Monday, July 19, 2010

A new trophy, a new opportunity

The ICC is looking to maybe remove the world of cricket for the Champions Trophy an outdated ODI event that has no benefit to the countries that play in it or win it, other than adding to the already long list of ‘dead rubber’ one-day games. It seems that this could happen in either 2012 or 2013 at about the same time that England was due to hold the Champions Trophy. A test championship I think puts the ICC into that trap of having a tournament, much like OD World Cup has too many uneventful matches and drags the tournament out beyond a month.

A Test Championship is a good thing, and much like the World Cups for the sport it has to be timed well. I already feel that the doubling up of the T20 World Cup is overkill at its best, and only makes the holders Pakistan now look like they fluked it rather than earned it a year ago with inspired cricket. I feel cricket and the ICC needs to look at its major Trophies and decide the order in which they are played. Straight away I think the T20 World Cup should be every 2 years allowing the holders sometime to enjoy the win and promote the trophy. T20 is the money maker at the moment, but we can’t saturate the market with it all the time, every 2 years gives the tournament meaning and a chance for minnow nations to build towards the next event.

One-Day World Cup at every 4 years is fine, I think it’s a longer tournament and it’s a traditional tournament with a long history of winners, the rumours of changing the format to 2 x 20 over’s will ruin this and I hope these plans are only on a domestic level. Cricket with its different formats needs to stay different, by edging each format closer to T20 you might as well get rid of the other formats; they are all good because they all require a different type of attacking formula to win them.

A Test Championship is a great idea but not as an 8 or 12 team tournament. For this to work it has to be a 4 team knock-out style cup or in a round robin situation with the top 2 playing off. The reasons for this is the 5-day game in its self takes all week, if you have lesser nations taking on stronger ones it becomes ridiculous with results and runs made. Where do we get the Top 4 from? This is where the ICC can make a great change and turn test cricket into a ‘real’ competition, Test Team rankings have always been around, but with sides playing an uneven about of games over the course of a calendar year it makes for very dull reading. By developing a set number of tests to be played and a points system for the ladder it would allow fans to follow their country in the rankings with the Top 4 making it into the Test Championship.

As we have seen recently with the neutral tests being held between Australia and Pakistan, that these sorts of games can draw decent crowds and produce and great match to watch. I can see people being concerned with the strong top 4 of Australia, England, South Africa and India maybe having a strangle on the series, but with nations such as Bangladesh, Zimbabwe being given more opportunity in an even schedule to play top sides then they shall improve at a much faster rate. With games that count towards a table of results you will also find teams looking to win matches rather than hold on for draws which has been the down fall in some low rated test series. Cricket is poised in a great situation at the moment with the momentum of T20 bringing people to watch cricket, by renewing some of the formats and making the competitions more tradition in their approach to tables and results the sport is in a position to further enhance and improve its current holdings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Spirit of Cricket - Hard, but Fair.

"Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this Spirit causes injury to the game itself".

In 2000 the MCC put forward a preamble for the rules of cricket, which international was taken on among all levels of cricket. Many times over the years this has been pushed to the limit. Since the 2000 Code was published, MCC has promoted the new Laws - and the Spirit of Cricket - as widely as possible, both in Britain and overseas. As a result, cricketers, right across the world, are increasingly aware that they should not merely obey the game's Laws but safeguard its Spirit.

The current Pakistan series being played here on neutral ground is a great example of this spirit. With Pakistan now nomads of the cricket world, not only have the MCC and Lords opened its doors for this team, that is bursting with young talent, but the MCC and ‘The Spirit of Cricket’ are sponsoring the 4 test series involving Australia and England. And the beginning of yesterdays match showed a strong competitive start to the series, with Pakistan gaining advantage with a lovely display of swing bowling, like days of old making the ball ‘talk’ inside and out. Yet there were some in the media that were quick to pounce on the dismissal of Ricky Ponting by Ammer. A fiery battle that had both men looking to gain the upper had as the over’s mounted, Pakistan moving a man in close on the leg side and Aamer threatening Ponting with short pitch balls.

