Week ending 23rd March – It’s not cricket, but wow!

Netherlands cricketThis week really saw the t20 World Cup start to take shape and there were some epic matches already.  The one that takes the cake though has to be Ireland vs. Netherlands (on Friday) where The Netherlands accomplished the almost impossible, created some new records and set the standard for possible scores so high I doubt many will reach this again!  190 runs from 13.5 overs looks impossible (when I played that would be a good score in 40 overs).  The only thing that didn’t happen, but nearly did, was six sixes in an over.  What is the take home message from this?  Well most of the Dutch players are County Cricketers, so that has to be good for the game.  It is also a key illustration of how well you can play with a clear mind, when the pressure is lifted by there not really being a chance.  Love or hate this style of cricket, it is changing the way the game is played and will affect the longer game.  More of these unusual shots will be played in the longer game when quick runs are required to achieve specific outcomes.  I think the take home message is that it is impossible to bowl defensively against such a barrage – I feel sorry for bowlers in t20 cricket.  I doubt any of the major teams will ever match this game for sheer entertainment value.  Mind you the lightening strikes at the England New Zealand game were quite dramatic.

What else for me during this week? Early in the week, while the weather was still warm, I went up on the roof and fitted the new metal aerial bracket to secure the satellite dish against strong winds – it is really solid now.   A trip to the dentist mid-week, which was reassuring in that she said my teeth were in good condition.  The shoe rack is now finished and in place; although, there was a slight problem with part of the house electrics that protrudes and I had to fit the rack around this.  It was really just a problem of having less manoeuvrability when assembling it in situ.  The rack has all of the shoes on it and some space for more, so that has worked out well.

Sunday 2nd March – England one day cricket game 2

The morning was spent finishing the second stage of the shoe rack, it is all ready for the staining (an oak finish) and then clear varnish.  I had to clean up the dust from sanding it, which took a while, so that was the morning gone!

In the afternoon and evening I watched England playing in the one day cricket match from Antigua.  I haven’t seen the end of the game yet, but already I was amazed by one controversial moment – an obvious missed stumping was sent to the third umpire, he took an age to make a decision (I think there should be a time limit), which means there must have been doubt, but instead of finding in the batsman’s favour (as would have happened before TV review) he gave him out.  The doubt was far to great for such a decision and in my view it was clearly a missed stumping.  So, we have another problem with the review system and I think the resolution must be to enshrine the “benefit of the doubt” into the regulations covering TV review.  This could be combined with a sensible time limit that should force such a decision when there is too much doubt.

BravoThe other notable happening was Dwayne Bravo being struck by a short pitch delivery from Stuart Broad.  It looked like a nasty blow via the helmet onto the back of his neck, but it was good to see that Broad went straight up to him to check he was okay and that he was able to continue after a few minutes.  I have to say I worry that the protection afforded by helmets sometimes makes the batsmen take their eyes off the ball and this seemed to be an example, but helmets are a must as they do protect the batsmen.

At least England went on to win despite looking poor in the early stages and it took an eighth wicket stand to ensure the win!

One test down, four to go!

AshesWhat a dramatic and controversial start to the Ashes tour for England!  However, despite my love of test cricket, I cannot help but feel that this is too much cricket against Australia, in too short a time – I certainly have not got the enthusiasm that I would normally expect to have.  I always thought that it would be tougher for England in Australia, but even I was surprised by the level of aggression being used in the media to undermine England’s confidence.  I think this hype is what has led to the “over the top” sledging both on the field and in the press sessions after play.  Whether this has also contributed to the depression affecting Jonathan Trott is another matter and only Trott himself would know.

Stuart-Broad-and-Mitchell-001For England, the first test was a disaster after what seemed like a good start for the England bowlers.  A quick summary would be that England were simply out bowled and this was a result of Mitchell Johnson hitting some form (he is quite variable in his ability to bowl accurately), but I am not sure it is that simple (sport rarely is).  I wonder how well England were prepared for the level of aggression they would face in Australia, it has been known for years that sledging on the field and aggressive reporting are an important part of a successful Australian cricket team (it is also true for other successful sports such as rugby).  But, this is the first time I have seen it used, to such a high degree, by a less than successful team, which may reflect the unusual situation of a back-to-back Ashes series.  Aggression is a key part of sport at any level and I have used it myself to gain advantage, but you have to be ready for it and not let it dominate how you play – I think this might be England’s problem and the batsmen were not ready for the verbal and physical battering they were about to receive.

For me what I found interesting was the way Australia were able to continue to exploit the well described weaknesses of the England batsmen – Cook flashing outside of the off stump, Trott with the short ball etc. – England only managed to get one Australian batsmen out based on a well known weakness; although it was their captain.  What I am suggesting is that England’s batsmen have not been able to overcome their problems associated with a known weakness (e.g Trott always playing through the leg side for any ball on the stumps) and it has been this batting frailty that has caused the downfall.  I also think this knowledge has played on the mind of the batsmen (often seen as a slow sown in runs as the Australian bowlers begin to exploit the weakness) and this has got into their mind set.  Of course, no one may agree with me, but that is my view.

