Month: February 2010 (page 1 of 3)

Naeem Islam and his high-step

You win this time, Naeem Islam!It’s a great era for run-ups. As well as Friedel de Wet’s bunny-hop, we also have Naeem Islam’s high-step.

Just as he’s about to enter his delivery stride, his right leg suddenly tries to knee him in the face. It’s ace.

We can only assume that Naeem Islam learnt to bowl on a pitch inhabited by a mole who would leap from the ground from that exact point and always at that exact moment. Naeem Islam would thus have developed the high-step as a means of bypassing the mischievous subterranean mammal.

Andy Flower motivates England’s openers and wicketkeepers

It’s tricky motivating people. Trust us on this, we’re pretty clued up on the psychopathology of apathy.

Earlier in the year, Graeme Smith subtly dissed Dale Steyn because he didn’t think he was pulling his weight, even though Steyn was only just returning from injury. Smith didn’t care about that. ‘You play for South Africa, you have to perform’ was the message.

Andy Flower’s currently attempting to do the same thing with the England side. Jonathan Trott and Joe Denly have been told that their opening has been bobbins and Matt Prior can’t take a crap without Flower saying Craig Kieswetter did a bigger one.

England would like the Comfort Zone to be some sort of room full of bean bags and pyjamas rather than a state of mind for their first team, but this kind of mental prodding is tricky to pull off. You want your international cricketers resilient, but in reality they’re just as likely as anyone else to spend full weekends sleeping or to look upon a rain shower as being an invitation to covertly weep.

Flower is inviting mental fragility from England batsmen. That’s like misquoting Star Wars in a room full of computer programmers.

How good is Sachin Tendulkar?

If Sachin Tendulkar hits exactly 100 and another batsman hits exactly 100, Sachin Tendulkar is top scorer.

When Sachin Tendulkar gets bowled, it is only because he can hear the thoughts of wood and one of the stumps has insulted him. The wood only insults him because it is bitter that Sachin didn’t choose to use it for his bat.

Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t play across the line. He decides what path the ball was taking.

If you stand on top of Everest and look up, you will see Sachin Tendulkar’s left elbow if he is playing a cover drive at that moment.

Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t take guard. He puts his bat down and the stumps just move into line.

The Duckworth-Lewis method takes into account Sachin Tendulkar’s presence at the crease.

Sachin Tendulkar can never be timed out. Everyone is willing to wait.

Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t need to keep his eye on the ball.

Sachin Tendulkar hits an ODI double hundred

Sachin Tendulkar adds a mere 200

Due respect to Saeed Anwar, but from the minute Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry equalled his world record ODI score of 194 against Bangladesh, someone needed to go past it.

That someone was Sachin Tendulkar. There are some pretty ordinary batsmen making big scores these days, but Sachin is not one of them. 200 not out is never a bad knock, but in a one-day international, it’s unique. South Africa were given a profound hiding.

Tendulkar lost his technique somewhere around 160 as his body started to cave in, but he didn’t let it stop him. He didn’t even let it slow him. He manipulated his calf muscles and punched himself in the back, trying to physically persuade his body into working order. The grimaces said that he wasn’t succeeding.

After passing the 194, Tendulkar found himself on 199 for what seemed like an age as Mahendra Dhoni monopolised the strike and repeatedly hit sixes. Given a ball to face in the last over, the crowd noise went up to 11. Tendulkar was sufficiently unarsed by the significance of the moment to take his chance and everyone saluted the finest one-day international batsman there’s ever been.

Sachin Tendulkar: 20 years of batting like this is beyond comprehension.

Brett Lee’s Test career

Brett Lee cautiously makes an enquiry

Like Andrew Flintoff, Brett Lee’s had to jack in proper cricket because his body’s had it. Fast bowling’s a mug’s game, but anyone who’s seen our Too Cool mug or our robot mug knows that we love mugs.

In many ways, Brett Lee was the perfect Australian fast bowler. He was a proper, 96mph, charge-to-the-crease, rip-your-shoulder-out-of-its-socket fast bowler who was stunning to watch, yet when he played England he barely took any wickets. Perfect.

Quick bit of stats – skip this if you want

He took more Test wickets against England than against anyone else bar the Windies, but he took them at an average of 40, which is toss. In England, he averaged 45 and went at over four an over. England fans could watch his electric bowling and yet be comforted by the fact that their side were cracking on at pace.

How fast was Brett Lee?

