Month: September 2012 (page 1 of 3)

Sky’s World Twenty20 studio pundits

There is a very different feel to Sky’s coverage of the World Twenty20. It’s not the usual Test match team of presenters and pundits and we’re quite thankful for that.

It’s not that Sky’s coverage is normally bad. It’s just very familiar. That David Gower and Ian Botham world can get a bit wearing.

“Just saw Gatt. He’s fat, isn’t he?”

“You like to stay up late drinking, don’t you Sir Ian?”

When these guys talk cricket, that’s fine, but the bonhomie can seem rather tired. Gower and Botham in particular have been doing virtually the same things together for the last 30 years. Sometimes they even seem aware of that themselves.

In contrast, the guys in the studio for the World Twenty20 appear to be genuinely enjoying themselves. It was Ian Ward, Paul Collingwood, Marcus Trescothick and Jimmy Adams yesterday. They seemed to spend about half the time laughing, which was quite endearing.

That isn’t to say they’re just dossing about though. They joke, but they make serious points. It’s striking how they have very specific things to say about Twenty20 cricket and you realise that the sometimes faintly sneering or dismissive tone that accompanies the summer coverage of the format is perhaps borne of the ignorance of the older presenters.

We wonder how much of this is down to Ian Ward. He is very good nowadays. Genial and easygoing, but unmistakeably in charge. He’s like a cool teacher who jokes with the kids and somehow cajoles them into doing work at the same time.

We would never marry Bob Willis, so we don’t see why we have to spend quite so many hours looking into his cold, dead eyes, wondering whether he’s plotting to kill us. We haven’t seen Nick Knight doing that thing where he asks himself questions before refusing to commit to an answer either, so maybe he’s not involved. It’s good to have a change.

There have been worse run chases

By England. This week.

It’s always tempting to lay into England when they lose, but we’re going to resist today. We slagged them off for their hollow-skulled approach against India, but this was fairly respectable in its own way.

You don’t have time to overcome too many obstacles in Twenty20. Get your ankle caught in the cargo net and you might as well just stay there until the awards ceremony. England conceded enough runs to lose and then merrily donated the Windies a double wicket maiden in the first over of their chase. This was rather like getting caught in the cargo net and then losing your shorts while extricating yourself.

The next nine overs therefore saw bottomless England waddling along with their hands covering their genitals. Eoin Morgan isn’t shy, though. He arrived immediately before the 11th over with the score reading 55-3 and promptly ran around with it all on display.

England lost, but not by too much. We don’t yet know whether net run rate will play a part in the Super Eights, but Morgan’s obscene knock deserves to have had a purpose.

Twenty20 cricket is a lottery

Or so they say, yet in the World Twenty20 tickets were bought by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe and none won so much as a tenner.

Twenty20 isn’t a lottery. The margins are smaller because it’s a shorter game and therefore luck can perhaps play a larger part than in other formats, but it is wrong to call it a lottery.

The better teams have a better chance of winning, but nothing is guaranteed. That’s true of all sports, although the degree to which it is true varies. To enjoy Twenty20, you have to accept that luck plays a part without focusing on that to the exclusion of all else. The bigger the gap in quality between two teams, the less luck matters.

May the best team win. (But maybe it won’t.)

Match report and games report

Sam writes:

A “board games day” had been arranged. It was to be held at our house. I wasn’t keen, but the weather had finally improved after what seemed like months of endless rain, so I suggested that rather than sitting inside all day we should go to the park.

We played tennis without a net, then frisbee, then cricket.

There were four of us present, playing with a plastic training ball and stumps constructed from two upside down tennis rackets propped up against each other inside a Sainsbury’s “bag for life” canvas bag.

As the only one of us who semi-regularly plays village cricket, I batted first, taking advantage of the wayward bowling and gaping gaps in the field to make a respectable 23 from my two overs, keeping both of my two wickets in hand.

My hot streak continued as I bowled my girlfriend then had my mate trapped plumb LBW first ball as he attempted an ill-advised Dilscoop-cum-paddle sweep.

