June 2009
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Sam Collins: Duckworth/ Lewis needs T20 tweak as England go out

June 16th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Test cricket


So England’s Twenty20 campaign is over with more questions than answers. Did they really expect to win this tournament with a specialist wicketkeeper batting at six? Why did Paul Collingwood choose to bat first at the Oval when rain was so clearly going to play a part in the match? Does Collingwood even warrant a place in England’s best XI? Yet the public mood after England’s exit to West Indies was one of sympathy, not uproar. England had been hard done by. To their fans England had not lost because they didn’t score enough runs, or because they couldn’t bowl the right lengths or set the right fields when it mattered. No, their defeat to the West Indies exposed a flaw in the way this format copes with rain.

Statistics back up the perceived misfortune. Of the 22 matches played in the tournament so far, this was only the third match to be affected by rain, and the first to be decided by the Duckworth-Lewis method. Go back further, and England are even unluckier – in the entire history of international Twenty20 (114 matches to be precise before today’s super-eights games), D/L had previously decided only three games. Of those, Sri Lanka were halted by the weather pursuing New Zealand’s total back in 2006, but perhaps mindful of the threat of the weather were well ahead of the D/L rate, and the other two matches involved minnows.

In short, never before has a T20 contest between two major nations been played with the side batting second chasing a D/L target boosted by a full complement of wickets. While D/L has proved its reliability in the 50-over format, it’s standing in the 20-over stuff seems less clear. That the West Indies could afford lose five wickets in six overs in pursuit of quick runs, and still regroup to win the game comfortably was not entirely as it might seem – canny organisation of their batting order saw them have Shiv Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan coming in at No.6 and No.7. Yet it still reflected an almost impossible ask for England to stop their opponents scoring at nine-an-over for only nine overs with so many wickets in hand. Hard-nosed observers would say England should have scored more runs, and they are right, but it is more realistic to defend eight-an-over over 20 overs than crawl from the hole that D/L left them in.

Duckworth-Lewis is a method based on ‘resources’, namely the number of overs remaining and wickets in hand. While the targets it generates are essentially reasonable, it may be that a tweak is needed for the shortest-format to account for the advantage of pursuing a small total with plenty of wickets in hand.

It also seemed unnecessarily inflexible that, with floodlights in place and the weather set fair after between-innings rain at the Oval, the match could not be extended beyond it’s scheduled 9.15pm finishing time to accommodate the full quota of overs. Tournament rules dictate, but do not lessen the frustration, and while the result may not have changed, the manner of defeat would not have stung so much.

Sam Collins is website editor of thewisdencricketer.com

Posted in Test cricket | 1 Comment »

RMJ: No place for ageism in county cricket

June 16th, 2009 by Robin Martin-Jenkins in County cricket


The ECB is constantly tinkering with county cricket, seemingly coming up with new directives every month. Most county players believe the domestic system has evolved into a smooth working machine over the past ten years and yet, like a bored car mechanic that changes the cam belt before it has worn out, the ECB is getting the spanners out and is about to impose a new directive: age-related incentive payments to counties.

From 2010 counties will be paid money for playing cricketers under a certain age. The actual amounts of money are still being thrashed out but it is likely that counties who play two players under 22 and three more under 26 will be in line for about £80,000, a figure which might rise to £200,000 by 2013. With most counties struggling to stay in the black from year to year these will be attractive incentives but they may do more damage than good to the English game in the long run. For starters the richer clubs may be able to ignore the inducements leading to a further divide between a club such as Surrey, which has the funds to offer extremely competitive wages to almost any player it wants, and Leicestershire, who needs all the financial help it can get.

The ECB’s plan to get more young players into county teams is understandable and in many ways commendable but it stems from a flawed premise that the younger the average age of county teams, the better the England team will be. Apparently research has been done that suggests that the earlier a player has exposure to county cricket, the better his chances will be of succeeding at international level.

