Archive for February, 2008

The 29th of February is traditionally a day when ‘unusual‘ things happen, like women proposing to men.

How fitting then, that Andrew Strauss has scored more than fifty runs, and Steve Harmison has taken five wickets on this particular day.

Just to ensure the world that everything will soon be back to normal, Kevin Pietersen made 53.

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With the Test series against New Zealand only days away, there are still a number of key questions which England hope will be answered over the next few weeks. Chiefly, there are the following three:

  1. Should Strauss play? After a series of poor performances, Andrew Strauss was dropped last year. Despite not making many runs since, he now appears to be poised for a Test recall. It’s understandable that he continues to be in the selectors’ minds (not least because he has a Central Contract), but how many poor innings can he have before someone else is given a chance?
  2. Is it time to try another spinner? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Monty. I’ve queued in my lunch hour to watch him sign books, for goodness sake. But he’s been playing Test cricket for long enough now to be judged by the same standards as anyone else. That means that if there’s a Young Buck out there whose batting average is higher than his bowling average at the time of writing, he might get a chance in Monty’s stead.
  3. Who is the best wicket-keeper? Now that Matt Prior has gone the way of Geraint Jones, Tim Ambrose will get to sip from the poisoned chalice. Those who keep wicket well are criticised for not scoring enough runs, and those who average more than 40 in Test cricket face scrutiny of every mistake they make with the gloves.

Whilst there may not be immediate answers available to any of these questions, it must be hoped that they are a lot easier to answer by the time the teams reconvene for another series in May.

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Matthew Hayden has gone and done something very silly, (and not very Christian) which has obviously made things worse between Australia and India ahead of their three One-Day ‘Finals’ in the Commonwealth Bank series.

This will do nothing to improve Hayden’s reputation amongst the international cricket-loving fraternity, and may indeed worsen it (if that’s even possible).

The whole thing is probably going to rumble on for some time to come.

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According to the Guardian, Setanta Sports have”snaffled” the UK television rights for the IPL.

Sky, apparently, weren’t that bothered, as they have quite a lot of cricket on at that time of year anyway.

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Dileep Premachandran’s piece today on Bangladeshi cricket raised an interesting question about the number of Tests that teams such as Bangladesh should play.

The option of just having them play Zimbabwe every five minutes, which might have had some merit in different circumstances, is obviously unavailable given the current situation. Does this mean, I wonder, that there is a case for a two-tier Test championship?

In effect, a two-tier (or at least lop-sided) championship already exists. Certain teams (such as England and Australia) play each other a lot more often than others, whilst some teams (Bangladesh) average little more than one Test a year.

What if there was, say, a three year cycle which split the top five in the ICC rankings from the rest, with each team in playing each of the others in their group? Given that this would mean quite a few less Tests than there are currently, it might also be possible to fit in an extra series or two for “commercial reasons”. This would mean that there would still be scope for the likes of Bangladesh to take on the big boys, whilst providing them with the prospect of winning the odd Test against other sides at the ‘wrong’ end of the Test rankings.

Maybe I’m talking rubbish, but this seems no worse an idea than the current set-up.

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Trinidad and Tobago have beaten Jamaica by 9 wickets (with more than half an innings to spare) to claim the $1 million prize.

Despite the fact that it was the final I wanted to see, the match was a bit of a walkover for T&T, with Dave Mohammed (the youngest of TEN children) and Rayad Emrit taking seven wickets for a mere 38 runs between them.

In fact, the cricket has been a bit disappointing throughout in terms of scoring. But there have been one or two interesting cricketers unearthed, especially Sulieman Benn, the first 6’7” spinner I’ve ever seen.

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This week’s videos are on the subject of that Holy Grail for Bowlers – the hat-trick.

Irfan Pathan’s in the first three balls of a Test match against Pakistan is a classic of the genre, as is one of my personal favourites, Dominic Cork’s ‘Champagne’ hat-trick against a formidable West Indies side.

Spinners’ hat-tricks tend to be a bit heavier on the psychological warfare, and Warne and Harbhajan have both ripped through batting orders using this tactic.

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The Stanford 20/20 (which will perhaps become a mere historical footnote to its successor, the IPL) is now down to four teams.

Barbados take on Trinidad and Tobago tonight, and Guyana face Jamaica tomorrow, to decide who will make it through to Sunday’s final.

Personally, I’d like to see a Barbados and Guyana eliminated, to clear the way for a Chris Gayle (Jamaica) vs Dwayne Bravo (T&T) final. But whatever happens, I’d really like to see the tournament used as a springboard for West Indian cricket. And I’d love to see Cuba allowed to take part next year.

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The ICC today announced that it wants to get rid of sledging.

Hopefully, that means this sort of sledging, rather than this sort, which I find quite amusing.

In honour of the dark art of sledging, here are my three Favourite Ashes Sledges:

  1. “There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England”…”Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my family” – James Ormond replies to Mark Waugh, 2001
  2. “Mate, if you just turn the bat over you’ll find the instructions on the back” – Merv Hughes to Robin Smith, 1989
  3. “Hell, Gatt, move out of the way. I can’t see the stumps” – Dennis Lillee to Mike Gatting, 1994

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The IPL auction extravangana is now done. M S Dhoni went for the biggest amount ($1.5m), the Jaipur team may be penalised for not spending enough, and no-one wanted Mohammad Yousuf or Ashwell Prince.

If all this has left your head spinning, try here.

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Crikey, a tie. You don’t get those every day. Paul Collingwood hit the fastest ODI fifty by an Englishman, and the last over was bowled by Luke Wright. It all keeps England’s chances of drawing the series alive, and I wasn’t expecting to be able to write that a week ago.

UPDATE: there’s highlights of England’s innings here, here, and here.

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Their one-day side may just have beaten Sri Lanka in a thriller, but Indian cricket fans (and their counterparts across most of the world) have one thing on their minds this week – the Indian Premier League, which holds its player auction (yes, auction) tomorrow.

I can’t make my mind up about the IPL. Is it The Future Of Cricket (certainly a tempting prospect in many ways), or The Great Cricket Sell-Out?

Ultimately, I can’t help but agree with Andrew Miller that it may lead to a devaluation of International cricket. However, if it brings about a reduction in the number of One-Day Internationals, that would probably be a positive development. To take the current Commonwealth Bank series as an example, there are 15 games being played between three sides – far too much One Day cricket.

In reality, money talks, and it may not be too long before the IPL becomes the Champions League of cricket, overshadowing all but the most prestigious International fixtures. Given that no English players are competing (and won’t take part next year), could the ECB’s commitment to the International game (and reluctance to grab the money and run) become less of a virtue and more of a restriction?

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