Week ending 9th March – DIY through to Rugby via Cricket

I spent some of this week staining and making the final assembly of the shoe rack – a slow process as i have to wait for the stain to dry and working in the garage is tricky because of the solvent – and it is now nearly finished.  WI v EnglandI have discovered one thing from this process and that is that wood stains also age wood by picking up every crease, indent and scratch, interesting but not quite what I wanted!  I have also decided not to varnish the wood, I’ll wait to see how things go before I decide, but I think the varnish may not look so good.

At the beginning of the week there was a trip to the library to collect a DVD (Riddick) and then return it a couple of days later.  That also gave us a chance to pop into some of the shops to pick up a few items.  However, in between I spent a fair bit of time watching the cricket I recorded from the ODIs (I am still watching!).  Although we eventually won the series the play was somewhat haphazard and I was not really impressed by any of the batting.  For me the England team look unbalanced at the moment and while Root looks reasonably solid, I am not sure about Moeen Ali or Michael Lumb (who I used to watch at Hampshire).  Neither look really solid and able to bat through an ODI, which should be the aim of openers surely.  Some people may think I am being over-critical and both have, in fact, batted well and given England a good start in some of the matches, but also both have also got out at inappropriate times to poor shots.  I think this is where the problem lies for the modern batsmen – shot selection and when to attempt unusual shots – the t20 tournaments have developed the batting skills of modern players along the lines of making shots that seem impossible and overcome the problem of tight bowling, but they are always risky.  The great batsmen can play these shots, but choose the time to do so very carefully and weigh all of the risks.  However, there is always a tendency to see these shots as a way to entertain the crowd or to overcome a barren spell (neither is bad if it comes off) and this can mean a reckless shot leads to dismissal at a bad time.  I would argue that this is the problem that led to criticism and ultimately the dropping of Kevin Petersen (possibly incorrectly), but what is really needed is a better match plan about how and when to use such shots.  This is part of my personal theory that professional cricketers, more than any other sportsmen, need high quality sports psychologists who should be able to input to match plans and discuss the various scenarios that would lead to use of extravagant shot selection.  Okay, it sounds simplistic and, in actuality, free will would still dominate such decisions, but the fact that the great players do this naturally shows the plan works, but how to implement this better is something I cannot comment on – I’ll leave that to the experts (mind you I am not sure the England Management are experts).

Well that is my rant about cricket over with (again) and now it is time for rugby.  We went down The Cricketers for Sunday lunch and rugby, it was a good atmosphere and a good match for England; although, they did manage to keep Wales in the game with constant penalties – something they really need to sort out.

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Monday 24th February–Housework

sky-dish-installation-scotland-quick-fit-aerials-ltd-satellite-tvMonday is always housework day, but I had a bad start to this today when I knocked over a lamp, which broke and had to be thrown out!  I think it has a lot to do with my hands not gripping well when cold – arthritis!  It was a strange day, the first thing was a call from Wickes – they are going to replace the wood that is all split, so they will come on Thursday – then I heard from the Sky Engineer, who is coming tomorrow to re-align the satellite dish (again).  Then the door stop behind the living room door – one I bought about 18 months ago when I built the pyramid-shaped book shelves – came apart, the rubber end stop fell off because it had deteriorated badly, so it will have to be replaced!  Still, I managed to get the rest of the housework done without incident and settled down after lunch to watch the rugby I recorded and South Africa beating Australia in the cricket.  I only saw the last 15 min of the rugby between England and Ireland yesterday, so it was good to see the whole match, which was more exciting than the score suggested.  England played well and it was a hard game – in the first half I was amazed how many yards England made on the tackles.

After dinner, we finished the online shop for tomorrow’s delivery and I watched a little of the Newcastle football match.  Sadly, the recording kept breaking up because of the dish alignment problem, but I managed to see most of the programme – I’ll watch what remains tomorrow before I start on the shoe rack again.

News of the day has got to be the last commercial flight of a DC10 – an amazing aeroplane!  The unfortunate shooting of two women in Farnham looks like it might be a strange story, we will have to wait to see.  I haven’t mentioned much about Ukraine, but I see that an attempt is underway to establish an alternative government – I doubt Russia will be pleased – it will take time before we will know if this will succeed.  Then there is the news that NHS data has been released to insurance companies – well that is a good illustration of why I opted out of the “data.care” scheme!  Finally, the idea that the UK government would hold a Cabinet session in Aberdeen to try to win over the Scottish vote against independence had me smiling, surely no one would be convinced by such a childish prank?

Saturday 8th February–Second round of 6 nations

A change of plan after we got up, it was pouring with rain so we did not fancy a trip to Winchester and Kathy was in a lot of pain again (legs and back), so staying at home again.  A quick trip to the Coop to get some milk first thing and then I’ll watch the rugby.Six_Nations_Championship_svg

The Irish were great, but Wales made too many errors and gave away too many penalties.  The weather may have been a factor, but the Welsh handling errors were very poor and their lineout was naive.  In contrast, the Irish ricking and mauling were exemplary and dominated the game. 
While England just trounced the Scots who really had so little ball they were never in the game.  What really spoiled the game was the pitch, I have never seen Murrayfield so bad, it was almost like the old days!

