Month: January 2018 (page 1 of 3)

Do England attack too much? (and other questions) – mop-up of the day

Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

Steve Smith says England’s one-day international (ODI) tactic of ‘going really hard the whole time’ is risky because sometimes they might get bowled out.

He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that England play this way because they pick 10 batsmen. Nor does he seem to realise that his hypothetical scenario in which England have a bad day in the semi-finals of a World Cup isn’t exactly a cold sweat nightmare for an England ODI side.

As for his own team, Smith said of Australia’s poor performance: “A lot of it comes down to poor decision making, and execution out in the middle.”

So basically the main issues are deciding what to do and also doing it.

India in England this summer

Shortly after England have played yet another five-match ODI series against Australia in July, they’ll square up against India in Big Man Cricket.

Last week we floated the idea that India might outpace South Africa in the third Test and this proved to be the case. We now predict that they will bother England greatly later in the year.

It’s not so much that they have a whole bunch of fast bowlers. Nor is it that they are consciously refusing to complain about pitches (and really, they’ve been deafeningly non-critical even when there’ve had good reason to moan). It’s more that Virat Kohli’s side’s seemingly accepted its limitations but then cracked on without ever once subsiding to defeatism.

Difficult overseas tours rarely climax with hard-fought wins for the touring side. It’s not a feat to be overlooked.

This is where you’ll find us

We imagine you’ll have one of two responses to that headline.

Half of you will immediately think “passed out on waste ground” or “rummaging in the bins round the back of Aldi”.

The other half will think “we find you here at King Cricket – what on earth are you talking about?”

What we’re talking about is other places where you can find us. We thought it was time for a recap.

But in addition to all of that…

We recently started a Twitter account for our film and TV writing.

This is new. We’re wholly reliant on editors agreeing that our ideas are good before articles can actually come into existence, so don’t expect great swathes of stuff to appear any time soon. Hopefully there will be a steady drip feed though, so please follow, retweet etc.

Secondly, our pro cycling website still exists – and it too has a Twitter account.

Finally, there’s Cricket Badger, an irreverent weekly cricket newsletter that you’ve probably already signed up for. If you’re not a subscriber, this is where a fair chunk of our cricket writing ends up, so maybe take a look.

P.S.

Thanks for reading and paying some degree of attention to our work. It’s very much appreciated.


Nuwan Thushara’s bowling action (+ video)

Nuwan Thushara (via YouTube)

When is a one-off not a one-off? When he inspires a copycat.

Lasith Malinga is not unique. We happened across this video of Sinhalese Sports Club’s Nuwan Thushara the other day.

Nuwan has clearly thought to himself: “That bowling action of Lasith Malinga’s looks really logical and easy to reproduce. I’ll bowl exactly like that.”

We first wrote about Malinga’s action back in 2006 and that page is still attracting anonymous comments from people who are convinced that he’s a cheat.

Our response is the same as it ever was. He bowls with a straight arm, so no problem there, and if it’s such a massive advantage, why isn’t everyone doing it?

The answer is because it’s not a massive advantage. Unless you absolutely perfect this technique, it’s actually a monumental disadvantage.

If you were to try and build a wide-bowling machine, you’d build it with this action. (Either that or you could just point a normal bowling machine slightly to one side.)

At the time of writing, the 23-year-old Nuwan Thushara has played three first-class matches and two T20s. He took 2-24 on his T20 debut two years ago, but is yet to take a first-class wicket.


We checked who bought Rishabh Pant and it reminded us of something about the IPL

Rishabh Pant is a player we keep an eye on. We don’t write about him much at the minute, but we get the sense that we will. We were therefore interested to see where he ended up in the IPL auction and whether the teams valued him as highly as we do.

Delhi Daredevils bought him for $2.34m (about £1.65m).

“Great,” we thought. “Now what?”

Because this doesn’t lead us anywhere. We’ve never really felt much affinity with any particular IPL team and this is unlikely to change simply because one of them is now blessed with a Pant.

The Indian Premier League is, it seems to us – and bear with us if this seems a rather obvious statement of fact – an Indian competition.

What we mean by this is that with players going back into the hat once every few years, geography seems just about the best reason for latching onto a particular team.

