Month: May 2013 (page 1 of 3)

Nottinghamshire v Middlesex at Trent Bridge match report

Ged writes:

Daisy and I were planning to go to Malawi this April, but for reasons too complex and dull to explain, we decided to defer our African adventure until the autumn. Thus we had booked some time off work without firm plans. We decided on a spring walking holiday in rural Warwickshire and North Yorkshire. The utterly obvious way to start such a break is to stop in at Trent Bridge for a day of County Championship cricket.

Fortunately for me, Daisy is no geographer and has little sense of direction, so the notion that Nottingham is not exactly a “stop off along the way from London to Warwickshire and then on to Yorkshire” did not occur to her during the planning.

Our host for the day was Basharat Hassan, better known as Basher, originally from Kenya, who played for Notts from the mid-1960s through to the mid-1980s and still has several roles within the club. He was a thoroughly amiable and charming host.

Trent Bridge

Very few hardy souls were watching from the stands and balconies. The outdoor pavilion seats looked far more enticing than the wrought iron monstrosities at Lord’s, the latter having been ergonomically designed for maximum discomfort. But freezing cold is freezing cold; we went for the “indoor wimps” option throughout the morning session, as did most of the Nottinghamshire bigwigs.

Daisy made a faux-pas by asking if the Trent Bridge pavilion was based on the one at Lord’s, as she had noticed some resemblance in architectural style. She was politely informed that the Trent Bridge pavilion preceded the one at Lord’s by several years, so it is more likely that the Lord’s architect had borrowed ideas from Trent Bridge.

Lunch

We enjoyed a heart-warming lunch of braised beef, during which Daisy seemed to form a bond with Ann – Mrs Basher. I think Ann was grateful for some female company in what would otherwise have been (and probably most often is) an all-male assortment of guests. Daisy and Ann chatted a great deal about everything other than cricket during the lunch.

After lunch, Daisy and I went for a stroll around the ground, in part to catch up with Vic Demain, recently appointed deputy groundsman at Trent Bridge and formerly head groundsman at Uxbridge CC, Middlesex’s oft-used out-ground. He became a good friend to us Middlesex regulars over the years, not least by organising superb charity fundraising curry nights at Uxbridge.

Vic introduced us to Steve Birks, the head groundsman at Trent Bridge. Vic probably thought his charity curry night organising days were behind him when he moved to Trent Bridge. But by the time we had tipped off Steve about the virtues of those evenings and Steve had mused aloud about the available curry-cooking talent on the Trent Bridge books, Vic possibly guessed that his biggest charity curry nights might still be ahead of him.

We chatted with Vic and Steve for quite a while, until we suffered the inverse of the “frog in a pan of water being heated up on the cooker” effect – i.e. we suddenly realised that we were frozen stiff. We continued on our rounds at a brisk pace.

More Trent Bridge

We returned to the comfort of Basher’s hospitality for tea, after which he kindly gave us a tour of some warmer places in the ground, such as the famous Trent Bridge library, where we met Peter Wynne-Thomas, who allowed us to peruse many antiquities and hear some fascinating stories about Trent Bridge in days of yore. Basher treated me to a copy of his autobiography, which I enjoyed reading during the rest of our holiday.

Daisy and I had both enjoyed a cracker of a day. So much so, that when we went past Junction 24 of the M1 a few days later, after our Warwickshire sojourn, Daisy said: “Hey, we’re going past Nottingham again. I thought you said that Nottingham was a stop along the way to Warwickshire”, with a tone far more akin to amusement than annoyance.


England v New Zealand 2013 Test awards

Probably should have exercised a little editorial restraint with that last post and gone straight to this one instead. Then again, what’s the internet for if not for failing to exercise editorial restraint?

Here are some awards.

