Month: August 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Has anyone ever looked more serious than Sam Curran?

This was Sam Curran’s face midway through yesterday’s innings at the Rose Bowl.

Sam Curran (via Sky Sports)

Has anyone in the history of the world ever looked more serious than this?

We’re aware that sometimes people’s facial expressions don’t accurately reflect their state of mind, but this is no fleeting thing. This is what Sam Curran looks like 100 per cent of the time when he’s batting.

From the moment he came out to the moment he expressed frustration at himself for getting out via a weird rigid-armed scream, this was Sam Curran’s face.

It’s a face that says ‘this is the most serious task anyone has ever undertaken and I fully intend to treat it as such’.

It’s a face that’s heard of smiling, but can’t understand why anyone would ever be so flippant when there’s such serious work to do.

We don’t even need to list alternatives and give them scores for seriousness because Sam Curran’s batting face is literally as serious as a face can get. Sam Curran’s batting face defines the uppermost limit of the scale of facial seriousness.

No-one has ever looked more serious than Sam Curran.


How to leave an in-swinger by Keaton Jennings

If you’re going to get out LBW, get out LBW in style.

Here’s Keaton Jennings’ four-step guide to doing so.

Step one: fail to leap into action

Jennings leave (all images via Sky Sports)

Step two: leap into action

Step three: start falling over

Step four: run away and hope no-one notices


Should Jonny Bairstow be freed from the wicketkeeping gloves?

Jonny Bairstow’s been one of England’s few semi-competent batsmen in recent times. This has given rise to the very obvious conclusion that England’s batting woes are pretty much entirely down to him because if he wasn’t keeping wicket he’d be making even more runs.

Would Bairstow make more runs if he didn’t have to keep wicket?

Ali Martin points out that all five of Bairstow’s Test centuries have come in the first innings when England have batted first – so basically pre-squatting-and-catching.

For his part, Bairstow says that he’s batted better since he became keeper (he averages 29 without the gloves and 42 with them). He also made most of his billions of runs for Yorkshire while he was their wicketkeeper.

We have no idea what all of this means, but if any England player’s averaging 42 at the minute, that strikes us as being a massive win and maybe not an area that needs to be messed around with too much.

Who would keep wicket instead?

Jos Buttler is the obvious answer because he keeps wicket for the one-day sides. However, Buttler averages 30 when he keeps in Test cricket and 44 when he doesn’t. This feels like little more than displacement, like we’d still be having an ‘X should be freed from the gloves’ debate even once the change had been made.

Ben Foakes could also play. Pretty much everyone’s up for this on the basis of the Stokes, Foakes, Woakes thing. He can also bat and most of the Test batsmen can’t, so it’s hard to see how this would weaken the side.

So should Jonny Bairstow be freed from the wicketkeeping gloves?

If he’s got a broken finger, yes. If his fingers are intact, no, probably not.

Our reasoning runs like this: Jonny Bairstow’s not really dropped the ball very much in recent times and it really isn’t that unheard of for England to have a wicketkeeper who drops the ball fairly often.

We greatly value wicketkeepers who don’t (literally) drop the ball.


At least James Vince gives you a focus

Social media has been alive with pleasure this week at the news that James Vince has returned to the England squad. It’s gratifying to see that fans’ views of him have in no way cemented and that there is universal near-desperation to see him given a third chance at Test level.

But let’s imagine for a minute that the response was the exact opposite of that. Let’s imagine that rather than fist pumps and hastily-scheduled James Vince parties, his recall was instead greeted with eye rolls and bad-tempered chuntering about Ed Smith and his selection cronies. What can you say to these people?

What we’d say is this: at least James Vince gives you a focus.

By this point we have to accept that England’s batting collapses don’t come about because of one bloke who sometimes bats in the middle order or sometimes at number three. It is a far more deep-rooted thing that will prove much, much trickier to overcome.

That is a horrifying thought and the best thing to do with horrifying thoughts is suppress them. You do this by getting angry about something very obvious and human and what could be more perfect than the prospect of a guy with a long track record of edging to slip for 27 being given yet another opportunity to edge to slip for 27?

Imagine if that actually happens! Imagine if, with everyone primed to lose their minds should he edge to slip for 27, James Vince actually edges to slip for 27.

The prospect of this is so wonderful we can barely even describe it. It is like actively alerting someone to the existence of a ‘wings stay on/wings fall off’ switch on an aeroplane only for them to deliberately flick it. After miraculously surviving the crash, they flick it again on their next flight. Again they survive and at this point you feel you have to intervene again. As you’re standing there, pointing to the switch, patiently advising them not to flick it, the person holds your gaze and even as they’re nodding their head to express comprehension, their hand is slowly moving towards it.

