Month: June 2013 (page 1 of 3)

The 2013 King Cricket Ashes and Priestly Vestments Summer Crossword by Bert

A (mostly) cricket crossword

Bert writes:

I’ve done another crossword. I was going to wait till a full year had passed since the last one, but with the upcoming summer of cricket I thought it would be appropriate to do it now. So here it is – the 2013 King Cricket Ashes and Priestly Vestments Summer Crossword.

The theme of this year’s crossword is The Ashes and Priestly Vestments. It’s designed for all those who take an interest in Ashes Cricket and Priestly Vestments. I’m sure we’ve all had many a discussion about Priestly Vestments while sat watching the…

Oh all right, I give up. But you try fitting the names of 14 England and Australia test cricketers into a symmetrical crossword grid without leaving a space that can only be filled with a type of Priestly Vestment. It’s not easy, I can tell you. So you’ve got what you’ve got, even if one of the answers seems to be “surplice” to requirements (thank you, you’re all too kind). Believe me, if you’re not au fait with the goings on of minor British celebs over the last couple of decades, it won’t be the most obscure answer you have to find.

Suggested References: Chambers 2012, OED 2009, OK Magazine August 2000, Know Your Priestly Vestments 1387 (2nd Ed.)

For answers and explanations, click here.


Who is Darren Lehmann and why is he called Boof?

Sometimes it can seem like not a year goes by without the number of people on Earth who are younger than us growing. As sickening as it might be, we have to accept that there may be upwards of one person reading this website who isn’t old enough to remember Darren Lehmann’s playing career.

Fortunately, one of the great things about writing a cricket website year after year to no discernible effect is that you end up with a stockpile of existing material to which you can refer at times like this.

We always thought Darren Lehmann was magic as a cricketer. Sometimes this led to weird, overly-enthusiastic bits of writing, like this thing we wrote after we had a dream about him.

At other times, we have tried to make sense. Here’s what we wrote when he was about to retire. Because of when it was written, that post omits the fact that in addition to scoring a triple hundred in his final match for Yorkshire, he also made a hundred in a record run-chase in his final one-day innings for South Australia before making another hundred in his final first-class match for them.

Other Darren Lehmann facts include that he once did some racism and that his nickname is ‘Boof’. If you’re wondering as to the origins of this nickname, it’s due to his uncanny resemblance to cult actress and Nineties video game TV programme presenter, Emily ‘Bouff’ Booth.


Surely the best way to follow this year’s Tour de France

The Tour de France starts on Saturday. We’ll be writing about it daily over at our cycling site. We’re going to try and do one piece after each stage, which should be nice and manageable for busy, successful individuals like yourselves.

This week’s preview week, so if you’re remotely interested, now would be a good time to sign up for email updates. We’ve already covered the favourites for the points competition and the main contenders for the yellow jersey. The next few days will feature the lowdown on each of Chris Froome’s team-mates, a look at some of the most important stages and finally some advice about how best to follow the race.

Yes, we know most of you aren’t interested, but extensive market research has revealed that we tend to gain a bunch of subscribers each time we do this so we’re happy to tolerate the brickbats and opprobrium once or twice a year. There’s also a part of us that genuinely can’t comprehend why anyone wouldn’t want to know which Team Sky rider used to sell avocados off the back of their bike as a child.


No desk for Nick Compton

There’s been no announcement that Nick Compton has been dropped from England’s Test squad, but he isn’t in the squad to play a warm-up match against Essex and Geoff Miller, the national selector, said that Joe Root is “currently the best opening partner” for Alastair Cook.

It rather smacks of going into work only to find that you no longer have a desk. Compton appears to have been eased aside in the most casual manner. Then again, Somerset play Australia on Wednesday, so perhaps the selectors haven’t yet gone so far as smashing his personalised corporate mug.

Should Compton be dropped?

We don’t know about this. It seems a bit like unnecessary thinning of the herd.

When you drop a 30-year-old, it tends to be terminal. If they have any promise as an international batsman (and Compton does, because he’s twice scored hundreds) then you’d better be pretty damn sure that the player replacing him will thrive because you can’t go back.

Technically, you can go back, but you’d be going back to a player who’s basically been told he’s not good enough and who will therefore be a rather insecure imitation of the batsman you previously had in the team. You’d be settling for a player, rather than picking them and people pick up on that kind of message.

