Tag Archives: Cricket

Why We Should Not Feel for Lou Vincent

19 May
The revelations in the past week of the ongoing investigation into corruption in cricket represent the biggest single development in a fixing case in the past decade – and the eventual fallout will prove more wider reaching than any previous scandal.
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5 Reasons England Have Lost The Ashes

4 Jan

_71953834_719538331) Australia have been really good

Much of the talk trying to comprehend this defeat for England has been of how bad they are: should Cook be sacked; should Gooch or Flower go; which senior players need to retire. Australia’s excellent cricket has, for the most part, been overlooked. Mitchell Johnson is the consistently quickest bowler England have faced since Shoaib Akhtar in 2005/06 and Brett Lee on that final sun-drenched evening at The Oval in 2005. He’s consistently bowled bouncers and whilst he hasn’t had quite the impact against the good batsmen at the top of the order, his unwavering radar has caused England to take risks at the other end, and thrown away their wickets. Meanwhile, Brad Haddin has slogged away merrily, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have been accurate and nagging and all the batsmen but George Bailey and arguably Shane Watson have had really telling innings. Most impressive has been Michael Clarke’s captaincy. He is a fidgety sort of skipper – a style which can look messy and uncertain at times – but he’s looked anything but that in this series. He bowls the star man Johnson in three over bursts, sets the right fields, and knows when to bring on his containing bowlers. He’s been in England’s face since Brisbane, and hasn’t backed down. Talking of England…

2) England have been really badAshes-Memes-If-You're-A-Terrible-Cook-And-A-Dud-Root-Ur-Broad-Will-Cheat-Funny

They’re fairly culpable here. Yes, England haven’t been thoroughly abject just yet, but that’s only because we are judging this soon-to-be 5-0 scoreline on the already exceptionally low yardstick by which we judge English cricket, especially when it’s at its lowest ebb. At the start of the series the batsmen were intent on trying to hook Johnson (which went so well, they all had a go), then they tried to attack Lyon (again, a very successful strategy), and now they just try and survive and wait to be bowled one, which they will leave and be bowled by. And although the bowlers have been slightly better, they’ve also been pretty dire. Constant short bowling to Brad Haddin has been careless at best, totally moronic at worst – and has led to Australia being able to play themselves out of any hole that a good spell of bowling has put them into. James Anderson has been incapable of getting the ball to swing, Graeme Swann was totally ineffectual before his retirement, Monty Panesar was so untrusted by Cook that Joe Root was bowling ahead of him at the MCG and, worst of all, their fielding has been so disappointing. Long days in the broiling Australian sun saps your concentration, but any professional cricket team would struggle to drop as many catches as England have so far.

3) Darren Lehmann’s impact is starting to be felt

He replaced Mickey Arthur about two weeks before the start of the 2013 Ashes series, and the sight of him looking melancholy on the balcony with his Sky commentary earpiece in was a wonderfully amusing one. But behind that grumpy stare was a man with a plan – a plan to change the way Australia were playing cricket. Clearly beset by the whole bag of chips on his shoulder at not playing more Test cricket, he turned his hand to coaching and he has come at the right time. He has been brutal and brash in a time of more sensitive leadership styles. In an era of general uncertainty for Australian sport (their rugby team is useless, they haven’t got a decent tennis player and their cricket team was turning into a laughing stock) he has returned the team to basics. Eschewing the more favoured and analytical stance with an emphasis on psychology (a word that David Warner would struggle to spell let alone understand), Lehmann has returned the Australian national team back to its root, where it is more comfortable. His ‘fags and booze’ approach is something of an act and he is a clinical tactician behind it all. Most relieved are the Australia public, who were growing tired of their cricketers completing (or not completing, if you’re Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja) ‘self improvement assignments’. Instead now they just Pommie bash, a far more palatable national past-time.

4) England are burned out

Also, pretty much all of them have entered the worst phases of their career simultaneously, which would be impressive if it had ended after, say, the second Test. Seemingly only Ben Stokes is immune, presumably because he hasn’t been playing Test cricket long enough to have a bad trot of form, and as such has become the leading man of English cricket. This is all linked in to them being jaded – international cricket is a non-stop jamboree of touring and playing, touring and playing. This is the same for all teams, but England do play more cricket than any other nation. How else could a man play 100 Tests at 28 years of age? England are exhausted. They need a break. There has been an Ashes overload and they need to face some new opposition. The fans need a break too – the prospect of another Ashes series next summer is so unappetising it alarms me.