Yes, you will most likely lose your life in an air disaster, but that compulsion to flick the switch is also very funny.


Do England need a bit more oomph from their opening batsmen?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week, writing about Alastair Cook, George Dobell briefly made the case that he maybe isn’t the easiest guy to open the batting with.

The gist of the argument is that Cook’s quite a passive batsman and “novice openers see the scoreboard going nowhere and bowlers allowed to settle into spells.”

That’s quite persuasive, but it strikes us that it cuts both ways. Maybe Alastair Cook doesn’t especially benefit from trying to do his thing alongside a load of nervous, uncertain pseudo-debutants. Maybe Alastair Cook doesn’t like the scoreboard going nowhere and bowlers allowed to settle into spells.

By this point we probably have to accept that Alastair Cook isn’t going to metamorphosise into Virender Sehwag, so there is no obvious solution to this. Not unless some new combative opener sashays into the side, brimming with a confidence that simply cannot be quashed.

Were that to happen, it would be great, because we do feel that were England to somehow come up with a half decent opening combination, a lot of the subsequent collapses would be nipped in the bud. Poor starts are a problem exacerbated by the nature of England’s middle-order, which almost exclusively comprises players you’d tend to think of as stroke-makers.

Yes, you could add someone more lumpen to the middle order but that seems to us to be akin to the placing of a bucket to address leaky pipework. Surely it’s far better to address the root problem and have, um, a steady flow of runs directly into the sink…

Essentially, good opening partnerships would set the scene for a bunch of batsmen who greatly benefit from having scenes set for them.

The statistical backdrop to this

Cook and Keaton Jennings put on 54 in the first innings at Nottingham. This was the most sizeable opening partnership since Cook and Mark Stoneman put on 58 against the West Indies almost exactly a year ago.

We have to go back another full year for a start better than that one – 80 from Cook and Jennings against South Africa. The last 100-run opening partnership came in December 2016 against India (Cook and Jennings again).

On the other hand…

They collapsed in most of those innings too, so maybe England are just out-and-out terrible at batting.


When Virat Kohli edged to Keaton Jennings – a breakdown of the finest missed catch you’ll ever see

There’s basically nothing left as an England fan other than to become a connoisseur of missed catches. Keaton Jennings failing to make meaningful use of his own hands when Virat Kohli edged the ball to him on 93 was one of the greatest misses we’ve ever seen.

There are three main reasons why. We’ll expand on these in a second.

  1. Because Jimmy Anderson was bowling
  2. Because of where the ball was going
  3. Because of what the ball made contact with

Because Jimmy Anderson was bowling

The context is key. Jimmy Anderson has been bowling brilliantly this summer and while he’s been rewarded with plenty of wickets, he’s also been repeatedly slapped in the metaphorical face by countless drops. (He’s been hit in the literal face by his own golf ball too, but that’s wholly unrelated.)

Jimmy has been particularly keen to dismiss Virat Kohli and has beaten or found the edge of the India captain’s bat – ooh, it’s hard to say exactly, but it must be somewhere around 6,000 times.

Precisely none of these deliveries have resulted in a dismissal.

This is why when he again found the edge and the ball again went straight at a fielder and it again didn’t result in a dismissal, Jimmy did this.

Jimmy Anderson celebrates a non-wicket (all images via BBC Sport video)

While he was still doing this – still bent over, head in hands – he suddenly went all tense and his whole body shook as he unleashed a bestial roar.

This is a 100 per cent correct reaction and Jimmy has our every sympathy.

Because of where the ball was going

On first viewing we reckoned that Keaton Jennings would have needed to move his hands by about three inches to have successfully taken the catch. We were wrong.

Look at this.

And then look at this.

There are no deflections there. Virat Kohli edged the ball directly at Keaton Jennings’ cupped hands. Had Joe Root been armed with a blowpipe and shot a paralysis dart into his opener’s neck to instantly freeze him, there is a reasonable chance the catch would have been taken.

However, this is not what happened. What happened in reality is far more entertaining. What happened was that Keaton Jennings ducked his hands down a few inches to actively evade the ball.

(Look, this all happened in a billionth of a second and we know that the poor guy’s got to instantly pick up trajectory, speed and angle and honestly, in many ways it’s a miracle any catch is taken, but there is still something fundamentally hilarious about a bad-catching side failing to take a catch because one of the fielders moved his hands out of the way of the ball.)

Because of what the ball made contact with

The ball made contact with absolutely nothing. Look at those images above and try and envisage a scenario where ball doesn’t strike hand, arm, knee or testicle.

It’s almost impossible, isn’t it? But this is what happened next.

It was as if Jennings were some kind of formless sprite, unable to interact with solid objects within this earthly realm.

