Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 2)

When is the Ashes not a Test series?

Anya Shrubsole (via ICC)

When it’s the Women’s Ashes.

Starting on Sunday, Australia and England will embark upon one series comprising three T20 internationals, three one-day internationals and a Test match.

It is a cricket series.

The teams will get two points for victory in each of the one-innings-a-side matches and four if they win the Test.

We’d have liked to have seen two Tests, but being as England are world champions in the 50-over format, we’re not too upset by the balance.

The cricketers from both nations will be tested in more diverse ways than their Ashes-contesting male counterparts and afterwards we’ll have a pretty clear idea which is the better cricket team.


Subscribing to BT Sport for the Ashes

We’ve been bemoaning the out-of-date way in which broadcasters sell sport to consumers for quite a while now. We were mildly encouraged by changes to Sky Sports announced earlier this year, but they only went so far and also had zero bearing on the upcoming Ashes as BT Sport has the broadcast rights for that series.

So how is BT going about signing up cricket fans?

A recent Ashes-related BT Sport press release asked the following leading question somewhere near the bottom: “Not a BT customer and don’t want to switch your broadband to us?”

You don’t ask a question like that without having an answer lined up. The answer was this: “If it’s just our wide-range of premium sport that interests you then you can also simply sign-up to watch BT Sport right now.”

Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly what we want. No phone line, broadband, or other TV package serving as some sort of eye-wateringly expensive and unnecessary entry fee – just the one thing we want.

We only want access to BT Sport so we only want to pay for that.

Huzzah?

Following the link somewhat confusingly takes you to the View and Manage your Broadband Extras page. Among the very many frequently asked questions on that page (maybe you should rewrite the page if so much is left unclear) is: “Can I pay for the BT Sport app if I don’t have BT broadband?”

The answer, apparently, is: “No, you need to get a BT Broadband or BT TV package, or get BT Sport on Sky Digital Satellite Platform.”

BT doesn’t seem to be on the same page as itself on this one.

Sadly, we’ve checked all around their site and that does seem to be correct. Maybe BT have got something in the pipeline, but as things stand you do need to subscribe to their broadband or TV service to get access to the BT Sport App.

Update

No, you don’t. See below for how to get BT Sport via various different broadband/TV providers.

Signing up for BT Sport via Plusnet

This page appears to imply that it’s only a fiver a month, which is a bit of a result (if true).

Signing up for BT Sport via TalkTalk

You can sign up here.

The bad news is it’s £22.99 a month and there’s also a sign-up fee of £20 if you commit for a year and £35 if you only commit for a month.

The Ashes runs for over a month, so the minimum cost of subscribing to BT Sport if you’re a TalkTalk customer is £80.98.

Signing up for BT Sport via EE

EE seems to be offering its customers three months of the BT Sport app for free. More details on this page.

If you’re on an EE mobile contract, we suppose you could take them up on this and then work out how to cast the footage to your TV.

Christ this is complicated. Don’t blame us. We’re just the messenger.

Disclaimer

We’re doing our best here, but thanks to the opaque policies and labyrinthine websites of the various media companies involved, there’s a decent chance that some of this is wrong – and even if it isn’t, it is of course subject to change.


We’ve added a petition to our Collingwood campaign

Photo by Sarah Ansell

You can find a link to it at the bottom of our Campaign to Get Paul Collingwood Into England’s Ashes Squad page.

We’ve mostly just created it because campaigns always have to have petitions nowadays. It’s not like we get a million signatories and then something happens. It’s not a means to an end in any meaningful sense. The ultimate aim here is really just to get a lot of signatories and then we can all sort of sit there agreeing with each other.

At the same time, the more we’ve thought about it, the more it’s occurred to us that The Campaign to Get Paul Collingwood Into England’s Ashes Squad maybe has a little bit more to it than what we initially realised. To some extent it’s also symbolic of our feelings about the nature of modern professional cricket.

