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Archive for June, 2008

English batsmen should be scared. South Africa’s bowlers look menacing. Morne Morkel is picking up form at the right time, Andre ‘King of Frustration‘ Nel is as angry as ever (he has much to be angry about), and Bat-breaker Ntini could soon be yelping like a demented puppy. Oh, and there’s Dale Steyn, too.

Gulp.

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Simon Jones (remember him? He used to be really good) took 5 wickets for 30 runs in just shy of 13 overs for Worcestershire against Leicestershire today, in the battle of the counties Americans find difficult to pronounce.

This will probably get some people excited, especially as he has so far managed to stay fit for a whole five minutes. Not least amongst the excited people will be Jones himself, as he wants the chance to play for England again.

I think that is likely to be a forlorn hope, although I would welcome any Welsh additions to the England side, being of that persuasion myself.

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With the Twenty20 Cup having reached the Quarter-Final stage, the remaining eight sides are only three matches away from the riches of the inaugural Twenty20 Champions’ League (providing, of course, they don’t field any players from the ICL, and aren’t replaced by teams from Pakistan).

  • Durham, before this year’s tournament began, had won fewer games of Twenty20 than any other county (a mere 8), but Shaun Pollock’s economy rate has been consistently low, and even a certain, currently banned player has turned out for the now-quite-well-named Dynamos, taking 5-14 against Derbyshire. Add to that the fact that runs are being contributed from a variety of sources, and Durham look like genuine contenders.
  • Lancashire have always been quite good at twenty20, so it’s no surprise that the Lemurs have made it to this stage. Lou Vincent and Mal Loye have been scoring plenty of runs, whilst Mahmood and Marshall have been taking wickets. I’d like to think they can win the whole thing (preferably with Freddie bowling some overs and scoring some runs in the final).
  • Middlesex’s record in the Twenty20 Cup was, like Durham’s, pretty poor before the start of this year’s competition, but they’ve been making up for it this year, mainly due to an improvement in their bowling. They have no ICL players, so they could actually compete in the Champions’ League with their current team, which is a plus. Also, they have Dirty Dirk Nannes.
  • Northamptonshire, unlike Middlesex, have loads of ICL players, so will probably not be Lalit Modi‘s favourites. I wouldn’t have picked them to make it this far, to be truthful, but Rob White has made plenty of runs and numerous others have put in good performances at crucial times to put the Steelbacks into the last eight. Given that they’ve surprised me so far, I’m not going to write them off at this stage.
  • Warwickshire haven’t made too many runs – they have only once scored above 160. Despite this, they’ve lost none, had a tie (ooh, a tie) and two matches which ended in no result, which means that their bowlers must be doing something right. Of those bowlers, Salisbury and Botha have been the pick, taking wickets and going for not many runs at all. All in all, the King of Spain‘s men definitely have the pedigree to make the finals day.
  • Yorkshire are strong contenders for the overall win. Adil Rashid has got a lot of people excited, and his 4-24 last night was proof that he can perform on the big occasion. Anthony McGrath, meanwhile, has scored more runs than anyone else in the competition. In addition, there’s always Dazzler to spice things up a bit.

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What a One-Day series.

First there was Pietersen’s ‘switch-hitting’, which got some people a bit overexcited (although common sense prevailed once everyone had calmed down).

Then there was the controversial lunch-break, which is probably the most excited anyone has been about lunch since Boots briefly put the price of their Meal Deal up to £3.29.

Then there was the god-awful batting from New Zealand, and the somehow-even-worse batting from England.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was then the whole run-out / ‘are you sure about that‘ / last-ball finish / 4-ODI ban stuff.

What on earth is going to happen tomorrow to top all of that? Are aliens going to land?

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Here it is (updated link).

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It seems that India and Pakistan play a One-Day International against each other roughly every five minutes. They faced each other twice in the Kitply Cup earlier this month, with India winning the first game comfortably, only for Pakistan to win the final, and now they will face each other at least twice more in the Asia Cup, with their group game taking place today.

So far in the tournament, both sides have hammered Hong Kong, which is a bit like saying both sides have made it through customs -a given, really.

The structure of the Asia Cup basically means that today’s game will be of little consequence in terms of progression in the competition, but there’s always consequence when these two sides go head-to-head.

For Pakistan, Salman Butt will be crucial. He always seems to raise his game when playing against India. For India, Yuvraj Singh seems to have the same boost to his average when playing against Pakistan. All eyes will be on those two today.