If you live in Bangalore, support Bangalore. If you live in Delhi, support Delhi. Those of us who live in Manchester and have visited five of the eight cities housing teams don’t really have an obvious route in.

In many respects, the tournament is best viewed as an academic exercise, a resource allocation competition in which various groups spend their money and deploy their resultant playing staffs and whoever has the best plans wins.

We can get behind that. We rather like it. The mechanics of the various strategies and the way things will eventually pan out are very intriguing to us. Except without any sort of bias or hopes for one group to triumph over the others, it also feels a little flat.

What we’re left with is lab sport of the mind: valid and worthy, but sadly lacking the power to truly delight us or to really piss us off.


Joe Root goes big, Australia fall short

Before the fourth one-dayer between Australia and England, the at times nauseatingly partisan BT Sport Twitter account asked which of three England batsmen would “go big” – Jason Roy, Joe Root or Jos Buttler.

After 6.2 overs, the answer was clear – Joe Root, whose seven-ball duck was significantly larger than the two-ball ducks notched by Roy and Buttler.

‘Plenty of batting to come’ is a commentary cliché that can be deployed almost throughout an England one-day innings, but even they couldn’t afford to lose half their wickets for eight runs.

Australia did at least try and make a complete balls-up of their chase, but sadly couldn’t finish the job.

Update: It’s since been pointed out to us that the BT tweet is actually a tick list, not a series of options. We’re not editing this though. We’re going to leave our idiocy on full display because by this point in life we no longer care that we’re stupid.


South Africa v India is not boxing, it’s racing

With wickets falling every 10 or 20 runs in the South Africa v India series, it’s tempting to resort to the heavyweight boxer cliché. This has the two combatants going toe-to-toe, knocking lumps out of one another with neither taking a backward step.

It’s odd to think of wickets as ‘damage’ rather than the primary aim of the sport. Unlike limited overs, which is a ‘most runs wins’ game, Test cricket is essentially a race to 20 wickets. Wickets are the meaningful currency. Batsmen are necessary impediments and the game only moves forwards when they are dismissed.

In this series both teams have been moving at a ferocious pace, with India thus far not quite able to keep up. This isn’t for lack of trying however, and you wonder whether sooner or later the home team might be the one to crack.

 


What does Lloyd Pope’s hair say about his leg-spin?

You may know by now that Australia leg-spinner Lloyd Pope took 8-35 to knock England out of the Under-19 World Cup.

This is Lloyd Pope’s hair. You may also notice something hanging off the bottom of it. That thing is Lloyd Pope.

Lloyd Pope’s hair (ICC)

You may feel that a man’s hair cannot possibly say anything meaningful about his leg-spin. We are here to tell you otherwise.

Look at Stuart MacGill with his ‘ruffled-yet-effective understudy’ cut. Look at the 20-something Shane Warne and his attention-seeking frosted mop.

Look at Anil Kumble with a haircut you could set your watch by, or Imran Tahir with his ever-changing locks betraying his unquenchable lust for experimentation.

Look at BS Chandrasekhar and tell us that haircut didn’t say ‘watch out for the googly’.

And so to Lloyd Pope.

That is not hair that just happens. You don’t just inch your way towards that hair without being fully conscious of precisely what you’re doing.

Lloyd Pope’s hair says: “I am my own man, ploughing my own furrow and I will not be easily swayed by others’ advice. I will face down your slings and arrows and rise above it all.

“Block me and I will rip it. Attack me and I will only rip it harder. I am central, I am here to be noticed and I am here for the duration.

“Leg-spin is my art and my craft and my calling and I am not here to keep things tight. Watch yourself, batsman, watch yourself – for I am here to take your wicket. Also, I am slapping back a little.”


We got someone who’s been off work sick to report on the Under-19 World Cup for us

Shivam Mavi is about to hit the stumps (ICC)

Budgets and time constraints being what they are, this seemed a smart way to go about things. The Under-19 World Cup is definitely a tournament where you want to hear the views of someone who’s had a very heavy cold – particularly if that person also happens to harbour an unusually deep-seated hatred of commentator Alan Wilkins.

