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September 2008
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September 30th, 2008 by Sam Collins in Miscellaneous

You know what it’s like. It’s your lunch break, it’s raining, you’ve already
read the whole of the internet while neatly side-stepping work during the
morning. You check your inbox - there’s nothing there. In desperation, you
check your junk mail - there’s nothing there.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sign up for The Wisden Cricketer
newsletter and you’ll receive a hilarious and irreverent piece of junk mail

There’s a groundswell of indifference and you could be part of it. Don’t
miss out.
Click here to sign up.

Here’s an extract from last week’s to get you in the mood….


Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

King Cricket: Vaughan must forget targets and play for love

September 29th, 2008 by Alex Bowden in England, Test cricket, The Ashes and tagged , , , , ,

It’s a harsh equation. It’s the kind of equation that lurks in a dark alley armed with serrated parentheses and a razor-sharp equals sign. It’s the equation that says Michael Vaughan needs to score runs in order to get some opportunities to score runs.

Vaughan wants to return to the Test team in time for the 2009 Ashes and whether he can do this or not hinges on his performances – as it does for anyone. There are a number of opportunities for run-scoring before the Australians arrive but unfortunately Vaughan won’t get those opportunities unless he first scores some runs. Vaughan hasn’t scored county runs, so he wouldn’t have any Test opportunities in India, even if he has pulled out of the tour. In fact, if you follow it through, the end of Vaughan’s season was a real make-or-break time – and he knew it.

If you’ve resigned the England captaincy and surrendered your place in the Test side citing mental exhaustion, setting yourself targets isn’t the best way to fight your way back. Vaughan said he wanted to relax and score a few runs, yet he effectively manufactured a situation where he couldn’t relax, couldn’t enjoy himself and had to make runs. It’s no surprise that he didn’t succeed.

Vaughan has been considering other career options of late and if he’s set himself a deadline, then this ‘every innings counts’ situation will only get worse. If he’d just thought to himself “sod it – I’m just going to enjoy playing and see what happens”, then he may well have flourished.

If Michael Vaughan only loves playing in the Ashes, then he won’t get to do so. If he plays for the love of playing then he might.

See King Cricket’s regular blog at King Cricket is a cult figure in the world of cricket blogs and was TWC’s first Best-of-blogs winner in April 2008.

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 3 Comments »

RMJ: Wagging tails and sagging spirits hit Sussex

September 26th, 2008 by Robin Martin-Jenkins in County cricket and tagged , , , , , , , ,

I think I speak for all honest county trundlers if I say that there is nothing more irritating than the tail wagging. Yesterday was possibly the most frustrating day’s cricket I’ve had in my career. We arrived at the ground in the morning buoyed by a great half day in the field on the previous day. Yorkshire, our Championship relegation rivals, were well and truly dans la merde at 80-odd for six. All the talk in the morning team meeting was of hitting them hard and knocking off the last four wickets by lunch and then getting stuck in with the bat, hopefully finishing the day with a nice healthy lead.

Five hours later I was bowling my 27th over of the innings as the Yorkshire total eased its way past 400 and, more importantly for them, five precious bonus points. The Yorkshire heroes were their Nos.8 and 10; Adil Rashid and David Wainwright, who scored their second and maiden first-class hundreds respectively. Admittedly, Rashid is a better player than a No.8 and was only batting there because of a lack of recent runs and a nightwatchman going in before him. But the case of Wainwright is a classic one of how county cricket has changed most profoundly in the last decade or so.

When I started, almost every team had a 9, 10 and 11 who were out-and-out bowlers. If they clobbered together 30 runs between them they had done their job with the bat. They probably had one net a week that was likely to be against some gentle throw-downs. These days there are very few genuine bunnies around. Barely one a team, in fact. And so it’s not unusual to see a No.10 stride confidently to the crease and play a beautiful straight drive down the ground to his first delivery. Some of Wainwright’s batting against us was of the highest quality. He feasted on some very tired end-of-season bowling on a flat wicket admittedly but he had a very impressive temperament. He clearly takes his batting seriously, which is the key to the difference between the tailenders today and yesteryear. It used to be a bit of a joke watching them go in and throw their bats heartily at every delivery that came their way.

And so a tired Sussex unit left the field yesterday having seen Yorkshire score over 300 runs for the loss of just three tail-end wickets. And then the inevitable happened: we lost three quick wickets in the remaining five overs of the day.

Looks like we are the ones now truly dans la merde.

