Month: November 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Shaun Marsh’s back

Shaun Marsh (public domain by Dave Morton)

We’re so glad we went with Shaun Marsh is back last time around because now that he’s suffering a back complaint we can use a totally new headline.

Totally new.

Marsh may or may not be fit for the first Test, but the development still has the potential to muddy Australia’s crystal clear selection policy.

Early in the season, the selectors were looking to youth. This led to last season’s New South Wales top-scorer Ed Cowan being omitted from the state side in favour of some young lad no-one’s heard of. The decision was made on the grounds that Cowan is 35 and his replacement has milk teeth and so Non-Cowan Boy therefore had a better chance of playing for the Test team.

Fast forward five minutes or so and Australia implemented a brand new selection policy that favoured ‘experience’. 32-year-old Tim Paine came back, thanks to his 2006 batting form, and 34-year-old Marsh was also given another chance.

All well and good. But if these old boys are going to start complaining of back ailments, dizzy spells, rheumatoid arthritis and general confusion, maybe the selectors will feel they have revert to championing youth as they did so convincingly for one part of one squad announcement about a year ago.

The best policy would probably be to alternate between favouring youth or experience for each individual selection they make. That way every state player can be equally perplexed about what the hell is going on and the selectors themselves can put forward justification for their choices even if they didn’t in reality employ any kind of reasoning that would stand up to scrutiny.

 


Pace and sustained pace – Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are half an attack

The Ashes at the MCG (CC licensed by Drew Douglas via Flickr)

As the pre-Ashes war of words hits a dizzying peak of meaninglessness, it’s worth reflecting on something said long after a previous series had finished.

Reflecting on the team’s modus operandi during The Mitchell Johnson Ashes, Peter Siddle said: “The key stat for us is maidens. The more maidens you bowl, the more pressure builds, and obviously the more back-to-back maidens you can bowl – that plays a massive part. Then they’re looking for that quick single or pushing at one they normally wouldn’t because they want to get off strike.”

As we observed in the linked article, some aspects of a team’s ‘brand of cricket’ will always command more attention, even if other aspects may be equally important.

Same again this time around. Australia are apparently fielding a ‘fearsome’ pace attack that may well blow England away but may also find itself blowing in the red-faced, hands-on-knees, rasping lungs, leaden legs sense.

Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are ‘strike bowlers,’ which sounds really scary until you remember that it basically just means that they get tired quite quickly. This isn’t always such a problem, but when you only field four bowlers, it certainly can be – and even if some of England’s specialists leave something to be desired, they do still have a long batting line-up.

Will Starc and Cummins still be ‘taking the pitch out of the equation’ in the evening session or will they be bowling at the same pace as England’s fourth seamer by then?

It’s evident that Australia will be looking to Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to bowl plenty of overs. When it comes to shouldering workload, this is Plan A and they have no Plan B unless Steve Smith’s going to bring his flapping chicken dance bowling action out of semi-retirement. (Here’s hoping.)

England will be aware of this and they will know that their batsmen have three very obvious options.

  1. Preserve wickets and force Starc and Cummins to come back for more and more spells
  2. Hit Nathan Lyon out of the attack and force Starc and Cummins to come back for more and more spells
  3. Get out and lose the Test match

Presumably they’ll be looking to go for one of the first two. We’ve no idea which is the better option, but the decision might shape the first Test.


Books to read at the cricket? Herding Cats: The Art of Amateur Cricket Captaincy by Charlie Campbell

Wormsley Cricket Ground, ‘Words and Wickets’, Actors v. Authors, 2014
The steward in hi-viz races towards me in disbelief as I stroll towards the pavilion in vest, shorts and flip-flops. His disapproving roar has blown over the deckchairs reserved for bums clad in mustard cords.

Edwardian writes

Charlie Campbell is the captain of the Author’s XI. I’ve seen these roosters a couple of times at the Wormsley ‘Words and Wickets’ festival.  In 2014 there was a tent displaying the latest Jaguar cars and the food was provided by Jamie Oliver. I marvelled at the burgers which were about half the size of a cricket ball. We brought our lunch with us.

Campbell’s book is an entertaining foray into the joys and headaches of captaining an amateur side.  I thought about an in-depth review then thought better of it.  While leaning on Brearley’s book, there are many funny anecdotes involving the Authors.  Campbell side-steps names until the end of the book but his XI have featured Sebastian Faulkes (you know the chap, he writes in French for the hell of it then transcribes it all back into English and apparently has time for cricket), Ed Smith, Tom Holland and other scribblers.