Yeah, past tense. He might still be available for one-day internationals and Twenty20s, but when you stop playing Tests you’ve already got one foot in a slipper and you’re reaching for the RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening.

Brett Lee was proper fast. He generally bowled around 94mph/150kph and the key part is that he maintained this. He wasn’t a bowler who put in the odd surprisingly quick ball. He wasn’t a bowler who got over 90mph on a good day. He pounded in and on a good day he was heading up towards 100mph. He crossed that line where batsmen go from worrying whether they can react quickly enough to outright shitting themselves.

10/10 for effort

We can’t imagine how much it must have hurt. Not just when he was bowling, but when he was 32 and trying to come back and bowl as quickly as he ever did. Fast bowlers are cussed bastards.

That cussedness showed in his batting as well. It’s easy to overlook, but he played as big a part as anyone in the creation of the greatest passage of cricket that we can remember – the climax to the 2005 Edgbaston Ashes Test. In getting tenderised like cheap meat by Andrew Flintoff, he showed that he could get as good as he gave, but nothing would sway him from his impossible task. It was as impressive an innings as we’ve ever seen; the mental fortitude better highlighted by his limitations as a batsman.

Whatever the result of that match – no matter how England supporters fetishise that climactic moment – that morning showed why Test match cricket is the greatest sport on earth and we have to thank Brett Lee for that.

Probably not one of Brettles' favourite moments

Craig Kieswetter – yes or no?

Craig Kieswetter gets yet another article about him

We might as well do our usual thing of formalising our fence-sitting position.

Our initial feelings when Somerset wicketkeeper, Craig Kieswetter, started eating up column inches was: ‘No, not another one. Too many wicketkeepers!’

Everyone’s got a favourite wicketkeeper to push and we hate it. No-one can make an informed decision when eight different players are being championed by various people. It’s the same with seam bowlers. Just how many 85mph seam bowlers who can supposedly bowl reverse swing does one nation need?

Anyway, Matt Prior’s batting and keeping well in Test cricket. Let’s leave him be. In one-day internationals, we kind of see the benefit of Kieswetter, because Prior’s never got to grips with that form of the game.

There you go. There’s our official stance in all its muddy, inconclusive glory. Really, we should have a cull of England-qualified wicketkeepers and save everyone from a lot of boring arguments.

Last ball thriller between India and South Africa

Didn’t watch it.

Don’t much feel like reading about it.

A toucan taking guard in a Test match

If you want to hear our latest failed attempt to get our words out without laughing, listen to Andy Zaltzman’s World Cricket Podcast. It’s a war we’ll always wage, but will seemingly never win.

This week’s highlight that was left on the cutting room floor was Andy going to answer the door halfway through. Don’t know why he cut that.

Shakib Al Hasan’s first Test hundred

Shakib Al Hasan is ace at cricket

Four years after we tipped him for greatness, Shakib Al Hasan hit his first Test hundred. New Zealand were on the receiving end and while they won the match, their bowlers took some stick.

After dawdling along on nought for an age, Shakib Al Hasan suddenly engaged the long handle and walloped 40 runs in 13 balls. His hundred eventually took 127 balls, which is pretty remarkable considering the fact that he was on eight after 40 balls.

Playing conditions in New Zealand are as unfamiliar to the Bangladeshis as conditions can get, yet they’re scoring hundreds and improving with every match.

Bangladesh can score runs and take wickets and those two things are coinciding more and more frequently. In home conditions their performance will be a notch better and someone’s going to get it fairly soon.

We have watched our national side for long enough to know that if there’s an embarrassment out there for the taking, England aren’t the kind of side who are going to resist grasping at it. Even now, they’re probably fashioning some sort of net to guarantee they can collect it and add it to their already sizable collection.

And the number one Test side is…

Two frigging Tests. Whose bright idea was it to have a two-Test series between India and South Africa?

Don’t tell us that originally there were no Tests scheduled. If you fancy a sandwich and there’s no bread in the house, you don’t go out and buy a single slice of granary. No-one in their right mind would sell it to you for a start. You know why? Because selling things in stupidly small quantities is demented.

Two slices is the bare minimum for a sandwich. Three matches is the absolute bare minimum for a Test series. If you want a top sandwich, get a good, crusty roll. If you want a top Test series, play five matches.

So now we have the situation where two fine Test sides will battle it out to see who’s best at one-day cricket. It’s like Ali and Frazier playing Ludo for the world heavyweight title or Bjorn Borg playing John McEnroe at shove ha’penny to win Wimbledon.

We’re pissed off.

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