Month: September 2013 (page 2 of 2)

Do you remember Matthew Hoggard the Test cricketer? Do you ACTUALLY REMEMBER?

Matthew Hoggard completely having it with that there bowling like

Have you ever been at a funeral where they’ve skipped through the first 80 years of the person’s life before really dwelling on recent history? Half a century of adult life is summed up by counting progeny and then all the eulogy goes on about is how you liked a pint of mild and a game of dominoes.

People can struggle to think of a person in terms of anything other than what happened most recently. Perhaps that’s the way people are conditioned to think about life – like it’s one long progression. From this point of view, you’ve really cracked it near the end. Everything’s fallen into place.

Just to confirm, Matthew Hoggard’s not dead

We get a slight sense of this when reading about Matthew Hoggard now that he’s announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Sporting life moves on frighteningly quickly and even those of us for whom he was such a vital figure may struggle to muster fitting emotions. It’s not like he’s dead. It’s not like he’s even retired yet. He’s still there at Leicestershire, a sort of wishy-washy copy of an outstanding opening bowler with whom we are very familiar; a dilute methadone for an addiction we no longer have.

But this is to miss the point. Sport is primarily about the present with the future a secondary concern, but it’s also worth looking back on the past from time to time to keep yourself honest when you look at what’s happening now.

We are absolutely not going to use the word ‘yeoman’

Even though we just did and even though the word will provide the framework for what we’re about to say.

The perception of Matthew Hoggard was always of a toiler; the kind of cricketer who made the most of his talent (like that’s a crime, rather than part of the job). This always grated with us, even if Hoggard himself tended to play up to it, saying he just whanged the ball down.

That kind of assessment devalues not just Hoggard, but the complexities of cricket itself. He may have bowled about 10mph slower than Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison, but he took more Test wickets at a lower average and with a better strike rate. In fact, in the very earliest days of our cricket writing, we did a short piece about how he was actually a strike bowler.

How did Matthew Hoggard take his wickets?

It wasn’t just by whanging it. It was by whanging it in an obscenely skilful manner. As a conventional English swing bowler, he was a kind of proto-Anderson, but he also developed cutters and reverse swing so that he could take wickets basically anywhere. 6-57 in Nagpur, 7-63 in Christchurch and 7-61 in Johannesburg.

We also wonder whether his achievements have been partly devalued by the fact that he played his cricket in an era when terrible flat pitches were infuriatingly common. His average was forever being compared to those of the previous generation, but now we’ve all kind of come to terms with the fact that a bowling average of around 30 is actually pretty handy (even considering that pitch quality has since improved a bit).

So is that how he should be remembered?

As a hugely skilful bowler who was a vital component in the best England side seen in decades? Yeah, partly, but you need to tack onto that the fact that he had a great attitude.

An example is his batting, which was really bloody ordinary even at the point at which he retired from Test cricket. However, it took extraordinary effort for him to improve it to ‘really bloody ordinary’ and it takes a special kind of character to put in the hours with such minimal obvious reward.

Vindication came with a jarringly dreamy cover drive as England stuttered towards a win in the 2005 Trent Bridge Test. That moment summed him up for us. Without knowing the background, it was just a tail-ender hitting a four. But if you’d followed his career and the painfully slow development of his batting, you’d see it as the low key culmination of something special.

Tim Bresnan falls between two stools

Not really cycling.

And not cricket either.

He gets one point for trying to broaden his horizons. Zero points for execution.

Why you don’t give a toss about England v Australia this month

Following yesterday’s look at the workload that is being shouldered by fans, it seems a decent time to restate our position that ODIs don’t matter. We were quite surprised to note that the article in question was written almost two and a half years ago and so there may well be readers who haven’t seen it. Those of you who have been around longer have probably addled your memories with real ale and continental cheese anyway so it’ll probably seem new to you too.

The sentiments expressed still seem relevant and this current one-day series between England and Australia seems a prime example. We can’t think of any newspaper, TV or radio coverage which has really emphasised winning the series as being an end in itself. Team selection and the upcoming winter Ashes series mean it is part scene-setter and part explorati0n exercise with second string players being given a chance to strut funky stuff that is somewhat lacking in syncopation.

Sitting out England matches as a fan

Being as this website is pretty much written by one person and being as you read this website, it shouldn’t be all that outlandish to suggest that you read something we’ve written elsewhere. Yes, we know that the comments are the main thing here, but even so, surely something must have drawn you here in the first place? Surely?

We think this Cricinfo piece might count as actual satire. That makes us either a satirist or a satyr. We can’t remember which. Nor do we much care. Neither’s a great career move.