Eventually Ponting succumbed to the tactic, flicking a ball into the waiting grasp at short leg, following taking the prized wicket of an Australian captain, Aamer leapt in the air and once again similar to a incident during the T20 bumped into Ponting, who in reaction made a little elbow room for himself, before making a comment to Umpire Rudi and a few chosen words for Aamer. Many in the media jumped all over this as a poor display of ‘Spirit’ and looked at the match referee Chris Broad to fine Ponting. The Australian captain a feisty player ever since debut, and in my eyes did nothing wrong and no damage was done, Chris Broad has acted sensibly in having a quiet word to Aamer about his leaping down the pitch celebration and will let the matter go. Sensational English public were looking for match pay deductions from Ponting, yet this is the group that is quick squeal about the boringness of characters in cricket and where has the competitive nature gone. Ricky Ponting felt it was over the top, he made his voice heard on the pitch and both players showed great spirit in leaving it where it was on the square. The spirit asks that you play hard, but fair and both sides gave a good account of this on the opening day of the series.

Fan Following Aust vs. Pak 1st Day Lords 13th of July

Choice of game:
Lords, there in itself is a great excuse to travel up from the South Coast to the big city and see a test match, second only to being able to say I was at a neutral test at the most iconic venue in cricket. As Lover of the summer game, and being an Australian a long way from home to me the only place that compares to the MCG with its history and tradition is Lords. Every time I find myself in England in the summer I always make the pilgrimage to the ground for a match.

Team Supported:
Australia of course, but I must admit to having a little bit of a crush on Pakistan, I was always a huge Imran Kahn fan and most of all I love the passion shown by Pakistan in all forms of the game, whether it’s a wicket or a loud appeal they always seem to throw all their emotion into the game.

Key Performer
The Pakistan bowlers were right on top of the Australians very early on, and took well to the overcast conditions Aamer had a great running battle with Ponting and Asif had the prize wicket of Michael Clarke before tea and Simon Katich after the break.

One thing you’d changed about the day
The weather, with so much excitement in me when I woke up it was not so nice to see the misty haze of rain. And with dark clouds over head for most of the morning I had a bad feeling we weren’t going to see any cricket at all.

The interplay you enjoyed
Aamer vs. Ponting, was a great little battle in the 8th over with Aamer rapping one on his pads to no avail he stares down the Australian captain, only for him to reply with a trademark pull shot that smashed into the boundary fence[see shot of the day] only again for Aamer to come back at him with a short pitched ball. Ponting for good measure finishes the over with a clean stroking cover drive for 2 more runs.

Filling the gaps
At Lords this is easy spending time just soaking up the history of such an important ground in cricket, walking around seeing how many former cricket greats were walking around the ground [Merv Hughes, Justin Langer, Jeff Thompson, Shane Warne] Or taking in the smooth Jazz band playing next to the Nursery end always cheers up an Aussie that feels his team should be doing better.

Wow moment
Michael Clarke coming in after the loss of Ponting made an instant impact taking to the bowling early and scoring quickly after being dropped early on, he passes Katich score with flurry of cover drive fours and pitch shots over mid wicket.

Player watch
Being in the Compton stand we were a bit of distance from the players, but though binoculars it was interesting watching Afridi in and the way he was captaining the side, with lots of shuffling players around in the field, and shouting and waving to the pavilion.

Shot of the day
As mentioned above, Ponting’s pull shot off Aamer was a classic piece of Ponting batting and had the crowd to their feet as he showed his class, dangling off the back foot, swivelling to strike it clean to the boundary. As they say ‘four the moment it left the bat’.

Crowd meter
Being a Tuesday and a drizzly one at that the stands were certainly not full, but the Grand stand, Mound and Compton stands all seemed full enough with a variety of Passion Pakistan’s, Boastful Aussies and the odd curious Englishman. The Pakistan part of the crowd started to get into the match more after tea and at the fall of Katich they could smell more wickets to come.

Fancy Dress index
Being Lords not too much of the dressing up in the non-traditional style, but plenty of ‘egg and bacon’ ties around enjoying an ale and chatting of past triumphs at the legendary ground.

Test v Limited Over’s
Having seen so much limited over’s recently it was interesting to see how the crowd would react , but from chatting to many people they all seemed quite keen to see the men of summer back in the whites. I personally enjoy Tests and ODI equally, when you watch a test match you start to get a feel for the game and can sense the pressure building as a batsman reaches his 50 or when a bowler beats the bat 3 or 4 times an over, and the ‘ohhs’ and aah’s from the crowd as they battle it out.

Spectator Alert
Early on as the misty rain cleared and play began it wasn’t long before something caught Watson’s eye, it was a lovely lady in the members who was wearing a shall we say overly bright coat and she was informed by the umpire to undress or move, which had the stands giggling.