But there is also overwhelming evidence to suggest that players reach their peak as cricketers in their late twenties and early thirties and so to invent a ruling that may encourage counties to exclude these players would seem naive to me. Several England players, including the current Test captain, have been picked at a relatively late stage in their cricketing lives, both for their counties and their countries, and have performed instantly well at international level, quite probably because of a solid grounding in the county game. But had these financial incentives been in place a few years ago and Middlesex and Northamptonshire decided to help balance their books by making sure they fulfilled their quota of younger players, perhaps Andrew Strauss and Graeme Swann, to name but two, would have been lost to the England set-up. Batsmen, it would seem ripen later than fast bowlers, who tend to drop in pace and energy if not accuracy and cunning when they reach thirty, and the maturing of spin bowlers is perhaps even more gradual a process. The new system will also deter young players from going to university, so scared will they be that they will be on the scrapheap by the time they graduate and Strauss is one of many cricketers to have benefitted immensely from a university education.

Many think that county teams should always be picked on merit. The PCA (the players voice in the game) has found that 96% of players wanted to play in a meritocracy. Presumably the other 4% were players below the age of 22 who were some way off playing for their first teams. One only need look to South Africa to see the pitfalls of a quota system. But while the complicated politics of that country in some ways justifies the structure of their cricket, there is no need for meddling from the ECB. Worry about Kolpaks and other players ineligible to play for England, by all means, but ageism has no place in cricket.

Robin Martin-Jenkins is an allrounder with Sussex

Posted in County cricket | No Comments »

Jrod: Three cheers for the ICC

June 15th, 2009 by Jrod in Twenty20

I have been to three days of the World Twenty20, and I cannot think of a better-organised tournament.

Look at the genius of that name – the World Twenty20. Is it a cup? Is it a trophy? Who knows, but it is that kind of intrigue that gets the punters talking. It is also cost-efficient. Think of all the printing bills they save on by not putting a superfluous word like cup on the end. Especially in a credit crunch.

The opening ceremony had two giant phallic-shaped balloons, and three mumbly guys who you couldn’t hear. I personally couldn’t think of a better opening ceremony.

Then there were the dancers, dressed in Smurf-esque costumes, with a politically correct mix of the sexes and their three main dances. They certainly bring the crowd endless enjoyment. Especially the male dancers – the crowd bubbled with excitement as the men showed them their tasty moves.

The structure of the tournament is brilliant; who could argue with a tournament where a team like Ireland only needs to win one game to make the second round?

Unfortunately there has been some trouble; Stuart Broad’s arm out (as he came into bowl) was a punch to the groin region of the spirit of cricket. It could have torn at the very fabric of the game, but the ICC has put a stop to that before any kiddies were corrupted.

The other major controversy at the tournament has been Gaffergate. The ICC has taped up every aspect of cricket. The Brit Oval is now the Oval; their OCS stand is the Stand. Players’ trousers are taped, the odd shirt and helmet as well. Of course they have run out of tape when it comes to Ian Chappell, but he would probably chewed through it anyway. This is an important part of watching cricket, as the constant advertising at cricket grounds has disturbed me like so many others. Luckily the ICYahooC have put a stop this subtle advertising that made us choose Brit Insurance and employ OCS to do whatever it is OCS do.

There has also been cricket played, and it must have been pretty good because at times I stopped looking at dancers in blue tracksuit pants and massive inflated devices.

I can only hope the ICC officials haven’t spent all their time stopping us looking at non-sanctioned ICC sponsorship, and have watched the magical farce that was the opening game, Ricky’s constantly craned neck, Umar Gul’s deadly swing, Dirty Dirk’s international debut, the awesome ginger O’Brien brothers, India’s failed Russian Roulette batting order, the wonderful oddity that is Aaron Redmond, and the pure magnificence of the Dilshan Dentist shot.

