Month: January 2012 (page 2 of 3)

Pakistan secure narrow win over England

Pakistan held their nerve throughout a challenging 15-run chase on a mostly lifeless day three pitch and secured a narrow 10-wicket win over a thoroughly professional England side.

England kept it tight and the pressure built, but with one eye on the clock, Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar timed their charge to perfection. On the strength of that second innings effort, we can state with a degree of conviction that Pakistan were probably the better side.

But still, while Pakistan walk away with an actual win, England can pride themselves on earning a moral victory through forcing two of their opponents to bat twice. A moral victory is worth more than an actual victory, because morality is what separates us from murderers, bankers and people who work in marketing.

Bring forth the dobble

Paul Collingwood’s bowling was always a bit too canny to be proper dibbly dobbly medium-pace. There were too many cutters; too much innovation. You don’t get any of that crap from Jonathan Trott.

England’s four bowler policy means the batsmen have to chip in with a few overs. Ravi Bopara’s steady when he plays. Kevin Pietersen’s nicely erratic. Jonathan Trott dobbles. It’s good to see.

Dobbling is a much underrated trade. People think it’s boring because it’s neither pace nor spin, but the true cricket connoisseur cherishes the dobbler. The fielders move in front of the bat and in your mind’s eye they become plant pots and dustbins – the fielders of your childhood – as the cricket regresses to something altogether more basic.

Trott even got a wicket – LBW; a proper dobbler’s mode of dismissal. Only the elicitation of a spooned shot to cover represents a greater execution of dobblage.

Saeed Ajmal will bowl a few more overs against England

England have faced Michael Beer, Xavier Doherty and a guy who looks a bit like Harbhajan Singh in the last year. They haven’t really had to combat any spin bowlers.

Saeed Ajmal is a spin bowler – he’s a good spin bowler, in fact. He’s not a 7-55 on day one spin bowler, but then no spinner is unless he happens to be playing England.

Saeed Ajmal was playing England.

It’s fun watching England batsmen play spin. It’s fun in much the same way as it would be fun to see a hippo attempt Groove is in the Heart on Just Dance. They’re keen. They’re just fundamentally ill-equipped for the task.

David Morgan’s county recommendations could perhaps be applied to Test cricket in order to help England’s cause. They could play Australia home and away, but perhaps play Pakistan only at home. That would work in their favour and India would doubtless be happy to benefit from a similar arrangement regarding their own touring commitments.

Despite being MASSIVELY RIGHT about Ajmal and England, we’re not happy. At the same time, neither do we despair. This is day one of a prolonged trial against spin for England’s batsmen which stretches through a series in Sri Lanka in March to one in India at the end of the year. If England are a good side, they’ll improve considerably.

We think they’re a good side. But let’s see.

An unlucky 13 things that explain how bad English cricket was in the Nineties

Mark Ramprakash (via YouTube)

England fans: You don’t know how lucky you are right now.

This is what it was like in the Nineties…

1. English batsmen who averaged over 40 during the Nineties

(The Smudge’s suggestion)

This is the FULL list.

  • Alex Tudor – 55.33 (six innings)
  • David Gower – 53
  • Graham Gooch – 51.55
  • Robin Smith – 42.62
  • Allan Lamb – 41
  • Alec Stewart – 40.80
  • Phil Newport – 40 (two innings)

See here.

2. Hick and Ramprakash

(Suggested by many people)

It’s not that they were bad. It’s that they were good. Until you put an England helmet on them.

Chris Woakes currently has a higher Test batting average than Mark Ramprakash.

3. The longest tail

Loads of people suggested this, but which tail was worse? The biggest indictment is perhaps that we have a choice.

Headingley 1993
8. Andy Caddick
9. Martin Bicknell
10. Martin McCague
11. Mark Ilott

The Oval 1999
8. Andy Caddick
9. Alan Mullally
10. Phil Tufnell
11. Ed Giddins

4. All-rounders


The desperation was such that any England bowler who owned his own cricket bat stood a chance of being considered one.

Craig White, Dominic Cork, Ronnie Irani, Phil Defreitas, Chris Lewis and so many more. Even Darren Gough was talked about as being an all-rounder for a brief period.

5. Bowlers

The Boxing Day bowling attack, Port Elizabeth, 1995: Cork, Ilott, Martin and Illingworth with a few overs from Jason Gallian. (Bradders)

Watkin, Illingworth, Irani, Silverwood, Austin, Croft, Ealham, White, Mallender, Salisbury, Munton, Jarvis, Such, McCague, Ilott, Bicknell, Watkinson, Martin, Mullally, Patel… (Joe Craig)

6. 1993 tour of India

(David Reavill)

Four seamers selected. England promptly skittled by India’s three spinners. Reselection of old and Rand-rich Gatting and Emburey.