But Joe Root’s amazing, so this was always bound to happen

The English cricket media’s pretty insular and it can be a bit of an echo chamber when it comes to young players. Don’t get us wrong, Joe Root’s cracking, but it’s wise not to get too carried away early on. He’s played one Test against India and five against New Zealand. Remember Australia’s last tour when Ravi Bopara had just scored three hundreds in three innings against the Windies?

What if Joe Root doesn’t do well as an opener? What if he finally encounters a pothole in the previously immaculate tarmac A road he’s been travelling for most of his career? What then? What if Joe Root reveals a hitherto unsuspected inability to deal with poor performance and throws a massive wobbler which cannot be resolved by dropping him back down the order? If that happens England are two batsmen down at their next stock take, not one.

Embracing change

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t see any reason why Root won’t spend much of his career opening the batting for England. We just don’t see the rush. He’s playing well in the middle order and opening is a tougher job. While it’s a vote of confidence to promote him, it’s one that could be taken at any point in the next few years.

Root’s good and so’s Jonny Bairstow, but are England really so blessed with Test quality batsmen that they can discard someone who might very well make the grade if given a handful more matches? That’s basically what’s happening. Bairstow and all the other batsmen in the queue aren’t going anywhere, but Compton will be looking for a new career once he’s been pushed through the fire exit and into the staff car park.

Click here to read much the same point made via a white goods analogy.


Australia aren’t taking the Mickey any longer

And thus they have sacked him. Darren Lehmann will replace Mickey Arthur as Australia’s head coach.

Lehmann is a decent replacement, but we feel the side would have been better off with an alternative candidate: Alf Stewart from Home and Away.

Stewart is from the no-nonsense school of professional Australianism. Furthermore, the actor who plays him, Ray Meagher, has extensive experience of imposing discipline from his stint on Prisoner Cell Block H. In short, he possesses the perfect skillset for whipping this Australian squad into shape.

Stumbling blocks may have been Meagher’s airtight Home and Away contract with Channel Seven and the fact that Stewart is a fictional character.


Stumped by Dhoni and his experience

India’s Champions Trophy victory presents a good opportunity to bring this post about Twenty20 wicketkeeping to prominence once again. In a 20-over match, two of England’s top three were stumped by MS Dhoni and he could conceivably have had a third dismissal of that nature towards the end of the innings.

There were several pivotal events during the match, but you can certainly argue that Dhoni’s performance was match-winning, even though he didn’t score a single run. Set aside the debates about whether certain batsmen should or shouldn’t have been given out. Credit to Dhoni for giving the third umpire those decisions to make in the first place.

In low-scoring matches, the margins are finer. Byes are costly and missed catches are debilitating while a conjured stumping can all but decide a match. A makeshift keeper is something akin to a false economy.

This isn’t meant as an attack on Jos Buttler, by the way. He’s a cracking batsman and we feel he deserves his place in the side. His dismissal was as bad as anyone’s but if you want a reason for it, look to the fact that this was only his 14th one-day international (ODI). In a difficult final, the batsmen who did okay were Virat Kohli (103 ODIs), Ravindra Jadeja (70 ODIs), Eoin Morgan (102 ODIs) and Ravi Bopara (89 ODIs). In fact, Bopara’s confidence during the match is a good example of how a seemingly mentally fragile player can grow more robust with experience. Dhoni has played 224 ODIs, incidentally.

While confidence is hugely beneficial, skill is vital and Buttler’s keeping is not yet anywhere near Dhoni’s. Perhaps we should celebrate the fact that the team with the proper keeper won a global tournament.


India are better than everyone

And are thus honoured with the Champions Trophy white jackets. What an honour.

The final was an odd one, not least because it featured only 40 per cent of the scheduled overs. As soon as they announced it would be 20 overs a side, everyone started talking about six-hitting, but we had hardly any of that garbage. Instead we got a classic, low-scoring wobbler.

Low totals, high drama

India couldn’t score. India could barely get the ball off the square. Quite why no-one really acknowledged this between innings is beyond us – although we can’t prove that isn’t hindsight.

Either way, England also struggled to score. The run-rate climbed and only set batsmen had half a chance of hitting boundaries. When it got to the slog, Morgan and Bopara got a few away but when they were dismissed off successive deliveries, the new batsmen had no chance and ended up looking like idiots. The running between wickets was a bit crap, but everything was already out of control by that point.