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Following Cricket South Africa’s suspension of bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe yesterday, the ECB (in response to government pressure, with the matter even being discussed in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions) has followed suit, which has increased the pressure on the ICC to take strong action when they meet to discuss the issue next week.

Hopefully, the crisis will soon be resolved for the long term good of the country. I know that some people reading this will be sick of me writing about things other than those directly relating to cricket, and I’ll be glad when I can write about Zimbabwean cricket without immediately calling to mind stories like this.

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Today was all about the minnows. The UAE took on Bangladesh, whilst Hong Kong were up against Pakistan.

The results were never really in doubt, but there were at least some creditable performances. Not least of these was from Hong Kong’s young left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed, who took 4-51, and (as has been mentioned elsewhere) those wickets weren’t exactly tail-enders. In the same match, Sohail Tanvir made 59 (not bad for a No. 9) and took a couple of wickets too.

The UAE shipped 300 against Bangladesh, but Zahid Shah only went for 49 of them, and took 3 wickets for his trouble. Mohammad Ashraful made an unbeaten ton for Bangladesh, whilst Khurram Khan led the resistance for the UAE, making 78 from 81 balls.

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Following the recent political developments in Zimbabwe, it has been made painfully clear that the cricketing authorities would have to take some sort of action.

Today, Cricket South Africa (possibly reacting to player unrest and media pressure) severed its bilateral agreements with the Zimbabwean cricketing authorities. This, along with the general tone of recent developments, will, with any luck, force the ICC to do something.

I’m hopeful that cricket will do what it can to bring about the necessary change in Zimbabwe, and I’m relieved that the previous attitude of those in charge has seemingly ben replaced by a more positive approach.

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Anyone who’s been watching the news recently will know all about what’s been happening in Zimbabwe (except, of course, for those who live in Zimbabwe).

The rapidly deteriorating situation in the country will have many effects, but one of the (admittedly less important, given the many other problems) repercussions of recent developments will be that those in the ICC who have previously argued that politics and sport shouldn’t mix may now have to face facts and withdraw support for the Zimbabwean cricketing authorities. Cricket may even have a small part to play in the development of a more stable future for Zimbabwe.

Sporting boycotts and semi-political pressure have a history in the region, of course. Whilst the circumstances of the South African boycott cannot be directly compared to what’s happening at the moment, even the players realise that some things are more important to the so-called ‘Spirit of Cricket‘ than million-dollar matches.

I’m not pretending to be an expert on the situation, but it’s clear to me that anyone involved in cricket should be using whatever authority they have to help, rather than hoping the problem will go away.

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The Asia Cup 2008 gets underway on Tuesday, with the ‘established’ Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and ‘semi-established’ Bangladeshi (no link because the official site ‘may harm your computer‘) teams competing against the ’emerging’ UAE and Hong Kongese sides.

Group A

  • Sri Lanka will be looking to recapture the One-Day form that brought victory over England, but which has been absent more recently. Ajantha Mendis, who I’ve mentioned recently, will be one to watch, and the six over-30’s in the squad will shoulder much of the responsibility as usual.
  • The United Arab Emirates are hoping that a blend of youth and experience will help to produce the kind of performances that suggest they have a good chance of qualification (following good results in the World Cricket League last year) for the 2011 World Cup. Obviously, the UAE will be looking for performances rather than results from this tournament, but they could give Bangladesh a scare if they play out of their skins. Saqib Ali has a first class average of 55, and is likely to be the main source of runs.

Group B

  • India showed both sides of their recent form in the Kitply cup, hammering Pakistan in the group stage, then leaking runs like nobody’s business in the final. Gambhir was impressive throughout the tournament with the bat, and RP Singh, amongst others, continues to show real promise with the ball.
  • Hong Kong, who will be taking part in the World Cricket League Division 4 in October, are almost certain to be unceremoniously crushed by both India and Pakistan. Courtney Kruger could make things slightly more respectable with a few runs, but any difference will be marginal.

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Andrew Flintoff made 56 yesterday (albeit in a losing cause) for the Lancashire Second XI in their game against Durham, nearly breaking a pavilion window in the process. The English talisman is now in line to make a comeback for the main Lancashire side in the Twenty20 Cup game against Yorkshire.

The two sides met earlier this week at Headingley, with Darren Gough hitting the winning runs for the home side with two balls remaining.

Flintoff’s return has already got the Saffers worried, a little prematurely if you ask me. Actually, quite a bit prematurely if you ask me.

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