Month: May 2012 (page 1 of 3)

Kevin Pietersen retires from the shorter international formats but not from Tests or the IPL

It took him 42 minutes to get up again after this

With his finishing school posture and his languid prancing, Kevin Pietersen always looks fine when he’s ambling around the outfield. But who knows what’s going on inside those 30-something limbs?

Maybe he’s got age-related shitty knee. You need to rest your stupid, failing joints for longer as you get older. That’s far from easy in the modern cricket world, as we said yesterday.

Every time Pietersen makes a reference to a 1980s TV programme in the changing rooms, he’ll be reminded that he’s surrounded by a bunch of idiotic slavering bairns. This will be all the more apparent when it’s one of the two pyjama teams. ‘Sod this,’ he’s clearly thought. ‘I’d be better off spending my time popping ibuprofen and watching The Fall Guy on my settee.’

But how do the fans feel about this? Well, if we’re in any way representative, they’ll be largely unarsed. The Twenty20 World Cup’s semi-important, but he’s already won us one of those. The World Cup’s fully important, but won’t take place for a few years. Everything else is neither here nor there.

If we were him, we’d approach this Pakistan-style. We’d return to one-day internationals a few months before the next World Cup. What’s he going to learn before then anyway? Nowt. Plus it gives England a chance to try out a few more middle-order batsmen. Once we’ve concluded that they’re crap, KP will be welcomed back with open arms.


Something about squad rotation

There’s plenty of talk about resting England’s bowlers now that the series is won. We predicted squad rotation years ago and while we don’t disagree with the practice, we do disagree with the world that necessitates it.

If the first XI were exactly that in every international cricket match, the sport would be in a better place. Sadly, it’s rarely the case. England tend to field their best Test team and then muck about with their one-day side. Other nations go the other way.

The upshot is that England tend to win more Tests than they lose, while nations more concerned with one-day internationals have the same experience with their preferred format. Hurray, everyone’s a winner! Everyone wins at a game the opposition isn’t really playing!

Somewhere, in a parallel universe, less international cricket is played and every match features the very best players performing at their best. The people in the crowd know this and their experience is richer and more enjoyable as a consequence, no matter what the result. These spectators are so happy they don’t even care that they have unsightly tendrils sprouting from their faces. They’re not remotely jealous of our universe.


Count Cricket’s county cricket round-up – May 29th

Good day to you all. Last week, I, Count Cricket, attended Sussex v Nottinghamshire. Nottinghamshire won and so went to the top of the table.

The weather was good, so I protected my pallid skin by withdrawing to Hove’s toilets where I quaffed brandy from my thermos. Very pleasant it was too and I made many friends, including one chap who informed me that Matthew Hendrik Wessels had made 199 runs. Most people seem to call him ‘Riki’, but I will continue call him Matthew Hendrik – for that is his name.

Elsewhere, King Cricket favourites Steven John Croft and Paul James Horton each made a handful of runs as Lancashire’s batting finally elevated itself above rank incompetence and earned the county a draw against Middlesex; while Somerset beat Durham after George Henry Dockrell took 6-29.

Finally, Warwickshire beat Surrey thanks to a heartening innings from the forgotten bald wicketkeeper, Timothy Raymond Ambrose, who once squatted behind some sticks for the United Kingdom. His chief ally in the run-chase was Rikki Clarke, who always seems to get a mention in my county cricket coverage. Later on, I asked a woman at a bus stop the meaning of his ubiquity. In the ensuing melee, I lost a shoe.

 


How many swing bowlers did England need to win this Test match?

When asked about the make-up of England’s bowling attack for the second Test at Trent Bridge, Andrew Strauss said it was a ground where the ball tended to swing, so they’d selected the three best swing bowlers.

This begs the question, just what is the optimum number of eggs to have in one basket? The fact is that on the first day of the second Test, the ball didn’t swing. Picking three right-arm swing bowlers seemed akin to not picking a spinner. England weren’t covering all bases.

Fortunately, they had most of them covered and that proved to be enough, because while you sometimes need to bring a player into a side to fill a gap, in many cases one bowler will provide several different things. Broad, for example, is tall and can bowl quickly as well as being a decent swing bowler, while Bresnan bowls reverse swing as well as the more conventional kind.

However, while England won this match, that doesn’t mean everything was perfect. Does the fact that England’s third swing bowler took eight wickets in the match justify the team selection or does it draw attention away from the bowling attack’s long period of impotence on the first day?

Or is this just balls? Is it more about the 11 selected players making the best of whatever situations they find themselves in?


Three reasons to like Marlon Samuels

We’ve really warmed to Marlon Samuels a short way into a short series. There are three main reasons for this.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, his favourite cricketer is Nasser Hussain. Anyone with such an inexplicably unlikely role model is someone to be admired.

Secondly, he’s funny. Jimmy Anderson is easy to annoy, but Samuels did it well. Jimmy was visibly frustrated yesterday and rather than say something bland about this at the close of play, Samuels instead gently prodded the bowler. It was funny, but also fairly friendly. He said he’d been holding back and playing for the team up until now, but once he’d passed 200, he wanted Jimmy to give him a bit more lip – the implication being that he’d really let him have it then.

He also added:

“To be honest, I can’t find too many bowlers that can bowl and talk. I can bat and talk all day.”

And then he told Jimmy he was his favourite bowler.

A third reason to like Marlon Samuels is that he seems keen to play for the West Indies. The team themselves are admirably pragmatic about their missing players, refusing to make excuses. All the same, it’s nice to see Samuels forsaking half his IPL contract in favour of batting at six in a Test series against England.

