Having lost our first two games of the season, the boys were hungry for a win this week. The opposition won the toss and sent us in. Well, that destroys my theory of club cricketers always wanting to bat first. My teammates were all surprised by the decision too, maybe the theory just applies to our team. Our openers got us off to a great start, putting on 123 runs in 18 overs. With two wickets to fall before I had to bat, an off spinner came on. First ball had heaps of flight, almost as much as mine. Hmm, wouldn't mind facing this guy (I've often wished I could face myself). In his second over, he got our #3 out caught at cover. The next batsman had one sighter, then charged him and was stumped for his troubles. So before I knew it, I was walking out to face the off spinner. Be careful what you wish for.
Craig, the non-striker, offered a quick assessment: "This guy just bowls donkey drops like you". Uh, thanks Craig. His first ball was a long hop wide outside off-stump. I don't bowl those, do I?! I threw everything at it and smashed it forward of point for four. Next ball was straight on a good length, I defended watchfully. Third ball outside off, slightly short, I cut, bottom edged it, dropped by the keeper. Phew, dodged a bullet there. Donkey dropper nearly had 3 wickets in an over. We're a much maligned form of bowler but we do get results.
There's a quick guy coming in from the other end. I'm on strike for several dot balls, can't get him away. Not a big fan of the pace bowling, much prefer the spinners. Then a new bowler came on to replace him. I'm on strike, no idea what he bowls. Keeper stands up at the wicket. Good sign, I'm thinking and hoping spinner. I scrutinise his hand motions as he bowls a few practice deliveries to a fielder. Looks like another offie. I'll take that! First ball, straight full toss, I sweep it behind square for two. Next ball, full toss on the pads, I hoick this one, top edge it and it sails over fine leg's head for a lucky boundary. Spinners from both ends, I'm liking this.
Penultimate over from the donkey dropper. Craig at the other end is in devastating form, hitting a steady stream of sixes and fours. My goal is to get him on strike as quickly as possible. Any good balls, I paddle over mid-wicket's head for a single. Last ball of the over, he bowls one down the leg side. Knowing there was noone behind square, I knew this was a gift and one thought went through my head - "don't miss it, don't waste it". I connect and the ball shoots off to the fine-leg boundary.
Last over, their opening bowler comes back on. I'm on 22 and start thinking about what a red inker will do for my batting average (when you've only been dismissed twice that season, it would nearly double it). But hey, those kinds of thoughts violate Aloof Theory! So I decide I won't try to preserve my wicket. If I get on strike, I'll throw everything at it. Craig is on strike. First ball, cover drive for two. Second ball, smashes for four. Next ball hits him on the pads. I scream for a quick single, he sends me back. In hindsight, a wise move. Next ball, smashed over mid-wicket for six. I never could've done that. Another cover drive for two. Then the last ball of the innings, full on the stumps, smashed over long off for six. Okay, wise to keep him on strike. And I get my red inker after all!
We end up reaching 237 off 31 overs (shortened game due to slow over rate). We figure surely this is defendable. But their openers come out and strike boundaries at disturbingly regular intervals. The older guy is seeing it like a beach ball and the outfield is quick. I wonder how I'll go if I have to bowl to him. Then luck strikes, he chances his arm one time too many and his stumps are sent flying. The young middle order panic, a few quick wickets fall including a ludicrous run-out.
The captain lets me know I'm bowling next. We're deep into the middle-order with two new, young batsmen at the crease. The required run-rate now in double figures. I figure I'm either going to go for heaps of runs or bag some wickets. Hopefully the latter.
First ball, shocker, down the leg side. Keeper fumbles, one bye. Next ball, as I run in, the batsman moves two feet towards point, trying to slog me through the legside. Squirts it to mid-wicket, runs a near suicidal single, just makes his crease as I knock off the bails. Next ball, the batsman charges, smashes the ball cleanly, hard and low, directly into the hands of long-on. The fielder does well to hold onto it. 1 for 1 and my first wicket of the season!