2013 County Championship – chapter 11

This really got away from us. Not particularly looking forward to writing this update, it must be said.

1st – Durham

Okay, Durham weren’t even in the top three the last time we did this in, er, July. Let’s try and work out how they’ve done this.

  • Battered Derbyshire
  • Soundly beaten by Middlesex
  • Fully battered Surrey
  • Battered Yorkshire
  • Battered Sussex

Against Derbyshire, Keaton Jennings made 93 and 123, but has barely made a run since. He’s a South African who’s doing a four-year residential course in which he’ll learn to be English. Scott Borthwick, batting at three, made a hundred in that game too and followed it up with another against Surrey. Chris Rushworth was the other big performer in that match, taking 10 wickets.

Graham Onions took nine wickets in the Middlesex defeat and then seven the next time he played, against Sussex. Taking County Championship wickets would appear to be some vital biological process for Graham Onions. He simply can’t not do it.

The Surrey match was a bizarre affair. After Chris Tremlett took 8-96 and secured all the headlines, Durham rolled Surrey twice as if they were pastry and the opposition were sausage meat, sharing the wickets between a veritable who’s who of whos: Jamie “Who?” Harrison, Mark “Who?” Wood and Usman “Who?” Arshad. Injuries and international call-ups matter not, it would seem.

The Yorkshire win was built on a monstrous first innings which featured hundreds from Mark Stoneman, Ben Stokes and Michael “Who?” Richardson. The Sussex win was mostly Graham Onions.

2nd – Yorkshire

Yorkshire were top back in July, so at least the whole league hasn’t turned upside down while we were looking the other way. Here are their results.

  • Utterly minced Derbyshire
  • Drew with Warwickshire
  • Whipped Nottinghamshire
  • Whupped by Durham

Alphabet-straddling AZ Lees hit 275 against Derbshire. The forgotten Aus, Phil Jaques, hit 139. Wickets were handed out evenly.

Gary Ballance hit a hundred against Warwickshire.

Steven Patterson took five wickets against Nottinghamshire. He’s a 29-year-old fast-medium bowler who comes on first change and averages about 28. Add that to the name and he’s a contender for most generic cricketer in England.

Phil Jaques hit another hundred in the Durham defeat.

3rd – Middlesex

Like Durham, Middlesex weren’t in the top three in our last update. They seem to have gained ground through playing loads of matches and indeed, the two counties above them have a game in hand.

  • Soundly beaten by Warwickshire
  • Totally did Sussex
  • Beat Durham
  • Lost to Derbyshire
  • Hammered by Somerset
  • Beat Surrey

This might be too much to catch up with. Let’s see what happens.

Sam Robson hit a hundred against Sussex and that’s it, we’re out. We surrender. Too many scorecards.

The next chapter

Three more matches for the top two. Details are available on the internet, but not on this bit, because this bit can’t be bothered with details any more and would only get them wrong anyway.

“Vitiated on account of malafide”

Thank you, the IPL, and Lalit Modi specifically, for introducing us to this phrase. It appears to be Modi’s main defence in misconduct charges related to bid-rigging, ‘arm-twisting’ and summat to do with the sale of TV rights.

It basically boils down to: “He’s well got it in for me,” and is aimed at Arun Jaitley who was one of those who prepared the report.

Jaitley is apparently a big supporter of BCCI president N Srinivasan and Modi has taken issue with Srinivasan having a conflict of interest, being both a team owner and administrator.

The whole investigation would appear to be some sort of exercise geared towards working out just what degree of corruption should be considered acceptable within the upper echelons of Indian cricket. Imagine a group of burglars meeting up to discuss whether or not they should draw the line at stealing children’s toys and you’re halfway there.

Middlesex v Surrey County Championship day one match report

Ged writes:

Early season, I always try to take in a day of county cricket with my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy. It helps us both to get over the winter withdrawal symptoms.

Before long, we were tucking in to salmon bagels (honey roasted salmon, not the more common smoked variety) and washing it down with a very quaffable Kiwi Riesling. During the afternoon, we ate some cashews (bye bye Riesling), Parma ham sandwiches (hello cheerful Aussie red wine), several varieties of fruit and some flapjack-inspired biscuits.

Spending time at cricket with Charley is a bit like being on an unstructured television quiz show, just without the quiz master confirming or stating the answers.  And without the chance of prizes.

“What role did Sir Pel-Ham Warner have in the bodyline incident?” asked Chas. Unsure, I chose to turn the question around. “His name is pronounced Plum, not Pel-ham, Chas,” I replied.  This naturally started a debate about whether Plum is a nickname or an actual correct pronunciation of the name Pelham.