Ploddiest bastard

The ploddiest bastard award recognises the batsman who played the most bar-filling innings. There were a few contenders with England’s entire first innings at Lord’s worthy of a team award, while Neil Wagner’s unbeaten nought not out off 37 balls in the second Test was an unfinished masterpiece. However, this award goes to Nick Compton for his unspectacular seven off 45 balls in the second Test. This case study in self-imposed mental paralysis was made all the more striking for being played while the famously uninhibited Alastair Cook was making a 63-ball 50 against the same bowling.

Biggest sociopath

This award recognises profound antisocial behaviour on the cricket field and it goes to Jonathan Trott for his batting on the fourth evening of the second Test. His 11 not out off 69 balls while England were looking to increase the run-rate ahead of an inevitable declaration showed quite staggering disregard for the feelings of his captain, coach, team-mates, fans and indeed pretty much everyone on earth. It was marvellous stuff.

Crappest shot

We’d probably go with Nick Compton’s deranged slog in the first innings of the first Test. Block, block, leave, block, HEAVE LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO SLAUGHTER A DEMON FROM HELL WITH ONE CRUSHING BLOW, walk off the pitch looking a little bit ashamed.

Thanks for coming

Martin Guptill. Followed one off five balls with three off 22 balls. No wonder they gave him a bowl in between. Those five overs went for 41.

Living the cliché

Recognising the player who made it most difficult to avoid using tired, overused phrases to describe them. Neil Wagner gets this award for his bustling fast-medium bowling. He just kept on running in.


High expectations and low scores

We’re not honestly sure how much we’ve learnt during these two Tests that we didn’t already know. This appears to be reflected in the fact that people are still talking about the lack of follow-on and the late declaration. The topic appears to be filling something of a void.

You win a Test by 247 runs in three days and one session and everyone berates you because they think it could have been won by a smaller margin in less time. Nothing guarantees disappointment quite like high expectations. This is one reason why we like to keep the bar nice and low.

Also nice and low were New Zealand’s scores. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor managed a reasonable partnership in the first innings of the first Test, but no two batsmen managed to become closely acquainted after that. The Kiwis looked tough and solid in home conditions, but in England they’ve seemed vulnerable to each of England’s four bowlers. Are they poor travellers or is it an inability to adapt when bowling plans have been honed?

Their bowling’s mostly been good, although we don’t have much to say about it. Actually, we don’t have much to say about anything today. We just feel like we should somehow acknowledge the end of the Test series. Maybe we need some sort of device, like marks out of ten or something less hackneyed. Maybe awards. We could come up with some irreverent awards. That might be a goer.


England’s priorities and Parkinson’s law

Work expands to fill the time allotted. We remember one particularly undemanding week where we made a plan to buy a toothbrush on one day and toothpaste the following day. Good times. Credit to England’s bowlers then for not performing as if they’ve got 468 runs to play with.

These kinds of ultra-conservative declarations can sap the sense of urgency from an attack. Maybe the weather helped their cause. The threat of bad light and then rain today added a frisson to a fairly moribund scenario and perhaps helped England take six wickets on day four when they might otherwise have rationed them more carefully.

The key with this declaration was the prioritisation of a Test series win over a Test match win. A draw is enough for England to secure the series, so if that’s your primary goal, it makes sense to remove an unlikely defeat from the equation. Were Test wins the primary goal, more would be risked in pursuit of one. The rights and wrongs of that perhaps merit discussion. However, we simply cannot be bothered venturing an opinion.


Footmarks for the spinner

Graeme Swann about to play a delightful backhand slice

It’s a strange and wonderful sport where two members of the opposition who aren’t even on the pitch can aid your cause, but Graeme Swann can thank Trent Boult and Neil Wagner for three of his four wickets.

The two left-armers created some beautifully scruffy turf for him to aim at and the added purchase meant the ball did plenty more than you would ordinarily expect. People talk like it’s surprising when the ball turns so early in the match, but pitches don’t wear uniformly. Even after just one innings, the footmarks from two left-armers probably provide Swann with more rough than on the fifth day of any other Test match.