Two balls later, I'm bowling to twinkly toes, two feet guy. I decide to try an arm ball, hopefully catch him out if he tries some more creative footwork. However, I completely forget to bowl with the same arm speed and it comes out as a fast, knee high full toss. The batsman slogs, top edges it high into the air towards long on. As the ball swirls down, I think "it's getting big on him, he's gonna put it down". He takes the catch, grasping the ball over his shoulders. 2 for 2!
Next delivery is the last ball of the over. I bowl a stockball legspinner, pitching on leg stump. The batsman lofts me over mid-wicket. Hang on, Craig's out at deep mid-wicket. He runs in, faster than I'd seen him move all day, and takes the catch. Three wickets in my first over. Figures of 3 for 2! On a hattrick!
One of our opening bowlers comes on at the other end. There's only one wicket left in the innings so I call out, "no wickets this over, Smithy". He laughs and calls back, "if it comes your way, you better not drop it". The batsmen safely negotiate the over and I'm coming on for a hattrick ball. I decide to go with flight, as much flight as I can muster. And it really is, I throw it up at an angle of around 45 degrees, ridiculously high. The ball lands straight on a good length, perfectly pitched to tempt him into charging. He just stands there, lets it spin and bounce past him at shoulder height. Oh well, no dream hattrick for me.
Next ball, slightly short, he punches it through the covers for four. Ouch. Next ball, he smashes it straight into the hands of mid-wicket who drops it. Next ball is on the stumps, the batsman paddles it over mid-wicket's head, this one dribbles out to the boundary. The over isn't proceeding well at all, ends up going for 10 runs.
Batsman survive the other end so I come on for a third over. In the nets, I've been experimenting with bowling the odd ball wide of the crease, angling it across the batsman then spinning it across them. The change in trajectory often had the batsman playing and missing. So I try this first ball of the over. It comes out perfectly, lands on leg stump, the batsman swings, misses and the ball sails over the off-stump. Damn bouncy synthetic grass. On a turf pitch, that would have been a perfect Gatting ball. Still, I'm learning that spin bowling isn't about big ripping Gatting balls. It's about using variations in pace, trajectory and spin to prevent the batsman getting settled. That's the theory, anyway. Not so easy to put into practice.
Second ball, batsman charges, lofts it high to long on. Like his last catch, it gets big on him - this time too big and he drops the catch. I bowl one at the pads, he sweeps for four. As we wait for the ball to return from the boundary, the umpire comments that was the best shot of the day. Oh well, better to get hit for four from a quality shot than from bowling a pie. No, I lie, they hurt equally as much.
Next ball even further down the leg side, another sweep for four. Things are going pear shaped after that glorious first over. Final figures 3 for 22. Three wickets and two dropped catches in 3 overs. The captain comes on at the other end and takes the final wicket. Victory by 72 runs.
Ironically, my bowling was of better quality last week. It seems like legspin, more than any other form of bowling, is at the mercy of chance - will those lofted shots find fielders (and at my level of club cricket, will the fielders hold onto the catches). Plus it really makes a difference bowling to the lower order. As I've said before, I'm Warnie to crap batsmen, Bryce McGain to good ones.
So our first win of the season. Not just a win, we smashed them. I know Aloof Theory is all about process, not results, but it's good to finally get on the board with a win and some wickets.
|Posted by JC on Tue 26 May||53 comments|
Thought I'd welcome your boys to these shores with a quick update from Pomland, afterall, all that lies between now and the series we've all been waiting for is a bit of T20 thrash-around.
The West Indies series was largely pointless. In the Caribbean they weren't interested in winning, over here they weren't even up for playing. Still, there are a couple of things we can take from it.
Firstly, getting back to winning ways was essential - anything other than a 2-0 win was unacceptable. To achieve it without Pietersen firing was pleasing. But, however well Bopara, Swann and co played, I'm not reading too much into individual displays. A few other things stood out though.
We now have a strike bowling partnership worthy of the name. Anderson and Broad have improved beyond recognition, individually and in tandem. I can't wait to see them tested at the higest level. I really think they'll surprise a few people. And whilst it's possible they may fall short, at least we can be sure they'll take the fight to the opposition - none of this Saj Mahmood "at times I didn't know what I was doing out there" rubbish.
