Monthly Archives: July 2008

England all out 231

Bit like a collective IQ score for this shambles. What were those run-outs about. Is this worth paying £83 to watch at the Oval next week? I think we all know the answer


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Moving ball has England all at sea

Well, there’s nothing like the collective tomfoolery of what passes for an England top and middle order these days to crowbar a reluctant blogger back to his computer. Should Paul Collingwood go back to county cricket to try to regain some form? Certainly. But should not Andrew Strauss. Should not Michael Vaughan, should not Alastair Cook, whose technical deficiencies are obvious, especially on the front foot. And yet he’s got three fifties in four innings.

OK, we may have got the wrong end of the genie bottle with a couple of decisions today, but there are two things alarming me. The widespread inability to concentrate – that is, really concentrate, the kind of knuckle-down-to-it commitment that Graham Thorpe used to bring to his role – but also the widespread inability to play the moving ball.

This is what a Test batsman is meant to do. If you can’t play the moving ball at this level, then you do not deserve to be playing at this level. There are plenty of players who can look superb, showy even, when stuck on a belter with not a cloud in the sky to create some turbulence in the atmosphere – think Graeme Hick for a start.

But start to wobble the ball off the straight and narrow, even minimally, and the England order look like men who’ve been given a decorator’s paintbrush to fill in a small crossword.

Jacques Kallis has bowled excellently today, swinging it both ways, not trying to bowl too fast, but on a basically slow pitch, top international players should have the skills to adjust more often than not.


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Quiz question of the day (in the absence of anything else)

Been a bit busy of late, so not much time to blog, but just got a moment to slip in and offer up a new quiz question of the day: What links the Test match grounds of Carisbrook, Dunedin, and Old Trafford, Manchester?


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Suck it and see…

Twelfth Man is on the ball. William Schrafft was the man who first marketed jelly beans to Union soldiers in the American Civil War.

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Quiz question of the day (a hard one with a soft centre)

What connects William Schrafft of Boston and the 2007 Test series between England and India? The most detailed answer (within reason) wins!


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For f***’s sake match referee, are you blind?

What, exactly, does a match referee do? I ask because there seems to have been no suggestion that the acts of AB de Villiers – and, perhaps, Michael Vaughan – should be put before him for consideration.

I refer of course to the thorny issue of the cleanliness of catches.

De Villiers hardly needs a hearing – he should simply be banned for at least one Test for the most poorly concealed attempt to mislead an umpire in cricket this century. The case of Vaughan is less clear-cut. I hope I say this without bias, but I think he might genuinely have believed he picked up the chance from Hashim Amla.

If, though, he really tried to claim a catch he knew was dubious after apparently giving De Villiers an earful at lunch for his misbehaviour, our esteemed leader really must be lacking something up top – and I’m not referring to his rapidly receding hairline.

But, for reasons of fairness, if South Africa think his crime warrants the same action as that of De Villiers, I think it is only right and proper that he should have the chance to defend himself.

It seems odd that Paul Collingwood should be banned from four one-day internationals for failing to keep up with the required run-rate, yet acts far more potentially damaging to the game in the long run, do not, seemingly, warrant further investigation.

Surely deeds that could – I emphasise could – constitute cheating should come under the referee’s scrutiny? How much longer are they prepared to turn a blind eye? Over to you, Jeff Crowe.

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Smug England get their due reward

I don’t hold out much hope of England doing a South Africa and lasting more than two days for the loss of only a handful of wickets, but no doubt I’ll be there in front of the box again today hoping against hope that I’m being unduly pessimistic – and then looking for a small, furry mammal to abuse when I realise I’m not. (I won’t really, I love animals. Especially in a ciabatta).

The fact of the matter, however, is that even if England do pull off a miraculous act of escapology, it has to be admitted that in this Test match we have been totally outplayed (that’s OK, it can and does happen) and outthought (that’s not OK, and it shouldn’t happen).

The lack of intelligence displayed by England teams in many sports – not just cricket – continues to amaze me. And infuriate me.

No doubt those of more advanced years among us will put it down to the decaying system of education – for God’s sake we can’t even find people that can mark exams in a given timeframe, let alone answer them – the frowning upon of the competitive spark, a deficiency of discipline. And actually, they’d probably be right.

It’s all of these things and more.

What did England’s first innings tell you about the attitude in the dressing-room? To me, it yelled complacency. We didn’t learn the lesson of the second innings at Lord’s – that South Africa have got backbone, and absorb and digest their experiences and try to do better.

So not only did our batsmen, put in in conditions that suited the bowlers, throw away their wickets with gay abandon, we were so self-satisfied, so smugly dismissive of our opponents, that we thought we could drop a man from the middle order – admittedly one who was struggling for form – and put a wicketkeeper who can barely play a shot in front of the wicket, and is also struggling for form, in at No 6.

What was it Freddie Flintoff said in his masterful exhibition of understatement when he was interviewed by Nasser Hussain after the first day? “Yes, we’d have liked a few more runs, but…” A few more runs? Try another 150 just for starters.

Then we compounded the error – at who knows what cost to team morale, or certainly of the morale of those on the fringes of the side – of bringing in an untried and untested bowler simply because he’d got a few games under his belt for an Australian state side.