Apropos of nothing much at all really, D Charlton told us that India have “a proper quick bowler” while England have “one great looking batsman”.

The England lad is Harry Brook, who sounds to us like a 1920s outside-left, signed for £3,000. According to D Charlton, “there was something about Brook that had stardust on it.”

We asked D Charlton who the Indian lad was. He said he wasn’t sure.

He later got back to us and said it was Shivam Mavi. No further details.

D Charlton also said that the tournament had provided awkward ground for the commentators, as they’re often left talking about people they really don’t know that much about.

“Alan Wilkins has repeated the same story about England’s wicketkeeper (that his grandfather kept for Glamorgan (Wilkins used to play for Glamorgan)) at least three times.

“He also has a habit of being surprised at the players’ ages. ‘Here’s the young Bangladeshi number four, and he’s ONLY 18 years of age…’

“He does this repeatedly. As does Mark Butcher who, otherwise, has been excellent.

“But the commentary exchange of the tournament so far went like this. Rob Key had a genuinely interesting fact about England’s opening bowler Ethan Bamber: his dad played Hitler in Tom Cruise’s film Valkyrie. Key reveals this, then…

Russel Arnold: What a character to play!
Rob Key: Not one for the method actor.
<cue furious producer shouting at them to stop talking about Hitler>
Arnold: So… what’s happening at Kent?
Key: I don’t know, I’m here, not in Kent.

“Who knew how easy it was to break the Golden Rule of Commentary: do not mention Hitler.”

In a later missive, D Charlton said: “Alan Wilkins made the usual comment when the camera showed a group of schoolkids at the cricket: ‘School children allowed in for free today – it’s great to see them doing that.’

“Mark Butcher said: ‘Anyone can get in for free. It’s not just you who has a special pass, Alan.'”

To ensure full clarity on his position on the matter, D Charlton added: “I hate Alan Wilkins.”


Newsflash: most cricketers enjoy all forms of the game and don’t actually want to choose between formats

It’s often said that young players are choosing T20 over Tests because of the huge financial rewards on offer. We happen to think that’s bullshit.

Yes, there are undoubtedly a few players who set out to specialise, but a far greater number find themselves doing so unwillingly. It is something that happens by stealth as a by-product of a whole series of mundane no-brainers.

There is one very, very straightforward reason why this happens so regularly to promising young England players.

Clickbait klaxon! Find out what that reason is in our latest article for Wisden.


England’s one-day bowling strategy shows up everything that’s wrong with their Test approach

Mark Wood (BT Sport)

Speaking about England’s Test bowling attack this week, Steve Harmison managed the rare feat of deploying the word ‘unit’ in a halfway meaningful way.

He told Sky Sports that England have to, “make sure that at any one given time they’ve got skill factor with the new ball, an X-factor bowler that can get a wicket out of nothing and control. It’s not about names, it’s about components and it is something England need to identify.”

He’s right that it’s about identifying the components of a cohesive attack more than it’s about lining up the best bowlers. A Test day is long and you need different qualities at different times.

If you have four guys doing the same thing, it makes for a boom or bust situation. As Harmison himself says: “If you go to Australia with four right-arm seamers bowling 80mph then you are going to get beat every time.”

England’s one-day team has long taken a different tack. They have new ball swing bowlers, a quick full bowler, a quick short bowler, a leg-spinner and a couple of off-spinners.

Each has a different approach to taking wickets and Eoin Morgan tries to wheel them out at the best time to exploit that approach, whatever it happens to be. Crucially, these bowlers aren’t all competing for the ball at the exact same moment, the way England’s Test attack are.


Charity cricket in Regent’s Park – match report

Two reports on the same August 2000 charity match.

Nigel  writes:

My friend, Lefty-Righty, sent an e-mail to me and Chas recently, which read: “I uncovered a note about a charity match in Regent’s Park, 24 August 2000, against [massive global communications corporate] about which I had more or less forgotten.  Do either of you have any memories of that afternoon/evening?”

The strange think is, I remembered it vividly. It was my first game for many years. I used to play Lancashire League cricket to a reasonable standard. That charity fiasco was my comeback match.

Chas had enlisted my services way in advance of the game, scheduled for ‘after work’ in Regent’s Park. One problem I had to overcome was the distance between my ‘work’, South Devon, and everybody else’s, inner London.

