Month: May 2016 (page 2 of 3)

Jonny Bairstow has a fridge door full of hundreds

Cricket - Investec Second Test - England v New Zealand - Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, England

About a year ago, we started getting milk delivered – you know, like how people used to back in the Eighties. No longer do we have to carry weighty flagons of milk in amongst the rest of the big shop; now it just materialises on our doorstep, as if by magic.

Milk usage is a hard thing to predict. It wasn’t something we were especially aware of back when we had one giant milk throughout the week, but now we occasionally find ourself lining up a trio of bottles or more in our fridge door. At this point, milk consumption suddenly seems a pressing issue.

Being pathologically disinclined towards ‘sinful waste’ our only course of action when this happens is to drink shitloads of milk. We wonder whether Jonny Bairstow might be about to do the Test hundred scoring equivalent because it rather seems like he might have a few backed up.

It’s reassuring when less established England batsmen start showing signs of being untroubled by county cricket. It makes you think that maybe they do stand a chance of doing well in Tests.

Last year, Jonny Bairstow made five County Championship hundreds for Yorkshire, including an unbeaten double. This year, he made 246 against Hampshire and 198 against Surrey.

He also hit this six, which we still can’t get our head around.

Throw in a first Test hundred against South Africa during the winter and it seems likely that good form has become sufficiently prolonged as to be considered ‘class’.

Against this backdrop, it didn’t seem at all surprising that Bairstow should cruise to 140 against Sri Lanka today. Hopefully he still has a whole bunch of three figure scores just chilling in his fridge door, waiting to be extracted.

England’s dodgy drivers dobbled by deadly Dasun

The received wisdom is that you don’t get wickets in Test cricket with dibbly-dobbly medium-pace. This is actually entirely accurate – but only because nobody picks dibbly-dobbly medium-pacers for Tests.

The truth is that dibbly-dobbly is tough for Test batsmen. Their net bowlers are 85mph, their bowling machines are 85mph. They’re grooved. They expect a certain pace and length and when it’s not quite fast-medium and nor is it spin, they like to edge it.

Dasun Shanaka purveys dibbly-dobbly medium pace (you always ‘purvey’ that sort of bowling). He isn’t really a bowler. He has taken 26 first-class wickets in 31 matches. Nevertheless, at one point he had three wickets for one run. Alastair Cook was dibbled, Nick Compton was dobbled and Joe Root was, er, medium-paced out.

We were out for the James Vince and Ben Stokes bit and will have to catch up with that on the highlights, but after that Jonny Bairstow did some whoppery. Alex Hales also started playing ‘his natural game’ after first adopting a classical opener’s approach – something which seemed to come entirely naturally to him to these untutored eyes.

Then it rained and David Gower said that this was to be expected in spring – almost as if he has gained no insight into the spring/summer British climate despite 40 years of his professional life being greatly influenced by whether it rains or not.

Maybe they will play a bit more later on, but we have to go and buy a smoke alarm now.

Samit Patel is a big fat loser – a majestic, admirable, envied, big fat loser (plus a round-up of this week’s other first division matches)

If respect were something tangible and delicious rather than an abstract concept, Samit Patel earned more of it than even he could eat this week. He also won the battle of the Patels. What he did not win was ‘the match for Nottinghamshire against Warwickshire’.

The man Kevin Pietersen calls Sandwich Patel made 124 out of his side’s fourth innings 173 all out, hitting Jeetan Patel for seven sixes in the process. Chris Wright – one of those dull-named county players you can never quite remember – eventually got him and Warwickshire won.

Another win!

The outstanding performer in the Durham v Lancashire match was The Great Neil Wagner, who returned figures of 0-89 and 0-28. Durham’s Scott Borthwick also played quite well and made a hundred in each innings. This week was also the first occasion we’ve called him ‘Scott Borthwick’ without first calling him ‘Steve Borthwick‘ and then correcting ourself. Clearly he’s gone up a level.

Durham won. Some dude called Barry McCarthy took a five-for in the first innings. McCarthy is the youngest Barry we know of. But then he is Irish.

Draws everywhere else in the first division

Still not bad though. Two results last week and two more this week and we’re actually getting somewhere. Sadly for Somerset, there were altogether too many runs for a result against Yorkshire. James Hildreth continues to make hundreds for them, while Adam Lyth got one for the visitors.

After being rained off in Hampshire a fortnight ago and rained off at home last week, Middlesex headed all the way to Surrey in the hope of finding some good weather. They were rained off. Ollie Rayner – who has somehow accelerated to the age of 30 at some point very recently – took six wickets between the deluges.

Das table

That’s German for ‘the table’. (It isn’t, and while we could easily look up the correct translation, it seems to make far more sense not to.)

  1. Warwickshire – 67
  2. Yorkshire – 66
  3. Lancashire – 62

Lancashire still have a game in hand though. It’s also worth pointing out that they’ve only drawn one game. Somerset and Middlesex have both drawn five.