5) The locals

Stay classy, Australia

Stay classy, Australia

I don’t just mean the Australian players who, whilst tip-toeing the line between professional toughness and over the top histrionics, have been put to shame by the antics of the Antipodeans in the stands, in the press box, or just on the street. Whenever Mitchell Johnson tells a tailender to ‘fuck off’ after dismissing him he is celebrated in this action by the official Cricket Australia digital presence – usually in the form of a short YouTube clip that has a 10% interest in showing the action and a 90% interest in gloating. Then there’s the booing of Stuart Broad (of course encouraged by coach Lehmann) which is all just pantomime stuff – but the way the chip-paper local rag in Brisbane referred to him throughout the 1st Test (‘smug Pommy cheat’, ’27 year old English medium pace bowler’, ‘Stuart Fraud’) was a touch beyond pantomime stuff. And then all the little bits: the lovely David Warner calling Jonathan Trott ‘weak’, days before leaving the tour with a stress-related illness; the PA announcer at Alice Springs with his interesting interpretation of the rules of common decency when introducing Monty Panesar to the crease; the non-stop, tiresome, maddening, classless sledging implemented by Australia and no doubt championed by Lehmann. These have all contributed to the atmosphere of unpleasantness that has surrounded this tour and, along with the imminent 5-0 scoreline, helps me in wishing the series to be over sooner rather than later. I’m not saying that touring should be easy, nor am I saying that England haven’t given a word or two to the Australians. But winning with grace should be instilled in any sportsman from the moment they first play the game – along with an understanding of fair play. There is room in sport for competitiveness and class – and this Australian team have very little of the latter.

Flower’s time to go?

30 Dec
Ashley Giles is really sneaky

Ashley Giles is really sneaky

In a previous article, I stated the need for calm following the Perth implosion. And although England need not clear the shelves totally, simply put, there needs to be a culture change within the team.

Watching them at the MCG as Chris Rogers and Shane Watson flogged them it was obvious that England were resigned to their fate. This has been a recurring theme for this English side – they are not strong mentally as those above them. England rarely get beaten, instead they get thrashed.

Andy Flower, as team coach, has brought huge success to England. Under his reign they became the best Test team in the world, won the 2010 ICC World T20 and won three Ashes series. In the last two years and before this current series, they had played 25 Tests, won 10 and lost 7. That was second only to South Africa. Indisputably, Flower’s reign has coincided with great success. But there have also been tremendous lows.

They were hammered by Pakistan in 2011/12 – although this was in Dubai, which is the cricketing graveyard few return from in one piece. Losing the 2012 series against the South Africans meant they lost their No. 1 ranking, which hurt them, and the fact that they went to New Zealand in early 2013 and drew all three Test matches was hugely disappointing.

When England have lost in this period, they have been thrashed. They have lacked the mental resolve of the better teams, such as South Africa, to fight back from losing situations. Only in India in 2012 have this incarnation of the English cricket team scraped back to win a Test series after going 1-0 down. In other situations they have been caned – 2-0 against South Africa (which was far more scarring than the scoreline, and the team itself, lets on), 4-0 versus Pakistan.  When looking at South Africa’s mental resolve, one just has to look at their recent game against India. Set 458 to win, they batted and batted and batted – finishing on 450/7.

Another pressing problem is that there are no brilliant alternatives to Flower. Whilst Ashley Giles is the obvious option as he coaches the ODI and T20 team, he hasn’t set the world alight and his allegiance to Warwickshire players is worrying at best, short sighted and biased at worst. If Giles were currently in charge, Chris Woakes, a Warwickshire player, would have played instead of Ben Stokes. And although ‘there is no one else’ isn’t a viable argument to keep Flowers on, the ECB will be mindful that until a better replacement is found there is no benefit to getting rid of him.