Having seemed somewhat directionless under the previous regime, it was good to see some carefully set plans in the field resulting in wickets - a throwback to the summer of 2005. On several occasions an unusual field position was vindicated by a wicket, the slip corden rising as one to acclaim what had clearly been a set trap. This is a welcome echo of four years ago, and one which will need to be replicated this year for the likes of Hughes.
A genuine spirit was also in evidence. This has not always been the case of late, so to see personal milestones such as centuries, five-fors and first Test wickets celebrated with such genuine joy for each other was heartening. Clearly, we have no hope of regaining the Ashes without total togetherness.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that England will be competitive. The utter humiliation of 06-07 and the raw energy and aggression of the newcomers will ensure that.
Andy Flower deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround - not merely for the West Indies win - that wasn't hard - but for dragging us into a position where we look capable of at least challenging for the urn. Five months ago that looked doubtful.
In terms of the Australia squad, no real surprises. Wierdly (considering we've struggled to take 20 wickets of late) the Aussie bowling worries me more than the batting.
I'm sure Mitchell Johnson will cause us a lot of problems. So too, from what I have seen will Siddle, who appears to be just the sort of guy that could get under our skins - good pace and impressive stamina. Add the contrasting strengths of Lee and Clark and our batsmen will have plenty to think about.
Don't know enough about Hauritz, but hope he gets a go. Justin Langer thinks he's every bit as good as Greame Swann. Big call - Swanny will be relishing a couple of turning wickets and a frekishly high percentage of lefties to knock over. A much cannier bowler than Panesar, he shouldn't be taken lightly.
The Australian batting is strong, but it's only Ponting that I'll lose sleep over. (Happily it will be you guys losing the most sleep this time, though more through time difference than fear I suspect.) Hughes has obviously enjoyed himself over here and it will be interesting to see how we tackle him, and much depends on which Mike Hussey turns up.
Ultimately, I have no idea what will happen, but I really think it will be close. It promises to be thrilling, and here's to hoping for more 05 style tension than 06-07 one-sidedness. If one side wins both the Anderson-Johnson and Pietersen-Ponting battles convincingly, then they'll have one hell of an advantage.
Can't bloody wait...
|Posted by Rich on Sun 24 May||61 comments|
We're less than 50 days away from the Ashes and Australia have named their touring squad. Here is my pick of the top XI batting order plus the second fiddles:
- Phillip Hughes
- Simon Katich
- Ricky Ponting
- Michael Clarke
- Michael Hussey (demoted one spot due to lack of form)
- Marcus North
- Brad Haddin
- Mitchell Johnson
- Brett Lee
- Peter Siddle
- Stuart Clark
And the other guys left to carry the kit bags
Everyone seems shocked and disappointed that Andrew Symonds wasn't picked. I couldn't be happier. I've never been convinced that Symonds can bat or bowl at Test level. On the other hand, I'm not too thrilled that Andrew McDonald is selected. McDonald has shown no aptitude for batting at Test level. At best, his bowling is useful for plugging up one end. The selectors are still in their bits 'n' pieces way of thinking, choosing players who are average at batting and bowling but excel at neither. It's been official policy since Flintoff destroyed us in 2005.
A serious concern is the lack of specialist batsmen. Any of our top 6 get injured and there are no specialist back-ups. One of them show poor form (Marcus North has played only 2 Tests), we have no options. I suppose the selectors are thinking they can fill a gap in the batting order with McDonald or Watson. Big mistake. I would've swapped Brad Hodge for either of them (probably McDonald).
I've left Shane Watson out of my top XI. It's a major triumph if he can get through a Twenty20 game without injury. Last time we toured England, Shane Watson couldn't get through a full night's sleep without getting the willies and asking if he could sleep in Brett Lee's room. How is he expected to get through 5 consecutive days of Test cricket? The other night, my 9 year old daughter had a nightmare about a bee and asked to sleep in our room. Kind of cute for a school girl. Bit of a worry for a full grown male cricketer.