7. World Cups

(David Reavill)

1996: Neil Smith throwing up on the pitch
1999: Getting knocked out before the official song had been released despite home advantage.

8. The Benson and Hedges World Series 1994/95

(Nick Ladner)

A one-day series featuring Australia, Australia A, England and Zimbabwe. The final was Australia v Australia A.

9. Losing 2-1 to New Zealand in 1999 to become the lowest-ranked Test side

Again, a popular choice. Also featured “Chris Cairns’s bellowing red face after that ball.” (Lisa Wallis)

10. Straw-clutching

Lev Parikian writes:

“An era defined by the straw-clutching things we used to say: ‘Well, at least Hick got 38,’ or ‘Daffy looked quite sharp’.”

See also: “Chris Lewis constantly being rumoured to have won speed gun tests against the West Indies greats.” (Pat C)

11. Win percentage


Between August 1992 and March 1994, England played 14 test matches. They won 1. They drew 1.

Between August 1995 and January 1997, England played 16 test matches. They won 1.

Between August 1998 and the end of the decade, England played 13 test matches. They won 2. They drew 4.

12. Rain

“Praying (and I mean praying) for rain to save a home Test just to save some face.” (Dandy Dan)

13. A Nineties XI

(David Reavill)

  1. Jason Gallian
  2. Mark Lathwell
  3. Alan Wells
  4. Aftab Habib
  5. Darren Maddy
  6. Ronnie Irani
  7. Richard Blakey
  8. Gavin Hamilton
  9. Ian Salisbury
  10. Neil Mallender
  11. Paul Taylor

12th man Dermot Reeve

We haven’t forgotten the Nineties thing

It’s just taking a while to put together because there’s so much disappointment to wade through.

Our potted history of English cricket in the Nineties should appear later today and if you’re English, it can’t help but make you appreciate how lucky you are right now.

If England lose their next 12 matches by an innings, you’ll still be luckier than the Nineties England cricket fan, because at least those 12 innings defeats will have been preceded by a few wins.

India bad enough to draw attention from Tendulkar milestone

Sad face

The India team as a whole has been pleading for attention for a while now. Not content with being overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar’s apparently forever imminent 100th hundred, they’ve sought the spotlight through rank incompetence.

Well, the good news is that after getting within a handful of runs of conceding a first innings lead on the first day of a Test match, they might finally have achieved their goal. Their shoddy cricket is now more newsworthy than a Sachin milestone. That’s some achievement.

What’s gone wrong with India?

We’re struggling to make sense of India’s fall. We half-thought that maybe the fixture list just took this long to reveal an ongoing decline. Much of their stronger cricket away from home took place back in 2007 and 2008. However, that would be to overlook a series win in New Zealand in 2010 and a fine comeback against South Africa later the same year, so it’s not that.

Harbhajan Singh played a big part in that drawn series in South Africa and his oddly limp departure seems to coincide with India’s decline. For all the talk of needing fast bowlers away from home, India are best when they have a good spinner. The number one ranking was achieved thanks to his and Kumble’s labours.

But the batting’s been the big disappointment. It’s actually a malaise afflicting the entire “unit” and they seem to be deteriorating increasingly rapidly as well.

It’s like India are skiing and they’ve gone over a gentle lip only to find a giant, steepening slope beyond. Hopefully there’s a chair lift or at least a button lift at the bottom, but a few famous faces might have been flung over a cliff before they reach that particular transportation salvation location.

Chris Gayle to play Twenty20 for someone

He's richer than the Fonz, you know

In a not-entirely-surprising move, Chris Gayle has signed to play for Somerset in next season’s Twenty20 Cup.

Gayle’s ‘people’ released a statement quoting him as saying:

“I’m delighted to be heading to [insert name of cricket team]. Hopefully I can make a key contribution to their T20 campaign this year.”

Somerset’s director of cricket, Brian Rose, said that Gayle would get into any world T20 XI.

Low-level cricket media nonentity, King Cricket, said that Gayle would only play for a world XI if he was happy with the pay. Otherwise he’d be playing for a Groningen XI that weekend in the Netherlands Super Twenty20 Cup of Superness, because they’d put together a very competitive financial package.

How bad were England in the Nineties?

We’re concerned that some English people don’t fully appreciate their team’s success. Specifically, we worry that younger cricket fans don’t have perspective. We want to provide that perspective by documenting English cricket in the Nineties.