This must be some kind of a choke

Numbers-wise, it was an easy target, but when Suresh Raina turns it square, you have to reevaluate what you consider easy. England didn’t really crumble to quite the extent many would have you believe. The required run-rate was much more demanding than it seemed.

But England needed 20 off 16 balls and lost. That’s close enough to move beyond carelessness into other territory. People are weirdly desperate to use the word ‘choke’ any chance they get these days. Maybe it’s because there are so many meaningless matches that we’ve all forgotten what competition is all about. Skill and physical prowess are just starting points and nerve is what holds it all together.

Considering the difficulties everyone was having scoring, we don’t feel England threw away a dominant position. It was fragile even with Morgan and Bopara together because a wicket was likely to change everything – and it did. Once they were out, England needed to show more nerve than India. They couldn’t.

In summary

India were just better. 129 turned out to be a decent target, they bowled and fielded fiendishly and they were more confident in themselves when it came to the crunch.

But both teams can be happy. At some point during the match it was announced that Steve Smith had been added to Australia’s Ashes squad, so while India are undeniably in credit, England have basically broken even.


A Champions Trophy preview sort of thing

It’s a final. We’re happy to do a preview for a final.

Bowling

Other than Jimmy Anderson, England’s other seamers have been at best mediocre. India’s haven’t been as good as Jimbo, but they have at least had their moments.

Spin-wise, James Tredwell has been a faintly-pudgy, slapped back superhero, but India can boast the mastery of Our Aswhin (at least that’s how we hear his name) as well as the seriously-how-does-he-get-wickets pragmatism of Ravindra Jadeja.

Batting

It’s sort of been working for England, but they’re very much making do with what they’ve got. They’ve got a decent sprint finish, but they can’t really sustain a high run-rate over a longer period. It’s a polarised batting approach – we’ll use that word again.

India have got extra gears at their disposal, the use of which would put England out of the running. Even if they don’t exactly explode, there are enough high quality batsmen that we can’t see them failing to make a decent total.

In conclusion

Should there be a match (and there won’t be – it’s going to rain all day) then swing for Jimmy Anderson would give England a fighting chance, but no more than that. If he can dispose of the openers and perhaps even a fragment of the middle-order, India will be somewhat stymied for a time, which might bring the target into reach (or keep it out of easy reach).

If there’s no swing, India should win.


2013 County Championship – chapter nine

Champions Trophy, Ashes build-up… Must. Try. And keep on top of. County Championship.

1st – Yorkshire

Middlesex and Yorkshire were equal on points last time we did a County Championship update. They’ve played each other since then and Yorkshire won by 10 wickets. Hundreds were scored by Andrew Gale and the alphabet-bookending AZ Lees. Adil Rashid made 72 and then took 5-78 in Middlesex’s second innings. Rashid’s having a right old season, which will come to a crashing halt the minute England select him for some sort of development squad.

2nd – Durham

A high-scoring draw with Somerset edges into this update, but not in a way where we actually mention any specifics. An 11-run win over Warwickshire was far more significant in lifting Durham up the table. Durham didn’t really score any runs in this match, but that’s okay because they have Graham Onions, who took 5-83. Ben Stokes took seven cheap wickets in the match as well as scoring 61 in the first innings – not bad in a low-scoring game.

3rd – Sussex

Sussex were leading, but drop two places after somehow failing to bowl out Surrey, who have sacked their coaching team of Chris Adams and Ian Salisbury. For once, Chris Jordan relented sufficiently that Monty Panesar had a chance to pick up a five-wicket haul, but he conceded 142 runs in doing so. Vikram Solanki and Zander de Bruyn scored hundreds for Surrey. Yes, they do both play for Surrey. That’s partly why Adams got the arse.

The next chapter

Yorkshire are hosting Surrey, Sussex travel to Nottinghamshire (and will play them at cricket) and then nothing else happens until July the 8th.


India are better than Sri Lanka

And by some margin.

Even India’s bowling’s doing the job at the minute. They usually win one-dayers despite holding some sort of festival of pie-chucking when they’re in the field, so now they’re all but unbeatable.

As for the batting, Rohit Sharma’s become unexpectedly efficient, while Shikhar Dhawan and his moustache remain the players of the tournament. Kohli, Karthik and Dhoni are barely needed.

This side actually looks miles better than the one that won the World Cup. They fully deserve to share the Champions Trophy following Sunday’s rain abandonment.


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