Sidebottom 5-105)


Anderson knacks his ankle

No new pictures on the weekendsYes, ‘knacks’. We’re not the BBC here, you know. We don’t have to use proper Standard English words, like ‘knackers’.

Actually, we do like to use the word ‘knackers’, but only as a noun. For the verb, we favour ‘to knack’.

It was one of those days where you’re waiting for the next innings before it gets interesting again. England were a fair way ahead from the start and had plenty of wickets in hand. It was a good one to sleep through, particularly considering England’s batsmen decided to drive home the blanditude by getting about 40-odd each rather than ducks or hundreds.

Then, after the close of play, Anderson knacked his ankle playing football. A couple of years ago, he did much the same thing playing squash. It’s probably for the best that he’s not so susceptible to cricketing ankle injuries, being as cricket’s his job.

We have sympathy. We’ve got an ankle injury too. It’s from the ‘running’. We pretty much always get some sort of injury when we try to do ‘running’, even though we do far more twisty-turny sports regularly with no ill-effects. We don’t have an international sporting career that’s spoilt by our ankle injury though. We don’t have a career that could be spoilt by anything, because we don’t have a career. What luxury.

New Zealand v England, second Test at Wellington – day three
England 342 (Tim Ambrose 102, Paul Collingwood 65, Mark Gillespie 4-79, Jacob Oram 3-46)
New Zealand 198 (Ross Taylor 53, Daniel Vettori 50 not out, James Anderson 5-73, Paul Collingwood 3-23)
England 277-9 (Alastair Cook 60, Paul Collingwood 59, Jacob Oram 3-44)


James Anderson’s back

James Anderson is having a wicketting to the power of fiveAs in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything. To think it’s been almost a year since we last made that joke. How time flies.

James Anderson has a bit of a reputation for – and you have to use these exact words – ‘spraying it around’. While this is fair on the face of it, we don’t think it tells the full story.

We’ve watched James Anderson play for Lancashire a heap of times. Not once has he done any spraying. Not even to mark his territory, like a cat. Generally speaking, Anderson’s Lancashire spells are characterised by a lot of playing and missing from the batsman, the occasional wicket and not a great deal else.

Remember when he bowled that ten over spell that only went for 12 runs against Australia. In 40 degree heat. In a one-day match. James Anderson can keep it tight.

Maybe it’s the white ball. Maybe it’s playing for England. Maybe it’s playing for England knowing you’re due to get dropped quite soon. Whatever it is, Anderson’s a more accurate bowler than you might think.

Yesterday he seemed to bowl a few too many deliveries that the batsmen could comfortably leave. But if you looked at the old pitch map that shows where the ball’s been landing, you saw that all the deliveries lined up between his arm and off stump. They were just different lengths and for some reason James Anderson deliveries swing a lot more once they’ve pitched, so the shorter ones end up quite wide.

We made a noise when he cleaned up Matthew Bell. We haven’t often made noises at wickets this winter. Bell might have played a crap shot, but some of his colleagues played straighter to similar balls and still got out.

More of this kind of thing, Jimmy. More of this kind of thing!

New Zealand v England, second Test at Wellington – day two
England 342 (Tim Ambrose 102, Paul Collingwood 65, Mark Gillespie 4-79, Jacob Oram 3-46)
New Zealand 198 (Ross Taylor 53, Daniel Vettori 50 not out, James Anderson 5-73, Paul Collingwood 3-23)
England 4-0


Tim Ambrose makes himself at home

Jonathan Agnew wrote today: “Tim Ambrose might be one of the shortest men currently playing Test cricket, but this man can bat.”

We’d go further than that. We’d say, ‘Tim Ambrose might have attended Merewether Selective High, but he managed to hit two sixes’.

We like a good non-sequitur.

Before this Test series, we had a concern. Matt Prior had been dropped and yet another man had been handed the wicketkeeping gloves. We’d been thinking that England wicketkeepers’ lifespans largely depend on who they play against.

Chris Read and Geraint Jones were both brought back and then dropped again during one Ashes series. Matt Prior had a comfortable introduction against the West Indies, but then got progressively worse against India and then Sri Lanka. Whoever the next wicketkeeper was would surely make the position his own given two consecutive series against New Zealand. But would this give a false impression of his worth?

Now we’re thinking: who cares? At least he’s scoring some runs, unlike the six men above him in the batting order. And he’s been catching the ball.

New Zealand v England, second Test at Wellington – day one
England 291-5 (Tim Ambrose 97 not out)


Steve Harmison dropped

Harmison perfecting the hangdog lookThe graph doesn’t lie. Steve Harmison’s performances have been deteriorating for ages now. There wasn’t going to be an upturn.

Last week Allan Donald revealed that Harmison had been scared while playing for England. There have been a lot of similar stories over the last year or so and they just seemed to be getting worse.

Sportsmen have to have confidence in their ability and Harmison hasn’t got this. The support of the coaches and selectors might even have been counterproductive. You can only build someone up when you’ve got something to build on. Harmison’s far from stupid and maybe he didn’t feel he justified this faith.

Without faith in himself, well-meaning words from others will have just made him feel like a fraud. He knew when he’d bowled badly and if Allan Donald, Ottis Gibson (what’s with the extra consonants?) or Peter Moores said he was improving or somesuch, he’d have seen through them.