Jrod is an Australian cricket blogger. His site Cricketwithballs.com won last July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in Twenty20 | 3 Comments »

Alan Tyers: Manish Bhasin’s Twenty20 Twitter

June 11th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers

BBC highlights presenter keeps his fans up to date with all the World Twenty20 goings on…

Updated 2 hours ago: The Lords is so cool!! To be at a venue where legends of the game like Sir Steaky Botham, Donald Batman, Freddie Flintoff and Alesha Dixon have all played – awesome.

Updated 90 minutes ago: Just found out that Alesha didn’t get to play – shame. She is a brilliant singer and well fit: probably considered one of the great all-rounders? (Check this fact later).

Updated 1 hour ago: Very excited about England v South Africa later today. Should try and get some player interviews. Approach South African captain Graeme Smith with trusty notebook in hand (I’m a real journo now mum!!!?!!)

Updated 55 minutes ago: Graeme Smith says he will have the t-bone steak rare, a lasagne, two portions of chips, a chicken and a pint of double cream (low fat if available).

Updated 54 minutes ago: Explain I am not a waiter but in fact BBC face of cricket seeking interview.

Updated 53 minutes ago: In Lord’s kitchen getting food for Graeme Smith in exchange for interview.

Update 49 minutes ago: Graeme Smith finishes his breakfast and we settle down to serious cricket chat. It’s like Frost v Nixon… or Ambrose v Walsh! (Check later).

Update 48 minutes ago: First question: “So Graeme, what would you say is more important, batting or bowling, in the context of the Twenty20 format?” (Testing one first up I reckon?!!?)

Update 47 minutes ago: Smith asks for Lemon Meringue Pie and falls asleep.

Update 40 minutes ago:
I am not discouraged – it is the job of the serious journalist to ask the tough questions. This I learned from Gabby Logan when we did BBC Children In Need fun-run together.

Update 35 minutes ago: See legendary figure Sir Jeffrey Boycotts and decide I will ask him my question instead.

Update 31 minutes ago:
Boycotts is not a nice man.

Update 28 minutes ago:
But in between the unkind remarks and laughter I reckon he thinks that batting is most important. This could be significant piece of information for broadcast tonight.

Update 25 minutes ago: See my colleague Rishi and we practice our cricket trivia knowledge together.

Update 12 minutes ago: It’s a tight-run contest but I just edge it one question to nil.

Update 11 minutes ago: For any young sports fans, I knew that leg before wicket means that you have to go out; Rishi (durrr!) thought it was one of the fences at the Grand Nationals.

Update 4 minutes ago: Only 12 hours to go before highlights broadcast tonight now. Producer gives me copy of ‘Freddie Flintoff Cricket Annual For Boys 2005’ and tells me to wait quietly in trailer.

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers | 4 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Hussey's fall the real concern for Ponting

June 10th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in The Ashes, Twenty20


The fact that Australia are sitting in World Twenty20 dunces’ corner with Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Scotland is an embarrassment they can no doubt take on the chin. But of the many areas of concern Ricky Ponting must address during his team’s unexpected time off in the east Midlands, perhaps the most perplexing is the demise and fall of Mike Hussey.

Eighteen months ago Hussey was shaping up as the best since Bradman: his Test average after making 145 not out against India at Sydney was a startling 84. Together with Ricky Ponting and possibly Michael Clarke, he was to be one of Australia’s Ashes bankers in a team denuded of several millionaires. But Hussey’s career since then has followed one of life’s golden rules: if something seems too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. And so his next 31 Test knocks brought him one hundred, a grand total of 921 runs and the distinctly un-Don-like average of 30.

Watchers of domestic cricket couldn’t quite believe it when Hussey was left to fester in the county game during Australia’s last trip to England. Now they’re equally aghast to see the sorry figure who was very lucky to make 28 not out off 15 balls against West Indies on Saturday, and rather less flattered to play back to a quicker delivery from Ajantha Mendis and depart for one off five against Sri Lanka on Monday. And that’s before we get on to the fluffed catch at The Oval, which arguably betrayed a man wrestling with his confidence.