Unless you’re Sri Lanka in the Murali era (“Hey, you’re left handed and have quite big feet. I don’t suppose you’re free for a bit of seam bowling between Thursday and Monday, are you?”) you don’t pick your bowlers for the by-products of their endeavours. Yet footmarks can lead to crucial wickets and can therefore decide a match.

What a wonderfully complex sport. Imagine explaining this to someone new to cricket. Imagine having to explain spin bowling and the impact of the rough. Now imagine the person saying in a loud, booming, almost certainly American voice: “You know what they should do. They should bowl from the other side of the stumps so the rough patches aren’t in the right place for him.”

Actually, don’t imagine that. It’s too irritating.


Joe Root and canned excitement

There’s no excitement quite so depressing as mandatory excitement. Compare and contrast the following.

  1. Joe Root strides to the crease and a large crowd rumbles with enthusiasm
  2. A batsman strides to the crease and Somebody Told Me by The Killers plays
  1. Joe Root takes a quick single and a large, partisan crowd pretty much roars
  2. A batsman hits a six and is rewarded with four bars of Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis
  1. Joe Root makes his debut Test hundred on his home ground and everyone goes crazy-mental for about 20 minutes
  2. Anything at all happens warranting Simply The Best or We Are The Champions

Now we may very well be old, cynical, jaundiced and miserable, but we’re also correct. Excitement doesn’t come from the tangentia surrounding a sports event. Either it arises naturally or not at all. If anything, canned excitement only draws attention to what’s missing.

Emotions cannot be scheduled nor coaxed into existence. If you’re anything other than an idiot, you accept that fact and so take extra pleasure on the rare occasions when the planets align and something half-decent happens.


Token second Test preview

Tomorrow England meet New Zealand in the second Test at Headingley. The home team will be looking to take a 2-0 series win, while the tourists will be looking to tie the series 1-1. England will settle for a draw and a 1-0 series result, but would prefer to win.

Despite winning the first Test, England did several things badly and will be looking to do those things better while simultenously maintaining standards or improving when it comes to the things they did well.

The same applies to New Zealand, only they will be looking to make far greater improvements. When you consider the outcome of the last Test, they could conceivably play significantly better and yet still lose if England can improve to the same degree.

Set against that is the fact that New Zealand could play exactly the same as in the first Test and England could play worse, in which case we might get a different result. However, the Kiwis won’t want to have to rely on that.

Players who are injured will be replaced by different players, but there may also be other changes. Some players are more likely to be dropped than others and that likelihood is often dependent on the quality and form of the players who would most likely replace them.

Both teams will look to play well early on and will also be keen to continue playing well should they achieve that. If either side makes a poor start, they will hope that they can come back from that and will endeavour to do so.

It might rain a bit.


The number six doorway

Enough of the eye-catching swing bowling. What is this website for if not for accentuating the negative? Let’s focus on England’s batting.

We still haven’t really settled on a firm opinion regarding England’s approach in the first Test. We’d probably grade it ‘acquiescent’. We don’t think it was as bad as some are making out, but nor do we think it was acceptable in the conditions. Run-scoring was hard and basically they just seemed to accept that.

The problem is that the top five are all primarily reactive batsmen. They play according to the situation. They don’t particularly look to shape it. For any given batsman, that’s a perfectly valid approach, but five of them in a row feels like washing your hands of responsibility and handing the match outcome over to fate.

If England want to address that, we see three main options.

  1. Encourage the current batsmen to be more flexible in terms of their approach
  2. Replace a batsman or batsmen
  3. Shuffle the batting order

Number one is probably not particularly realistic. Alastair Cook has shown adaptability via other formats, but his Test approach is grooved and successful and this is perhaps even more true of Jonathan Trott. Nick Compton and Joe Root should be left to their own way of doing things at this early stage and Ian Bell is just Ian Bell. He responds to public desires like a balloon to the point of a knife.