A day at Lords is a great day out at the cricket and nothing really does compare, the crowds are always the most knowledgeable around, and the place itself makes you walk around and just soak up the aura. The cricket was great for a first day with plenty of wickets and great spells of batting to go with it. Despite the delayed start I give the day a 8 out of 10 with only the Sun letting me down today.

This article was produced as a Fan Followng for and appears in the reports for the 1st Day of Aust vs. Pakistan Report.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pakistan Passion

Pakistan have beaten Australia twice in two days over the course of the recent T20’s played at Edgbaston, both times with what seemed a very obtainable score of 160 odd, and both times Australia have lost key wickets at key moments. And with a test series looming one can only hope for the neutral observer that this rise against the cricketing powers continues.

Pakistan have for a period time been cricket refugee’s having to travel to places of no home advantage, most notable was a series of matches played in Dubai that had less in attendance than some County Championship grounds on a Wednesday. It seems a wise move to be playing more matches in England in the future, as the sound and noise over the radio and TV would have had you thinking Edgbaston had turned into a Karchi dust pit. With a sea of green and yellow stars and the ground dotted with “Boom Boom” banners in reference the sometimes seemingly mystical leader Afridi. It is the passion shown in Pakistan that has been missing in recent times, especially during a recent winless tour of Australia where in-fighting had scarred the tour before it even began. It is this cricketing passion I think that stood Pakistan well against Australia a team of strength and strong history of winning and winning well, but it was Pakistan that showed the pleasure of the game with high-fives and running around the ground to celebrate wickets that just infused the “home” support to within a brink of spilling onto the pitch. Of course none of this would have mattered without the cricket its self.

And the 2nd match of series went very much according to plan again for Pakistan with Aamer the beginning of the passion making late runs and then removed Australia's openers, but Pakistan had useful contributions from all their key men. Shahid Afridi made a quick 18 and grabbed two wickets, Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt and Umar Akmal all chipped in at the top of the order, and Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Ajmal were hard to get away.

Australia rested opener Shane Watson for the upcoming test matches and captain Michael Clarke took on himself to get in the firing line for both his captaincy and the 2 match series and open up the batting, clearing the infield several times with chips and drives, but Aamer struck having got Clrake playing on and the passion flowed, with the bowler so pumped with his wicket that he almost knocked Clarke over as he leaped in the air with celebration.

Aamer immediately apologised and the men exchanged a friendly pat on the arm, but Clarke was frustrated with himself for failing to push on, and maybe now is feeling the same pressure felt from Ricky Ponting as he too struggled to play the shortest form of the game. Pakistan will be taking this small battle of Edgbaston as a opportunity to shake up the Australians before the 1st Test. The questions still remain of Pakistan over 5 Days and with Australia confident enough to rest some key players it obvious that they are looking to use this series as an opportunity to fine tune prior to an Australian summer. With Pakistan on such a high and Mohammed Aamer showing so much promise and the return of Afridi to the test side any tickets that have been struggling to move in Leeds should be snapped up quick and the bacon ties at Lords shall have much to mull about as this Green Excitement Machine heads to London.

Muttiah Muralitharan the greatest bowler of all-time?

A statement I think that will be questioned long after he retires and has been echoed across cricket grounds around the world. Yesterday the Sri Lankan spinner announced that he shall be stepping down from international cricket after the Galle test match, but has made himself available for a final swan song during the OD World cup for which Sri Lanka will be part hosting.

Many within Asia see him as a huge influence on the bowling of spin and finger spin more importantly, regardless of the degree his arm his bent. Some of the statistics are staggering. On 66 occasions, he has taken five wickets in an innings, and has managed 10 wickets in a match 22 times and to place this in perspective, only 11 bowlers have managed more five-wicket innings than this. No one has sent down more than his 43,669 deliveries (40,850 for Anil Kumble and 40,705 for Warne are the only ones in the parish). A total of 73 of his wickets have come with catches by Mahela Jayawardene, the most by a non-wicketkeeper off a single bowler.

Most of the world’s greatest sportsman have always done things a little differently, and with Murali his unique action is what made people love or hate him. As soon as Darrell Hair no-balled him during the test and one day series during 1995 in Australia he was always going to have to wear that ‘chucking’ tag for long as wished to continue to torment batsman. To his credit Murali was prepared to under go all the scrutiny required to prove his action was legal and a lesser person may well have given up. Undertaking test’s at the University of Western Australia and the University of Hong Kong, with them all concluding that his action does seem to show to the naked eye a ‘throwing illusion’. This failed to appease all of the cricketing public with many asking for his records and results to be struck from the boards across the world.