The ball approached and then it just continued on its way at exactly the same speed having passed directly through him.

Summary

We saw a thing the other day where they said that in terms of accuracy, bowling a couple of feet fuller or shorter is like the difference between a darts player hitting the top or bottom of the bullseye.

Darts players release their projectile from in front of their eyes having adopted a firm, stationary position. Jimmy Anderson releases the ball from some way above his head, having sprinted in and done a weird twisting jump; he does it with fingertip precision so that the ball swings; and he does it time and time and time again, even when he’s absolutely knackered.

Most of the time nothing whatsoever comes of this effort – but sometimes it does. Sometimes the ball catches the edge of the bat, travels in the air and in the direction of a fielder.

At this point, Jimmy Anderson has done all he can. The outcome of this delivery is now wholly down to someone else’s involvement and he just has to hope that they catch it.

Imagine that the above happens. Imagine that the umpire signals four runs.

Take another look at Jimmy Anderson screaming into his palms.


Four reasons why you should never challenge England to a collapse-off

England doing what they do best (via Sky Sports video)

India were foolish to challenge England to a collapse-off. No matter who you are, you aren’t going to out-collapse England.

Don’t get us wrong, India do have some real collapsing pedigree. Their performance at Lord’s was borderline exceptional, but the spectacular nature of that particular showing shouldn’t distract from the fact that they were assisted by conditions.

India generally need the ball to swing or seam to deliver a proper collapse. England are a more rounded side. They collapse home and away and can perform on even the flattest tracks. They are able to transcend conditions like no other team in world cricket.

They are also more consistent than anyone else. Again and again they deliver. Even their larger totals are typically only built following a full top six implosion.

Then there’s the depth of talent. It doesn’t seem to matter who comes into the side, they invariably deliver. This is primarily down to culture. England have a rich history of batting collapses stemming from a prolonged spell of extraordinary form in the Eighties and Nineties. To some degree this is taken for granted here in the UK, but this is the kind of grounding that players from other major Test nations lack.

So, to recap, these are the four main reasons why you should never challenge England to a collapse-off.

  1. Their ability to transcend conditions
  2. Their unparalleled consistency
  3. Their depth of talent
  4. The rich and inspiring history they have to draw upon

India have performed well in the first two Tests, but only the very best can continue offering indeterminate prods to balls wide of off stump throughout an entire five-Test series.


A review of Cricket Captain 2018’s ‘All-Time Greats’ mode

Cricket Captain 2018 is fundamentally the same game as last year. Here’s a review of Cricket Captain 2017 for a broad overview and what follows here is a (not particularly) quick look at All-Time Greats mode, which is one of the new features.

We’ll probably do a review thing about playing a career as Afghanistan further down the line as well.

What is All-Time Greats mode?

What do you think it is? It’s a gameplay mode where you can pick historical players.

You know, all these sorts of guys…

What follows is a true story

To test All-Time Greats mode, we played a series. We played exactly one series and we didn’t save and replay any parts of it and we aren’t lying about any of what follows either. [You’ll see why this statement is necessary shortly.]

An All-Time Greats series can be in any format and up to five matches. We played three Test matches because we thought it would be unfair to make our guys play five matches, what with most of them being quite old and several of them being dead.

We played as England and we played against India because England are playing India at the minute and we weren’t feeling very imaginative.

Step one was to pick our 18-man squad.

Can you pick Ian Austin?

Can you pick Ian Austin? You can pick Sep Kinneir. The Cricket Captain 2018 database isn’t going to let you down. Of course you can pick Ian Austin. You can also play him in the first Test ahead of WG Grace.

Our other major selectorial moves saw Rob Key edge out Graham Thorpe because we ran out of batting spots, while the trickiest decision was whether to go with Bob Willis or Syd Barnes. We went with Willis in the end because we felt our attack needed a bit of pace.

There are two options for selecting the opposition squad: you can either pick it yourself or you can not pick it yourself. We didn’t feel it was in the Spirit of Cricket to be picking the opposition’s squad for them, so we left them to do it themselves.

When we started the match, we were greatly surprised to see that India’s idea of an All-Time Great squad is the exact squad they have right now. They stuck KL Rahul behind the stumps and picked seven specialist batsmen, two spinners and two quicks.

The first Test

Having won the toss and batted, Marcus Trescothick made a bombastic 144. Despite that strong start, there was every chance of a disappointing score until a counter-attacking lower order partnership between Matt Prior (93) and Willis (41). The England All-Time Greats ended up with 431.

Beefy made a duck.

The very first ball of India’s innings was wholly believable with Shikhar Dhawan caught at slip off Jimmy Anderson. The team continued to make great early inroads but then Graeme Swann was totally unthreatening and a large partnership built between Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin.