I quoted the name Leveson-Gower, which should be pronounced “loosen gore” in evidence for my point.  Sadly, Chas was unaware of this correct pronunciation too.  Seemingly, the Surrey fans all around us were similarly unaware, despite HDG’s role in the history of their club. The Middlesex contingent with whom we were sitting at that hour were similarly perplexed, being of the MCCC variety rather than MCC.  We saw Posh Margaret in the distance and waved at her – she’d have known – but she was too far away to join in this discussion.

“But why?” asked Chas. “It’s daft pronunciation. Or daft spelling.”

“Because extremely posh people want to make people like us feel inadequate whenever possible,” I replied.  “One way of doing that is to have ridiculously pronounced names which, in order to avoid embarrassment, require you either to be born an insider or to do a great deal of studying.  It’s a relic of a bygone, oppressive era; one of those ridiculous, upper-class English things.”  The Middlesex and Surrey masses seated around us in the Upper Compton gave me a little whoop of subversive appreciation.

Charley then changed the subject again by asking a question about Zander de Bruyn.  In unison, the surrounding Middlesex and Surrey fans cried out: “It’s pronounced de-brain, not de-bruin.” One fan even muttered: “Doesn’t that geezer know anything about cricket?”

Send your match reports to and on no account mention the cricket itself.

An Englishman and an Irishman walk onto a cricket field

Sometimes there is cricket news that positively cries out for an irreverent article. In these situations, we know instantly that we should produce no such thing.

It’s usually the kind of news that people email us about; the kind of topic people think we would cover well. It’s usually something to do with Rob Key or Matthew Hayden. Most recently, we followed Ireland v England and like everyone else, noticed that England did well thanks to their Irishmen, while one of Ireland’s strongest performers was an Englishman.

There is nothing to say about this.

We need to state that explicitly. We need to write an article about how there’s no point writing an article because some part of our brain keeps telling us that there’s a really good way of covering this and that we just haven’t thought of it yet.

There is no good way of covering this. People can come up with their own jokes for this kind of thing. What would be contributing? Nothing.

Striking cricket news that is in some way amusing is not our niche. Our niche is writing about things that are boring and entirely unremarkable.

For example, we like Graeme Swann very much, but he sometimes skirts very close to ‘japes’ and ‘zaniness’. These are not topics we are qualified to tackle. Conversely, Jonathan Trott standing on the boundary edge, vacantly admiring the architecture of the stands, oblivious to the fact that he happens to be appearing in an international cricket match at the time – that’s the kind of thing that interests us.

So, regarding Ireland v England, the partnership between Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara was incredibly impressive considering the parlous situation they found themselves in. That’s all we have to say on the matter.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more high octane thrills. Sign up for the daily email so you don’t miss a thing.

James Tredwell is a cult hero, right?

James Tredwell action shot

We just want to confirm this really. He seems to have all the requisite qualities.

Deluxe Nineties cricketer

Of all England’s current players, James Tredwell is the one we think would have seemed most at home in England teams of the Nineties. He boasts a kind-of-okay first-class record and no discernible unique selling point. He’s a real Mark Ealham/Robert Croft kind of a player. However, unlike most Nineties England cricketers, he seems to do a job, which is a bit of a bonus.

Good-but-not-spectacular returns

And what a job! You want 2-35 off 10 overs against Ireland? Tredders is your man. That’s very useful in a one-day game, but far from being the kind of performance likely to earn you a headline. In short, it’s a perfectly calibrated effort. Top stuff.

Slightly paunchy

Pretty self-explanatory really. Plus he’s slapped back.

How many Tests against India in 2014?

Five! A full five!

This would appear to be the upside to the fact that Test cricket is pretty much only played by England, Australia and India these days. We finally get a full length series that isn’t the Ashes. When did that last happen?

No, really – when? We can’t be bothered doing the research.

There will be three Tests in the South-East and two in the rest of the UK. Feel free to have an argument about that in the comments.

We propose that all future Tests be played near the birthplaces of British-born Test cricketers who would be in the first XI at the time the fixtures were agreed. That currently gives us a surprisingly broad choice of Gloucester, Sheffield, Coventry, Bradford, Nottingham, Northampton, Burnley and either Pontefract or Watford, depending on whether Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn gets the nod.

These places have earned the right to host Tests. Everywhere else clearly doesn’t love cricket enough to be considered.

Update: With six days the longest gap between Tests, fans attending the later matches will be delighted at the prospect of seeing several of each nation’s best cricketers.

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