Ponting knows he needs Hussey to have a very good series later this summer in conditions he knows better than any of Australia’s top seven after stints with Northamptonshire, Durham and Gloucestershire. But Ponting’s contention after Monday’s defeat that “everyone goes through ups and downs” was mere refuge in cliché. When he added “knowing Mike the way I do and how hard he works on his game he’ll certainly give himself the opportunity to have a big Ashes campaign”, you could barely move for caveats.

Hussey, who turned 34 last month and deserves sympathy for being the epitome of Australia’s lost generation, may well punish England. But if he does, he will be bucking a trend. His last five Test series have brought averages of 22 (in the West Indies), 56 (in India), 35 (at home to New Zealand), 17 and 22 (home and away against South Africa). One good series in five means the tag of banker is no more.

Two bowlers in particular may be licking their lips. Stuart Broad has spent most of the year so far working on a successful round-the-wicket mode of attack to Shivnarine Chanderpaul, one of the few batsmen in the world who can match his fellow leftie Hussey’s powers of concentrations. And Graeme Swann will relish the chance to show that left-handers don’t have to be West Indian to struggle against him.

Hussey’s obsession with the game – not for nothing is he known as Mr Cricket – was previously regarded as a benefit. Now you wonder whether the intensity bespeaks a lack of perspective that can prove crippling when things go wrong. What once looked like impressive industry at the crease now seems frantic. Asked about Hussey’s recent struggles, Ponting claimed he “hadn’t really thought too much about it”. He’ll have more time to reflect now.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in The Ashes, Twenty20 | 4 Comments »

Benj Moorehead: T20 roars amid the rain

June 10th, 2009 by Benj Moorehead in Twenty20


On Friday evening it was raining and cold. The opening ceromony was postponed, postponed, postponed, and then called off. It looked like the cricket would be too, and even if it did go ahead it was England v Netherlands, hardly the firestarter that England v Pakistan might have been.

Of what value are omens? What we had was a thrilling opener to the World Twenty20, a story of underdog glory in which any result was possible when Stuart Broad took aim at the stumps after the last ball was bowled. And most of it was played through considerable rain (what more sums up Twenty20’s spirited defiance of tradition than this?).

This is a tournament that’s thriving under a laden sky through chilly air. To be at Lord’s yesterday was to witness this. Once through the gates the noise from inside the ground was louder than anything I’d heard in St John’s Wood. Strolling around the food stalls proved a carnival of culture, a range of different accents and colours – the bright orange of the Dutch fans competing with the sheer quantity of the Pakistanis. A disgruntled MCC member wandered through looking as if he’d never seen such things at Lord’s before. Who can blame him when a group of New Zealanders are dressed up as the Dutch. This feels like a genuine international tournament.

Each ball – be it a wicket, a boundary, a single or a dot – was greeted with a fanatical roar. As Shahid Afridi (who mercifully gave his supporters what they wanted when he smashed a six way over log-on) kept on taking wickets it felt like a pitch invasion was imminent, so excitable were the crowd. Goodness knows what it will be like if India and Pakistan meet in this tournament.

Even New Zealand v South Africa, supposedly a dead match, was brought to life by the brilliance of the Lord’s floodlights and an insistently noisy crowd. No one was faintly interested in the tube strike, least of all the New Zealand players who danced around like it was the final every time they took a wicket.

