Month: January 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Shakib al Hasan’s Test double hundred and its perfect ending

Sometimes we forget that you haven’t all been reading this website since day dot. It’s been over a decade since we tipped Shakib al Hasan for greatness so chances are a great many of you won’t know what a big deal it is that he made a Test double hundred against New Zealand this week.

If Shakib’s still not exactly a household name, he was all but unknown back when we tipped him. We’re talking Cricinfo-didn’t-even-know-his name obscure. Was he Sakib al Hasan, Shakib al Hasan or Saqibul Hasan? Having already used up our full allocation of precognition, we initially went with Sakib al Hasan before switching to Saqibul Hasan when it seemed more likely that was the one that would stick.

Cricinfo also had him down as a medium-pacer back then. We did at least work out that that one was wrong.

After 217 off 276 balls, Shakib’s Test batting average is now 41.39. That’s unspectacular in isolation, but combine it with a bowling average of 32.37 and it’s actually really rather special.

Shakib also saw fit to draw his innings to a close by succumbing to another Cricketer of the Realm, The Great Neil Wagner. Test innings don’t come much better than that.


Video: Mitchell Johnson playing tennis right-handed

Well, looks like we’ve got to the bottom of that whole ‘bowl to the left, bowl to the right’ thing. Turns out Mitchell Johnson is right-handed.

Here’s some expert coaching advice, Mitch: bowl with your other hand.

Better late than never with these kinds of tips.

You may already have been aware of Johnson’s ambidextrousness/confusion. We weren’t. Responding to yesterday’s post – in which we reminded people that when only one arm is tattooed, it should the ‘doing arm’ – Top shelf tweeted us to point out that Johnson signs autographs right-handed.

There we were mistakenly thinking that Johnson had the wrong arm tattooed. Turns out the correct one had been tattoed all along and he’d simply been using the other one to bowl by mistake.


Don Bradman Cricket 17 is the best cricket action game there’s ever been (+ video)

We’ll freely admit that we haven’t actually played Don Bradman Cricket 17 yet, but our keen deduction skills have allowed us to reach the conclusion that is the best ever cricket action game anyway.

Our reasoning, in short: Don Bradman Cricket 14 was the best cricket action game at the time of its release, they’ve improved it a bit since then, and nothing else has come out in the meantime.

Sure, the developers could have utterly sabotaged what they already had, but that’s pretty unlikely. It’s just not how things work. Annual videogame updates generally mean ‘new database’ and ‘improved menus’. They’re not actually new versions in any conventional sense.

You can trust us on this. Once upon a time we used to review computer games as a sort-of-job. We are therefore an authority on this subject.

don-bradman-cricket-17-screenshot

Career mode is still ‘the thing’

You create a player, you play the game only as that player and you (hopefully) rise to international cricket as you get better at everything.

This alone is enough to elevate Don Bradman Cricket above all of its zero rivals.

You may be aware that playing even one Test innings demands quite a lot of concentration. It is therefore utterly baffling that other simulations demand that you play as all eleven batsmen. Before this game came along, many a pad-mashing cricket innings was cut shot by a bit of ‘actually, I’m kind of sick of this now – let’s see if we can defend 120’ slogging.

The big career development for this 2017 instalment is that you can be a woman. And we don’t mean being a woman controlling an on-screen man. You can be a woman controlling an on-screen woman, or a man controlling an on-screen woman.

don-bradman-cricket-17-screenshot-2

Tattoo mode!

You can also tattoo your player in this latest version.

We presume you can go for the classic modern ‘sleeve’. If so, remember kids – the tattoo denotes the ‘doing arm’.

More about Don Bradman Cricket

Here’s our full review of Don Bradman Cricket from back when it came out.

And here’s a link where you can buy it from Amazon. It’s available on PS4 and Xbox One and quite possibly on PC via Steam, although we could only find the demo when we looked earlier.


Has Alastair Cook stood down as England captain yet?

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

Only we’ll have to get something up about it pretty darn sharpish if he does. Our readers will doubtless have much to say about such a development.

Maybe we could publish some sort of ‘holding post’ instead, floating the possibility that Cook might stand down without actually stating that this has happened.

Latest:

  • Alastair Cook is ‘preparing’ to stand down – The Telegraph
  • Alastair Cook is ‘edging’ towards the exit – also The Telegraph
  • Alastair Cook ‘ready’ to stand down – The Cricket Paper

He’s Schrodinger’s England captain.


Lord’s net practice report

Ged’s car, Dumbo the Suzuki Jimny writes:

A few weeks after my run in with the law and failed attempt to see Lord’s, Ged organised another out and about day, to include work, a house visit and eventually another net at Lord’s with Charley “The Gent” Malloy and Escamillo Escapillo. After my frustrations last time, I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation; I so wanted to see Lord’s this time.