2008 is Robin Martin-Jenkins’ benefit year, visit for further details.

Posted in County cricket | 2 Comments »

The TWC grapevine - Ramps to find pastures new?

September 25th, 2008 by Paul Wood in County cricket and tagged , ,

When Glamorgan collapsed to 83 all out in Sunday’s Pro40 play-off, it summed up the problems they had endured throughout the competition and the season – early wickets, middle-order save them. So it is no surprise that Herschelle Gibbs has been targeted to return to the county where he scored 281 runs at 56.20 during this year’s Twenty20 campaign. Gibbs batted at No.3 and can add much needed solidity there next year. With Glamorgan averaging less than 12 runs for the second wicket during the Pro40 this season, it’s needed. Gibbs is said to be in talks with the county.

Hampshire’s Michael Brown has dismissed speculation linking him with a move to The Oval. Surrey are said to be keen open with him and Scott Newman but Brown has a contract with Hampshire and that is currently where he sees his future. Despite relegation, Surrey can be persuasive. While Brown has only registered one Championship century this season, he has been consistent, averaging just under 39 with scores of 94, 66 and 16 against Surrey. Surrey have tried five players alongside Newman this year …

The County run-machine that is Mark Ramprakash has hinted that he may move from Surrey if they fail to gain promotion next year. He appears unwilling to see out his final playing days in Division Two and his contract ends next season. There will be no shortage of offers. Surrey’s choice as their new coach may also play a major part, after relegation cost Alan Butcher his job.

Also in the news:
- Chris Rogers has agreed to return to Derbyshire in 2009 as their overseas player and captain after his 1,706 runs for them in competitive cricket in 2008.
- Matthew Walker signed a two-year deal with Essex. Jaik Mickleburgh, who has been rewarded for his 2nd and 1st XI performances for Essex with an improved deal taking him up to the end of the 2010 season.
- Pakistan legspinner Imran Tahir has signed a two-year deal as Hampshire’s overseas player. Fellow spinner and exciting young talent Liam Dawson has also dedicated his next three years to Hampshire.
- Former England allrounder Craig White has extended his stay at Yorkshire as 2nd XI skipper.
- Mark Lawson, the legspinner released by Yorkshire, is currently trialling at Derbyshire and was handed a Championship debut against Leicestershire this week.
- Nottinghamshire’s young quick Mark Footitt may have to hop-it to give his career a kick-start. After limited chances at Trent Bridge, Worcester are sniffing around as they look to give their attack more fire-power for Division One next season.
- Gloucestershire have registered 22-year old allrounder Rob Woodman to play for the county. He impressed recently in a game against Gloucester 2nd XI while playing for the MCC Young Cricketers.

Paul Wood is a freelance journalist

Posted in County cricket | No Comments »

The TWC summit - Player of the Season

September 24th, 2008 by Sam Collins in County cricket, England

As the County Championship draws to a nailbiting close, the PCA have named a four-man shortlist for the PCA Player of the Year award, encompassing Marcus Trescothick, Ravi Bopara, Steve Harmison and Martin van Jaarsveld. While all four have had exceptional seasons, did the PCA get it right, or are there others out there who deserve recognition? We asked our panel who their choice would be for Player of the Season. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in County cricket, England | 11 Comments »

Rob Smyth: Hick’s dirty laundry still causing trouble

September 23rd, 2008 by Rob Smyth in England, Test cricket and tagged , , , ,

Disciples are often the last to find peace. Graeme Hick seems to have long since put his modest Test career to bed, but his legions of fans are still troubled by the dirty laundry that has had once last significant airing in the last fortnight as Hick prepared for his retirement.

That a Test average of 31.32 represents failure for Hick, or for any batsman given 65 Tests, is beyond reasonable doubt, yet a jury coming to such a verdict might have 12 different reasons, or cite 12 different pieces of evidence, for doing so. Like consumption of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, foreplay and curing hangovers, Hick produces a very personal response. What’s your take?

The truth is somewhere in the middle, with shades of grey blurring to form a picture of ultimate underachievement. As well as the variety of perceptions, there were significant paradoxes. Hick was perceived as mentally fragile, yet he cracked one-day cricket and overcame unprecedented circumstances to attain very goodness at Test level between 1993 and 1996. He became associated with the term ‘flat-track bully’, yet he was one of the gentlest, nicest fellows you could meet. He was seen as technically iffy against the short ball, yet played some of his most authoritative innings at the Oval and Perth (it was reverse swing that really got him in a mess). He was seen to cower miserably against hard-nosed pragmatists like Ray Illingworth and Merv Hughes, but he played his most productive Test cricket when Illingworth was coach and only got out to Hughes three times in six innings, never for under 20.