Once upon a time – not even that long ago, really – there was a very real chance that a professional cricketer or ex-professional cricketer could legitimately harbour hopes of an out-of-the-blue call-up purely on the basis of their physical proximity to the squad.

A bout of illness, a rash of injuries and the national side would be left making a few calls and knocking on a few doors in a frantic bid to make up the numbers. There’s no chance of that nowadays. Performance or Lions squads lurk nearby. Every eventuality is covered.

Is that what we want from international cricket? Of course we want our national side to be good and effective and to do what it can to win, but we can’t help but feel that something has been lost – something shambolic and amateur, sure, but a certain warmth too.

No-expense spared professionalism leaves us a bit cold and we’d like it if there were still just the remotest possibility that an ageing pro serving as part of the coaching stuff might just get another Test match in an emergency.

So again, here’s the campaign and an invitation to be second on the petition via the link at the bottom.


England should play one Test against Ireland every year

Ireland kit bag (via Twitter video)

The first Test match for Ireland’s men’s team will be against Pakistan in May 2018.

It should have been England. That much is obvious.

If two teams can meet without resorting to air travel, they’re close enough that there should be some sort of relationship between them. The relationship between England and Ireland has up until now been that the former has robbed all the latter’s best players.

Kind of feels like there’s some semblance of a debt there.

We’d love to see an annual fixture between England and Ireland. You don’t have to play five-match series to build context and narrative. You can play less frequently but routinely instead.

It works in the Six Nations and we can’t see any real reason why an equivalent cricket fixture wouldn’t also draw interest. If nothing else, England’s early-season Test matches are often stillborn so a regular grudge match would kick a little bit of life into May and June.

Oh, and Eoin Morgan should be Ireland Test captain.


It’s a fine line between love and hate for David Warner

Photo by Sarah Ansell

You’ll of course remember when David Warner took a swing at Joe Root after becoming inexplicably incensed by the Yorkshireman’s inappropriate use of a wig.

Halcyon days. There was at least something comical about this particular confrontation; a certain Scrappy Doo quality borne of Warner’s diminutive stature and the sheer ludicrousness of the supposedly inflammatory act. It’s not quite like that this time around.

Fortunately, Warner’s still around to bring a note of levity to proceedings.

The Guardian reports that he’s been pondering how to get “up” and also how to get on top of England’s players. Counterintuitively, he says the mechanism for achieving these ends is to muster hatred.

“How can I dislike this player? How can I get on top of him?” he said. “You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to actually get some hatred about them to actually get up when you’re out there.”

Thank you David for another puzzling window into your psyche.


Four-day Tests – slightly less of the duration and epic scope that define the game’s longest format

Hurray! Four-day Tests! They’ll be much like five-day Tests, only with the unique selling point somewhat compromised. Who can fail to support an idea as clear and appealing as that one?

The thinking seems to be, ‘well, maybe if each match isn’t quite such a big commitment, some countries might play a few more’. Here’s a full account of why four-day Test cricket makes no sense.

It’s also been announced that there’s going to be a Test championship – the ICC delaying the move for many years until precisely the point at which everyone’s already tired of it.

Confusingly, every Test in the championship will be a five-day affair. They haven’t worked out the points system yet because you don’t want to rush these things.

“I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, whose congratulatory bar seems set sufficiently low that he’d doubtless give you a hearty handshake for successfully scaling a flight of stairs.

We still believe that administrators would be far better off making some effort to bind the formats together rather than forever pitting them against one another.

We know the format-spanning points system is widely-ridiculed because no-one cares about it, but there is a nugget of something in there in our opinion.

As we’ve written before, whatever the current state of the longest format, cricket, in a broader sense, is in relatively rude health. The problem really is that the formats are cannibalising each other when they should be working together.

A Test world championship is symptomatic of that thinking. It reflects an insular view of the game where T20s, ODIs and Tests are all different. In reality, they’re all cricket – so why not treat them as one?

A format-spanning cricket world championship would provide context for everything and an incentive to play and perform well in the longest format as a by-product of that.