Same routine as last time with the cricket coffin, kit bag, work papers bag and tarpaulin in my trunk. This time we set off much earlier in the day. We went to the same big office building in Hammersmith as last time; again I waited hours and hours for Ged. I also waited a couple of hours while Ged visited Paco Palma.

Paco Palma, according to Ged, was a child prodigy and is one of the finest flamenco and rock guitar virtuosi around. I was therefore a little surprised that Ged had not brought Benjy the Baritone Ukulele with him, as I imagined that Ged might be going over to Paco’s place for a jam, or perhaps that Ged had been engaged by Paco to provide some neophyte instruction on the finer details of alzapúa or rasgueado or whatever.

I thought we might visit the Oval on the way to Lord’s, as we were just round the corner from there and had bags of time, but Ged insisted that we go straight to Lord’s.

“Whoah, Dumbo,” said Ged. “Steady, boy,” as I excitedly accelerated to see the actual ground.

Soon enough, it came into view; the hallowed turf, that lush field of dreams, the home of cricket itself. “It’s a bit smaller than I expected, Ged.  And where’s the pavilion gone?” I said/asked.

“You’re looking at the Nursery Ground, Dumbo,” said Ged patiently. “The main ground is over there”.

I wanted to go round with Ged to see the main ground, but he said I had to park up and watch the Nursery Ground instead.

“Can I park actually on the turf, like I did on the second pitch at Uxbridge?” I asked.

“I don’t think that would go down too well with Mr Hunt, the groundsman,” said Ged.

When Ged, Charley and Escamillo came out from their net they were in high spirits. They had met the man who coached Alex Hales when he was a youngster – at table tennis rather than cricket, but still: Alex Hales’s coach. More importantly, all of them felt they had netted much better this time, both with bat and ball. Ged had even cleaned up Charley’s stumps with one of his deceptively straight moon balls, which always makes Ged happy. We’d all had a great day.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.


Critics are calling our latest masterpiece ‘small-minded’ and ‘petty’

It’s great when your work has a real impact on someone. Our latest Twitter round-up has really hit home with Cricinfo reader, Big Frank.

Big Frank says: “First time I’ve read this particularly column -and the last.Small minded petty digs at international sportsmen who work hard to get and stay at the level where they are,plus the stick they have to take from the media.”

Petty and small-minded is pretty much what we were gunning for, so we take Big Frank’s words as a massive compliment.

He didn’t even take issue with the unusually faecal nature of much of this week’s subject matter.


What does Australia’s Test series win over Pakistan actually mean?

Does it amount to a hill of beans? A fell of discarded iPhone covers? A mountain of offcuts of plasterboard?

Just before Christmas, we said that Pakistan are, essentially, a swing bowling side, and therefore pretty much always do terribly Down Under. There has been more to the series than that – but it still explains a lot.

The tourists’ batting collapses have drawn attention, but it is their inability to take wickets that has left them… well, it’s left them fielding mostly.

Taken as a whole, the batting has ticked over. They made a decent stab at chasing 490 in the first Test, kicked off the second Test with 443 and Younus Khan has just become the first player to score a hundred in all 11 nations that have hosted Tests after making 175 not out in the third.

In contrast, their best bowling performance was when they dismissed Australia for 429 in the first innings of the series. You wouldn’t think that an especially lofty point from which to fall, but Pakistan appear to have been positioned over a bone dry Mariana Trench. They’ve just conceded 241 in 32 bleak overs of declaration-awaiting.

“Today was more about the ball not swinging,” said David Warner after making a hundred before lunch on the first day of this Test. It was a glorious innings, defined by the batsman’s utter conviction that he should seize the moment, but that assessment also casts a bit of light on other contributions, such as Matt Renshaw’s 184 and Peter Handscomb’s 110.

These two certainly have the air of being batsmen who could thrive in Test cricket, but we’ve been here before. Just over a year ago, Joe Burns made 129 against New Zealand and 128 against the Windies. Australia arrived in Sri Lanka and he promptly made 34 runs in four innings. He then made one run in two innings against South Africa.

Ensuring you cash in is a vital part of batting in Australia – and every bit as worthy as other qualities in matches where such a quality comes to the fore. Elsewhere it doesn’t necessarily influence the batsman’s returns to quite the same extent.

These kinds of VERY BIG NUMBERS can sometimes conceal more than they reveal. Adam Voges averaged 95.50 when he arrived in Sri Lanka. He averaged 14.80 in the three Tests against them and the two against South Africa.

So where does that leave us? Well, if nothing else, we know that Australia are better than Pakistan in Australia. It’s hard to draw any firm conclusions beyond that – and after 400-and-odd words already, why would we even want to try and do so?