Lalit Modi might have a word with the cheerleaders. But otherwise this World Twenty20 is, so far at least, a roaring success. And the sun hasn’t even broken through yet.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Twenty20 | No Comments »

Sam Collins: 10 things the Twenty20 World Cup has taught us so far

June 9th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Twenty20


  1. Sometimes the tortoise wins the race. Brett Lee has gone miles as the slow bowlers have prospered, while Mendis and Murali look a potentially tournament-winning combination. Equally, captains are increasingly favouring multi-dimensional cricketers rather than the specialists.
  2. Not playing Test cricket for a while does not do your fielding any good. Pakistan have looked like schoolgirls whenever the ball has gone in the air.
  3. One batsman can turn any shower into world-beaters. Stand up Chris Gayle.
  4. Yorkers work, yet still most seam bowlers seem reluctant to, or maybe are incapable of, employing them.
  5. The BBC has its priorities wrong. Secure the highlights package for an event that is almost guaranteed to capture public interest, then schedule highlights for close to midnight presented by your biggest no-marks. Way to go.
  6. England have a coach who is not afraid to change things decisively and effectively, and an opener in Luke Wright who could be on the verge of an international breakthrough. More worryingly, they also have a star-batsman who, having declared himself 70% fit, must be a major doubt to make it through five Ashes Tests in seven weeks.
  7. Ricky Ponting is Leicester’s Betjeman. The Midlands won’t care if the Australian captain is this hangdog in 10 weeks time – Australia’s big players were nowhere to be seen when it mattered this week and on that evidence an Ashes upset is a real possibility.
  8. England can’t do opening ceremonies. If there has been one moment more painful than Stuart Broad’s stump-miss against Holland then it was the sight of the Duke of Kent rabbiting away on the podium three hours earlier. The dancers aren’t a patch on the IPL either.
  9. It’s really, really good fun watching the big-boys struggle. Finally a tournament that has allowed the minnows to compete properly with the established nations.
  10. A quick game is a good game after all. Crucially, with things wrapped-up in just over a fortnight there is little time for getting bored.

Sam Collins is website editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Twenty20 | No Comments »

John Stern: It could be Rotterdam as Dutch ensure grim start for England

June 6th, 2009 by John Stern in Twenty20


As The Beautiful South sang, this could be Rotterdam or anywhere. The Nursery End of Lord’s as you’ve never seen it before, awash with orange in every conceivable manifestation: silly hats, cricket shirts, football shirts and jackets (maybe that was the stewards).

The World Twenty20 might be grossly and unfairly overshadowed by the Ashes in the minds of the British media and public but the Dutch had bought into it and then some.

It was a sight and an atmosphere to lift the mood. The look on the face of Colin Gibson, the ECB communications director, said it all: Sod’s Law was officially in operation. After an unbroken fortnight of glorious early summer weather, the temperature had plummeted and the drizzle started. The only place colder would have been a breakfast meeting between Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds.

KP won’t have seen this many Dutchmen in one place since he got booed in Johannesburg . Maybe that’s why he didn’t play. It wasn’t his Achilles, just some uncomfortable highveld flashbacks.

The tournament – or “turnament” as the Duke of Kent pronounced it in the lowest-key opening ceremony since Gordon Brown’s inauguration as Labour leader – deserved better than this. The Dutch deserved better (they got it later).

I assumed the ground was a sell-out yet there were stacks of empty seats. Hardly any of the hospitality boxes in the Mound Stand were occupied. Most of the seats in the pavilion were deserted. The man from the ICC insisted it was or as near as damn it. If it was then plenty of people didn’t show up or maybe they did but left before the start because of the rain and the cold. Maybe they came to see Alesha Dixon and departed when her part of the opening ceremony was canned because the podium was too wet.

So instead we had David Morgan and the Duke of Kent. A more incongruous unveiling of a youthful, vibrant global sporting event it was hard to imagine. Although the 1999 World Cup debacle ran it close.

It was also hard to imagine that the game which was about to follow would be any less of a damp squib. And despite England’s less than ruthless second half of their innings in which they added only 73 to the 89 they scored off the first 10 overs, no one – except the most orange or Orangemen – thought they’d cock it up.

“We can play a bit you know,” said one of the two Dutch journalists in the press box with about five overs to go as disbelieving English hacks gasped in a mixture of delight (at the remarkable story happening before them) and horror at the latest debacle after England’s winter of extreme discontent.