Some of Hick’s failings were his fault; many weren’t. Ultimately the collision of misfortune was too great for one who lacked the fortitude and the mongrel of the true sporting champion. This is not to say that he could have averaged, say, 40 over a 10-year Test career, which would have been worth 45 in today’s money. He would have had a greater chance of doing so had he stayed at No3, a position in which he averaged a reasonable 34.57 from 35 Test innings.

Like Ian Bell, who shares Hick’s peculiar mix of forcefulness and diffidence, the suspicion is that Hick would have been better shaping the play rather than reacting to it. England thought they were moving him out of the firing line by dropping him down the order, when in fact they were moving him into it: Hick frequently came in at 50 for three or 100 for four, a situation to which he was not temperamentally suited. Hick needed to bat in his bubble; to cause damage, not limit it.

In some senses, he was on a failed exercise in damage limitation before he had nicked a ball for England. The expectations of him were hideously unrealistic. There was the extended qualification period, which allowed bad technical habits – especially an unyielding front leg – to become ingrained and, even more damagingly, led to Hick becoming so immersed in the comfort zone that he struggled to acclimatise when he was ripped out of it.

There was also the build-up to Hick’s debut. In those days sports coverage was relatively sober, with less of the insufferable and incessant puff of Sky Sports News, but by the standards of the day the build-up to Hick’s debut was extreme. And of course, to utter the word Bradman, while inevitable, was also hugely irresponsible. That hype was suffocating to Hick – and the purest oxygen to Curtly Ambrose, who opened his lungs, embraced the challenge and put Hick back in his box.

Fate was always cruel to Hick: perhaps one of the millions of sixes he struck at Worcester broke not only windows but mirrors. He had his first series against the West Indies and a rampant Ambrose. He was dropped in 1993, despite scores of 178, 47, 68, 26, 34, 22, 20 and 64 in his previous eight Test innings. Mike Atherton infamously declared at Sydney in 1994-95 when Hick was 98 not out. When Hick played by some distance the greatest innings of his international career, a withering 141 against Donald, Pollock, Schultz McMillan and Matthews on a lively Centurion track in 1995-96, the game was washed out, and what would probably have been a matchwinning monologue became an aside. Even in 1998, when he and John Crawley were batting against Sri Lanka for a single place on the Ashes tour, Hick made a first-innings 107 only to have it trumped by Crawley’s 156. In isolation, such incidents would have been manageable; together they all scraped away at a flimsy self-esteem and, surely, persuaded Hick’s subconscious that it wasn’t meant to be. It brings to mind the quote in one of Tony Hancock’s suicide notes. “Things just went too wrong too many times.”

And yet, for a time, they went thrillingly right. There is a tendency to think of Hick’s Test career as a continuum of underachievement, but that is not really the case. It splits into three sections: his early struggles (18.90 from 13 Tests between 1991 and 1993), a largely happy middle (47.48 from 29 Tests in a three-year period from February 1993 to January 1996), and the tame, extended finale (18.85 from 23 Tests from 1996 to 2001). The middle period is an outlier, yet to many it is most representative of what Hick could and should have been.

Certainly, the feeling at the time was that he had cracked it. At the start of the summer of 1996, Wisden Cricket Monthly ran a cover story, entitled ‘Nearly There’, on his breakthrough. Ray Illingworth agreed. In his entry after that South African tour of 1995-96, he wrote: “He now looks more like the Hick who smashes county attacks all over the place, and I now believe he will go on to great things. I don’t like using the word ‘great’ too much, but Hick is now close to being in that bracket as a world-class batsman. He is just 30, so in the next few years he could achieve anything.”

Summer series at home to India and Pakistan, followed by winter trips to Zimbabwe and New Zealand, seemed a perfect time for Hick to cash in the chips he had earned by grafting so successfully against the West Indies, South Africa and Australia over the previous two years. Instead he got out in all manner of peculiar, almost surreal ways, and was dropped before the summer was out. It was then, rather than in 1991 or 1993 or 2000, that Hick’s career really hit the skids. It may not be an issue for him anymore, but the rest of us will always wonder.