And what's up with Nathan Hauritz? Okay, I concede it was always a long-shot that Bryce McGain be selected (a leggie can hope though). But surely Krezja is a better wicket-taking option. Or take both in case Hauritz shows poor form. But no, he's just there as a defensive option to block up one end. It was that kind of thinking that had England select Ashley Giles over Monty Panesar in the last Ashes series. We all saw how that series turned out.
Nevertheless, I believe the Australians will be hungry as hell this Ashes. You've got all the young players like Johnson, Siddle, Hughes - who've never played against England before, let alone an Ashes tour. Then you've got Punter. He'll probably deny it but sure as chips, he'll have memories of 2005 foremost in his mind. I predict he will score many, many runs.
It's going to be a cracker and I'm looking forward to a sleep deprived few months coming up. Kudos to SBS for covering it and here's hoping there's no bloody Tour de France to interrupt the coverage.
|Posted by JC on Thu 21 May||1588 comments|
Ordinarily, when someone asks me to plug their book/product, I'll get all moralistic and say I don't promote products without knowing whether they're any good or not. In truth, I'm just hoping to snaffle some free samples (I once tried this on an English bat manufacturer who wanted a free plug but he didn't bite).
But in this case, I will make an exception. Jrod has released a book The year of the balls 2008: a cricket disrespective. It features a "greatest hits" of the best 2008 blog posts from Cricket With Balls. As his is one of only two cricket blogs I have in my google reader, I can recommend it would definitely be an entertaining read.
However, I probably wouldn't leave the book lying around where the kiddies might read it.
|Posted by JC on Mon 18 May||99 comments|
In becoming the first player in Test history to follow three ducks with three centuries in his first six Test innings, Ravi Bopara has booked himself England's number 3 slot for the Ashes.
In my eyes, Bopara deserves his spot. He is refreshingly un-English - fearless, talented, explosive and really quite good.
However, I was surprise to read Shane Warne's views in The Times yesterday - that England must go with Vaughan at number 3.
Was wondering who you Aussies would rather see lining up as Ricky Ponting's opposite number on July 8th?
52 days to go...
|Posted by Rich on Sat 16 May||52 comments|
Our second game of the winter season started badly as the opposition won the toss and gleefully batted. I've noticed it's common practice in lower grade club cricket to bat first - not because of the behaviour of the pitch or tactical reasons. Club cricketers just want to put off fielding as long as possible. The opposition openers hummed along at 5 per over. As our opening bowlers approached the end of their spells, the captain called out those two fateful words, "loosen up".
First change was our left arm finger spinner, I was next from the other end. Fielding at square leg gave me an ideal chance to suss out how the batsmen played spin. The tall right hander was reluctant to leave the crease but used his long stride to good effect. The nuggety left hander was quick on his feet and came out of his crease fairly regularly. He would be a challenge. Finally it was time to bowl.
This was my chance to test Aloof Theory for real. My approach was inspired by Richie Benaud who asked if you were paid a large sum of money to land a ball on a spot, where would you look when you delivered the ball? At the start of my run-up, I'd pick the spot where I wanted to land the ball. As I ran in, I'd laser focus on that point right to the moment of releasing the ball. The disadvantage is I'm not closely scrutinising the batsman for signs of movement. The advantage is I'm not distracted by the batsman or choked by anxiety of getting smashed. It's all about process, not result.
First ball was to the left hander so I aimed for a good length outside off. First ball was on the spot with a bit of flight - surprisingly not flat and short. The next few balls yielded only singles so the over was going smoothly. Last ball, the left hander charged. I managed to land the ball but it spun into his pads and he smashed it through mid-wicket for four. Bloody boundary of the last ball, ruined an otherwise good over.
Next over was to the right hander. I bowled a few flat ones outside off which he let through. Hmm, watchful, this one. Next ball, I threw up, heaps of flight. The batsman's eyes lit up like saucers, he wound up to send it into the stratosphere. Then the ball dipped on him and he aborted, letting it pass outside off. Should've pushed that one through a bit straighter maybe, force the shot. The rest of the over was dot balls and I completed a maiden. If memory serves correctly, the first maiden of my short club career. Historic.
