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EXCLUSIVE: Shane Warne capable of self-awareness

Shane Warne (via Cricket Australia YouTube)

Shane Warne’s got another book out – No Spin. In it, he’s taken the time to dig over old grievances with Steve Waugh.

The story is this. Steve Waugh wanted to drop Shane Warne once because he was coming back from major shoulder surgery and he wasn’t bowling very well. Warne agreed that he wasn’t bowling very well, but said he was about to start bowling very well any minute now, so Waugh shouldn’t drop him.

Waugh dropped him.

Let’s say that the two men got on a bit less well after that point.

A little further down the line, Waugh was advised by doctors to miss a Test after a horrific on-field collision with Jason Gillespie. Waugh didn’t want to miss the Test.

Fox Sports reports that in a tour management meeting, Warne told Waugh that he didn’t think much of his suggestion that he’d field in a helmet if he had to and said that he should sit out the Test.

Waugh refused to sit out the Test. Warne stood his ground, and…

“As the conversation went on I got more and more facetious about it. I’d even say I was being a dickhead and looking for a bit of revenge.”

So there you have it: proof, finally, that Shane Warne is self-aware.

This is actually a somewhat damning revelation when you think about some of the other stuff he’s got up to over the years. A complete lack of self-awareness seemed to explain a lot.


Is Rory Burns going to have to give a presentation on industrial piping?

Leslie Claret talks piping (via Amazon)

Our favourite TV series that we’ve no idea whether you’d like and that you won’t see anyway because it’s on Amazon Prime is Patriot.

It’s about a somewhat blank-faced intelligence officer, John Tavner, who has to become a mid-level employee at a Midwestern industrial piping firm because they’re the only US firm that operates in both Luxembourg and Iran and he needs to be able to go to both Luxembourg and Iran.

Something like that anyway. It doesn’t really matter in this context. What matters is the job he has to do.

Tavner is a spy and he has been well-trained to do normal spy-type things. Unfortunately for him, his skills don’t exactly translate into holding down a job in an industrial piping firm.

His boss, Leslie Claret, wrote a book called The Structural Dynamics of Flow, which is basically The Piping Bible. When Claret coaches his staff ahead of important meetings with clients, he suggests that they advertise the fact that the firm’s, “bracketed caps and splay-flexed brace columns vent dampers to dampening hatch depths of one half-metre from the damper crown to the spurv plinth.”

In short, it’s not the kind of job where you can easily wing it.

We’ve been thinking about John Tavner quite a bit recently because of England’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. It’s this idea of someone fantastically skilled trying to do their job in an environment where those skills are all but irrelevant. You hope that the person comes up with answers to the problems they face, but you aren’t entirely sure what those answers will be.

The County Championship has always featured cloudy skies and green pitches, but in recent years the typical conditions faced by the nation’s first-class players have skewed even further towards that particular end of the spectrum.

A lot of games are played in April and May and September when the sun is lower, the weather cooler and the pitches damper. You could probably track this by charting how frequently the word ‘nibble’ has appeared in match reports.

There’s no need to do that though. All we need to do is dig out a quote.

When Ollie Pope was called into England’s squad this summer, this is what he said about the prospect of facing India’s spinners.

“I’ve faced a bit of [Liam] Dawson but other than that everyone has just been bowling seam on these green wickets.”

It was the hottest, driest summer many of us can remember, but not when they were playing the County Championship. When they were playing the County Championship everyone was just bowling seam on green wickets.

You’d have to say that this sort of competition probably doesn’t provide the absolute best preparation for playing in Sri Lanka. Batting in Sri Lanka is a different sort of job.

We’ve been thinking in particular about how Rory Burns will fare because Rory Burns is the one batsman who’s really been flying this year. Is Burns a really good batsman in the broadest sense or is he just the nation’s finest nibble-counterer? We don’t know.

You might point out that even though he’s an opener, Burns has of course faced spin bowling too over the course of the season. We’d counter than by saying that ‘a bit of Liam Dawson’ isn’t quite the same as Rangana Herath in Galle.

Reflecting on his call-up, Burns said: “I’ve never been to Sri Lanka before, so that’ll be something new and I’m looking forward to getting going.”