Rob Smyth is a freelance journalist

Posted in England, Test cricket | 4 Comments »

King Cricket: Occasionals can be a regular nuisance

September 22nd, 2008 by Alex Bowden in England, Miscellaneous, Test cricket

Ian Bell is not the best bowler in the world. Nor is he the worst – that would be Ajit Agarkar. But Bell never seems to bowl any more.

There was a period a year or two ago where England were encouraging their part-time bowlers to take that side of the game more seriously. It never really came to much under Michael Vaughan. Vaughan himself would have been a prime candidate for more overs. Regardless of his duff knee, he never really bowled himself enough. Remember him clean-bowling Sachin Tendulkar? Not many have done that. Kevin Pietersen, however, is showing some trust in his own occasional spin. Maybe that’s just KP, or maybe some of the batsmen should start loosening up.

Paul Collingwood’s rather better than an occasional bowler and Pietersen himself was originally a spinner before his batting took off – famously bowling Nasser Hussain while playing for Kwazulu-Natal – but Ian Bell’s the forgotten bowler. Bell did quite a lot of bowling for Warwickshire one season, even taking 4 for 4 in one innings, but now nothing.

People usually mean pace, swing or spin when they call for variety in a bowling attack, but there are occasions when something a little unexpected can go a long way – even a few long-hops.

RMJ wrote about the perils of occasional bowling the other week and from our own experience playing squash, the better you’re playing, the more dangerous the miss-hit. Sometimes it’s the only way to strike a winner.

Ricky Ponting’s over to Michael Vaughan in the 2005 Ashes springs to mind. It was gentle swing at best, but each delivery gave Vaughan a good long opportunity to think about each shot as the ball approached him. Thinking can be fatal for a batsman – and so it proved.

You have to draw the line somewhere though and recommending parental guidance for Alastair Cook’s round-arm bowling action just wouldn’t be sufficient. No one should be exposed to that – whatever their age.

See King Cricket’s regular blog at King Cricket is a cult figure in the world of cricket blogs and was TWC’s first Best-of-blogs winner in April 2008.

Posted in England, Miscellaneous, Test cricket | 2 Comments »

Benj Moorehead: In awe at cricket’s Madame Tussauds

September 19th, 2008 by Benj Moorehead in Miscellaneous and tagged , , ,

Talking to Vic Marks down the phone line had been strange enough. TMS, only through cables, rather than by wireless. He even did his infectious chuckle. Well, just a month into my job at The Wisden Cricketer, and now for the Plaisterers’ Hall, the Cricket Writers Dinner. An invite had been casually chucked across my desk some weeks before. “Another one for your diary, Benj.”

Another one for my diary indeed. This wasn’t the Saltex Equipment Fair in Windsor. Or even the Village Cup final at Lord’s. This was the Cricket Writers Dinner, where all those I had read and heard for years and years were going to be present. Moving and talking. And, absurdly, I was somewhere in the mix.

I might say it was the party where you cling on to someone because you don’t know anyone else. But I did know them, sort of at least. It was like cricket’s Madame Tussauds. Sometimes I felt I was looking at them as wax figures until a jolt of expression would suddenly remind you that they are living, moving, talking. Human beings would you believe.

Atherton and CMJ were hardly a ruler’s length from me. And the further afield I looked the more I gawked. In fact, if you were there and saw a young-looking lad, gawking, a tad star-struck perhaps, that was me.

But of course no-one knew me. I passed unnoticed. Which made the museum feeling all the more acute.

At one point I drifted outside, needing a little fresh air. On return to my table, a place I otherwise never strayed more than a couple of metres from, things had changed. Mike Selvey had made serious advances while I’d taken a breather, and was almost upon me.

I backed up against the wall under the cover of an experienced friend of the magazine, who afforded me some company and a couple of introductions.

Shortly after I slipped away, bedazzled, a little drunk, but gradually coming to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

RMJ: Rain brings memories of days long gone

September 19th, 2008 by Robin Martin-Jenkins in County cricket and tagged , , ,

Two weeks ago our County Championship match was a relegation clash with Yorkshire at Scarborough. It should have been a vital game to win for both sides but two and a half days of rain meant that we spent more time in the seafront arcades than we did on the pitch.

It was almost identical to my debut in 1995. Same venue, same result. I have now played only three days of cricket out of eight at Scarborough. My debut, therefore, was far more notable for the off-pitch antics of various team-mates, none more memorable than Ed Giddins, with whom I had the dubious honour of sharing a room.