I had availed myself of a cheap advance booking day-return train ticket. I am usually pathologically early. This event was no exception.

I left Devon armed with ‘Hanse Cronje’s bat’ – so called as it had been given to the late disgraced Test cricketer in Rawalpindi. Rumour had it he didn’t much like it. He had off-loaded it on to his brother Frans who was the Pro at Todmorden CC in the Lancashire League, where my brother played. So this filial-fraternal-Hans-Frans ‘to me to you’ series of transactions resulted in ‘Hanse Cronje’s bat’ now being my bat.

I made my way to a teeming Regent’s Park amidst glorious sunshine. I recall it being carnival-like in the Park, a place I had never been in such weather.  I do recall waiting for what seems like ages, possibly because of my time of arrival, but also due to the apparent flexibility of arrangements, as nobody seemed to know what time we were due to start.

Lefty-Righty was the next to arrive, so we warmed up, taking turns to bowl/bat at each other while others gradually appeared. One other invitee was The Quiet American, our new CEO designate, who had been agitating for inclusion, I gather, and today was to be his cricketing debut.

Although the opposition was a gigantic global communications corporation, the quality of their so-called team threatened to spoil the event. Batting against them was wishful thinking. Not “will this delivery have my name on it?” but more like “will it land on the square?”

Consequently we mixed up the sides, so I also had the callous pleasure of bowling at our CEO elect along with other fellow employees, including the chap from Finance who often made a meal of paying out our expenses.

Thus I got to open the batting with my pal Chas, scored my ‘20 and retire out’, changed sides, took a few wickets and pouched a catch in the deep from a middled full blooded hook.

I was back. It felt great. But my joy was curtailed, as I had to leave early to catch the last train back to Devon from Paddington.


Chas writes:

We played charity matches with Lefty-Righty’s small company a few times, but, perhaps due to the hammering they received in 1999, Lefty-Righty faced a squad rebellion and could only offer a rounders team.

I thought I’d struck charity cricket gold when [Giant Communications Corporate] supplier offered to pick up the cricket challenge… and also the bill.

I thought I’d need some decent players against such a big company, so I asked Nigel, who had a proper cricket pedigree, to come up from our Devon office to play. I also found an intern in the bowels of our building, let’s call him Quick-But-Slow, who was on Kent CCC’s books as a pace bowler. There was also a new keen scout in fundraising, let’s call him Loud-And-Bossy, who claimed he could play.

Other than that, it was the usual suspects, plus the new CEO, The Quiet American, who was seriously sporty but hadn’t played cricket before. I asked Lefty-Righty to come along to umpire.

As it turned out, [Giant Communications Corporate] had no-one at all who could bowl or who knew one end of a bat from the other. They were all utterly hopeless; just keen to raise a bit of money for charity.

Lefty-Righty is short on cricketing skills. He is known as Lefty-Righty because he tries and fails to play off either arm, not because he can play off both. But he can organise things, so he rejigged the sides to make the game fairer… and to include himself in one of the teams of course.

Loud-And-Bossy barked orders at our regulars, with little effect. Then he’d berate them for missing catches way beyond their grasp, abilities or both. He’s probably progressed to senior management somewhere by now.

The Quiet American made a bit of a name for himself, being very speedy in the deep field and holding a tough catch. I also took a good catch; how come no-one else remembers that?

But Nigel was the star of the show – as he has already explained in his own report – taking relish in the opportunity to teach the new CEO (and others) a thing or two about cricket.

After the game, most of us regrouped for refreshments at the cafe on the corner near our offices, where [Giant Communications Corporate] had sported masses of grub. Leftovers were duly shared out at the end. Loud-And-Bossy took the lion’s share.

I also recall that Quick-But-Slow, the Kent CCC youth, bowled far too quickly and properly for our game. People could only play and miss outside off stump against him. I remember asking him to change his line, but he said he couldn’t. After the match and refreshments, I offered to drop him at the appropriate station for his Kent town, but he said he’d be fine if I dropped him on my way home in Essex, as Essex is near Kent. Goodness knows how he changed line to get home.

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.


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