We were supposed to review this ages ago. Note to publishers: don’t push cricket stuff during the Ashes. We know it’s the cricket Christmas, but everyone’s a bit busy.
Ask Bearders is subtitled Answers to the World’s Most Challenging Cricket Questions. It’s a compilation of Bill Frindall’s columns for the BBC where he answered mostly statistical questions posed by readers.
We expected not to like it, because questions like ‘who were the first 10 bowlers to bowl a thousand maidens in Tests?’ leave us cold. While there is a lot of that, there are also a fair few decent questions and Frindall’s answers often lighten up some of the drearier ones.
To a question about an innings played by Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew, Frindall’s response starts: ‘No-one in their right mind should remember anything about the batsmanship of Jon Agnew.’
The book also taught us that David Lloyd’s nickname is ‘because his profile, involving a prominent probscis, is not unlike that of animation characters called ‘Bumblies’ featured in one of the late Michael Bentine’s children’s television programmes’.
Because of its format, you can’t read much of this book in one go, but it’s good to dip in and out of. We recommend keeping it in a place where you might regularly find yourself sitting down for five or ten minutes at a time with nothing to keep you occupied. We won’t name that place.
Get Ask Bearders from Amazon here.
When England took the fourth wicket of what seemed like a mesmerisingly unstrenuous dismantling of the South African batting line-up, we wondered where the real South Africa were. Mark Boucher at six? Where was the breathtaking conservatism for which South African cricket is so renowned?
Think back to the glory days of Shaun Pollock, Nicky Boje and Andrew Hall at eight, nine and ten. The South Africa of old didn’t let the fact that two of those three were utterly mediocre with the ball stop them. Bolster the lower order, just in case – that was the way.
Hopefully they’ve learnt their lesson and dynamism and risk-taking can be put aside once more in favour of the ‘why risk it?’ tactic.
It’s good if it’s your side that’s won, but if you’re impartial, it means that a Test has been one-sided. Australia’s innings victory over West Indies also raises uncomfortable and unwelcome questions about the future of the West Indies as a Test team, even if their best player, Adrian Barath, does have a few years left in him.
India’s innings victory over Sri Lanka is more welcome. Firstly, Sri Lanka scored 760-7 in the first Test, which was good batting, but not good cricket. By actually seeing some wickets, Indian fans might not be driven further towards the shorter formats and by seeing their team gaily prance to victory without a care in the world, they might even warm to Tests a bit. Plus, India should win at home. A tour of India being as hard as diamonds is one of the defining features of cricket.
But if you really want good cricket, look to New Zealand v Pakistan. No declarations, tough batting in the second innings and a tight finish. The balance between bat and ball changed as the match progressed and the players who did well can feel damn pleased with themselves. New Zealand didn’t just win; they earned victory.
We didn’t see Adrian Barath’s hundred against an Australia bowling attack that we feel professionally obliged to describe as ‘rampant’. Was it any good?
Brian Lara though Barath was some prospect when he saw him batting in the nets, aged 11. Being as Barath’s 19 now, he must have been dossing about for his teen years. He could have been in the Test side at 13, but no, he was either writing on the back of Chris’s neck with a biro during maths or wasting the day indoors playing on his PS2, even though it was a beautiful day outside.
Yes, it’s another lazy Friday morning non-post. We’ve written something for Cricinfo which you could generously say poked fun at the English attitude to leg spinners and cricket’s newfound love of variation and innovation. More truthfully, you could describe it as a big pile of lies.
It’s a 6/10. Read it here.
The big names are generally old bastards. Who’s next?
Ross Taylor, New Zealand, age 25
Ross Taylor tends to look like he’s the man who’s going to win the match for New Zealand shortly before doing something slightly spacky. Pretty soon those fifties will become hundreds and those hundreds will become double hundreds.
JP Duminy, South Africa, 25
Duminy has barely started in Test cricket, but has the reassuring habit of being exceptional whatever the format. Twenty20’s just for sloggers, is it? Then why is Duminy so effective. The best batsmen are generally the best batsmen in all forms of the game.