I guess the news of the day has to be the Environment Minister who resigned because his cleaner did not have the correct work permit paperwork to work in the UK.  There is an irony in that!

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!

The end of another cricket season – many thoughts!

Ageas-Bowl-410Tuesday (24th September) saw the start of the last cricket at The Ageas Bowl this year – it seems to have gone quickly – and that probably means the end of summer and cooler weather!  But, at least we had a good summer when it eventually arrived (despite the snow at some early matches in April) and the t20 was a resounding success in the summer sun.  I haven’t really written much about the cricket this season (a few groans about why the County Championship points system tends to encourage too many draws), so maybe now is a good time to summarise what I have enjoyed about this year’s cricket.

matt-coles-1350855

Matt Coles

Of course, the most enjoyable thing this season has nothing to do with Hampshire, but connects me back to my northern ties – Durham have won the County Championship again, well done lads!
But, what of Hampshire?  Well the last game was a wonderful win in only three days by an innings and 31 runs.  There was little to gain other than some respect, but Essex had an outside chance of reaching second place.  There performance was poor in the light of that factor and I would have batted first if I won the toss, but they chose to field and Hants managed to reach maximum batting points.  In reply Essex collapsed twice and only Napier showed any real grit.  So, Hants boosted themselves to fourth place in the table with this win.   However, nine draws out of 16 games played sums up the problem of County Cricket and I really think it is time for the ECB to make a re-think of the points system.  A few games have involved declarations, which should have enable a positive result (and that is to be applauded even when Hants loose), but it is clear from some games that such an approach is frowned upon in certain circles and that generally there is no real encouragement (from the powers that be) to engineer results in rain affected matches.  But why is this happening, why are games ending up in a draw?  At the Ageas Bowl I think that the wicket, when dry, is very flat and easy to bat on (after all when any sort of spinning wicket is produced the club gets fined as we have seen in the past), but Hants also face a problem in the four day matches of not having a genuine strike bowler who can take wickets through sheer pace (the recent arrival of Matt Coles has illustrated the problem as did well at Leicestershire and in the last match at The Ageas Bowl, where he took 10 wickets in the match, but, he is not what I imagine as a strike bowler, but he is quicker than the other bowlers at Hants) and the flat wickets make this problem worse!  If it is not possible to change the wickets and it is not possible to find a bowler who can take 10-12 wickets per game, then the only solution lies with more declarations and, as I have said before, this requires an incentive, probably through the points system, but also a financial incentive from promotion.

Yet, despite these problems we do very well at limited over cricket, where there is an increased need for the batsmen to take risks and play across the line – this tends to increase the success rate of swing bowlers such at Chris Wood and explains some of the success Hampshire have had.  When combined with the batting capabilities of Carberry (now selected for England), Vince (who has improved dramatically this season), Dawson and Adams the team is an excellent unit for one day cricket and especially t20, but these forms of cricket tend to encourage loose shots and I have seem too many such shots during the four day matches (this was Vince’s problem in my view).  We have seen some amazing cricket this summer and perhaps the most memorable moment was CarberryCarberry scoring his 100 off the last over of a t20 match, almost being run out in a match that saw over 400 runs scored in only 40 overs!  There were some wonderful overs bowled by Mascarenhas, who will be sorely missed, and despite his loss of pace he remains one of the most difficult bowlers to score off in limited over cricket.  Despite failure at the semi-final level in the YB40 game (to Glamorgan) and in the semi-finals of the t20, we played some wonderful limited over cricket and the batting looked deep, but occasionally likely to fail at the top.  However, the question rises should we be happy with limited over success, or should there be more determination to return to the top flight County cricket?  One of the topics of discussion during some of the cricket this year was the incentive for player and club to win County matches – our conclusion was that there is very little financial benefit for the club and even player transfers appear not to benefit the club financially.  There is little likelihood that gates will change for County matches and the only possible change might be the demographic change in age groups that might increase the numbers of retired people who watch cricket ( not a particularly viable solution to the problem).

There are many changes planned for next year and one area of concern is that the t20 cricket will be spread out across the season.  I am surprised by this, and I am not sure I totally believe that spectators wanted this, but the format will be primarily Friday nights through June, July and August (I believe), but problems attracting foreign players for such a tournament may be a problem and may lessen audience size!
The 40 over competition will be replaced by a 50 over tournament, to match international games, but I think these longer games may have a smaller audience as they take most of a day to play.
I also understand County matches may start on a Sunday, which may cause some problems with infrastructure support (public transport) if they run late!

So, I am sure there will be plenty to discuss next year and I foresee some problems attracting larger crowds to the longer tournaments, but at least we have a test match at The Ageas Bowl to look forward to (even though the ground had to be “inspected” to get this generous award, lol!

Hampshire vs Derbyshire – YB40 match

derbyshire-cccHampshire had slipped off the top of the Group B table by the start of this match and needed a win to secure that position again with a game in hand on many of the other teams.  For me derby shire represent something of an unknown in this 40-over competition, they got promoted in the County Championship last year and must have some strength, but would that work in a 40-over situation – Hampshire have shown how different the games are and have done poorly in County Cricket and yet win one day trophies.