What is next?  Well, no matter how many fines are put in place, the Australians will not stop sledging, barracking or being aggressive so England will face all of that again.  The only way to counter the problems is for the top-level batsmen, with the most experience, to stand up and demonstrate they can bat through the aggression – kevin_pietersen_paPietersen, Cook (who showed some of this metal in the second innings), Bell and Prior (who maybe has the biggest problem.  Carberry was unlucky in the second innings and I hope his luck is better in the next test, but Pietersen has a major role to play as he may find himself having two types of game to play – a defensive role to sop a fall of wickets, or an attacking role to move the game along at a key time.  He has done both and is very capable of doing this again, but he must concentrate and get past the flack that will come his way.  Are there any positives for England – well, tongue in cheek, they are better than Australia at reading DRS decisions!

Okay, that is my rant after just one test, but let’s not get too down.  England have done this often and can recover, just make sure the games are not lost because of a lack of sports psychology in the dressing room, but are won or lost through sheer sporting ability.  Everyone knows the ability of the England batsmen, but it is hard to know their mind set.

Update as of 14/12/2013:

The second test was not the England batting success I hoped for and there seemed to be some real fear of fast bowling in the eyes of the middle order batsmen.  A few bright sparks that might signal a recovery, but my main concern was the ability of Australian bowlers to slow England’s run rate and then take wickets.  This was continued in the first innings of the third test, where England started to show some fighting grit at last, but are still behind after two days play – they need to get the thoughts of failure out of their heads and start to attach back.  Put the Australian bowlers under some pressure, they do not look that solid when forced into long unsuccessful sessions!

18/12/2013:

Well, the Ashes have gone, but we have ben Stokes to thank for some entertainment and for at least attempting what I suggested above – interesting that the Aussies looked less than solid when he was batting.  The sad aspect of the game was the way all of the senior, experienced batsmen once again crumbled, playing poor-choice shots yet again!  That was compounded by some woeful fielding by England – we gifted Australia the Ashes.  I am in total agreement with Sir Ian Botham when he says England have been bullied out of this series – maybe there is a place for a new Sports Psychologist in the England setup (I never thought I would have to suggest that)!

02/01/2014:

The title of this blog should now be four down and whitewash imminent!  The 2nd innings  batting by England in the fourth test was the worst performance I have ever seen by professional cricketers.  I have just read Alec Stewart’s views on this and I agree with his views, but I find it sad that Michael Carberry is struggling to score freely – I have always know his defensive leave was suspect, but he seems to have completely withdrawn his shots.  It will be interesting to see how England approach the final test of the series, but I do not hold out a lot of hope.  Changes to the batting line-up are likely to be more important than to the bowlers, who have done okay.  However, my view remains unchanged – there is a problem with the mind-set of the England batsmen, who have lost the ability to make good shot selection when the bowling gets tight and runs dry up.  The question for me is “who can sort that out and how”?

05/01/2014:

So that is it – 5-0 a white wash!  Introduction of new blood made very little difference to the performance of the senior players, all of whom played terrible shots – the leaves being two of the worst since Gatting vs Warne – and showed no resilience.  There is very little to take from this series and I simply will go back to my opening comments about a ten match series being too much for everyone.  I think it has been for England as it was clear during Australia’s time in England that they were beginning to get the measure of England and it is clear to me that they gained an upper hand in Australia through psychological pressure (both in the media and on the field) and by changing tactics to attach the recognised weaknesses of the England top batsmen.  In contrast, England’s tactics did not vary much and they stubbornly stuck to what they have been successful with before – but that was never going to win in Australia.  Bowler’s lengths, fielding close to the bat and the positioning of fielders all need to improve in pressure situations!

The next real test of England comes from India in the summer!

England vs New Zealand at The Ageas Bowl

New-Zealand-CricketLast Sunday (2nd June) saw the first international one day match of the season at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton.  I went along with two friends, but sadly we were unable to sit together (Members can only buy one other ticket with their purchase, which means that if you buy a package, as I did, it is not possible to be with friends.  I think this is a short sighted policy, especially as the Members Area was not full!), but we managed to spend some time together at the interval, when we also met another friend who was at the match by chance.  The weather was fine, warm in the morning, but cloudy in the afternoon and cool in the shade.

The ground was not full, but there was a good crowd and they enjoyed some amazing cricket, sadly not too much of it belonged to England, who looked second class in all departments!  Once again food and drink amenities at the ground were good, but I noticed the Pedigree price had risen from £4.00 to £4.50 a pint – a 20% rise that suggests inflation may be out of control!  I thought that there was not too much to do if you had children and I think this remains a problem at cricket matches.