This whole situation is interesting to us because we don’t really know how things are going to go. Maybe Burns is really good at unarmed combat and not talking when he’s tortured, but less good at walking potential clients through the nitty-gritty of systemised non-filter diffusion.

Alternatively, maybe his success is built on something more fundamental; an innate ability to somehow find a way. Maybe he’s the kind of guy who could both retrieve 11 million euros from a Brazilian airport worker and also retain his place on the company travel team despite a whole series of workplace fiascos.

We’re very much looking forward to seeing this one play out.


A full report on that thrilling final County Championship match between Surrey and Essex

Surrey v Essex shakehandsery (via Sky Sports Twitter)

The climax of the County Championship is always thrilling.

Always.

This year was no exception. (How could it have been when we literally just told you that the climax is always thrilling? (Think, McFly! Think!))

Having surrendered a ten million run first innings deficit to last year’s champions Essex, this year’s champions Surrey almost won the match but then didn’t.


Let’s try and put Afghanistan’s rate of improvement into perspective

In the second series of Stranger Things, Dustin hears a noise in a bin. Ignoring the spooky music and his own fear, he goes and opens it.

Next thing we see is Dustin depositing a small obese newt thing into the tank he normally keeps his tortoise in. He feeds it a 3 Musketeers bar, making the wildly irresponsible assumption that this is an appropriate food for a creature he’s never seen before in his life.

Dart (all images via Netflix)

(According to Wikipedia, a 3 Musketeers bar is essentially a Milky Way without any caramel. It got its name because it originally came in three pieces, each with a different flavour, only for rising costs to result in strawberry and vanilla being phased out. Oddly they didn’t rename it a 1 Musketeer bar, but they absolutely should have done.)

Because of the 3 Musketeers bar, Dustin calls the creature D’Artagnan, which is pretty smart for a kid. Then, because he’s an American, he shortens it to Dart, which isn’t particularly smart, but is perfectly understandable because names always end up as one syllable eventually and you might as well just accept that.

Dustin keeps Dart. Dart grows. After about a day, he pops a pair of rear legs out – like this is the kind of you can just do on a whim.

Another day and he’s the size of a small dog and his head looks like this.

Next thing you know he’s the size of a person and he’s killing soldiers.

Turns out Dart’s a Demogorgon and honestly you don’t need to have a PhD in demonology to know that that’s a terrifying thing.

What’s interesting here is the rate of development. Things rarely progress that rapidly in real life, but one exception is the Afghanistan cricket team.

Afghanistan went out of the Asia Cup yesterday after a tied game against India. If past history is anything to go by, India will be largely unaffected by the experience while Afghanistan will be somewhere around twice as good next time they take the field.

Back in 2009 and 2010, Mohammad Nabi’s first few one-day internationals saw him make fifties against Scotland and Canada. (Afghanistan actually lost the Canada match.)

A year before that, Afghanistan had been scraping a win against Jersey in ICC World Cricket League Division Five. The target was 81 and they only made it with eight wickets down.

Nabi was out for two in that match, but yesterday he made another fifty. Against India. In a tied game.

Things have moved on.

Nabi was outscored by Mohammad Shahzad, who was out for 124 when the score was somewhat jarringly 180-6. Shahzad made a duck in that 2010 Canada defeat.

Afghanistan are a team who have at no point drawn any firm conclusions about how good they could be. At each step on their journey they’ve inevitably come up against a team that’s better than them and rather than take this as some sort of reality check, they’ve basically just resolved to instantly become better and then somehow achieved that.

Five of the side that beat Jersey have played for the national side in the last 12 months. They are basically the same bunch of guys.

One day you’re a little flappy newt in a fish tank, next day you’re a Demogorgon.


12 memorable moments from England’s 2018 summer

This is a somewhat ironic headline because as a rule we don’t remember things. Our brain long ago adopted the after-midnight-at-a-popular-nightclub policy towards nuggets of information – one in, one out.

So consider this a note to our future self that you’re all invited to read in the present. It’s not exactly the highlights of the 2018 international summer. It’s more a bunch of striking moments that may or may not create a sort of join-the-dots effect where linking them together maybe allows you to draw a vague outline of the season as a whole.