Third over began with the right hander on strike again. Feeling confident, I gave the first ball plenty of flight. The batsman used his long reach to get to it on the full and drove it past mid-on for four. Next ball, again he got to on the full, smashing it past mid-off for another boundary. The maiden was suddenly a distant memory. I conceded only two singles for the rest of the over but those boundaries hurt.
In between my overs, I chatted with the square leg umpire who happened to play for the opposition (no umpire fronted up for the game). He advised that I should push it through a little quicker. So I took his advice for my fourth over and pushed through 6 quick flat leggies, conceding only 2 singles. I confess I was too gutless to throw in a flightier one or a top spinner.
At that point, the captain spelled me, notifying me by drawing a finger across his throat. Not because I was bleeding too many runs but because he calculated that if he didn't start his spell at that point, he wouldn't get many overs (the luxury of being a bowling captain). But I was pretty satisfied with what was the most accurate spell I'd bowled. No long hops, only a few low full tosses. Certainly no double bouncers. It was also to two top order batsmen who were well set, normally conditions that would see me hammered. Wickets would've been nice but according to Aloof Theory which values process over result, a successful spell.
The opposition ended up reaching 198 off 35 overs, an imposing total. I came in at 3 for 80, with our top batsman at the other end (the guy who smashed 8 fours and 6 sixes last week). First ball was outside off, I late cut it between gully and the slips for two. Okay, off the mark, a big relief. Next ball on the pads, tucked away for a single. Busy start, much better than pressure building dot balls.
My plan was simple - farm the singles, get our slogger on strike and we should make the total with overs to spare. However, today he was unusually watchful, uncharacteristically out of touch. One over, he was bogged down for 4 dot balls. The fifth ball, he went for an almighty slog, skied it straight into the air to be caught by the bowler. My flawless game plan out the window.
I'd never seen the next batsman, Willy, play in a game but I'd got him out plenty of times in the nets so I confess not feeling very confident. That is until he got off the mark with a six over mid-wicket, the biggest hit of the day. He followed that up with another boundary and I switched back to the old game plan again. Easy peasy!
A new bowler came on. I always prefer to get a look at a new bowler from the non-strikers end but this time, I was on strike. It's an uncomfortable feeling not knowing what will come at you first ball. Will it swing? Will it spin? Which way? Apparently, the wicketkeeper was just as ignorant as I heard him ask the captain, "what does this guy bowl?" The captain called back "off spin!" Now how is that for handy intelligence?
Knowing I'd be facing spin and the liklihood of a pie for the first delivery, I wound up. Sure enough, first ball was a full toss, wide outside off. I threw the kitchen sink at it, smashed it through cover for four. For a cautious, defensive batsman, it was the most hot blooded shot I'd ever played and damn satisfying. Next one I cut, top edging to third man for two. Two dot balls. Then as he came in, I feinted a charge. He bowled it short and I pulled to deep midwicket for a single. Damn, that was a genuine longhop, should really have thrown everything at that one.
I continued to farm the singles, getting Willy on strike as much as possible. He continued to rattle off the boundaries at regular intervals and we were motoring along at around 6 an over. Their opening bowler came back on. He was medium paced, wasn't moving it too much. Then he put in an effort ball, quicker, short one at the body. I tried to pull, was late on the ball and it ballooned to the keeper. Out for 17, the total 5 for 127.
The wickets kept falling but Willy kept our hopes alive with a steady stream of boundaries. With 3 overs to go, we needed 30 runs to win. The first 5 balls yielded 11 runs. Last ball, Willy smashed a big one over mid-wicket. It hung forever in the air then fell into deep midwicket's hands. 9 wickets down, two tailenders, 19 to win. Alas, we ended up falling 9 runs short in the end with the 10th wicket falling on the last ball of the 35th over.
