Here’s a question: if all records and memory of Test history were erased, how would you select your playing XI for the next match? Would the side differ from the one that would take the field normally?
There’s always context. There are always past Test achievements to go off. Many players earn a guaranteed spot over time, but their initial selection wasn’t always so cut and dried. Imagine all that information has gone and you’re starting from scratch. How do you go about your task?
Do you go off batting and bowling averages? If you did that, the India side would feature Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Subraniam Badrinath. Some would argue that a couple of those players should be featuring, but it’s striking that none of them do. Manoj Tiwary would also be playing and Sachin Tendulkar would only just eke out Abishek Nayar.
But that’s poor use of statistics. Maybe you’d look at the players’ averages over the last few years or try and weight averages in some way to lessen the effects of high-scoring matches.
Or maybe you’d go all Moneyball and look for the meaningful statistics behind the averages. How reliable is that forward defensive? Does the batsman have any weaknesses against particular types of bowling? What proportion of a bowler’s deliveries are dot balls and how consistent are they in terms of line and length?
Strategy first or players first?
Questions about bowlers are particularly complex, because what exactly are you looking for? Do you have a strategy in mind for which you’ll find the right bowlers, or will you find the best bowlers and then devise your strategy? If the latter’s the case, how do you compare an accurate seam bowler with a less accurate, but highly skilled, swing bowler?
What’s your point here?
Dunno. We just wonder how much of an impact history and prejudice have on selection, we suppose. We wonder whether a selector without preconceptions would pick some unexpected players.
Don’t suppose it matters really. So, er, what are you doing this weekend? Anything interesting? No?
Welcome to the third and final part of Cricket’s Greatest Dot Balls. We hope it’s been worth the wait as we now revisit perhaps the greatest dot ball of them all.
It was the fourth Test of the 1999 Test series between England and New Zealand, a momentous match which saw debuts for both Darren Maddy and Ed Giddins and which also allowed the British public to wave farewell to Ronnie Irani. It was New Zealand’s second innings and Alan Mullally was annoyed because Ed Giddins had just snaffled the prize wicket of Roger Twose.
Mullally was really ticking and Craig McMillan was the poor unfortunate who was set to be on the receiving end. Mullally’s opening spell had been characterised by a lot of deliveries being left alone wide of off stump and he had been accused of wasting the new ball. Now, he was ready to make amends.
The dot ball
Mullally approached the crease with a real spring in his saunter and delivered the ball with real intent at genuine fast-medium pace. McMillan only just had time to judge that it was going well wide of off-stump, but he was smart enough to withdraw his bat so that there was no chance of an edge. Dot ball.
Mullally got his man LBW a short time afterwards, although it was probably going over the top. He would go on to play three more Tests.
McMillan played plenty more Tests and memorably hit hundreds against both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh within a 12-month period. In his final Test, against Australia, he was denied the opportunity to bat in New Zealand’s follow-on innings due to persistent rain.
Roger Twose’s dismissal by Ed Giddins sadly marked the end of his Test career. He now works in banking.
Hello and welcome to part two of our three-part feature, Cricket’s Greatest Dot Balls.
It was the fourth Test of the 1999 Test series between England and New Zealand, a match in which Ed Giddins was making his Test debut. England had yet to make a breakthrough in New Zealand’s first innings and so Nasser Hussain turned to a young man by the name of Ronnie Irani. No-one knew quite how signficant this cricketer was going to become. Matthew Bell was facing.
The dot ball
Irani ran in, ball in hand. He was doing everything right. The ball angled into the right-hander’s pads and Bell attempted to work it to leg, succeeding only in scuffing the ball towards square leg. For a split second, he thought about taking a run, but realistically there wasn’t one there, so he didn’t.
Sadly, this would prove to be Irani’s final Test match. He finished with a Test batting average of 17.20 and with three wickets at an average of 37.33. In contrast, Bell would go on to play another 12 Tests for New Zealand, hitting hundreds against both Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Welcome to our new, three-part series, Cricket’s Greatest Dot Balls. We hope you like it.
It was the fourth Test of the 1999 Test series between England and New Zealand. Ed Giddins was making his Test debut and no-one knew quite how significant that was going to prove. Early in his first spell of bowling, Matt Horne was at the crease. How would Giddins bowl to this competent right-hand batsman?
The dot ball
Giddins ran in, as he always did – he never walked, crawled or made use of any kind of vehicle. As he approached the crease, he was thinking about bowling the ball, which he then did. The delivery was straight and wide of off-stump. Horne judged that it posed no immediate threat and therefore opted not to play a shot. Dot ball.
Matt Horne would go on to play 35 Tests for New Zealand, averaging in excess of 28. Ed Giddins would go on to reveal that his full name was Edward Simon Hunter Giddins. Upon learning that he had two full names, England dropped him.
On the radio, they call this ‘throwing forward’. That’s a good thing on the radio, but it’s a crime in rugby. You can decide for yourselves what it is on a cricket blog.