New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat, which looked a good decision on a flat wicket in warm weather.  Initially, England’s bowling looked good and Anderson took an early wicket to leave New Zealand at 12-1, but a key moment in the game occurred when Jonathan Trott dropped Guptill off Woakes for only 13 runs (he went on to make a record unbeaten 189 from 155 deliveries).  This straight-forward catch at mid-wicket would change the match and Woakes never looked too confident as he continued to bowl several wide deliveries that were punished.  in contrast, Guptill’s innings was the delight of the day and was one of the best I have ever seen.  But the real damage for England happened during the final dozen overs when more than 140 runs were scored and a third hundred partnership of the New Zealand innings, between McCullum and Guptill, was put together off only 45 deliveries.  After that England were never really in the game and lost wickets too regularly to have any chance to establish themselves.  Trott made a quality 109 off 105 deliveries, but had no long term support to help get close to the target of 360, which always looked impossible.  England were eventually all out for 273, but Anderson provided some entertainment for the penultimate wicket with a splendid 28 off 19 deliveries, much to the pleasure of the crowd.

So, a good day out, some amazing cricket, but sadly a loss for England – next will be Hants vs Kent in the County Championship Division 2.

England’s winter tour – final thoughts.

Cricket_India_Crest_svgWell, that is the end of watching cricket exclusively on Sky (for a while at least) as England finish their winter tour to india and New Zealand, and what a finish!  There are several points that can be drawn from both series, but I guess the real take home message is that New Zealand will be interesting opponents this summer!

But first points from the Indian tour:

  1. Beating the Indians, on their home territory, was a major achievement, made even more significant by the recent 4-0 whitewash for Australia.
  2. There is no doubt that a combination of Panesar and Swann, on a spinning wicket, is a formidable pairing – maybe we should think about spinning wickets in the UK (and NOT fine grounds for producing such wickets that produce interesting matches).
  3. DRS should be forced on the Indian board and players as it not only solves problems during matches, but also improves umpiring and resolves mistakes made by umpires.
  4. ODI cricket still needs some tinkering to solve the problem of the boring middle overs.
  5. The powerplay system in ODI cricket is not working and needs to change.
  6. The mind-set of players touring the subcontinent is critical for a winning performance and senior players must play at their best.New-Zealand-Cricket

Which, neatly brings me to points from the tour of New Zealand (bearing in mind that England were expected to trounce New Zealand):

  1. The loss of senior players can wreak havoc on the batting line up.
  2. Players need to get match practice even when they are touring, so that we do not have to introduce players into a tense situation, who have not played for several weeks.
  3. Small boundaries make for exciting games in limited over cricket (fairly obvious, but shouldn’t be forgotten).
  4. Spin remains important in t20 cricket.
  5. DRS is a must for correcting poor umpiring decisions.
  6. Concentration, when batting, is the most important aspect of playing the game and there should not be criticism of Trott just because his method of doing this is so well-defined (remember how reliable he has been and look at his average and strike rate together).
  7. The middle order needs strength and experience to avoid sudden collapses.

But, what a final day that was in the Final Test, I have seen everything in cricket, but not all in one day – it all happened, but the magic moment was Prior being hit on the head, the ball then hitting the stumps, but the bails not being dislodged!  It can only happen in cricket.

Now I await the first game at The Rose Bowl (10th April) against Leicestershire.  I will not be surprised to see snow and cricket together!

Who are you?

 

Gautum Ghambir

Gautam Ghambir

Maybe I am just being a bit pedantic, but I am confused about names on the backs of cricketers – I don’t see the point of using one name on the scoresheets, or on the TV and a completely different name on the shirt.  I know there can be confusion between first names and surnames, but surely the name on the shirt should match that used by media and on documentation about the cricket!

I have noticed an ever-increasing number of mis-matches between the names used in coverage of cricket and the names displayed on the player’s shirt – time for intervention I think, it must be confusing for people new to the game!

India vs. West indies – third test, Mumbai

This blog should be subtitled – not quite a tied draw – and it was clear to me that the most likely outcome for this match was always the draw, but what was not obvious, or at all certain, was how close the resulting draw would be.  This is only the second test match that has been a draw with the scores level, but is not quite a tie because India had one wicket remaining.

Initially, the interest in the match had centred on whether Tendulkar would get is 100th international 100, but that was not to be with his innings of 94 in the first innings was temptingly close, but he fell cheap in the second innings, so we all have to wait!  Watching the final innings was an amazing experience as the possibilities of either side winning, or the more likely draw became the most likely outcome.  Indian wickets fell occasionally and there were missed chances for run-outs and catches that kept everyone on the edge of the seat.

However, the game finished, on the final ball with the run out of Ashwin, by the substitute fielder – it had to be, leaving the scores level.  Great stuff, but I do have to wonder why Ashwin didn’t run harder for the second run, pushing the fielders into a possible error!  I am sure I am not alone thinking of the spot-betting situation and the possibility of cheating that the game has become tarnished with.  I think players should always try as hard as possible to obtain a result and never seem to give up – such actions will inevitably lead to suspicions in the current climate of opinion and maybe Ashwin should ponder this thought.

Still a great game to watch.