Early in his career many saw him as having the opportunity to take 1000 wickets, but now as his retirement looms and sitting on 792 the opportunity to hang his cap on 800 is so very close, which puts those words of Fred Truman when becoming the first man to take 300 Test wickets, that if anyone else managed it they would be “bloody knackered” all the more reason for a final quote from the king of spin.

Monday, July 5, 2010

England vs. Australia ODI Series

Firstly despite losing the last two matches of the series England have shown that they are now a more than capable one-day format team that has great batting strength down the order, and have a game plan that not only works but suits its bowlers and fielders.

Australia early on have shown that injury to a few key bowlers have left them without any bite with the ball, and having brought in Shaun Tait changed the out look of the series with his instant impact attack with the new ball. Nathan Hauritz for my mind is not a one-day bowler and even his added ability to ‘bat a little’ doesn’t warrant his position in the team, Steve Smith seems like the preferred choice and Hauritz should continue to stay in the Test Side [barring injury] Australia’s batting in the early matches of the series especially at the Rose Bowl lacked any form of aggression seen in the past with M. Hussey and M. Clarke happy to nudge the ball around for too long and in turn left Australia at least 30 runs short of a defendable total.

England on the hand won the series with a line-up built for the shorter form of the game, whether it be 20 overs or 50, the squad is based on strong boundary hitting batsman who look to attack with measured shots and were dominate over Australia’s 2nd class bowling attack. England’s line-up is anchored by a strong opening partnership and is put in place with streaky hitters like Bresnan and Yardy in the middle order to team up with Morgan who proved his worth and ability during the series, taking the role of a Michael Bevan style run chaser. Their bowling attack bowled straight and held good lines for most of the series barring a run explosion from M. Clarke and R. Ponting taking full advantage of a batting wicket at The Oval. The question I have is can England defend a total well enough, and seemed to be under more pressure when batting first rather than the comfort of batting 2nd.

Who has come out on top in the series? Well England, they won 3-2 and were dominate and sharp in the early games where Australia whether the winter lay-off have left some a little rusty or the lack of ‘names’ in the line-up was just used as a chance to blood a couple of hopefuls in Hazelwood and Smith not sure, but this Australian attack didn’t seem to be at its best by a long stretch and England looked all mighty and confident. Has this series given either side the upper hand in the forth coming Ashes Series in Australia, I don’t think it has shown much really, mainly I think due to the fact that Australia have a completely different line-up for Test Cricket with C.White, D. Hussey, Hopes, Tait and Paine are not in the Test side it gives England a different kettle of fish to face in Brisbane come December. As for England can they mimic the 20/20 results into a 5 day game away from home? I’m not so sure and see them losing the last 2 matches as more of downer to the series to them than it was of any pride grabbing from Australia.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Evening Delight

Cricket has a way when victory is assured of giving all a chance to laugh and enjoy the fruits of an effort well done. In a recent Evening League match we found ourselves taking the field to defend a mammoth total of 188, against a side that was on the lower end of the table. As we took to the field it seemed as quick as the first delivery was bowled and the batsman found himself walking to the pavilion so quick that the incoming batsman was yet to put his pads on, was it known that this game was going to be over quickly.

As the game found its way towards the end, the skipper found this to be the perfect time to give a few old and young boys a chance to roll the arm over and have a shot at fame and glory, as did the incoming batsman. With nothing to lose they were swinging like heroes and creating more luck with each heave of the plank.

Standing and gully and waiting for the delivery to come flicking into my hands, I watch the bowler twirl the ball in his hand as he prepares the batsman to take stance. As he comes trotting in I take my gaze from the bowler to the blade of the batsman anticipating my catch, when a sudden crash and a bowl rolling past my foot I gaze up. And there sprawled across the pitch is our bowler, and the non-striker stumps scattered. He has tripped over the stumps!
 My laughter takes over my body as giggle and chuckle at the sight of a grown man lying and giggling at what he has just done, never will he be able to live this down, and never will I let him forget.
 Cricket has a funny way of giving you oddest of situations, but keeping them in a light hearted mood. Without cricket my list of stories would be a short book, yet this summer game seems to provide me and others with amusing memories so deep you tend to forget the score.

OSSC 188 [C.Todd 100*, A. Berry 1-10-1]
Carnival Cougars 102 [J. Wotton 23, O. Reid 4-23-4]