Alternatively, you could just implicitly diminish the status of a bunch of Test matches and hope that this somehow provides the format’s salvation.


Cricket computer game graphics through the ages

Last week we suggested that maybe the golden age of cricket videogame graphics had passed; that maybe player likenesses would from now on always be too convincing and insufficiently amusing.

Let’s take a look back on how things have changed, starting with the most recent funny graphics and working our way backwards from there.

Saeed Ajmal in Don Bradman Cricket 14 on the PC

What we especially like about this is that it very much looks like a real person, but very much not like Saeed Ajmal.

Saeed Ajmal is a joyous little ball of sunshine, whereas this bowler has clearly just heard that his pet fish has leukemia.

Gavin Smythe is hit in the balls by a Chaminda Vees delivery in Ashes Cricket 2009

What we like about this is that Gavin Smythe has been hit in the balls. We also like that all the players’ names are slightly wrong.

Slightly wrong faces plus slightly wrong names equals great amusement. Ashes Cricket 2009 was also a perfectly adequate game.

Cricket Revolution, which was out at roughly the same time, also scored well when it came to made-up player names.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2007 on the PC

We would still consider this game to fall within the golden age of cricket videogame graphics. When you get a player close-up, you do actually have somewhere up to half a chance of recognising the player.

This, to us, seems the optimal level of clarity.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2000 on the PC

At this point, players were all-but-unrecognisable. However, they did move like puppets playing proper cricket strokes, so that was still pretty funny.

Sri Lanka batsman and inexplicably fleeing Australia bowler in Brian Lara 99 on the PlayStation

We like this one because WHY WOULD THE BOWLER BE DOING THAT?

Sri Lanka batsman in Brian Lara Cricket 96

Could be anyone. Anyone right-handed, at any rate. Anyone right-handed who had played for Sri Lanka before the game came out in 1996.

Robin Smith in Graham Gooch World Class Cricket on the Amiga

Clearly Robin Smith. Or at least it was in the full version of this screenshot which featured his name in writing.

Big head, Robin Smith.

Honestly No Idea in Ian Botham Cricket on the PC

We think this one fits in here, chronologically, but we’d argue that these are the shittest graphics of all – worse than those that follow.

But that’s funny too, so a perfectly acceptable route to take by the developers.

Geoff Marsh in Allan Border Cricket on the Commodore 64

Is that his mouth?

Bill Athey in Graham Gooch Test Cricket on the BBC Micro

You may believe that the ball has been edged behind, but actually the keeper has large, square, jet black nads (possibly gloves).

The end

Because it’s 10pm and we can’t be arsed trawling through any more YouTube videos for what is, after all, an almost entirely pointless nostalgia trip of benefit to no-one but ourself. And not really of benefit to ourself now that we come to think about it.

Still, it’s more interesting than reading about Ben Stokes losing sponsorship deals, right?


The campaign to get Paul Collingwood into England’s Ashes squad

Photo by Sarah Ansell

What else does nostalgia prove, if not that everything was better in the past?

Let’s do the who, the what and the why.

Who?

Paul Collingwood.

Paul is 41 and hasn’t played Test cricket for England since 2011, so the first thing to say in favour of his selection is that it would be heart-warmingly, life-affirmingly optimistic.

What?

Selection for the Ashes. We want Paul Collingwood in England’s Ashes squad. We want him to play in the Ashes.

It looks like there might be an opening for an all-rounder, but frankly he’s a far better bat than most of the lads they’re taking anyway, so we feel he should be included in the squad as a specialist.

That really is the nub of it: there’s no-one else better.

Why?

Collingwood hit three hundreds and averaged 60 in the County Championship this year. James Vince averaged 30 and he’s in the squad.

Also, he’s just ace.

They wouldn’t even need to book another flight as he’s going anyway as part of the coaching staff. His selection would therefore be cost effective.

There is, quite simply, no way that this is a bad idea.