They’re chronological.

1. England won the toss and got skittled

Ben Stokes (via Sky Sports)

Pakistan arrived, Pakistan bowled England out easily – and lo, the theme of the summer was set.

2. England lost to Scotland

Scotland beat England (via Sky Sports)

England turned up fairly late for a one-day international against Scotland, lost it and then basically said that they didn’t care because they were only treating it as glorified practice anyway. Trevor Bayliss was so moved by what he saw that he flattened out the pocket of his hoodie.

3. England took the Australia bowling attack apart as if it were a giant Lego penis and grandma was coming over

Alex Hales (via YouTube)

If you’re tired of Australians being on the receiving end of world record totals, you’re tired of life. England made a still barely-believable 481-6 in a 50-over match and it was bloody hilarious.

4. Kuldeep Yadav made England’s one-day batsmen look rather less good

Jason Roy (via ECB video)

“Oh my God, they have got to get this guy into the Test team,” said everybody (before later concluding the exact opposite once India had done precisely that).

5. MS Dhoni played an extraordinary innings of complete lack-of-intent

MS Dhoni (via Sky Sports video)

MS Dhoni seemed poised to explode at any minute… but he never did. It was marvellous. He basically trolled the entire cricket world via some batting.

6. Virat Kohli was clean-bowled by Adil Rashid

Virat Kohli (via BBC video)

It was actually nowhere near as good a ball as everyone made out, but Kohli’s reaction to it was unparalleled.

7. Virat Kohli ran out Joe Root

Joe Root getting run out (via Sky Sports)

Kohli seemed hell-bent on being dead centre of every single thing that happened when England and India finally got round to playing a Test match. After running out his opposite number, he mimed a mic drop to take the piss out of Root’s ‘bat drop’ at the end of the one-day series and then told him to fuck off.

8. The whole of that first Test

Virat Kohli out LBW (via Sky Sports)

It was bloody brilliant.

9. Virat Kohli edged Jimmy Anderson straight to Keaton Jennings

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

And Jennings quite miraculously failed to make any sort of contact with the ball whatsoever. This moment summed up the wonderful series-long Anderson v Kohli duel and also Keaton Jennings’ summer.

10. Keaton Jennings left one that would have hit middle halfway up

Jennings leave (all images via Sky Sports)

This also summed up Keaton Jennings’ summer. Poor Keaton Jennings.

11. Sam Curran’s face

Sam Curran (via Sky Sports)

Has anyone ever been more serious about anything ever than Sam Curran about everything always? He had a very successful summer and looked determined to ensure that would be the case throughout.

12. Adil Rashid bounced one off an invisible side wall to bowl KL Rahul

KL Rahul loses a bail (via BBC)

Rashid hitch-hiked his way through the Test series without anyone particularly noticing he was there, but then trotted in and dismissed two centurions just as everyone started to think they were maybe going to deliver a record run-chase in the final Test innings of the summer. The delivery that dismissed Rahul was everything the Kohli one pretended to be and wasn’t.


Two of those England Test selections are just about weird and surprising enough to talk about

Olly Stone bounces Luke Wright (via ECB)

England have named their Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka. Rory Burns is in, Olly Stone is in, and – a mere 10 years after we tipped him – so too is Joe “No Pants” Denly.

The Burns selection isn’t really worth commenting on, so let’s concentrate on the other two.

Olly Stone

Ashley Giles went full Partridge when talking up Olly Stone this week. He said the fast bowler was injury-prone in much the same way that a Ferrari apparently is.

“With many bowlers – your BMWs or your Audis – you just get in and go but if you have someone who bowls at pace and has had his history of injury you have to treat them very carefully.”

The fragile fast bowler is an important role to fill in any team. Ideally, his fragility is such that he misses more games than he plays, so that when you’re losing you can say: “If only our 488 GTB hadn’t done his knee/fractured his scapula/ruptured his pancreas/lost both of his pelvises – we’d have won this by tea on the second day.”

Olly Stone appears to be very effective, so there are two ways England are likely to use him.