Two minutes after walking into the room I had realised why the others clearly didn’t want to share with Giddo. When I entered, he was naked on the bed, on the phone. Instead of covering himself he beckoned me over, shook my hand and holding the receiver towards me, said: “I’ve got the receptionist on the line. She’s a bit of a goer and I’ve been trying to talk her into a threesome. She’s not having any of it at the moment. See if you can persuade her.” I don’t recall seeing much of him during the following four days.

There seemed to be more characters around in the game back then. I think because the stakes are so much higher now, both at county and international level, players feel they cannot let go during a season. The days of visiting the local pub with members of the opposition at the end of play are gone, and that’s a real shame.

On the other hand most senior players who remember those days would say that standards of professionalism are so much higher in the game today and this has translated into higher standards on the pitch, most notably in the fielding. Whether this makes the game more attractive to watch, however, is a moot point.

2008 is Robin Martin-Jenkins’ benefit year, visit for further details.

Posted in County cricket | 2 Comments »

Miles Jupp: What has happened to my cricket?

September 18th, 2008 by Miles Jupp in England, Test cricket

Even devout cricket fans have periods away from the game. This summer, for a variety of reasons, I have been unable to devote any time to cricket. I have got married; I’ve been performing at the Edinburgh festival; I have moved house; I have got rid of the television and consequently have not seen a ball of international cricket since early June. Of course, during my forced separation from the game I heard whisperings, but I hoped that’s all they were. Surely nothing would change while my back was turned?

Bloody hell. What on earth has been going on? It’s like returning home from walking the dog and finding that your partner has completely redecorated the flat and moved all of the furniture around. I dash from room to room and am faced with nothing but surprises. “What’s happened?” I demand of my wife. “Why has my Hoggard been put on the shelf? How did you find the old Harmison? I never thought we’d get Matt Prior to fit in. Is it just me or might we now have space for two spinners?”

Some of what I find makes me weep tears of joy. Flintoff is back from the menders. Strauss seems to be working properly again too. But why is there a portrait of KP over the mantle-piece? And what’s that stain on the carpet? Oh, it’s a shadow of Michael Vaughan’s former self.

Some people compare English cricket to a soap opera. Wrong. If you miss a soap for a few weeks you can turn it on again and within minutes you’re up to speed. I have turned my back for the briefest of whiles and I’ve missed Armageddon. No soap scriptwriter would dare to make all these changes at once.

The unflappable Michael Vaughan suddenly flapping. Harmison returning before Hoggard after their Hamilton hiatus - now Hoggard may never return. KP being captain in both forms of the game - I wouldn’t have bet a penny. How could a man who for the last three years has looked as if he is acting in another movie be so capable of bringing people together? He has England playing at a totally different heart-rate.

I never want to spend this long away from the game ever again, I want to be there when it happens.

I don’t want to have to watch Michael Vaughan crying on YouTube. To see him feeling the pressure was so sad, so unreal. Who else with such dubious catching abilities and a habit of being bowled could inspire such confidence? Yet as captain he has always been reassuring, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. He never looked troubled. I remember watching a batting disaster unfold as the camera cut to shots of Vaughan watching from the team balcony, looking like he was on the sofa in front of some Sunday-night TV. “There’s the captain, looking as stressed as usual”, remarked Nasser Hussain on commentary. I don’t know if it was meant in admiration or envy. Vaughan always looks like a fair sort of bloke, but canny with it, like Solomon at the dividing of the child. I relish the opportunity of seeing him bat for England again unhindered by the captaincy.

I am already missing Hoggard, the most admirable, lovable, under-rated, yet over-achieving of bowlers. He has always been a proper team man. When he goes back to his mark he really trudges, with the expression of an obedient gun-dog in the middle of winter, regardless of the conditions. He would probably have drunk washing-up liquid for him if Vaughan had put it in his bowl. People would have taken him more seriously if he made less jokes, if he was less flippant. I watched a press conference in Chandigarh, and an Indian journalist asked him what he did when bowling to a left-hander: “Well, I just aim a bit further to the right than usual, don’t I?”

Perhaps it is only sentimentality, but I hope it’s not the end of Hoggy as an England cricketer. I don’t have anything against change or progress, but EVERYTHING has changed. Even the kit. And if I never get another chance to see Matthew Hoggard finish a thankless over, grimace briefly, then shrug and turn to the umpire to reclaim his official England lightweight polyester sleeveless red trim v-neck endowed with both ClimaCool® and ForMotion™, I will be heartbroken.

Miles Jupp is a comedian, actor and cricket fan

Posted in England, Test cricket | 2 Comments »

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