Obviously we gave Rob Key an over. Much less obviously, he dismissed Ashwin. It was at that point that we resolved never to bowl Key again as there was no way it was going to get any better than that in the field.

It got better with the bat though. As we pushed for a second innings declaration, Key notched a fine 200-ball half century. This then turned into a 300-ball unbeaten hundred.

Alas, there wasn’t enough time to bowl India out and England All-Time Greats had to settle for a draw. It was no-one’s fault.

The second Test

We were keen to get WG Grace into the side to give us an extra bowling option and this sadly meant that we had to drop David Gower. Ian Austin had been unable to bring his one-day form to the Test arena, so we dropped him for Syd Barnes, even though that meant lengthening the tail.

After again winning the toss, we chose to bat. Rob Key notched another 200-ball half century and then pressed on to make a breath-taking 109 off 386 balls.

With rain around, Beefy, Jimmy and Syd Barnes secured an 87-run lead, but England All-Time Greats were again running out of time. We set India 271 to win in two sessions and they finished on 153-5. We can’t remember who took the wickets, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t Graeme Swann because he was still proving singularly ineffective.

Everyone blamed the weather for the match ending in a draw.

The third Test

Swann’s muted performances had left us seeking an additional spin option. While WG Grace had batted competently, his medium-pace offered nothing to a team already boasting Syd Barnes. We therefore dropped him for Wilfred Rhodes, who brought a slow left-arm option to the attack.

With 58 first-class hundreds to his name, we felt confident Rhodes could do a job at number three and his 4,204 first-class wickets suggested he wouldn’t be overawed if the pitch started to turn either.

For their part, India stuck with seven specialist batsmen but this time went with four seamers and no spinner. Interesting decision.

England All-Time Greats again batted first and an under pressure Alastair Cook showed admirable resilience to grind out a hundred. Key, by now in blistering form, raced to 50 off just 120 balls and then 103 off 282 balls before being dismissed. Even with India’s long batting line-up, 477 felt like a good score – particularly in light of the home team’s broad range of bowling options.

India started well enough, but it was hard to avoid the feeling that this was going to be England’s match when even Graeme Swann managed to take a wicket (Kohli). We then brought Wilfred Rhodes on for the first time in the 44th over. He took a wicket with his first ball. And his fourth. And his sixth.

Rhodes finished with 4-16 in the innings. Swann managed something like 3-400 in the series.

India then followed-on and Willis took 5-49 to secure victory by an innings and 69 runs.

England All-Time Greats took the series 1-0 and with no further playing obligations, the players made their way back to their respective homes/old people’s homes/graves.

Series (and game mode) review

If we can play an All-Time Greats series and Rob Key finishes with most runs (344 at an average of 86.00) and the lowest bowling average (4.00) then that to us seems like an excellent thing.

Five stars.

Cricket Captain 2018 is available now on PC, iOS, Android and Mac. For more information, see the Childish Things website.


Check out these magnificent beer-carrying cricket bat devices

Ged spotted these in the beer garden bar of The Milk House, Sissinghurst, Kent.

He wasn’t sure whether they qualified for our regular feature Cricket Bats In Unusual Places or whether they might give rise to a whole new feature based on The Device. (Somewhat surprisingly, this is actually the second time someone has contacted us about another version of The Device.)

Ged said: “The bartender, who I think might have been Henry, claimed that the bats/devices are not as useful as they look, because the bar serves beer in tall glasses that don’t really fit in those holes.”

It’s not the bats/devices that are the problem here, Possibly Henry – it’s your glasses.

Why would any establishment seek out and purchase glasses that failed to work in conjunction with these magnificent objects?

Send your pictures of cricket bats and other cricket stuff in unusual places to king@kingcricket.co.uk


The India batsmen who aren’t making any runs are pretty much the same India batsmen who didn’t make any runs last time around

Murali Vijay gets out again (via Sky Sports)

India have had very much the worse of conditions in this match and they have also been facing some masterful swing bowling. All the same, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they haven’t really made any runs.

Out of interest, we checked which batsmen had played in the Test matches the last time they toured so that we could judge who had failed to come up with a method for dealing with difficult conditions.

Turns out it’s everyone.

You may or may not (want to) remember that India were bowled out for not-very-much several times when they toured England in 2014. A couple of guys made hundreds, but this seemed to coincide with all the other specialist batsmen making nothing. Other times everyone made 30 or 40 but not much more.

By the end of the tour, they were very much batting like they are now with the captain (MS Dhoni back then) playing a lone face-saving hand as the world collapsed around him.

The batting line-up for the first three Tests was Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.

The one thing you could say is that they didn’t get a huge volume of experience of batting in difficult conditions for the simple reason that they kept getting dismissed.


Older posts

© 2018 King Cricket

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