This was a 16:40 start and would be a day-night match under the splendid lights at The Ageas Bowl.  The weather was warm at the start and it looked as though it should be a good game.  Derbyshire won the toss and, much to my surprise, asked Hampshire to bat first.  However, Hampshire got off to the worst possible start loosing Vince for nought off the fifth ball of the first over.  This was a shame, Vince was in very good form at the start of the season, and it looked like Vince didn’t think he had hit the ball, which was caught by Turner in the slips.  Despite this early loss Carberry looked in top form once again and was well supported by the Captain Jimmy Adams as they added 41 before Adams was caught on the boundary for 24 off 18 balls.  This partnership added momentum to the Hampshire innings, which was continued by McKenzie.  Sadly, the excellent innings by Carberry ended with the score on 114 when he was caught behind on 53 off 62 deliveries, this loss was worsened when Ervine was run out for only 9 runs, leaving Hants on 133 for 4 and when McKenzie went the score was 137-5, which was worrying and the large crowd was a little restless.  Despite this difficult situation, the Hants batsmen continues with their positive approach and Dawson made a solid contribution (a run a ball 34), but it was the diminutive Wheater who turned the game, ripping into the Derbyshire bowlers, scoring 70 runs off only 41 balls to turn the game Hampshire’s way.  Despite the loss of Wheater’s wicket Mascarenhas added a quick 19 and Hants ended up on 277-8 after the 40 overs.  This left Derbyshire to score at almost seven runs an over.Wheater

Derbyshire did their best and all of the batsmen got some runs, but they were continuingly falling behind the asking rate, which was soon up to 8 and then 9 runs per over.  As each batsmen tried to “open their shoulders” and increase their scoring rate, wickets fell and by the time they were 194-5 it looked an impossible task and the last few wickets fell quickly.  Hampshire eventually won by 46 runs and returned to head the Group B table – an excellent performance showing, once again, that their strength is with the limited over game!  The t20 season starts next week and it will be interesting to see how well Hants defend two limited over titles.

Hampshire vs Gloucestershire – well I declare!

You would almost think that Jimmy Adams (Hants captain) had read my last cricket blog – there were more declarations in this match than ee usually see in a season!  This match started with the loss of the first day to rain and the likelihood of another draw.  So, when I arrived at The Ageas Bowl on day two, in dry but grey weather, I was already wondering if Hants had a game plan that might lead to a win.  For weeks, most of the spectators I have spoken with are all of the option that Hants lack a real quality strike bowler who could be relied upon to take 20 wickets in a match.  It was interesting to note, on arrival, that Hants had signed Sohail Tanvir, the Pakistan medium fast bowler, and he replaced David Griffiths on the team list.  The immediate question was “is this the required strike bowler”?
Hampshire won the toss and asked Gloucestershire to bat, which suggested that Hants believed they could take wickets and force a result.  Tanvir immediately looked a threat as he trapped the Gloucestershire opener, Klinger, LBW for only four runs.  However, the expectation was short lived as a new issue arose – no balls!  Tanvir eventually took two wickets for 95 runs, not a particularly exciting return, but at the cost of 13 no balls (26 extras for no balls alone).  As Gloucestershire batted into the second day these no balls built up and the extras moved to a ridiculous 53, including a total of 32 no balls!  This is effectively giving the opposition a batting point.
The crowd was already restless as the extras built up, but tempers really frayed when another bowling farce, between Dawson and Carberry, was started – time wasting for a declaration we assumed, but not a great spectator sport.  Gloucestershire eventually declared at 410-9 after eight overs of “slow spin”, but no one could really understand why the wasted overs were necessary to ensure the declaration.  What happened next took everyone by surprise – both teams forfeited an innings, Hants effectively throwing away any batting bonus points, leaving Hants to score 411 to win, with a day and a half still left in the match.  This confused us spectators even more as Hants really only had to score at two an over, not loose wickets, and they would stroll to a win – after all batting is supposed to be our strength.
It was mot a good start as the captain was given out caught behind for a duck.  However, Carberry and Dawson made up for their bowling farce by scoring at more than three an over until Dawson was out for 27, with the score at 63.  This induced one of the most dramatic collapses I have ever watched, in no time Hants were 74-5 and wickets continued to fall – 88-6, 136-7, 170-8, 182-9 and all out on a mear 212 off just over 62 overs.
What is difficult to understand is why runs were not accumulated without any risk, keeping wickets in hand and taking the game into the final day.  Hampshire should have strolled to a win over two days!
So, what next?  I am not convinced we have the required strike bowler, our best bowler on the day was Mascarhenis who took four wickets, but is he fit enough to keep doing that in four day matches?  I can see how we win one day matches, but I doubt we can get out of division two without a stronger bowling attack.
As for my ideas about declarations that encourage a result, I stand by one I have suggested, but I also think there needs to be more (early) communication to the spectators, so that they understand what is happening.

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