Maximilian Hilderbrand favourably reviewed Herding Cats in Literary Review but mentioned from his own experience a batsman who scored a ‘sumptuous half-century’ while high on magic mushrooms. I’d like to hear more from Max. The review in The Cricketer was a bit more guarded.

I enjoyed the book a lot.  It’s a great insight into managing the Authors.  However, I have to say that a part of me wondered whether the book would have been published at all if Campbell wasn’t a literary agent and connected to all the right people. Despite Campbell’s occasional protestations at how difficult it all is, the acknowledgements could be summed up by John Le Mesurier, “It’s all been rather lovely.”

Herding Cats on Amazon.

Have you tried to read summat while at a cricket match? Let us know how it went at king@kingcricket.co.uk


Australia win the bloody Ashes

Australia win the damn Ashes (via Southern Stars Twitter)

In shit news, Australia have retained the Ashes. They won the first T20 international to give them a four-point series lead with only four points left to play for.

Test centurion Ellyse Perry was at one point on a hat-trick for Australia as England slipped to 16-4. From there, the tourists did pretty well to make 132-9 – but sadly not well enough when trying to defend it.

Here’s hoping the men can level the Asheses and force some kind of a play-off.

 


When did Kolkata become dibbly-dobbly military-medium paradise?

Wriddiham Saha talks prevailing winds (via BCCI Twitter)

If you were India and had access to a time-and-place machine capable of replacing a nearby patch of land with one from elsewhere and elsewhen, then when and where would you choose to play Sri Lanka at Test cricket?

It’s unlikely that you answered ‘Derby last April’ but that is apparently what the nominally home team decided. There’s been swing and seam aplenty. In a match blighted by rain and bad light, India are 74-5. They’ve been dobbled.

We’ll be watching the rest of this match with interest – if only to see whether any Derbyshire players breach the walls of the portal and inadvertently saunter into Kolkata/the future.


Shaun Marsh is back

Shaun Marsh (public domain by Dave Morton)

It occurs to us that people are far more likely to say “Shaun Marsh is back” than use the contraction “Shaun Marsh’s back” when referring to his return. This rather undermines an excellent joke we were going to make. Never mind. We’re sure we’ll one day get an opportunity to deploy it using someone else’s surname.

In any case, the headline should more accurately read “Shaun Marsh is rumoured to be back” because it’s one of those news stories that’s based on the word of “a source”.  Apparently Tim Paine is also back – utterly bizarre as he hasn’t scored a first-class hundred in over a decade and hardly ever keeps wicket.

Marsh’s inclusion in an Australia team is always welcome from this website’s perspective. We’ve described it as ‘heart-warming’ before now.

The heart-warmth is brought by the innocence and naivety behind such a decision. In the face of all that has happened, these gnarled, wisened selectors still retain extraordinary optimism. It’s rather inspiring.

Like us, you may have something in the back of your mind that says Marsh’s lifelong efforts to try and ensure all his averages remain in the high 30s could end up undermined should he get to play more matches on Australia’s straightforward unchallenging Test pitches.

History disagrees. Marsh’s spectacularly Marshish Test average of 36 from 23 Tests actually drops to 34.23 for his 10 Tests in home conditions.

We’re really looking forward to a spectacular hundred in the first Test followed by extended payment of his duck tax throughout the remainder of the series.


Cricket’s doping crisis hasn’t arrived yet

At the tip of the needle (CC licensed by tschoppi via Flickr)

This week’s edition of The Spin reports that the ICC “stepped up” its dope testing at this year’s Champions Trophy when it started conducting blood tests.

As someone who spends a significant proportion of his working life reading about the shortcomings of even blood testing, the idea that a sport would rely solely on what it could find in athletes’ urine as a testing method seems not too far removed from dunking them in water to see whether they float or asking them to read scripture out loud to see whether they stumble.

Chances are a few people have managed to beat the testers.

There’s a suggestion now that cricket might introduce the Athlete Biological Passport – an electronic record of various biological markers within an individual, tracked over time. This can reveal the effects of doping without detection of the substance (or method) used.

If they do, expect a whole bunch of people to get caught. Huge financial rewards plus lack of any real scrutiny tends to equal a bit of open-minded medical experimentation from a small percentage of athletes.

The Spin goes on to point out that T20 has led to greater emphasis on strength and power. This was a point we made in March last year when it was announced that Andre Russell might face a ban for missing dope tests and the same conclusion is drawn – that baseball provides an obvious rebuttal to the argument that cricket, as a game of skill, isn’t vulnerable to doping.