In summary

Paul Collingwood MUST be added to England’s Ashes squad because…

  1. His selection would be heart-warmingly, life-affirmingly optimistic
  2. It would also be cost effective
  3. There’s no-one else better

Update

There’s now a petition. You can sign it here.


Did you know that it’s the Magellan Ashes this time around?

Sponsorship is a wonderful thing. It keeps fun stuff profitable and it allows sports players to sound institutionalised and cut off from reality.

Midway through the British summer, we saw Alastair Cook being interviewed on breakfast TV. Consummate professional that he is, Cook never once said “Test” when he could instead say “Investec Test match,” which gave rise to some spectacularly clunky sentences.

Cook isn’t one of life’s great orators, but he was England captain long enough that he can now autopilot his way through these jarring phrases without screaming at the skies, demanding that Odin get a grip on things because the modern world’s really gone too far.

Despite repeatedly reading it, we’ve only been dimly aware that the upcoming Ashes is also prominently sponsored. It’s going to be the Magellan Ashes. It’s being sponsored by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese lad who would have been the first to circumnavigate the world except for the small matter of getting himself killed halfway round.

Now we know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that travelling halfway round the world to get killed sounds about right for this Ashes, because you’re either a pessimistic Brit or an Australian.

We jest of course. The Ashes sponsor is in fact Magellan’s Expedition, one of the Wonders from the all-time classic computer game Civilization.

Now it may seem odd to you that a cricket series is going to be sponsored by a major achievement from a very old computer game. All we can say to that is set your disbelief aside, because this is a fact, and you’re just going to have to go along with it.

You’re probably wondering about the extraordinary benefits bequeathed to the player’s civilisation by the Magellan’s Expedition, which will surely be pertinent to the upcoming Test series. Well that is a question answered at the climax of this video. Trust us when we say you must watch this in full.


Will Peter Siddle play in the Ashes?

Peter Siddle (Sarah Ansell)

We’re having one of those bizarre moments of doubt. Do cricketers play in the Ashes? It sounds wrong to say they ‘play the Ashes’ but ‘play in the Ashes’ suddenly sounds like the person’s a gleeful pyromaniac dancing in the aftermath of their latest deed.

We’ve started a new feature in this week’s Cricket Badger (sign up here). It’s called Australia Pace Attack Injury Watch (catchy, we know) and it’s based on the high likelihood that Australia will suffer at least a couple more fast bowling injuries in the coming months.

Australia’s fearsome four-pronged pace attack

The joke is not at the players’ expense. It’s shitty for them to pursue something wholeheartedly only to repeatedly find themselves sitting on the sidelines for extended periods. It’s more about the Ashes build-up and excited media coverage of “Australia’s four-pronged pace attack”.

There was, in theory, a possibility that the home team might field Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood in the same side. It is also possible that all the world’s ducks might start clambering onto each other to form giant megaducks, each comprising thousands of individuals. Possible, but highly unlikely.

James Pattinson was this week diagnosed with a stress fracture, so Australia have already lost one prong. The first Test is, what, six weeks away, so further prongs could yet disappear (or fail to sufficiently recover, because they’re not all exactly fit and firing as it is). Oh for the certainty of the good old days of Ryan Harris, eh?

The truth of the matter is that Australia will field ‘some sort of attack’ in the Ashes and it will probably feature one or two of those names or maybe none of them. Who will fill the gaps? Who will actually play?

Who will step into the breach come side strain or knee knack?

Well not John Hastings, that’s for sure. While he only has one Test cap, we can’t be too sure how far down the list Australia will get. But he’s off it altogether though, having retired from the format today due to a back injury.

That leaves us with names like Nathan Coulter-Nile, Hilton Cartwright, Trent Copeland and Jackson Bird. We haven’t bothered checking whether any of these players are currently fit.

Maybe also Peter Siddle. The actually-not-particularly-old-timer’s taken five wickets in Victoria’s first two one-day games this season.

If you feel like you haven’t heard from Siddle in a while, you haven’t – he hasn’t played since last November due to injury.

Feels like we’ve been here before.


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