Right, let’s get this over with.
First, let’s restate the qualification criteria:
- Qualified to play for England
- No established internationals
- Playing in the first division of the County Championship
Think that’s it. There might be other things. Who knows? Presumably us, but we don’t like to scrutinise the workings of our own mind in case we damage it. We reserve the right to apply further criteria later on if we feel like it. Continue reading
At the start of this sentence, Lancashire were 39-4 in their first innings of the season against Sussex. We fully expect five wickets to have fallen before we click publish. We are not unduly concerned by this.
Lancashire won the Championship in an odd way. They didn’t generally look like winning matches most of the time. In fact, we remember them being 39-4 pretty much every week and our memory is famously good (this is not in the least bit true). In 2011, Lancashire’s batsmen had a strong preference for single-figure scores and it would usually be down to one of the lower order to make 53 to salvage something from each innings.
As masterplans go, this probably isn’t sustainable. It is definitely easier to win matches if you’re not selecting five specialist fielders each match. Then again, it’s hard for us to get too concerned until Lancashire actually do start losing. Maybe they need a fraught situation in order to function properly the way most of us refuse to open our eyes at work until we’ve received at least nine physical threats.
Test cricket is famously hard. Some can’t quite comprehend what that means, thinking a reverse-swinging 90mph yorker is the same no matter what the format. It’s not all about the details though. Sometimes it’s the sheer relentlessness.
Test cricket is like cycling uphill. It’s possible to cope with a small hill without too much difficulty, but a Test match is more like Mont Ventoux, where Tom Simpson lost his life despite his loyalty to the recommended sportsman’s diet of booze and amphetamines. Test cricket goes on and on and it can be hard to say which team will crack until the gradient steepens.
The current West Indies team is pretty hard
For quite some time, West Indies batsmen had the flair of old, only without the ability. They folded like a great wad of junk mail. Test matches fair skipped along and they lost them all. This has changed of late.
Recently, Shiv-like batsmen have been selected and the bowling has had a collective purpose. The masterplan revolves around hard work. Like Nasser Hussain’s England, the West Indies are no longer easy to beat, even if they don’t win many.
In the first Test against Australia, it was like they were paying time and a half down at the windmill as the Windies batsmen ground and ground. Then, when they bowled, they did so with discipline, not running through the Australian line-up, but whittling away at it.
Australia’s lower order hung in. Clearly the team as a whole has stamina. West Indies had hung in throughout the climb, but this is where they started to lose touch with the peloton. A pleasingly non-conformist declaration from Michael Clarke with his side still 43 behind then exposed the West Indies batsmen to the steeper gradient and so far they have all been spat out the back, their strength sapped by their previous efforts.
As we said, sometimes it’s the sheer relentlessness. Test cricket is famously hard.
Australia celebrated when they dismissed the West Indies’ Kraigg Brathwaite for 57 off 199 balls. As an achievement, it was like flouncing over a stile before tackling the mountain. Shivnarine Chanderpaul promptly walked to the crease and only departed when Darren Sammy declared.
Shiv simply cannot be bothered being dismissed. He’s heard that it happens, but can’t see the point. What else would he do? Watch TV? Read the paper? He prefers batting.
Shane Watson says Australia are going to have to find a way of making Shiv take risks. Good luck in your quest, Shane. Maybe once you’ve succeeded you can start deflecting asteroids away from the Earth using only the power of your mind.
Historically, a drawn Test series in Sri Lanka is a pretty good result for England. Set against that is the fact that Muttiah Muralitharan doesn’t play any more. Sri Lanka’s bowlers are a bit middling. Should England have done better?
Well we’re pretty happy with a draw, particularly after watching three Tests against Pakistan in which we’re pretty certain England never actually batted – we can’t remember any batsmen being at the crease, anyway. Also, at the start of the winter, we pointed out that England’s batsmen were basically untested against spin. As we suspected, most of them turned out to be pretty crap, so a 1-1 draw feels a bit of a result.
So yeah, England could have done better, but it would have been pretty special if they’d managed it. Life isn’t all fillet steak and Chianti Classico. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you’re pretty lucky that you don’t still live in a world where the only sandwich fillings are ham or egg.
What are we blathering about?
England’s bowling, of course. England’s bowling is a sandwich menu from heaven compared to years gone by. It wasn’t so many years ago that Darren Gough would get injured and you’d have to have potted beef on your sarnie. No-one was happy about that and spin bowling only got up to ‘fish paste on Mighty White’ standard at best.