This is no particular criticism of Darren Pattinson – I mean, if someone offers you a Test cap out of the blue you’re hardly likely to turn it down, are you? – and his bowling is nowhere near the worst we’ve seen represent the three lions over the years, but it sent out all the wrong messages.

Now, come Tuesday, probably, and the realisation that we are 1-0 down in the series, what will our enlightened selectors do next? Pattinson might even merit a second chance but, should Sidebottom be fit, he won’t get it; he probably won’t even play for England again. 

It is muddled selectorial thinking on a par with that in the 1988 series against the West Indies, when we went through a whole batting order of different captains and Peter May picked his godson Chris Cowdrey out of his conjuror’s hat and found he really was a rabbit after all.

Geoff Miller has only been in the job of chief selector for a matter of months, but already he has managed to fritter away a large margin of supporters’ goodwill. And I thought that would be difficult after the example of David Graveney.

It would be interesting to learn to what extent he was the prime mover in these decisions and how much – if any – opposition he brooked.

Firm leadership may be important, but not if it starts to show signs of a mad dictatorship.


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Dear Mr Miller – are you having a laugh?

Question to the England selectors. What would have been wrong with this team?

1 Strauss

2 Cook

3 Vaughan

4 Pietersen

5 Bell

6 Collingwood

7 Flintoff

8 Ambrose

9 Broad

10 Panesar

11 Anderson


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There’s cheating and then there’s…..AB de Villiers

Well, that was some morning of Test cricket, wasn’t it: an awful umpiring decision – not to mention the no-balls that were missed by Mr Bowden – a great ball to dismiss Vaughanie and a controversial catch that wasn’t.

I must admit when Strauss edged Morkel, my immediate reaction was that the ball did not have enough pace on it to carry, but suddenly Sky switched to a wider angle and there was AB de Villiers holding the ball aloft with all his team-mates running round to congratulate him.

The slow motion replay showed that it was one of the least convincing attempts to hoodwink an umpire (even if Billy doesn’t need much hoodwinking) I’ve ever seen. However, it would be too simple to call De Villiers a cheat.

For AB, I have been there too, if at a much lower level and without the cameras to reveal my dishonesty.

I was fielding at extra cover in club cricket one afternoon when an opposing batsman carved the ball towards me. I dived forward, the ball rolled up my arms and after it touched the ground under my chest, somehow ended up balanced on the top of my wrists and forearms. I wasn’t going to claim it, but as I looked up, a number of my team-mates came running towards me, delight on their faces and all keen to congratulate me on pouching a good ‘un.

I knew it wasn’t out, but I didn’t want to let them down, so I simply carried on as if I had caught it. The batsman, who had had a better view, wasn’t so convinced and, after he was confirmed out by the umpire, walked off ranting and raving and then proceeded to verbally abuse me from the boundary edge for the rest of the innings.

Which, in retrospect, I think he was well within his rights to do.

So, if we’re being kind, let’s say that this was what happened to De Villiers at third slip; Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith started celebrating and Morne Morkel, naturally, was convinced. It would have been hard for him to admit that it had gone into his right hand, rebounded out on to the ground into his left and that he had then seemingly pressed it back into the ground as he got up to claim it.

Otherwise, he must have known that the replays would condemn him.

Although, maybe he just didn’t care. And if so, perhaps the match referee should have something to say about this.

And even if he doesn’t, I think there should be a rule that consigns AB to field on the boundary in front of the Western Terrace for the rest of the innings. After that sort of experience, he’ll make sure the ball is well and truly wedged in his hands before making a friendly request of the umpire.


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Miller’s future should be riding on bizarre selection

Bizarre! That’s the only thing you can say about Darren Pattinson’s selection for the second Test this morning. His inclusion in the initial 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy lifted my eyebrows heaven-ward a few weeks ago, but this has to be the biggest kick in the teeth for some hardworking fast medium bowlers in the English first-class game.

Pattinson, it appears, is not actually Australian – he was born in Grimsby – but until this year he had played all his first-class cricket Down Under, plucked seemingly from obscurity by Victoria in 2006 when they were hit by a spate of injuries, and then earned a contract for 2007.

Now, after some impressive performances for Nottinghamshire, he finds himself brought in ahead of such luminaries as Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison, both of whom have not been bowling badly for their counties, and honest triers such as Steve Kirby and Graham Onions, who appeared to be in Geoff Miller’s thoughts at the beginning of the season when they were called up for the MCC match against the champion county. Not to mention Chris Tremlett.

Maybe Miller has seen something not many others of us have  – I have to admit I have not seen Pattinson play – and he thought it important to lay claim to him in case the Aussies were having thoughts about including him for next year’s Ashes, but the length of  his tenure as the chief selector may ride on this hunch.

I know that these days nationality is a changeable commodity, but I’d be interested to hear what accent was prominent when he was being introduced to his team-mates in the England dressing-room this morning: one more regularly heard in Cleethorpes or Melbourne.

Of course, if he picks up six wickets I shall be lauding Mr Miller and congratulating him heartily on unearthing a diamond from the other side of the world.

But, leaving aside national loyalties, something about this just doesn’t taste right.


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