With a change at the very top of the ECB just before this series, it is unlikely that the new MD’s first decision will be to sack the coach. But he needs to have a firm talk with Flower – does he want the job any more; does he still command the same respect in the dressing room; will England bounce back. If he answers yes to these questions then the changes will have to come elsewhere – senior players, ageing players and eventually, the captaincy.

Forget Swann, England need a phoenix

24 Dec

TN2013Dec23122214_457226649Into the cavernous bowl of the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground splutters this most disastrous of tours for England, determined to show some semblance of fight against an apparently unstoppable Australian cricket team. As if losing the Ashes wasn’t painful enough, the announcement over the weekend that Graeme Swann had retired from all cricket was salt in the wounds, and a sterner test of character has rarely laid in store for an English team.
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Who is England’s next spinner?

22 Dec

fbe43746-7456-4985-b2c1-be51b751beeb-460x2761) Monty Panesar

Natural successor to Swann by virtue of a) his presence on the current Ashes tour and b) his 166 Test wickets. Still can’t bat and still can’t field but he’s always ‘trying’. Having said that, the balls he showed when being peppered by Mitchell Johnson during the Adelaide Test match just gone was commendable. Question marks over his mental toughness remain due to the fact that he’s cut from totally different cloth to the rest of the England team – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good enough. At the age of 31 the England set up might want to pass an edict on his high-leaping celebrations to preserve the joints, mind.

2) Danny Briggs

Played a couple of T20s and ODIs for England and is still only 22. A regular performer in the limited overs stuff for Hampshire, like Panesar he is a left arm orthodox spinner. There’s plenty of potential but he has a very long way to go until England will seriously consider him for Test cricket.

3) Scott Borthwick

Bats at 3 for Durham and rolls his arm over with some interesting leggies – he’s almost an English Steve Smith. Except Borthwick is much more than that. He’s a genuine leg spinner with over 100 first class wickets at the age of 23, and a batting average that’s at 30 and rising. It’s less his stats, more his status. He’s another prodigy from the Geoff Cook school up in Durham and, like his famous comrade Ben Stokes, his ‘ticker’ is widely praised. For those not au fait with current popular Australian slang terms being bastardised into the native English lexicon, read: guts.

4) James Tredwell

The mighty Tredders has come up the ranks at break neck speed and, although he looks like Pingu, he is probably England’s 2nd spinner now. He’s their primary tweaker in ODI cricket and a consistent performer for Kent, and proof that no matter how apparently dull you are you can make it in international cricket. I’m sure he’s not boring, and Andy Flower definitely rates him. Though that could count for precisely zilch if Flower isn’t around at the end of this series, which is looking ominously likely. The era of Giles approaches.

4) A. N. Other

That’s pretty much it, I think. There are lots of spinners around, but very few are grabbing attention. Ollie Rayner bowls orthodox off spin for Middlesex and gives the ball an almighty clatter (he’s also 6’7″ and was in born in Germany, but that’s not totally relevant) so he could be a go-er. Adil Rashid continues to thrill and torture in equal measure, as does Samit Patel for Nottinghamshire.

With Graeme Swann’s departure, England will be frantically scouring the counties for a decent spinner, but the fact is that Swann was the best English spinner since… Emburey? In years to come, we’ll look back at Jim Laker, Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann. Fact.

Emotional victory as Australia win the Ashes

17 Dec

17426714 days is all it took. 14 days of pure agony for England, and unremitting ecstasy for Australia. And when the moment came, the emotional outpouring from the Australian players told you all you needed to know. Lost in 2009, thumped in 2010/11, shut down in 2013: regained in 2013/14. This is not a new era for Australian cricket, as Michael Clarke was quick to point out, but the result of hard work. From humiliation in India in March to Ashes redemption in December – the turnaround has been remarkable.

Fittingly, it was Mitchell Johnson who took the final wicket. The clown of three years ago has been excellent in the first two Tests and his 23 wickets have been the main difference between the sides. Although he’s been off-colour in this game, once again he ran through England’s tail to seal the victory. And the end was most appropriate – a short ball that James Anderson limply prodded at, caught by short leg. England have been harangued by everyone in Australia, and this was no different.

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The Tea Break: Episode 5

12 Dec