Reading this back, it probably would have been more accurate to label this section ‘some of das table’ – but what can you do? You can’t edit things on the internet, can you?

Can you?

Some sort of James Vince type substance

James Vince is stylish. We don’t generally trust that in a batsman and the feeling has been compounded by a nameless county bowler who recently told the Guardian’s Mike Selvey: “He likes to look good.”

Despite this, it is technically possible that we could warm to a player likely to flick Mark Nicholas’s Ron Manager switch, causing the oleaginous commentator to purr about aesthetics before descending into an unchecked nostalgic reverie about dreamy cover drivers of yesteryear. Countless batsmen have managed to marry style with substance. Vince could be one of them.

He has The Rule on his side, for one thing. He’s playing for England, so we can’t help but want him to do well. He also did good things the only time we’ve ever seen much of him, which, somewhat unhelpfully, was in a Twenty20 series against Pakistan in the UAE.

His record is solid. People who watch more county cricket than we do say nice things about him – but then they often do about young, stylish batsmen. Domestic cricket can, at times, become something of a who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition. The meaningful test – a Test – comes on Thursday. Good luck to him.

Where next for Chris Woakes?


Photo by Sarah Ansell

Chris Woakes played in England’s last Test. He dismissed Stephen Cook for 115. Now he’s out of the team and out of the squad.

England like the idea of Woakes, but they don’t like that idea enough to commit to giving him a long run in the side. It’s understandable. When he does play, he rarely seems to take any wickets.

Sometimes he bowls badly. More often he bowls well but still doesn’t take wickets. The first Test of that South Africa tour was a prime example. Like an angry bad driver gesticulating at another motorists, Woakes can often seem to be all threat, no follow-up.

Woakes’ first-class record is exceptional, but it’s not easy to see him making it back into England’s Test team as an opening bowler. They’ve flirted with him, but there’s now too much distrust for a proper relationship. Does that mean his England ambitions are over? There are other jobs in the team. A dull and dutiful line bowler who swings it a bit can be a handy thing to have, particularly if that player can also bat. Woakes can definitely bat.

Yesterday, against Nottinghamshire, he made 121, batting at seven and if he’s keen to play Test cricket for England, maybe he should ask to go in earlier. It’s important to know your niche. A fourth seamer who can bat should probably try and do as much batting as he can, while an irreverent cricket site with no real authority should probably steer clear of making suggestions about how marginal England players should go about their game.

They’re finally using robots to promote cricket tournaments


About time.

This particular robot’s got flames for eyes and is, quite frankly, a bit of a tosser.

Also keep an eye out for the guy who doesn’t know how to clap. That’s our favourite bit.

Assuming embedding doesn’t work in the email – because it never does – here’s a link so that you know what we’re on about.

Cricket was played either side of the Pennines – a County Championship round-up

It was an uncharacteristically eventful week by the standards of the 2016 County Championship with two whole wins in the first division.

Two losses as well, we suppose.

The wins/losses

After three successive draws, Yorkshire soared like a heron to their habitual place at the top of the table. Surrey kept pace with them for an innings and a third, at which point Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow happened. Yorkshire then shared the wickets about en route to an innings victory.

Lancashire soared like an-ever-so-slightly fatter heron to second place after an innings victory of their own over Hampshire. The Great Neil Wagner made the decisive contribution with two wickets in the match and he was ably assisted by James Anderson (six wickets) and Luke Procter (137 runs and three wickets) before Simon Kerrigan exploited arid springtime conditions to take 5-59.

Lancashire are one point behind Yorkshire, but have a game in hand.

The draws

It pissed it down at Lord’s and they got through barely much more than a day’s play. You already know about Sam Robson’s hundred, so we won’t mention that.

It also pissed it down at Edgbaston and they played even less. Boy-faced Tom Willingon Abell made a ton.

Yes of course Willingon is a real name and yes of course Abell’s really called that.

The table

We’ve already talked you through this so this section’s basically redundant. Nottinghamshire are third if you want us to go all ‘in-depth analysis’ about things.

Tony Cozier – the man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket

Cricket fans moan about commentators a lot, but in general we are well served by our sport. Tastes differ, but very few talk down to us and the majority have the capacity to offer some sort of insight when working in the right environment.

But as the world becomes smaller, even the best broadcasters are becoming more homogenous. They watch the same games, read the same articles and they know the same things about the same players. There’s a slick Dubai internationalism about it all.

Not everyone’s like that though. There are still a select few – generally from the smaller Test nations – who bring a distinct flavour of their region with them. Tony Cozier was of course one.

It is not about knowing the players. Every commentator should know the players. It is about knowing the people. When the West Indies toured, Cozier could tell you not only how a player played, but why he did so. He would know his upbringing; he would know where he learned his cricket; he would know how that player was viewed in the region.