Cricket is vulnerable, has been for a while, and the authorities are playing catch-up. They aren’t even catching up that quickly. Let’s look at the two most high profile nations.

The Quint reports that in India 138 in-competition tests were carried out in 2016 and just 15 out-of-competition tests. Out of competition is when doping is more likely to take place, as this is when players are in the gym looking to make physical improvements or are recovering from injury.

In the UK, Elizabeth Ammon reports in The Times that 102 in-competition tests were carried out on male cricketers in the 12 months to March this year, plus 28 out-of-competition tests. No tests were carried out on female cricketers.

World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) figures for 2016 state that 1,164 tests were carried out worldwide. Only 31 of these were out-of-competition tests (this may exclude the India figures above, as the doping agency operating in cricket there has an unusual relationship with Wada).

To put that in context, fencing conducted 1,618 tests, canoeing conducted 4,196 tests and football conducted 33,227 tests. 130 tests were carried out in boules. Road cycling – a discipline with just a few hundred professionals – conducted over 13,000 tests. (It even tests 60-year-olds who finish 95th in amateur races.)

Several other sports undertake similarly half-arsed regimes to cricket, but that doesn’t change the fact that the sport has a sizeable blind spot.

The Spin’s headline “Is cricket a doping-free zone or has anyone been looking hard enough?” is presumably rhetorical. No-one has been looking particularly hard because no-one wants to deal with what they would find.


Joe Root crushes the ‘targeting’ cliché

Joe Root (via Channel 5)

Joe Root has done many great things in international cricket. He launched England’s rebound in 2015 and kicked off the last Ashes with a magnificent hundred later the same summer. Now he’s shone a light on the fundamental bullshittery of ‘targeting’ the opposition’s captain/best batsman.

“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me, in particular,” he said. “That’s always the talk. From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them – we won’t be singling any one out. To win a Test you’ve got to take 20 wickets.”

If he ploughs through his captaincy stint methodically undermining all of cricket’s clichés, we’ll happily allow him to bat James Vince at three.


Ellyse Perry takes a rare opportunity and makes it very difficult for England to win the Ashes

Tonkage from Perry

Ellyse Perry’s long wait for a Test hundred lasted nine years and seven Tests. If you don’t get too many opportunities, you might as well make any hundred a double – she finished on 213 not out.

The first women’s Test match was between Australia and England in December 1934. This is Test number 139. VVS Laxman got to play in 134 Tests; Alastair Cook has played 147.

The record holder for most Test caps in the women’s game is Janette Brittin, who died in September. She played 27 matches.

Ben Hilfenhaus played 27 Tests. So did Roger Binny. Jason Holder has already played 28.

Scarcity cuts both ways. It means this innings – the seventh Test double by a woman – is really special. It is also likely to leave England mathematically challenged.

Australia were 4-2 up on points before the Test match and will earn four more if they win. There are only six points available for the T20s that follow, so England need to bat out the final day.


Who is Tom Helm?

Tom Helm dismissing someone-or-other at some point (via Twitter)

We experienced a delightful nostalgic moment earlier this week when we read that Tom Helm had narrowly lost out to Tom Curran for an Ashes call-up.

“Who’s Tom Helm?” we thought.

We knew the name, we knew he was a bowler, but it’s been a long, long time since we had so little information at our disposal about a cricketer who was reportedly ‘knocking on the door’ for England selection.

We’ve been writing this site for over a decade now and throughout that time we’ve generally been on top of these things. This year, a family expansion has left us rather more out of the loop than normal, but that only seems to be part of the story.

Helm really does seems to have been residing wherever the hell leftfield is (on the left, we suppose – unless you turn round and face the other way).

He was named in at least a couple of narrowly-missed-out-on-selection articles earlier in the week, but even they emphasised that he didn’t actually play much first-class cricket this year and didn’t do anything too spectacular when he did appear. So how exactly did he make this leap from being unknown to being written about as a likely Ashes squad addition? There’s a full next-cab-off-the-rank interview over at Cricinfo today.

Presumably the cricket media’s been given a steer and presumably we’re no longer a functioning part of that (or maybe we should check our junk mail for press releases).

Anyway, the long and short of it in cliché form is…

  • 6ft4in
  • Insistent line
  • Lively pace

We actually made up the last one, but if a seamer doesn’t demand comment about their bowling speed one way or the other, you can safely commit to ‘lively’.

Ashes selection, if it happens, would be above and beyond what he was aiming for this year. “It was my first full season and I was over the moon to get out the end without being in a cast of some sort.”


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