Why would we do this? Well maybe if these people can appreciate how bad the national side can be, they’ll stop whinging about boring top-order batsmen and maybe they won’t dementedly wish for closer ‘more exciting’ Test series. Winning is good. Make the most of it while it lasts.

Please send your England Nineties lowlights to and we’ll compile them into a horrific web page that should scare people into sanity. We want to create the definitive record of how bad England were back then.

Try and be specific. The devil’s in the details.

For example, between Alec Stewart’s 107 against Australia in December 1998 and Mike Atherton’s 108 against South Africa in December 1999, no English batsman scored a century. Somehow that expresses the abject misery of the period very well.

There were 35 ducks in the same period. That expresses it well too.

Pick what you like. It could be a particular delivery, a run of failures, the inevitability of a particular defeat, the agony of a breathtakingly unexpected defeat, the triumph associated with an especially narrow defeat. Anything.

We’ll try and put something up before the first Test against Pakistan. Our innate pessimism’s returned with a vengeance for this series. We want to make the most of this period of glory before it’s shat on.

Travel time reclaimed from County Championship

David Morgan standing in front of shedloads of empty seats

“Hi, I’ve only got seven quid. Could you cut 80 per cent of my hair?”

Some things have to be done in full. Incompletion is unsatisfactory. As another example, if you have some sort of sports competition, it’s preferable to have everyone competing on an equal footing. If each team plays most of the other teams in its league twice and a couple of them once, that doesn’t really work.

Yet that’s what’s happening with the County Championship from 2014. It’s a spectacularly literal and mindless solution to there being too much cricket, like trying to make a Formula One car lighter by removing the brake pads.

Cricket has a staggering ability to present you with a bowl of soil and bones after you’ve given it chicken and mushrooms to work with. It’s like people go out of their way to leave you dissatisfied.

To comprehensively underline the fact that the entire point of the exercise has been missed, there will also be at least 14 Twenty20 matches for each county in 2014. Attendances for the shortest format dwindled in 2011 and there will be a reduction to 10 matches in 2012. This decision is being reversed before the effects have even been seen.

Basically, the days saved by the amputation of two vital first-class fixtures will instead be used so that the nation’s cricketers can sit in buses on their way to a few Twenty20 matches which no-one gives a toss about.

When did England last have to deal with good spin bowling?

England are overrated. We’re not saying they don’t deserve to be considered the best Test side around at the minute; we’re saying the best Test side isn’t automatically the favourite to win a given series.

While England have mullered most sides in home conditions, it’s been a while since they played any of the major subcontinental sides away from home. American readers will be intrigued to learn that the United Arab Emirates isn’t in Pakistan. However, this doesn’t alter the fact that conditions will suit the ‘home’ side more than les Rosbifs.

Most significantly, this series is likely to give us more spin than Malcolm Tucker burying bad news by doing cartwheels on a roundabout. Spin is something England haven’t really had to deal with for a surprisingly long time.

Spin, spin, spin the wheel of justice

Spin is a major facet of Test cricket and most of the England team are relative novices. Two Tests in Bangladesh a couple of years ago amount to little more than a solid and largely-forgotten warm-up. Before that, we have to go back to 2008 to find the last time England had to deal with the more obtuse angles presented by 55mph bowling. They didn’t fare well, losing 1-0 to India.

In three innings in that series, their top score was 316. Andrew Strauss batted well and Kevin Pietersen got a hundred, but the man they’ll miss most from back then is the one who supposedly lacked talent – Paul Collingwood.

We always thought Collingwood looked pretty skilful when confronted by the tweakers. Contrast his uncanny ability to find singles with the efforts of many of his team mates who looked like stiff-legged automatons despite supposedly being blessed with that most desirable of qualities – ‘class’.

‘Class’ has a couple of different meanings. Maybe we were wrong to assign it a cricketing one.

P.S. Paul Collingwood and spin bowling

Officially, this article ends with that pithy, chip-on-shoulder sign-off. However, we’ve got some statistics that we want to include, so consider this a postscript.

Here are Paul Collingwood’s Test batting averages in various places where batsmen tend to face a lot of spin bowling.

  • In Bangladesh – 49.33
  • In India – 57.14
  • In Pakistan – 47.25
  • In Sri Lanka – 28.25 (shit)
  • In the West Indies – 61.42

Some of you might quibble with the inclusion of the West Indies, but don’t be swayed by the region’s old reputation. Collingwood only played there in the 2009 Wisden Trophy – a series in which Sulieman Benn, Chris Gayle and Ryan Hinds between them bowled 371 overs.

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