Vernon Philander is there if you need some seasoning

vernon-philander

We’ve spent much of the morning trying to work out what kind of a vehicle Vernon Philander is. After much thought, we’ve concluded that he’s not a vehicle at all – he’s a pepper grinder.

South Africa have a lot of whizzy, fancy kitchen gadgets. Dale Steyn is the luxury coffee-maker you always look forward to putting into use; Kagiso Rabada is a new vegetable juicer – novel and good for you, but might yet break down; and Morne Morkel is a big gallumphing lankatron of genial ferociousness who would do all the chopping and dicing you asked of him even though his rampant gigantism puts him in a decent position to say no to anyone at any time.

Philander, by contrast, is a low-key functional object who does his job perfectly.

You need some pepper? Use the grinder – there’s some pepper.

You need someone to bowl at the top of off stump, hitting the seam with every damn delivery? Use Vernon Philander – there’s 152 Test wickets at 21.65.

Philander was away for a while. When he returned, he looked solid-of-midriff and you got the impression that surely now his logic-defying brand of medium-pace would be found out.

Not so. It just never seems to work out like that. People always expected his Test bowling average to swell like a spacehopper at altitude following a few series away from home, but it never really did.

His home record is superior – as it is for almost all players – but his away record is 57 wickets at 25.35. That is, basically, earth-shattering. If it’s built on wickets taken in New Zealand and England then only in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe is his record actually outright bad – and that’s only three Tests.

Vernon Philander endures. Toastie makers and waffle irons may fall into disuse, but pepper will always be ground.

Clinical dobbery can take a bowler a very long way.


R Ashwin: Lord Megachief of Gold 2016

Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.

A nod for Ben Stokes’ relentless Test excellence (904 runs at 45.2 and 33 wickets at 25.81); a second nod for Virat Kohli’s performance across all formats, which included 1,215 Test runs at 75.93; and a third nod for the homicidal capybara Rangana Herath, who took 57 wickets at 18.92.

However, this year’s Lord Megachief of Gold is R Ashwin, a man who can’t so much as look at a cricket ball without winning a Test match for India.

r-ashwin-bowling-cc-licensed-by-james-cullen-via-flickr

R Ashwin bowling (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

R Ashwin took 72 Test wickets at 23.9 in 2016 and also scored 612 runs at 43.71 during his downtime, which he mostly likes to spend with a bat in his hand. He is a strike bowler who does the donkey work who also bats well enough that his side can field an extra bowler. If his captain is higher profile, it is Ashwin who India would miss most.

To repeat a point we made a few weeks ago, pit a team of 11 Ashwins against one comprising 11 of any other individual player and the Ashwin XI would surely come out on top after the two teams had come up against each other home and away.

We’ll come to the bowling in a second, because that’s the heart of the matter, but before we do that it’s worth closing this section by pointing out that only three Indian batsmen scored more runs than him in 2016.

How to take wickets

R Ashwin is not a mystery spinner. Mystery spin – in the form of the carrom ball – is just something he resorts to when necessary, or when he thinks the pitch suits that particular delivery. Once upon a time, mystery spin was something to aspire to, but Ashwin has transcended it. It is something he is occasionally reduced to.

Mystery spin is Plan B because Plan A generally works pretty well. Against England, Ashwin took 28 wickets, including three five-fors and that was far and away his least successful series of the year. In the West Indies, he took 17 wickets at 23.17 (while averaging 58.75 with the bat) and against New Zealand, he took 27 wickets in three Tests at an average of 17.77.

Expectations

In all honesty, 2015 was probably more impressive in terms of his returns with the ball, but that is arguably what’s so admirable. This has been a continuation; a meeting of already lofty expectations.

Ashwin took no wickets in the first 2016 Test innings in which he bowled (against the West Indies). In the second innings, he took 7-83 and India won the match. Even when he seemingly lets India down – such as when they drew the next Test – you see that he still took 5-52 in the first innings.

Like a badly-trained dog, he has never been down for long. A slow start in the first Test against England was followed by 5-67 in the first innings of the second. As a UK website, we focused on the England batsmen’s response to pressure, but that pressure didn’t come out of thin air. It fizzed down, out of R Ashwin’s right hand.

The series against New Zealand was pretty much relentless wicket-taking.

In a nutshell

As he skips around the outfield like a primitive robot inexplicably constructed out of wet concrete, you remember that R Ashwin isn’t actually flawless. Far from it. He is a trier. He is a ponderous and pondering man who has methodically hewn himself into the most influential cricketer around.

He is the nerdiest nerd who delivers the least fashionable style of bowling. He approaches the crease as if both his arms have been stuck on inside-out, indulges in a brief prance and then delivers the ball without the least bit of ceremony.

And it works.


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