Monday to Wednesday will see something we’re really excited about. It is a short, three-part feature looking at cricket’s greatest dot balls, so brace yourselves for some real thrills. It’s not strictly speaking a top three, but Wednesday’s dot ball surely has a case for being considered the greatest of them all.
Unless we can come up with something better, Thursday will see a humourless, rambling post about how to go about selecting a Test team. We apologise in advance if this is what actually does appear, but we’ll make up for it on Friday by having a picture of a cat looking conspicuously indifferent to something cricket-related.
So there we go. If we need you, we now know where to find you: RIGHT ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT.
Normally, when someone talks about ‘the next so-and-so’ it’s a load of old cobblers, but there really is another Chanderpaul – it’s Shiv’s son.
Even better, he’s almost, but not quite, named after a fruit. Tagenarine Chanderpaul is set to make his first-class debut in February, even though he’s only 16.
We didn’t think it was possible to improve on Shivnarine Chanderpaul in any way whatsoever, but if we could have the exact same person and he was also called Tagenarine, that would unarguably be better. Fingers crossed Tagenarine can tick the ‘genius of a batsman despite having a surfeit of elbows’ box. If he can, life just improved. For once.
No word yet on his younger brothers, Netecterine, Calementine and Mandarine.
England scored not-enough-runs and then India made slightly more. England’s wasn’t so much a one-day innings as an impression of a one-day innings; an approximation involving steady accumulation and later acceleration, only without either segment being quite what it should have been.
We get the impression that Alastair Cook had given a pre-match rallying speech along these lines:
“Come on! Let’s lose this! Let’s go out there, give it not quite our best shot and lose this.
“I don’t want you to go out there, risking everything in pursuit of victory. I’d far rather we acquiesced to defeat and secured it in a slightly more respectable manner. Batsmen: establish the optimum balance between risk and reward and then drop it down a few notches.
“If we do this, we should end up with a total that won’t be chased down too soon, but which isn’t so intimidating that India will feel they really need to go after the bowling. Let’s lose this lads! Let’s lose this in unremarkable fashion.”
Assuming this is what happened – mission accomplished.
Well played Kane Williamson for scoring 145 not out and well played the rest of you for fielding competently.
We’re sure he’ll be delighted about it, but we’re not too sure that Captain Brendon McCullum can take enormous pride in beating a South Africa side featuring the following luminaries:
- Quinton de Kock
- Colin Ingram
- Farhaan Behardien
- David Miller
- Ryan McLaren
- Rory Kleinveldt
That feeling is compounded by the fact that the South Africans managed to lose half their wickets to run-outs.
Rotation rocks, except when you rotate through 180 degrees and realise that all you can see now is arse.
In some parts of England, they talk about ‘schools cricket’ – note the plural. This is a bizarre, alien form of the game in which posh 15-year-olds play on immaculate grounds in exquisite locations having been expertly coached by former internationals. ‘School cricket’ (singular) is rather different.
In school cricket, everyone is useless and there is no gear. At best, the batsmen will be sharing a set of pads and if there are gloves, they’ll be those ones with the spiky rubber bits on the back. The game is played on a bobbly football field with cut grass left behind in clumps. Even if there were a boundary, no-one could reach it because of the bats and terrain.
We thought of school cricket while watching Ravindra Jadeja’s wickets from this series. To be clear, this isn’t a reflection on his ability. It’s more to do with his bowling style and the batsmen’s ability.
Jadeja trots up to the crease and delivers the ball round-arm at about 50mph. That is how you bowl in school cricket – slowly and round-arm. He is aiming at the stumps, because that is what you do in school cricket (there is no point having elaborate plans). The batsman then misses the ball, even though it doesn’t spin or do anything and finds that he has been bowled. Ravindra Jadeja then takes the bat off the batsman so that he can have a go at batting.
Okay, so the last bit doesn’t happen, but the rest of it is no different to school cricket. Basically, Jadeja is bowling slow, straight deliveries with a round-arm action and England’s finest batsmen are missing them. Why is this?
We’re told it’s because they are playing for the turn and this begs the question: “Why are you playing for the turn?”
This is a pretty decent question when Jadeja’s bowling, because he doesn’t really spin the ball a right lot. It’s not a bad question all round though. Is this really how professional batsmen approach spin bowling? We thought it was all about playing back and watching the turn or playing forward and negating the turn? Is just sort of guessing where the ball might end up and aiming for that particular patch of air a genuine gameplan?
This isn’t rhetoric. We’re actually asking. Do professional cricketers actually do this deliberately, expecting that they will succeed?
Australians aren’t always particularly polite about the standard of the opposition. In a way, this is okay, because they’re equally happy to wheel out brutal opinions about their own team when they don’t do well.
On the other hand, it does mean that the rest of us can portray dismissive comments about the opposition as being extraordinarily hubristic. Take this comment from former fast bowler, Rodney Hogg, for example.
And then scrutinise this scorecard.
That would make Australia’s one-day top order what, exactly?