The only way Harmison could have felt like he belonged in that England team was if he felt like he’d earned his place – and that was the one thing he didn’t feel.

Perhaps this all harks back to his initial emergence as an international cricketer. Duncan Fletcher requested pace and chose bowlers based on that attribute over all others, hoping to refine the players in question once they were in the England team. These players, of which Harmison is the most notable, to a large extent learned their trade while playing for England. Did they ever feel that they’d earned their places?

Contrast this with players such as Mike Hussey and Phil Jaques of Australia. These are players who have overachieved in domestic cricket for many years. When finally given their opportunity, they have no doubt whatsoever that they are there on merit and they have faith in their own ability as a consequence.

We’re not saying that Harmison never deserved to be an international cricketer, because he unquestionably did, if you look back (albeit a fair way now). We’re just saying that when things stopped going his way, he questioned himself and there weren’t any answers.

We dearly hope that Harmison goes back to Durham intending to win his England place back, because if he can achieve that, he’ll know he’s earned his spot and he might be a different bowler as a consequence.

It takes time to convince people though – especially yourself. Harmison should consider himself discarded by England for good. If he comes back to make an unarguable case from there, he should feel pretty confident.


Matthew Hoggard dropped

The Hoggster puts his back into trainingThis is a bit of a weird one. What do you make of this?

In a climate where senior players are being unjustifiably indulged, Matthew Hoggard’s had a bad game and he’s out on his ear.

The long, slow descent towards Harmison’s dropping now seems unnecessarily cruel in its inevitability, but he was still given those chances to prove his worth. Andrew Strauss kept his place for an extraordinary amount of time in the face of poor form and certainly hasn’t earned a recall. He paid the selectors back with 45 runs over two innings in the first Test.

Hoggard did have a poor game and he didn’t look wholly himself. He put the new ball on the spot, but he was sluggish. But consider this. Two matches prior to that, he took 4-29 to reduce Sri Lanka to 42-5 at Kandy and for years he’s been England’s most reliable bowler. Has everyone got short memories when it comes to the Yorkshireman or is it something else?

We can think of a couple of possible reasons – none too convincing.

(1) The selectors don’t think he prepared adequately for this tour and this is a robust slap on the wrists.

(2) They genuinely think that Hoggard’s had it; that the drop in his bowling speed is as a result of his injuries and age and therefore irreversible.

(3) Someone had to go and Hoggard was the only player other than Harmison who had an unreservedly bad match. Most of the batsmen had one innings of substance. Just.

Angry or amazed? We’ll have to go with angry on this one.


Dimitri Mascarenhas signs for IPL’s Jaipur franchise

Dimitri Mascarenhas holding a bat and wearing a helmet as well as some clothesDimi is quoted as saying: “I only hope that people will look back in 20 or 30 years time and say that I gave everything for a franchise I’ve supported since I was a boy.”

He didn’t really say that. But someone might before too long, because people are, on the whole, stupid. Franchises, eh? It sprays a thin mist of diluted excrement over the whole enterprise having franchises. Pump as much money as you like into something, if it’s franchise v franchise it’s always going to sound a bit shit.

Hampshire have allowed Mascarenhas to appear in the IPL. This is quite definitely not because he would have just walked out on them and played anyway if they hadn’t given their blessing.

After all, they’ll have no problems fielding a decent team next season with Shane Warne either on IPL duty or playing cards for 90 percent of the season; with Nic Pothas and Shane Bond probably banned through appearing in the ICL; and with James Bruce having retired into The City.

In other IPL news, Misbah-ul-Haq signed for Bangalore.


Kolkata name their IPL team

They’re going to be the Kolkata Knight Riders. Brilliantly, this isn’t even a joke. Writing this site gets easier by the day. This time next week, we fully expect Sohail Tanvir to change his name to Optimus Prime.

But the Knight Riders aren’t the best-monikered IPL outfit. That honour has to go to the Chennai Super Kings. Could they have been mere ‘Kings’? Could they have been ‘Supermen’? No, that would be nowhere near good enough. Chennai’s men are better than that. They’re Super Kings.

We’d probably support the Chennai Super Kings on the basis of their name if it weren’t for the whole Hayden factor. The Knight Riders too have Ponting and Agarkar fouling things up. Who’s left? Mohali seem the least-objectionable, but it’s not a done deal just. They haven’t got their full name yet.

We move for ‘The Mohali Cricketinator 9000s’.


Swalec Stadium to host Ashes Test

The Npower Test from The Swalec Stadium in conjunction with PowergenThe Swalec Stadium is going to host the first Ashes Test, but don’t worry, Lord’s and The Oval have still got their Tests and that’s the main thing.

Actually, Edgbaston and Headingley have still got theirs as well. There hasn’t been a change in venue for the Ashes Tests at all – just a change in name. Sophia Gardens is now known as The Swalec Stadium in honour of everyone’s favourite utilities company.

Old Trafford losing its Ashes Test to Sophia Gardens was one thing, but to The Swalec Stadium? Come 2009, we’re going to cover the Swalec Test in a Bangladesh Under-19s kind of a way rather than an Ashes kind of a way.

That’ll show the ECB. They’ll be begging for mercy by the time England follow-on.


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