Cozier would know the player’s background better than the player himself did. He would know the history of the club he had played for in his youth and how the island’s cricket and culture had evolved since the last great player from that same club. Some commentators tell you everything they know. It’s not that Cozier wouldn’t – he couldn’t. He could show you the relevant tip of the iceberg but you always got the sense that there was infinitely more left concealed.

In recent years Cozier seemed increasingly pissed off with the chronic ill health of West Indies cricket, but his despair never reached the point of giving up on it. It was almost as if the bouts of impotent frustration would renew his energy to look for solutions – and by the broad bat of Sobers, he had to look hard to find them.

He’d cover the latest spat between players and board, or the latest Test series defeat and you’d forgive him for being worn down by it all. But then next thing you know, he’d be full of cautious hope about Rahkeem Cornwall or someone. That is what you might accurately call irrepressible enthusiasm for the sport.

Cozier was one of the few men with an impartial overview of West Indies cricket. You’d think a man who could take a step back and see things for how they were and how problems might be resolved would be greatly valued, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case.

More than one obituary has mentioned that Cozier recently filed a lawsuit against WICB president Dave Cameron. Cameron pretty much called him a blind old man.

Blind? Tony Cozier? The man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket surely had the clearest vision of all.

Charlotte Edwards’ bit is done – good work

When Charlotte Edwards first played for England, she wore a skirt. She didn’t choose to. She was obliged to.

That debut came when she was 16 (she played for the under-19s at 12) The women’s game has moved on since then and you might have expected her to have been left behind at some point in the intervening 20 years. Not so. She was the team’s top scorer at the recently completed World T20. Charlotte Edwards can bat well in kecks too.

But no more. It was widely expected that she would stand down as captain (after ten years!) but she’s no longer going to bat for England either having announced her international retirement.

This seems a shame and, dare we say it, wrong. But the choice is her own and she must have her reasons. Her retirement statement makes reference to ‘detailed discussion with Mark Robinson’ and it seems clear the coach wants to build ‘a new team’.

He will do well to match the old one. In 2009, Edwards captained England to wins in the World Cup, the World T20 and the Ashes. She has made 10,000 runs in internationals. An England cricketer can’t really do much more than that.

All of this was achieved with extra pressure. Representing your country is one thing, but the very best female players are still representing their gender as well. If you’re one of the top performers in a high profile game, the onus is on you to show what women can do. That shouldn’t be the case, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t how things are. The very fact that you are reading a web page means you are more forward-thinking than a good number of people who follow men’s cricket.

The women’s game has progressed during Edwards’ career. Once it was hardly written about at all. Now it’s written about a little bit. If intentions are better, it takes time for the near-alliterative circle of promotion, payment and spectators to turn. Each revolution sees a slight improvement in each facet which then encourages further growth in the other two – but take a snapshot of cricket at this moment and the women’s game is still miles from where it deserves to be.

It’s slow, but things are changing. When we started this website, the average cricket follower wouldn’t know a thing about the women’s game. Now the average cricket follower does.

For that change to have taken place, great cricketers were needed – because you can’t build a narrative without characters. With fewer high profile matches than the men, those characters also needed to persist.

After 20 years of international cricket, half as captain, we can safely say that Charlotte Edwards did her bit and more.

A hatful of willow

Will Smith just got off the mark from the 43rd delivery he faced. Hampshire are currently careering along at 1.25 runs an over knowing that the rain that has hit the rest of the country will soon arrive in Manchester.

So far, this round of County Championship matches has been more eventful than the last – so eventful, in fact, that we feel moved to do a mini round-up midway through. It’s not very focused, hence the vague headline.

Lancashire managed to get a first innings lead of almost 350, which is quite some feat from a side who haven’t shown any real taste for run-scoring in recent years. Clearly, they have been greatly inspired by the arrival of The Great Neil Wagner.

Warwickshire v Somerset threatens to end in something other than a draw. The home team have been asked to make 322 to win – not an outrageous total, but more than were scored in any of the first three innings.

Over in Yorkshire, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have been underlining that for all that the first division of the County Championship is closer to Test cricket than the second division, it’s still not exactly a terraced housing neighbour. It’s more of a detached neighbour with a very high hedge who votes a different way to you. Root made a quick double hundred and Bairstow basically did. Surrey’s attack has been given a bit of a slap by two England certainties.

It underlines the feeling that you’d really like to see potential England players tearing county cricket to pieces rather than ‘doing well’ or ‘making a strong case for inclusion’. Down at Lord’s, Sam Robson has made his third hundred of the season. They’ve all been on his home ground, but top order rival and team-mate Nick Compton has been bumbling along not really doing much of anything by way of contrast.

Considering they won their last Test series, the next England team remains remarkably uncertain.

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