Option two seems harsh on any of those five, even if there appears to be fundamental dissatisfaction with Compton from some quarters. People are incredibly quick to talk about dropping him, even though he’s made two hundreds in his last four Tests.

People assume that option three isn’t a goer because of the unwritten rule that says that batting positions four to six in the England team are decided based on seniority. Whoever’s most established in the Test team bats at four and the sixth choice batsman bats at six.

Why does this have to be the case?

Jonny Bairstow is the only current England batsman who is at all proactive in approach, so he could potentially draw a line under top order automatism through appearing at four, possibly influencing the innings as a consquence. Furthermore, if he’s the one most likely to be dropped when Kevin Pietersen returns, doesn’t it make a degree of sense to have him batting in Pietersen’s position? Why does number six have to be the only doorway in and out of England’s middle order.

By the way, this probably doesn’t matter.


2013 County Championship – chapter six

You may have thought that we’d forgotten about our weekly County Championship round-up, what with there having been a Test match and all. However, you didn’t count on the nagging feeling of guilt that jolted our memory. In truth, our subsconscious is largely just a complex web woven from different strands of guilt, but we’ve learnt to distinguish between them over the years.

Pleasingly, the Championship top three comprises the same teams as last week, albeit in a different order. It’s almost like the table’s taking shape.

1st – Middlesex

Middlesex beat Somerset by nine wickets, despite 6-95 from Jamie Overton in the first innings. Tim Murtagh was the difference here, taking 10 wickets in the match. Jos Buttler made 85 after Somerset had fallen to 35-5 in their second innings, but he needs to bat further up the order if he’s to even be considered for Test cricket.

2nd – Yorkshire

Yorkshire are only three points behind Middlesex after beating Warwickshire by an innings and 139 runs. Adil Rashid made an unbeaten hundred and currently averages 200 in the Championship. Liam Plunkett (remember him) took 5-32.

3rd – Durham

Last week we vaguely promised that we’d cover Surrey v Durham this week and at school they taught us that you have to keep your vague promises, even when you don’t really mean them and no-one actually cares. Durham beat Surrey with two of their spinners performing well. Ryan Buckley took 5-80 in the first innings and Scott Borthwick took 6-70 in the second. In between, Gareth Batty took 5-80 for Surrey. It’s also worth noting that Stuart Meaker took one wicket in the match and went at five an over. We actually quite like Stuart Meaker, but it’s sometimes worth drawing attention to days like this because a player’s England credentials can be overhyped after their better performances which can skew perceptions.

The next chapter

We hate this bit now that our unfamiliarity with calendars and dates has been exposed. We think that Durham will host Middlesex this week and that Yorkshire won’t play until next week.


When New Zealand were floored at Lord’s

The usual Stuart Broad picture - can't be bothered finding a new one today

In post match analysis, many people have been saying that they thought Graeme Swann was going to be key and marvelling that he didn’t get a bowl. Yes, that’s true, but let’s put this in perspective: Steven Finn didn’t get a bowl either.

James Anderson took 2-23 and Stuart Broad took 7-44. As new ball spells go, these are adequate.

It sounds odd, but people sometimes undervalue bowling performances like this, particularly once the excitement has worn off and a few of the details have been forgotten. The innings is either described in terms of the batting side collapsing or the results are diminished by talk of helpful conditions. But while destructive bowling in unhelpful conditions is undeniably admirable, there’s something really special about dismissing a side for 68. You’ll be lauded if you dismiss the opposition for twice that and the difference between those two scores speaks of the standards you set yourself.

The TV highlights were pretty much the entire day’s play, but yet they still felt very much like highlights. The wickets were interspersed with dozens of similar deliveries which just happened to beat the edge, rather than catch it. Many swing bowlers have picked up five wickets when the ball’s doing something, but only the best ones make it seem unavoidable.


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