(1) They will use him as a drinks waiter while picking both James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the first XI on the grounds that if one of the two senior bowlers proves ineffective in Sri Lankan conditions, the other one will almost certainly be useless too.

(2) They will only ever pick him on the least helpful pitches and reward him for this by eventually forgetting all about him because he has a high bowling average. England’s attitude to fast bowlers and leg-spinners is that you only resort to them when absolutely necessary and at all other times it’s best to keep things 100% fast-medium.

Joe Denly

We’ve no real idea what this is all about. Denly’s batted in the top order in 2018 and not been completely humiliated. We suppose that’s enough at the minute.


A review of Afghanistan career mode in Cricket Captain 2018

Back when we reviewed Cricket Captain 2018’s ‘All-Time Greats’ mode, we said we’d also do a thing on playing a career as Afghanistan. This is that thing.

For a more comprehensive look at the mechanics of Cricket Captain 2018, see our review of the 2017 game (it’s fundamentally the same).

So you can play a career as Afghanistan then?

You absolutely can. You can play as Ireland too – but honestly, who doesn’t want to play as Afghanistan?

The first time we tried this, we played all formats – Tests, one-day internationals and T20 internationals. Then we realised that Afghanistan mostly only got to play one-off Tests and we were spending a hell of a lot of time playing limited overs stuff that we didn’t really give a flying full toss about. At this point we started a new Test-only career and played it through until 2029, which seemed like plenty long enough to work out what was what.

One-off Tests sound annoying

Not really. It’s a game, so you don’t have to wait six months before your next fixture – you just roll straight into it. One-off Tests are actually pretty interesting because you tend to really concentrate on that one match and there’s also the chance of executing a mugging on a higher-ranked team.

After a couple of years, Afghanistan start playing two-Test series and this is probably a better number. You can’t really fluke a two-Test series, but you also don’t get bored and fed up in the way you absolutely would if you were getting hammered match after match by the same opposition. A Cricket Captain Test match doesn’t take five actual days, but it still takes a fair while.

So Afghanistan mostly just get hammered then?

Actually no. For one thing, they seem to end up playing Ireland or Zimbabwe (or both) most years and there’s a good chance you’ll win those matches. We also beat England 2-0 (in England) and South Africa 1-0; and drew 1-1 with New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

So it’s not like it’s impossible to experience success (unless you’re playing pissing Bangladesh – for some reason those guys hammered us every single time).

The downside of the scheduling is that even by 2029, we still hadn’t played South Africa, Sri Lanka or the West Indies away or India or New Zealand at home. This is a level of realism that could perhaps be tweaked for the better.

Tell us about your team

Afghanistan being Afghanistan, five of our top six in every match we played were rated as ‘very aggressive’ batsmen (that’s a step up from merely ‘aggressive’). Darwish Rasooli was our most successful, averaging 54.35 after 44 Tests.

If you’re questioning the realism, you have to remember that average has been (only slightly) bolstered by the volume of matches against Zimbabwe and the likes. (Although it’s worth noting that the real life Darwish Rasooli currently averages 82.53 in first-class cricket. He’s only 18. Maybe he’s one to watch?)

Quite a few of our other batsmen averaged over 40. (Specific shout out to Imran Imran for having the best name and also for hitting an unbeaten 271 against Australia in Brisbane.)

The bowling was obviously built around Rashid Khan, but there’s plenty of strategic fun to be had trying to muster a varied attack around him. One way or another, we fielded six bowling options. Decent Afghanistan quick bowlers are few and far between, so it was usually best to get a left-arm medium-pacer in there while lengthening the batting order with a good spinner who could bat rather than a fractionally better spinner who aspired to be Chris Martin.

Despite the image below, we never once picked this guy Najeeb Tarakai. (All the pics on this page were taken from the Cricket Captain 2018 site.)

Anything else to report?

In his final match before retirement, Cricketer of the Realm Mohammad Nabi made an unbeaten hundred in a successful nine-wickets-down fourth innings run-chase against Australia.

This is probably the best thing that has ever happened in any computer game. Love Nabi.