Unfortunately the fourth of our group, a pilot who had spent the afternoon telling us he hadn’t a clue how to play cricket, exploited the sweltering conditions and tiring fielders to beat my score with two balls remaining.

He adopted a baseball-like approach, swinging at everything and either middling it over midwicket or edging through third man. We agreed that there is a distinct advantage to batting last in such conditions.

We headed home and the board games began. First came a game called Khet, better known as “Laser Chess”.

'Easy to learn in minutes' they exclaimed in unison

It looked more exciting than it really is.

Next up was The Mysteries of Old Peking, a borderline racist game based around Oriental characters who may or may not have committed some sort of low-level crime.

So many mysteries

The suspects have names like Dun Wong, Sly Lee, Hoo Mee, Ski Ming and Han Dee…

The 'culprits' card - still frequently used in modern policing

… while the victims are called things like Mr Pong Hi (laundry owner), Lady Cha-Ming (jewellery store), Miss May-Kup (beauty parlour) and so on.

Our final game was Light Up The Town:

A philosophy all pyromaniacs can get behind

One of our group had received the game when she was a child as her dad used to work for an electricity company.

The game involved trying to collect power in order to “light up” attractions including a nightclub, a zoo, a hospital and a bank.

It was like a poor man’s version of Monopoly.

What a day.

England try and pull off in fifth gear against India’s spinners

How much is it that England’s batsmen can’t play spin very well and how much is it that they can’t chase big totals? It’s probably a bit of both. It’s probably that one is compounded by the other.

It’s fairly self-evident that bigger totals are harder to chase, but they should be PROPORTIONALLY more difficult. However, it just doesn’t seem to work like that with England. Instead, it’s as if every additional 10 runs adds another 20 runs of difficulty.

A total of 170 isn’t huge in Twenty20, but it’s big enough if you’re playing England. As soon as the run-rate climbs, they open The Cupboard Of Totally Inappropriate Shots and start cooking. No need for singles when you can simply glide a delivery straight to the slip fielder or cut the air just outside the ball shortly before it hits your stumps.

They do this against fast bowlers, but against spin bowlers they do it more regularly and once they’ve started, the phenomenon feeds itself. As the run rate climbs, the strokeplay becomes ever more unpredictable. It’s actually quite fascinating.

Batting first, shortcomings are hidden. Most England players only have three gears against spin, but with no official target they can stay within their limitations before taking on the quicks or the guy spearing in the part-time “off-spin”. Batting second, when there’s a required run-rate, they tend to feel that there’s a need to engage fourth or fifth gear.

Here’s some advice for England batsmen: If there’s a spinner bowling, never engage fourth or fifth gear. It will not work. If you try and change into fourth gear, the engine will explode and it’ll probably kill a child and a panda.

We said this batting line-up would need a hell of a lot of momentum. It already appears to have run out.

Poor Izatullah Dawlatzai

Izatullah Dawlatzai got up this morning and thought to himself: “Maybe today’s the day that I, Izatullah Dawlatzai, will make a name for myself. I will bowl so well against the World Twenty20 Champions that the name Izatullah Dawlatzai will forever be synonymous with bowling that is both spectacularly destructive and also admirably economical.”

To be fair, he did take two wickets, but he also conceded 56 runs in three overs. “Oh well,” he thought. “We can chase 197. I’ve a chance to make amends yet.”

At 26-8, Izatullah Dawlatzai will have been champing at the bit. “My chance is nearly here. One more wicket and I can show them what I can do.” Several over later, he finally got his chance, but after facing only three balls, during which he failed to score a run, he was left stranded on nought not out.

He was primed, he was ready, but circumstances denied him his opportunity to shine. Poor Izatullah Dawlatzai.

What’s Damien Martyn up to these days?

Yeah, we know Matthew Hayden’s retired again and that there’s a batch of nonsense to savour as a consequence. You can enjoy that without our having to contribute these days. Instead, we’ve got something new.

It’s Damien Martyn’s confusingly named ‘Marton Distribution’. Read their ‘about us‘ page before you go any further. Read all of it. You’ll be left with pretty much no idea what they actually do, but you’ll have a vague sense that it’s something worthy.