To a degree, Samuels embodies this Windies side. They’re serious about their cricket, but fun and they’re giving England a proper battle that has already been far more intriguing than a few recent series played out in this country.

Speaking of fun, Darren Sammy never stops smiling, even when his team is losing and a host of experts are saying he’s mediocre and shouldn’t be playing. He probably smiles during surgery. This doesn’t leave him much room for manoeuvre when things go right, but he must have been bloody delighted to make that hundred. On Test Match Special, Michael Vaughan fair roared with glee when he reached three figures and we felt much the same.

Well played, the Sams.


Something about Steven Finn that isn’t really worth saying

We’ve been meaning to say this since the middle of the last Test, but having just seen “Steven Finn can provide England with the answer to Chanderpaul problem | Mike Selvey” on our home page, we’ve realised we’ve probably missed our window.

Unfazed, we’re going to say our bit anyway. We’ll read Selvey’s piece in a minute and gauge the exact degree of pointlessness of this post.

Basically, our point boils down to the following. England’s method of bowling ‘dry’ and waiting for mistakes is all well and good against human batsmen who actually make mistakes, but it’s largely pointless against Shivnarine Chanderpaul. They need a bowler with a bit of something extra who might actually be able to make life uncomfortable for him and Steven Finn might be that man.

That’s it really. Not particularly interesting and not particularly insightful. We’re off to Trent Bridge tomorrow, so we’re kind of slacking off in anticipation. Blame that.


Why the County Championship is like a good Test match

A good Test match should change in character as the pitch changes character. Early on, there might be a bit of moisture for seam bowlers to exploit; then it might flatten out, favouring the patient batsmen; and eventually the pitch should deteriorate so that there’s uneven bounce and plenty of turn for the spinners.

The point is, every player should have a chance of coming to the fore at different times of the match. It never really works like this exactly, but that’s the general principle. A similar thing applies to the County Championship.

Who wins the County Championship?

To win the County Championship, you need to be the best all-round team. If you have strong seam bowling and batsmen with good technique, you can get to the top of the table early in the season. However, if you don’t have a decent spinner or your batsmen are impatient, you can trip up when pitches are drier later on in the tournament.

To use Lancashire’s thus far disastrous title defence as an example, it is pretty clear that the batsmen can’t cope with early season conditions, even if the bowlers have performed reasonably well for the most part. It’s tempting to say the batsmen are terrible, but they have generally been faced with similar conditions in every match. Maybe they just have an unusually high percentage of batsmen who are crap at that particular style of batting. They’re pretty young as batting line-ups go.

We make no promises, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare when batting conditions improve and different skills come to the fore. Just because batting’s ‘easier’ doesn’t change the fact that you still have to score more runs than the opposition – that’s the most important measure of performance.

Who doesn’t win the County Championship?

Conversely, there might be an anti-Lancashire currently lurking near the top of the table; a side without a decent spinner who can’t face spin either. One of the reasons why the County Championship is currently such a good competition is because such weaknesses are generally exposed.

This season, there is a very large proportion of early season matches, which has perhaps tipped the balance in favour of certain sides. However, that’s the nature of the competition. Everyone knew that in advance. The Tour de France route is different every year. Some years it favours climbers, other years are better for time trialists. Teams are constructed accordingly.

In cricket, there’s also a certain amount of luck involved with regards to the weather, but that’s part of it too. The champion county is the one that copes best with all that comes its way.


They’re going to broadcast county cricket in Asia

The ECB have sold the rights to broadcast county cricket in Asia for about £135m. It seems oddly vague to talk about ‘Asia’ in this way. It’s an entire continent. We can’t imagine people in Japan or Mongolia are particularly interested in Arul Suppiah’s back foot defence right now, but hopefully they’ll learn to appreciate it over time.

Adjusting to the tempo of county cricket isn’t easy, so we wrote a guide for ESPN Cricinfo. It’s ESPN who’ve bought the rights, incidentally.


A second Shiv

There will only ever be one Shiv - mankind simply can't spare sufficient elbows for a second

For all that cricket is a team game, West Indies are only one Shiv away from being literally unbeatable. England basically took wickets at one end only throughout this match and Marlon Samuels gave an indication what would happen were a second Shivnarine Chanderpaul to come to the crease.

In that situation, West Indies would always have something to bowl at (eventually) and their bowling really isn’t that bad. There’s actually a case for saying they’d have this match firmly under control if they’d won the toss.

However, they didn’t win the toss and so they find themselves defending 191. We think they should have played a spinner. Particularly against England. You should always play a spinner. Particularly against England.


Count Cricket’s county cricket round-up – May 20th

Good day to you. I am Count Cricket. This week I was at Edgbaston where batting conditions were so friendly even Lancashire passed 300. Following a draw, Warwickshire remain top of the table.

One of the most notable performances was that of Rikki Clarke. During one of my visits to the toilets, I heard the crowd roar as he passed 100 for the second time this season. Coincidentally, I was in the same location when King Cricket’s player to watch, Paul James Horton, reached a match-saving hundred later in the match.

Very shortly after that, an incident led to my departing the ground in some haste. Exhausted, I took a well-earned rest a short distance away and only awoke when a van delivered some batches of newspapers to a nearby shop in the early hours. I reasoned that the shopkeeper would happily permit me a bale of newspapers to use as insulation, but following a melee I emerged with but a single page. Scrutinising it, I noticed that a gentleman named Stuart Christopher Meaker had taken 8-52 for Surrey against Somerset. This warmed my heart, but not my fingers.


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