Kedar Jadhav dobs three wickets against Pakistan

Kedar Jadhav’s round-arm shod (via ICC)

One of the great things about cricket is that a match can be unimaginably massive and yet one of the key contributions will come from someone who doesn’t even practise.

Kedar Jadhav doesn’t really bowl in the nets. He’s probably worried that any attempt to hone his craft will wash off the thick crust of filth that is his greatest weapon.

If you haven’t seen Jadhav bowl, try and imagine that your dad’s been drinking heavily and now he’s trying to do a Lasith Malinga impression for the very first time.

He pretty much just dobs it in. We believe it’s supposed to be spin.

According to Hassan Cheema, the last time a spinner took three or more wickets for fewer than 30 runs against Pakistan was in 2013.


Why is cricket so infatuated with the Powerplay?

T20 Blast Final (via Sky Sports)

One of the more mundane revelations from the recently undertaken trials of The Hundred is that they’re going to have a Powerplay.

‘So what?’ you might think. But when all innovations seem to be on the table and the aim is to make the game as simple and straightforward as possible, this strikes us as odd. Is this how much Powerplays have come to be accepted as a fundamental part of limited overs cricket?

What’s a Powerplay?

‘Powerplay’ is an unjustifiably excitable way of saying ‘temporary change in the rules governing field settings’.

In the first 10 overs of a 50-over one-day international, you’re allowed a maximum of two fielders out on the boundary (technically ‘outside the circle’ but let’s not get into that); from overs 11-40 you’re allowed four; and in the last 10 overs you’re allowed five. At least two of these periods are Powerplays and probably all three. (We cannot be bothered looking this up).

In a T20 match, two fielders are allowed on the boundary for the first six overs and five after that. Maybe just the first one’s a Powerplay; maybe they both are – who honestly cares?

What’s the point of a Powerplay?

Fielding restrictions are tweaked in a bid to manipulate the behaviour of the players.

By moving most fielders closer, the idea is that the batsmen will seek boundaries rather than singles at a time when they’d otherwise be more likely to play conservatively. The general feeling is that runs are boring when they involve running, so the rule-makers engineer gaps to tempt batsmen into playing big shots.

It is also hoped that the bowling side will seek wickets rather than looking to ‘keep things tight’.

Do you really need to do this in a 100-ball game?

We honestly don’t know. There is a reason why cricket has Powerplays in all its shorter forms and that’s because when they didn’t exist batsmen played more cautiously.

But attitudes change. Players approach T20 batting with a certain abandon these days and with an innings in The Hundred being 17 per cent shorter, surely they’d approach that with even more of a gung-ho attitude.

Why not just have the same fielding rules throughout the innings so that no-one has to explain Powerplays to anyone? You wouldn’t have to have five fielders out at all times. You could have three or four.

Maybe it wouldn’t work, but if you’re trialling a whole bunch of rule changes for your funky new easy-to-understand competition, why wouldn’t you trial this?


Morkel Burns Pope (and now for some commas)

Morne Morkel unleashing his famed ‘out of the pants’ delivery against Lancashire (via YouTube)

Surrey have won the County Championship. You win 10 of 12 matches and draw the other two and these things happen.

We were checking the averages in the first division of the County Championship earlier today and two things struck us. Firstly, very few people have averaged over 40 and secondly, Surrey have had the three stand-out cricketers this season.

The three are:

  1. Morne Morkel
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Ollie Pope

While the wicket table is somewhat unexpectedly topped by two Lancashire players (Graham Onions and Tom Bailey), Morkel isn’t far behind despite only playing two-thirds as many games. He has so far taken 50 wickets at 13.96 and should quite honestly be playing a different standard of cricket or attempting some other similarly challenging activity, like limbo.

Burns is way off on his own as top run-scorer with 1,241 at an average of 68.94. This is a weight of runs to defy Ed Smith’s funkiest selectorial urges, so you can’t imagine he’ll be playing quite so many matches for Surrey next year.

Ollie Pope is the only batsman who has made a significant number of runs at a higher average. He has made 802 runs at 72.90.

There are currently 16 players averaging more than 40 with the bat in the first division. Only seven of them have played more than eight games. Batting in England is really hard.

 


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