If the tension has been built, let us now dissipate it by telling you that Marton Distribution make mosquito repellent. Not just any mosquito repellent, however. This one is “literally light years ahead of its competition.”

In order to achieve this, “Marton Distribution has purposely formed strategic alliances with specific manufacturing organisations throughout the World.”

In other words, someone else is making it.

Mosquito repellent is worthwhile and as the bumpf repeatedly states, it does have the potential to save lives. We’ve no issue with the release of an innovative mosquito candle which produces a terrifying-sounding five metre plume that sends nearby mosquitos into a coma. What does strike us, however, is that it sounds like Marton Distribution is scrabbling round for an identity.

The ‘opportunities’ page is still under construction. We’ll keep you posted.

Yuvraj Singh is a good Twenty20 bowler

Much has been made of the fact that MS Dhoni wants seven batsmen and four bowlers in his Twenty20 side, even though you have to use at least five bowlers.

‘Sacrilege’, people cry. Not really. Batsman number seven might not contribute much, but the value of a specialist bowler isn’t always so great in Twenty20 either.

Actually, let’s clarify that a little. A really good bowler is fantastic to have and may well win you the game. A pretty good bowler is often neither here nor there. Dhoni clearly feels that there isn’t much to choose between his fifth bowler and his part-timers. He might have a point.

It’s odd that Yuvraj Singh isn’t considered to be one of five bowlers. He seems to be kept in the ‘fiddling through some overs’ category, but his Twenty20 record’s pretty solid and he’s taken over a hundred wickets in one-day internationals.

Watching him bowl, you kind of feel that the batsman should be carefully selecting a stand in which to land the ball, but it never happens. He’s the irritating non-spinning spinner who you for some reason can’t slog. Twenty20 teams are built around those guys.

Yuvraj took 3-24 off four overs against Afghanistan today and other than Afghanistan’s fielders, he did as much as anyone to prevent an upset.

Don’t give us that ‘if Afghanistan had fielded better’ crap, by the way. They played pretty well, but fielding’s part of the game.

The England Test squad for the Test tour of India is actually quite interesting

“Root or Compton? Let’s have both and, er, James Taylor can go elsewhere to make room. He didn’t do much right or wrong, so maybe no-one will notice that he’s gone.”

Root and Compton. It’s nice to see a 21-year-old and a 29-year-old both being selected for the first time for almost entirely different reasons. It speaks of open-mindedness or something. There are a few other interesting selections as well.

Joe Root

We’re not entirely sure, but we don’t think we’ve ever seen Joe Root bat. Decent record and Graham Thorpe thinks he’s ace. That’ll do us.

Nick Compton

Lumpen, plodding and patient. It works for Cook and Trott. The third of those attributes is particularly important when batting on the first few days in India. While we can’t see him contributing much on day four or day five, hopefully he’ll already have done a job by then.

Eoin Morgan

Has presumably been recalled due to his ability against spin, which wasn’t in any way on display when England played Pakistan earlier in the year. To be fair, he generally succumbed to the straight one, so maybe a raging turner will give him a better chance. Despite the tone of this paragraph, we’re rather happy he’s back.

Monty Panesar

When it comes to Tests taking place in India, the home team takes a massive proportion of its wickets through spin. The away team does not. This is really quite important. Monty Panesar probably won’t play and we’re not really convinced there’s much merit in playing Samit Patel for his bowling (although we’ve time for his batting, funnily enough). All the same, should Graeme Swann succumb to old man’s elbow, we’d like a proper spinner to step in and there’s no way in the world we’d pick anyone over Monty.

Kevin Pietersen

Isn’t in the squad.

ICC World Twenty20 post-match analysis

When each match finishes, you can simply switch off the TV. We’ve saved you from post-match analysis with our team guide for Cricinfo. It explains why your team lost.

When Bumble says “start the car” – that’s your cue to switch off the box. You can go and do something more productive with your time, like hammering old, rusty nails into a plank of wood so that they’re easier to carry when you take them to the tip.

The Lazy Pundit’s Guide To Why Your Team Lost – New Zealand is our favourite.

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