So two losses in the season's first two games. Disappointing. But on a personal level, I bowled accurately, reasonably economically and contributed with the bat. Still revelling in that cover drive. Next week, hopefully I can take the batting aggressiveness up a notch. Oh and check out the CriciWiki scorecard here.
|Posted by JC on Thu 14 May||49 comments|
This weekend was our first game of the winter season and my first opportunity to test drive Aloof Theory in match conditions. How would my Haydenesque psychobabble fare in the heat of battle? Would it make any difference? Well, as it turns out, not much really.
We batted first and the captain put me in at #4. Already a blow to my plans - this was one or two places higher than I would've liked. I was hoping to come in late, have one or two sighters than go the tonk. But at #4, I'd have to do inconvenient stuff like build an innings, bat responsibly, all that. Damn team game.
Nevertheless, despite my supposed zen-like state of mind, when it comes down to it, there's only one thing a batsman new to the crease is thinking about. Getting off the mark. My first delivery was from a medium paced bowler, well outside the off stump, I prepared to leave. Then the ball started swinging in, homing in towards my off stump. I hastily dragged the bat down and blocked, thankful he was slow enough to give me time to adjust. Like most Australian batsmen, I hate the swinging ball. Next, he bowled one on the pads and I turned it behind square for a grateful couple. Off the mark, thank goodness.
The bowler from the other end started his over spearing one in at the leg stump. I played the line, the ball swung away and narrowly missed off stump. The bowler tore his hair out with anguish, I smiled back at him. Peach of a delivery, I had no clue. He bowled another, I did well enough to nick it through first slip's hands. I tried to counter his swing by batting a metre out of my crease - the tactic was somewhat effective as he failed to adjust his length and bowled a few full tosses.
Meanwhile, the batsman at the other end was in white hot form. The field had short straight boundaries and he took full advantage, frequently sending the ball over the rope and dangerously close to the cars parked beyond. When I'd walk down the wicket to compliment a soaring six, he'd complain that he was having trouble middling the ball. One six over deep midwicket never got higher than head height. When we met mid-pitch after that shot, he commented "finally, got one in the middle".
Eventually, to my delight, the swinging medium pacers were spelled and a spinner came on. First ball, a bit short, a bit flat and a bit wide, I cut it for four. Mmm, love spin bowling, both bowling it and batting against it. Unfortunately, they brought back that killer out-swinger from the other end. I walked down the wicket and sure enough, forced a full toss. Problem was, I sent to mid-wicket for the simplest of catches. In a partnership of 74 runs, I contributed 19. Or as the captain described it afterwards, a "solid 19". Considering he called my last innings a solid duck, I'm not sure what to make of that comment.
We made it to 195 off 35 overs and were feeling pretty confident we could defend it. Maybe too confident. I was eagerly looking forward to bowling. After all, Aloof Theory was more for bowling than batting. I hoped to put out of my mind any anxiety about getting smashed and just concentrate on landing the ball. But sadly, I was not thrown the ball. And more sadly, our total was chased down. We didn't help our cause, bowling 17 no balls and 5 wides as they passed our total with 2 balls to spare. A deflating start to our season. Maybe a quiet word in the captain's ear next week might increase my chances of a bowl. I welcome any tips from bowlers on how to influence their captain into giving them a bowl.
|Posted by JC on Wed 6 May||98 comments|
In my late teens, I developed "Aloof Theory". The basic idea was your chance of snaring a girlfriend was directly proportional to your disinterest in having a girlfriend. I thought about girls a lot in my late teens, as you might expect. In other words, just like dogs smell fear, girls can smell desperation on a guy. But if you were content in your singleness, your chances soared. Isn't life ironic?
Over the next few decades, I expanded Aloof Theory into all aspects of life (a kind of Grand Unified Aloof Theory). When I stopped stressing about whether I was successful enough as a cartoonist, I worked out my place in the scheme of things. When I decided to be content in my marriage, my relationship with my wife was that much more fulfilling. And inevitably, Aloof Theory found its way into sport.
During the 2008 Olympics, I noticed many athletes talking about relaxing and enjoying themselves. It made no sense to me. How can you enjoy swimming your guts out to the point of exhaustion? Well, apparently you can as it was only the gold medalists who seemed to talk that way. This was also mirrored in the South African chatter before they toured Australia - they discussed being less anxious, relaxing and enjoying the cricket. It seemed to work a treat as they delivered our first home series defeat in over a decade.