With seven needed off the last over, the easily identifiable Dutch were dancing in the stands. When it got down to two off the last ball, they were racked with nervous tension. And then … bedlam. The Dutch team stormed the pitch and the players linked arms in front of the Mound Stand while their euphoric supporters bowed in devotion.

If the players hadn’t been wearing long trousers, we could have been at Wembley. The scenes were somehow familiar to anyone who has witnessed a Dutch football pitch. Lord’s has never seen anything like it.

This was a grim day for England and perhaps post-Stanford karma for the ECB. Their team selection and fielding under pressure was flaky at best. But, in unpromising circumstances, this turned out to a great day for cricket and a perfect start to a tournament. England will just carry on talking about the Ashes.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Twenty20 | No Comments »

Alan Tyers: Flintoff Faces Frosty Reception

June 4th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England


In a wide-ranging interview with GQ Magazine, Andrew Flintoff has revealed that he worries for his kids growing up in our “violent country” and cites “rap music” as a negative influence. And while he has “no problems with a multicultural society”, the all-rounder says: “it annoys me when I phone a hotel receptionist in my own country and they don’t understand what I am saying because they don’t speak English. I think that’s wrong.”

We reveal a transcript from the Swallow Hotel, Preston.

Reception: “Hello, Swallow Hotel. Calls may be recorded or monitored for quality and training purposes. How may I assist you?

Andrew Flintoff: Rooooooooccckeeeettt Maaaaaan, flyyyyyying through—

Reception: Excuse me sir?

Andrew Flintoff: Sorry about that. Having a bit of a sing-song.

Reception: Very good, sir.

Andrew Flintoff: None of that rappy rubbish. Good English sing-song with Sir Elton.

Reception: Ok sir, that’s great. Will there be anything else?

Andrew Flintoff: Send up some brews and that. Harmy – do you want owt?

**muttering in background**

Andrew Flintoff: Some plain digestive biscuits and an egg and chips.

Reception: Certainly sir.

**muttering in background**

Andrew Flintoff: And make sure it’s an English fried egg, not one of them fancy foreign poached numbers, he says.

Reception: Yes sir, fried egg and chips, digestives and some… brews?

Andrew Flintoff: Brews! Brews! Beers. God, it’s like being in a foreign country.

**Shouting and sobbing in background**

Andrew Flintoff: No! Harmy, Harmy, it’s alright. We’re not IN a foreign country, I said it’s LIKE being in a foreign country. Take the duvet off your head. Harmy! Give me back the phone.

Steve Harmison: I wanna gan hurm. Gerrus bairns on the telephurne. I wanna speak to wuz bairns like. And the British ambassaduur.

Reception: Excuse me sir?

Steve Harmison: You were right Fred, they divvunt understand a wurd like.

**sounds of scuffling for phone handset**

Andrew Flintoff: Now sit there quietly and watch your DVD.

Reception: Sir?

Andrew Flintoff: Not you. Sorry. Right. So we want them brews. B-R-E-W-S.

Reception: I’m sorry sir, we cannot provide alcohol to our guests after 11pm due to UK licensing laws.

Andrew Flintoff: I hate this country.

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England | 1 Comment »

Devon Malcolm: Our boys must believe

June 4th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, The Ashes

We have to believe in ourselves. When we toured Australia in 1994-95 Mark Waugh spoke to the press about me. He said he wasn’t worried about Devon Malcolm because he’d just been playing the West Indies and when you’ve been facing Ambrose and Walsh why would you be scared of Malcolm? Well I showed him why at Sydney. I got him very early there, did him for pace, and pointed him back to the pavilion. I lost it a bit, and got called into the match referees office for the first time, but sometimes you wish people would wind you up more often. We have to try and control the aggression and turn around the negative things that the Australians say to the press.

To read the rest of this post click here.

Devon Malcolm is writing weekly for thewisdencricketer.com for the duration of the West Indies tour of England in association with the Antigua Tourist Board

Posted in England, The Ashes | 1 Comment »

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