AB de Villiers, South Africa, 25
Yes, he is only 25. There are already bowlers in world cricket who’d sooner try and insert a bat handle into their urethra than bowl at vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers.
Michael Clarke, Australia, 28
Recently voted ‘most overrated player’ by readers of the Herald Sun, Michael Clarke must be rated really, really, phenomenally highly. Quite clearly following in the footsteps of Border, Waugh and Ponting as an Aussie captain who’s mint with the bat.
Gautam Gambhir, India, 28
Test average after 18 Tests: 36, with one hundred. Test average in the next nine Tests: 94, with seven hundreds. Gautam Gambhir is up and running.
You all think that you’ve got nothing to say about Mohammad Asif – but you have. You wouldn’t have been able to stop yourself from commenting if we’d actually said what we meant to say.
International cricket is like being stuck in a shit bar that’s got too much chrome in it and no good beers. The bowlers are the beers.
After a few minutes of looking, you eventually notice there are some bottles of Leffe in the fridge. It’s not what you want, but it’s drinkable and it’s a better option than bland European lager or frigging Strongbow. Mohammad Asif is a bottle of Leffe.
This would make Ajit Agarkar a six quid cocktail that tastes like it’s made out of tequila, syrup and sick.
If you like cricket, as opposed to just enjoying boundaries, it’s been a tough decade or so. We’re always on the lookout for bowlers who can redress the balance and actually make life difficult for batsmen. Very few are able to do that.
A few years ago, we got quite excited about Mohammad Asif. At first, he justified this excitement, playing cricket from a different age. Later, a series of events led us to conclude that, actually, Mohammad Asif is a dick.
This week he’s returned to Test cricket and despite having several years off, he’s still Pakistan’s best bowler. We’ve got to weigh our hatred of batsmen against our hatred of people who are dicks. Maybe it’s the fact that India and Sri Lanka have conspired to create consecutive innings totals of 426, 760-7, 412-4 and 642 in their current Test series, but, on balance, we hate batsmen more.
Go Mohammad Asif.
The Wii version of Ashes Cricket 2009 is quite different from other formats. Having played both, we’d also say it was worse.
Don’t imagine that you’ll be playing hooks and drives. What you will actually be doing is carrying out a pendulous swing as if you’re putting a golf ball. Your on-screen batsman will then do all the dynamic swivelling and swishing on your behalf.
There’s an automatic aim. If you switch it off, you’ll only aim badly and get distracted, so you leave it on. However, you then feel a bit disconnected from proceedings, so that’s no good either.
It responds to speed, but again, it’s a robotic pastiche of the real movement. This time it’s more like casting a fishing line if you didn’t have elbows. You can add swing or spin by rotating the controller as you bowl, kind of like bowling a cutter.
It’s just hard to feel involved. Playing against another player is fun, in the way that playing against your mates on a Wii game is pretty much always fun. We’d recommend Ashes Cricket 2009 on one of the other formats though, to be honest.
England are going to have to watch this. It’s not deliberate, but if you had to design some tactics to erode a player’s confidence, what they’re doing to Adil Rashid might be what you’d come up with.
In the summer, Rashid started the one-day series against Australia well and promptly got dropped. He got one over in the second Twenty20 match against South Africa, got carted and from then Alastair Cook opted for Joe Denly ahead of him. Yesterday, he got three overs, got a little bit of welly and was then demoted below Jonathan Trott in the bowling hierarchy.
This is what the English do with leg spinners. If you’re a seam bowler and you go for a few runs, you quite often get a chance to make amends with a few more overs – because at least you’re shit in a predictable way. If you’re a leg spinner, there are no second chances.
Even Shane Warne said that his only aim in his first over was just to stay on. Leg spin bowling isn’t something that you can switch on and switch off. It’s not a light switch or your brain when you’re at work.