These days opening bowlers get injured and they’re replaced with prosciutto and brie. A quality spinner gets dropped and some sort of delightfully spiced prawn concoction turns up on toasted ciabatta. It’s unparalleled luxury. We’re so spoilt.
Basically, back in the day, England’s batsmen AND bowlers would have been gash. At least they’re half a side these days.
Some innings are more important that the numbers might indicate, but we always feel thankful when Kevin Pietersen reaches three figures. The resultant fist-pumping’s cheering in a laughable kind of way, but more importantly it means that detractors have to revise the ‘hasn’t scored a hundred since [insert date]’ statement with which they routinely beat him.
The truth is, most people are rather fond of KP and love watching him play cricket. It’s just that those who don’t like him REALLY take against him and are more vocal about it. Compounding this is the fact that the story of polarised public perception is now entrenched. Every time it’s recycled, it’s also reinforced.
Pietersen has many failings, but most relate to his character, not his cricket. See him as cocky and it’s hard to warm to him. See his brash confidence as a thin skim of plaster concealing fundamental cracks of insecurity and you’ll probably rather warm to him, finding some of his excesses almost endearing.
Either way, what about the batting? It’s not the fours and sixes or the way he hits them, it’s how they relate to the context of the match. His match-saving, Ashes-securing 158 at The Oval in 2005 was a frenetic attempt to fight fire with a ruddy great inferno. He makes for compulsive viewing because of how few batsmen would take that approach in that situation.
Today’s 151 against Sri Lanka was cut from the same cloth. Obdurate batting had got England into a strong position and Pietersen’s Test form had been limp. So he thrashed Sri Lanka’s attack like they’d urinated in the water bottle during a desert hike.
Kent batsman, Mike Powell, published this yesterday. For those of us who don’t take in all our information via a telephone, it’s worth rotating our monitors through 90 degrees for.
However, just to be clear, we still do not approve of dancing. As a liberated physical expression of joy, it flies in the face of our entire life philosophy – mainly because our crippling insecurity about what everyone else is thinking about us means we can’t do it.
Thanks to Sarah, Canterbury for bringing this to our attention.
It warrants a headline. Even if Jonathan Trott got a ton in the last match, this time it’s plural. More than one England batsman has scored some runs. One of them was even Andrew Strauss.
It’s remarkably easy to catch up with a match that’s going badly. Last week, we switched on the TV early in the morning, expecting to see Strauss and Cook; Jonathan Trott at a push. Instead, we saw Matt Prior and within eight seconds, he was out. There was no way that match was going well.
By contrast, this morning we switched on half-expecting to see Matt Prior again and were instead greeted with the sight of Strauss and Cook in partnership. We were starting to disbelieve that ever happened. One of them was even into double figures.
It’s like the good old batting of the last year or so where you don’t have to watch because nothing ever really happens.
As abysmal as England’s batsmen have been, the team would stand a pretty decent chance of beating Sri Lanka if they didn’t spend most of their time in the field attempting to dismiss just one of the two batsmen at the crease.
If they’re in Sri Lanka, England are probably bowling to Mahela Jayawardene. In 11 Tests against them, he’s made six hundreds (one a double) and five fifties. He averages 90, but more importantly, he gives off an unmistakeable air of knowing precisely what the hell he is doing.
It’s impossible to ask questions of someone who knows what they’re doing. Peering into your car engine alongside a mechanic, you can’t say: “What’s that wiggly thing?” or “Which bit makes it go?”
Asking questions exposes your own limitations. It’s better keep a low profile and hope no-one exposes you for the worthless human being you know yourself to be.
England drop Monty Panesar readily. Whether it’s because of form, the pitch or ‘the balance of the side’, they don’t seem shy about leaving him out.
Maybe the decision will be vindicated, but he seems to have been collateral damage following a line of thinking that betrays England’s lack of confidence in the batsmen. Broad went home and they wanted Finn to replace him, because he’s promised so much recently. However, they didn’t want a tail of Finn, Panesar and Anderson. Bresnan instead of Finn? No, Bresnan instead of Panesar.
England still have Samit Patel’s left-arm spin, so this isn’t perhaps as eye-catching a decision as the guy who ordered a fried spam, egg and cheese sandwich in the bacon butty shop the other day. It’s just a feeling we get – that Monty Panesar is easy to drop.