I also noticed when I played club cricket, my performance was often tied to how relaxed I was. In the final game of the last winter season, my shoulders were so tight as I came in to bowl that I was simply unable to land the ball on a good length. Long hop after long hop, it was a disaster. Similarly, in the first game of last summer, I went out to bat, so anxious that I seemed to lose all strength in my arms.
Then a knee injury meant I had the rest of the summer to mull over it. And I realised anxiety was ruining my performance. Finally, I had knee surgery in March so I'm about to start the winter season tomorrow. And I've decided to adopt Aloof Theory as my philosophy this season.
Keith Miller personified Aloof Theory when he said "pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not". Miller played Test cricket for his country and he realised it was just a game. I'm playing B grade cricket against overweight, middle aged club cricketers. Surely I can gain a similar perspective. Having endured a death in the family, surgery and family health issues in the last few months, well, there are more important things in life.
So this summer, I'm going out just to enjoy my cricket. Savour each strike off the middle of the bat. Delight in landing the ball on the right spot. I'm sure I'll still have one eye on averages and aggregates (particularly when they're so delightfully displayed by CriciWiki). But my main goal for the winter season is to focus my mind on the enjoyment and process of playing cricket.
That and master the googly.
|Posted by JC on Fri 1 May||1529 comments|
England announced their squad for the first of two Tests against the West Indies yesterday - a first chance to gauge their thinking ahead of the main Test series of the summer. 'Vaughan or Bell' talk dominated the days preceding the announcement, in the end, neither were included, the selectors opting for Bopara and two uncapped bowlers (at the expense of Harmison).
It's a brave move and, I believe, a positive one. For too long the England dressing room has been a closed shop. I'm all for being loyal to players, but they do have to earn that loyalty, and of late Harmison and Vaughan haven't. I thought talk of a Vaughan recall was crazy. Great captain that he was, we now have a new one, and in recent years he's been nowhere near prolific enough to warrant a place in the team on the strength of his batting alone.
Bell has been in the runs for Warwickshire, and I thought he meritted a place in the squad. But, Geoff Miller has come out and said "we need him to get even more passionate about getting into the side so when he does get back in, he doesn't lose his place again." It could just be the making of Bell, and I certainly wouldn't rule him out of playing a major part in the Ashes. He's better than the bushbaby-caught-in-the-headlights that you may recall from 2005
Shah literally ran himself out of contention in the West Indies by staging, and winning, a 'just how comically can I run myself out this time' competition with himself. Sitting on the Delhi Daredevil's bench for the past 2 weeks will have set him back even further.
As for the two new bowlers, Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan, they've both been rewarded for excellent county form. Bresnan is touted as an all-rounder, but it's fair to say he's there primarily for his bowling - which reaches 85mph fairly regularly. He's basically a less good Flintoff, and finding a replacement is crucial because Flintoff playing 5 Ashes Tests has to be rated as very unlikely. I'm doubtful Bresnan is the man, but next week will give us a decent indication.
Onions has been a good county performer for a number of seasons and deserves his chance. Cementing an Ashes place in just 2 Tests is a big ask, but he bowls at decent pace and has a knack of getting something out of flat pitches. Definately one to watch.
Ryan Sidebottom was back for his county this week, and if he returns to form I'm sure he'll swing his way into Ashes contention.
Of course all this is academic because a young guy called Philip Hughes has just come over here and made a mockery of county standard bowling. He'll be sure to head into the Ashes with his already high confidence enhanced by an improved knowledge of English pitches. Damn he looks good.
Finally, Andy Flower has decided not to use England's analyst for the upcoming Lords Test. This is in a hope that the players can start to think for themselves and engage their "cricket brains". Nice idea, but it's not always obvious that some of those players have any brain at all, let alone a cricket one. However I think it's a potentially positive move.
Sorry that reading this took longer than a Pietersen IPL innings, but then again, that's not hard.
|Posted by Rich on Fri 1 May||70 comments|